Wednesday, January 18, 2012

R.I.P. Gustav Leonhardt (1928-2012)

On Monday, one of the greatest harpsichordists of modern times, Gustav Leonhardt, died in his home in Amsterdam. He was 83. Leonhardt was an inspiration to generations of early musicians, and even those who did not know him, perhaps had not even heard his performances, or maybe even disliked his playing style or interpretations, respected him deeply for his contribution to the field. I won't go on at length; if you want the facts, you can find them in the New York Times article here, or on Wikipedia. Or just Google him.

I was lucky enough to see Leonhardt perform in Amsterdam, albeit many years ago, when I was just 9 years old. I was on a trip with my mother, travelling around Europe. I can't even remember what he played, except that it was a solo recital, and it featured a lot of Bach. But I do remember the absolute sense of presence, the clear understanding of what he wanted as a performer, and the complete reverence of the audience. It was a surreal and humbling experience for a budding young performer such as myself, especially given both of my parents are also harpsichordists; I had been told for many years that this was the man to listen to. Indeed, he remained so until his death, and will through his recordings for years to come. And nowadays, of course, we can see even some of his earliest performances with ease through YouTube.

Rest In Peace, Gustav. You will be sorely missed.

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