Happy 85th birthday to Maestro Nikolaus Harnoncourt (née Johannes Nicolaus Graf de la Fontaine und d’Harnoncourt-Unverzagt– I really do need a posher name), cellist, conductor and visionary. Without doubt, one of the most interesting musicians of the last 50 years.
Harnoncourt, to me, represents the what happens when rigorous and questing scholarship is wedded to temperament, insight and a taste for danger. Too often, one can guess every choice of a HIP interpreter before they even give their first downbeat. Not so with Harnoncourt- for him, a historical understanding of style and context opens the door to ever more shocking and thrilling flexibility and creativity. He’s just about the ultimate “point of view” conductor- and we need more of them on the podium.