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Gustav Leonhardt, Master Harpsichordist, Dies at 83

Received an honorary degree from SMU in 1983


The following is from the January 17, 2012, edition of The New York Times. Gustav Leonhardt received an honorary doctorate from SMU in 1983. It was his first doctorate from any institution, and friends said he prized it highly.

Gustav Leonhardt

Gustav Leonhardt (right center) received an honorary degree from SMU during graduation ceremonies in 1983. Shown (l. to r.) are SMU Professor of Organ and Harpsichord Larry Palmer, former Art History Professor Alessandra Comini, Leonhardt, and former Art History Professor Eleanor Tufts.

While at SMU, Leonhardt gave master classes for harpsichord students and spoke at the Meadows diploma ceremony.

January 20, 2012


Gustav Leonhardt, the Dutch harpsichordist, organist and conductor who was a pioneer in the world of period instrument performance and research into Baroque performance styles, died on Monday at his home in Amsterdam. He was 83.

The New Church in Amsterdam, where Mr. Leonhardt was organist, announced his death in the newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

Gustav LeonhardtBoth as a keyboard soloist and as the founder and director of the Leonhardt Consort, Mr. Leonhardt made hundreds of recordings that, along with those of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, August Wenzinger and a handful of others, were the defining discography of the historical performance movement in the 1950s and ’60s.

He systematically recorded Bach’s keyboard music, sometimes revisiting works like the “Goldberg Variations,” which he recorded in 1952, 1965 and 1979.

With his Leonhardt Consort, founded in 1955, he performed a broad selection of the Baroque chamber, orchestral and dramatic repertory, and helped revive works by Rameau, Lully, André Campra and other Baroque composers. But the group’s most important project was a collaboration with Mr. Harnoncourt and his Concentus Musicus of Vienna on a complete traversal of Bach’s church cantatas for the Telefunken (later Teldec) Das Alte Werke series.

The cycle, started in 1971, took nearly two decades to complete. Installments were released in boxed sets that included full scores of the cantatas. He later recorded Bach’s secular cantatas as well, for the Alpha label.

Read the full story.

Read an article by Larry Palmer, professor of Harpsichord and Organ in Meadows School of the Arts, in the June 2011 edition of the international music journal The Diapason.

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