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January 18, 2012

Gustav Leonhardt, pioneer in early music movement, dies at 83

Gustav Leonhardt, the revelatory Dutch harpsichordist, organist and scholar, died Monday in Amsterdam at the age of 83.

He was, to quote the Guardian's obit, "a pioneer and pillar of the early music movement." No one seriously interested in music of the baroque could have missed Mr. Leonhardt's contributions to the understanding of that genre over the past 60 years.

His work carried enormous weight as the music world began to rediscover the techniques and principles of historically informed performance practice. He leaves behind a substantial recorded legacy, and several students who have continue to contribute to the authenticity movement.

Here is a sample of Mr. Leonhardt's artistry, filmed at a recital in Paris last month:

Posted by Tim Smith at 11:16 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes


Gustav really was an asset to baroque interpretation and boosting of the era's music. I began piano lessons in elementary school, and my teacher let me borrow her recordings of Gustav at the harpsichord. Good memories.

A great loss, needless to say. A more complete obituary appears in The Telegraph:

Do you know when was the last time that Leonhardt visited the Washington - Baltimore area? The Guardian obit mentions that he visited the US almost every year, and I seem to recall some concerts in NY. But none in the Washington-Baltimore area (which is strange, since one of his collaborators, Jaap Schroeded worked with the Smithsonian Players.)


In my 12 years here, I do not recall any Baltimore area performances. And a look at Shriver Hall's complete archives reveals that he never graced that stage -- the most likely venue for him here, I imagine. I suspect DC must have heard him at some point. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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