Starting as a cellist in the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra, Nikolaus Harnoncourt founded the Wiener Concentus Musicus as early as 1953. Its repertoire, based on historical instruments, came to span from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. One of the first milestones was Bach´s Brandenburg Concertos with authentic instrumentation (1962), followed eventually by his complete choral compositions. Since then, Concentus Musicus, under Harnoncourt´s leadership, has become an established concept within the profound artistic renewal of performing practice concerning the early repertoire.
Seminal interpretations include, not least, Harnoncourt´s acclaimed performances of cycles of the operas of Monteverdi and Mozart, as well as widely observed joint productions of works by Bach, Rameau and others, together with Swedish groups like Musica Holmiae and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir.
Cogently reflected, dedicated concert activities coupled with outstanding research achievement – also resulting in a number of books, such as Das Musizieren mit alten Instrumente. Einflüsse der Spieltechnik auf die Interpretation (published in 1967) and Musik als Klangerede (published in 1982) – have earned Nikolaus Harnoncourt an eminent position in the revival of early music. He has paved the way for a view of interpretation which in our own time and in a radical – many would say: provocative – manner has opened doors to a fresh understanding of the Romantic repertoire as well.