The great conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt passed away on Saturday. He was my father’s favorite conductor. In fact, as a high school student, my father used to audit Harnoncourt’s classes at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. So of course I heard Harnoncourt’s recordings constantly growing up. Later I often attended his concerts in the Musikverein in Vienna. I particularly remember a performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers of the B.V.M. about five years ago that was of overwhelming beauty.
The youtube clip of rehearsals above shows his character very well. At about the 29:40 mark he is discussing the “religiosity” of Beethoven’s Sixth, which he compares to the bedside prayers of children, and he says that the greatest art possible is to portray the simple faith of children with a great orchestra. He seems himself to have had a childlike faith, and I pray that he is now joining in the unending song of the heavenly choir’s.