Born in Berlin, the Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt spent his childhood and youth in Graz, where he grew up in the Meran Palace. Heeding his early artistic ambition, he ultimately preferred to study cello at the Vienna Academy of Music. He joined the Vienna Symphony Orchestra as a cellist in 1952.
A year later he founded the Concentus Musicus Wien ensemble together with his wife Alice, to provide a forum for his increasingly intensive work with period instruments and Renaissance and baroque musical performance tradition. Nikolaus Harnoncourt collected historical instruments and, in addition to his performing and conducting activities, devoted his time to his philosophical analyses of „Musik als Klangrede” (music as speech), which have to date remained the seminal works on the performance of early music, the key to an entire universe of forgotten works and musical experiences buried under the sands of time.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s career as a conductor of both orchestral works and opera encompasses Viennese Classicism, the Romantic repertoire and works from the 20th century.
With the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras, Nikolaus Harnoncourt constantly reinterprets and rediscovers the grand repertoire of orchestral works: the concertos and symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorák and Bruckner, but also the works of Bela Bartók and Alban Berg.
Today, Nikolaus Harnoncourt is one of the few true stars among conductors worldwide. Performances like the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra enable him to reach an audience of millions, displaying the characteristic passion and fiery intensity that identify him, first and foremost, as a true servant of his art.