Gustav Leonhardt – A Remembrance

Peter Strykers, the first president of the founding board of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (when we were known as Philharmonia, Baroque Orchestra of the West) contributes this remembrance of the late Gustav Leonhardt:

Gustav Leonhardt

On Monday January 16, Gustav Leonhardt died, not unexpectedly, at his beautiful 17th-century house along a canal in Amsterdam. He gave his last recital in Paris several weeks ago and cancelled all his engagements for 2012. The Dutch newspaper NRC has videos of his last performance on the internet. He played the last J.S. Bach’s Goldberg variation as an encore. For the lovers of authentic performance of early music on period instruments he was and will remain the principal creator.

The founding artistic Director of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Laurette Goldberg, certainly thought so. When she started studying the harpsichord her greatest wish was to study with him. She did go to Amsterdam, and after her study with Leonhardt, he arranged for her to have a recital in Amsterdam. She agreed with Leonhardt that J.S. Bach was the greatest composer. “You play Bach your way, I play him his way.”

Later when Laurette, again using her words, “became pregnant” with Philharmonia Baroque, she approached Leonhardt for support. With the help of Philharmonia Baroque’s board, she was able to have him give a harpsichord recital in San Francisco as a fund-raiser.

A year or so later he again came over, now to conduct the orchestra. He strongly suggested that we get a conductor. Laurette graciously resigned and chose Nic McGegan to become the Music Director and conductor.

The last time most of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra musicians met Gustav Leonhardt and his wife Marie, a baroque violinist of stature, was a few years ago in Amsterdam when Philharmonia Baroque was playing in het Concertgebouw. There was the boat ride on the Amsterdam canals followed by a fine dinner with the Leonhardts in an authentic 17th –century patrician’s house.

Requiescat in pace.