He was born in 's-Graveland, North Holland and studied organ and harpsichord from 1947 to 1950 with Eduard Müller at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel. In 1950, he made his debut as a harpsichordist in Vienna, where he studied musicology. He was professor of harpsichord at the Academy of Music from 1952 to 1955 and at the Amsterdam Conservatory from 1954. He was also a church organist.wiki
In January 2012, the nestor of early music in the Netherlands died: Gustav Leonhardt. Together with Harnoncourt he belonged to the pioneers of authentic performance practice. Leonhardt was a gentleman at the keyboard. His aristocratic mastery of the French harpsichordists alone, with all those complex decorations and declamations, was unrivaled. And yet he regarded Bach as the greatest composer ever. 'His music is incredibly versatile, interesting, intelligent. (…) What is the secret? If only we would know that! ', According to Gustav Leonhardt in an interview with the Reformatorisch Dagblad. This reissue, undoubtedly inspired by the publicity surrounding Leonhard's death, includes performances by Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, Die Kunst Der Fuge and the Goldberg Variationen. The settled execution of the Goldberg variations - in everything the opposite of Glenn Gould's electrifying approach - still sounds magical. Leonhardt's registration of Die Kunst Der Fuge had become the best ever, if he had taken the trouble to include the (unfinished) Fuga a 3 soggetti.
Gustav Leonhardt was one of the most important harpsichord and organ players in the world and a very well-known specialist in baroque music. Gustav Leonhardt -The Edition is a 15-CD retrospective containing a representative selection of his numerous recordings, including famous solo recordings such as the legendary Goldberg Variations and Bach's organ and harpsichord works. 6 CDs feature collaborations with his famous colleagues Sigiswald Kuijken, Frans Bruggen and Anner Bylsma, the Leonhardt-Consort and Harry van der Kamp.
Although not quite at the level of profundity of his teacher Gustav Leonhardt's recording, Kenneth Gilbert's 1983 recording of Book 1 of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier does have a style and polish that Leonhardt's too often lacked. Thus, while Leonhardt goes further into some of the minor-key fugues to find intellectual and spiritual depths that Gilbert does not plumb, Gilbert's playing is so much more elegant and graceful than Leonhardt's that it is difficult to choose between them. For listeners who approach The Well-Tempered Clavier as a volume of virtuoso works whose success depends on the effortless refinement of the player, the Gilbert, with its superbly remastered sound, will be the one to get. For listeners who approach The Well-Tempered Clavier as a volume of prayers written as preludes and fugues, the Leonhardt will be preferable. Both are superb and both belong in any Bach collection.