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
If you cannot imagine what Bach's five great motets would sound like as chamber music, this disc by La Petite Bande will provide an answer: they sound fabulous. With eight singers, five string players, and four wind players plus continuo, La Petite Bande's performances sound absolutely clear – even in the densest textures, every line is ideally balanced – incredibly colorful – the combinations of voices, strings, winds, and organ seem endlessly subtle – and, best of all, unbelievably expressive. Everyone's a soloist and every line is a melody, thereby making Bach's music seem more personal and intimate than usual. Of course, part of the reason for this is that most recordings of the motets, whether a cappella or accompanied, are arguably too big and heavy. With four or more singers on a part, this kind of weightiness is virtually inevitable – but with two singers to a part, the performances can be as expressive as the music director will allow. And with music director Sigiswald Kuijken also being the first violinist, the performances are supremely expressive.
…I greet this stunning performance as the way to hear this masterpiece. ~ J.F. Weber, Fanfare
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 Maria Leonhardt was one of the best-known leaders of the Early Music movement. A harpsichordist and organist and later a conductor, he was credited with being one of the most important figures in establishing the Netherlands as one of the main centers of period music performances. He had a classical education, then entered the Schola Cantorum in Basle. There he studied organ and harpsichord with Eduard Müller.
The death of Georg Philipp Telemann in 1767 paved the way for his godson, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach to take up the position of Director of Music in Hamburg. Prior to that C P E Bach had been working for Frederick the Second of Prussia in Berlin but longed for a greater musical freedom and stylistic flexibility that working in Hamburg would offer him. This included the composition of three oratorios, including the one presented here. C P E Bach worked on The Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus in collaboration with the librettist Karl Wilhelm Ramler from 1781, and in 1787 it was published by Breitkopf. A letter from the composer to his publisher subsequently revealed he considered it to be one of his greatest masterpieces—a reflection agreed upon by audiences at the time, and succeeding generations of composers, including Haydn and Beethoven who both drew inspiration from it.
Founded in 1972 at the suggestion of Deutsche Harmonia Mundi and led since its inception by Dutch violinist turned conductor Sigiswald Kuijken, La Petite Bande is surely among the finest of early music orchestras with a discography ranging from Lully through Mozart. Among the group's most successful projects, however, have been recordings of Bach's sacred works, particularly the 1985 Mass in B minor and this 1987 St. John Passion. Both are superbly performed with excellent solo and choral singing and outstanding orchestral playing, but both are distinctly dissimilar in tone and effect. The conductor makes the difference.
The recordings released in this series are devoted to the music of Bach, never a specialty among Russians, and they have the feeling of something extreme, developed in isolation. Feinberg plays Bach, perhaps, as Liszt might have heard Bach and played him – with maximum use of the pedals, a full range of dynamics, and an approach that in every way transforms Bach into an arch-Romantic. This disc, in the label's Feinberg series, is perhaps the most extreme of all, for here the artist tackles not only piano works but those for organ – the listener is treated not only to Feinberg's interpretations but also to his transcriptions. Sample the booming bass lines of the group of chorale preludes in the middle of the program. Of course, the line between transcription and interpretation in this case is not terribly clear. Taken as a whole, the Chromatic fantasia and fugue, BWV 903, leaves the impression that the music has been pushed nearly as far as in Busoni's Bach transcriptions; it's not Bach, really, but it's quite a thrill.