Nikolaus Harnoncourt Live

When he passed away in 2016, Nikolaus Harnoncourt left behind a treasure trove of magnificent live-recordings of his concerts with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. This is now presented in a CD box set with no less than fifteen discs, The Radio Recordings 1981-2012.


Playlist - 15 CDs

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Johannes-Passion, BWV 245
AVRO, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 15 April 1984

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Psalm 42 'Wie der Hirsch schreit
AVRO, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 26 April 2009

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Die Schöpfung
AVRO, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 22 October 2000

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1759-1791)

Ch'io mi scordi te... Non temer, amato bene, KV 505
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 9 January 1992

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Symphony No. 41 'jupiter', KV 551
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 27 January 1991

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Piano Concerto No. 13, KV 415/387b
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 18 September 1981

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Missa solemnis
AVRO, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 25 April 2012

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Symphony No. 1
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 19 March 1998

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Symphony No. 9
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 11 November 1992

Franz Schubert

Symphony No. 8
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 7 November 1997

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Symphony No. 1
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 24 March 1996

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Overture 'Manfred'
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 2 May 2004

Robert Schumann

Symphony No. 1
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 2 May 2004

Robert Schumann

Symphony No. 3 'Rhenisch'
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 28 November 2004

Johannes Brahms

Tragische Overture
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 12 May 1996

Johannes Brahms

Symphony No. 3
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 20 January 1996

Antonín Leopold Dvořák (1841-1904)

Biblical Songs
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 28 November 2004

Antonín Leopold Dvořák

Symphony No. 7
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 20 March 1998

Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)

Symphony No. 4 'Romantic'
AVRO/RNW, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 3 April 1997

Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899)

An der schönen, blauen Donau
KRO, RAI Amsterdam, 7 June 1984

Felix Mendelssohn

Ein Sommernachtstraum
AVRO, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 26 April 2009

New and extreme

In 1975 Nikolaus Harnoncourt made his debut with the Concertgebouw Orchestra with Bach’s St John Passion. From the very first there was a strong mutual love and respect. Everything the Austrian conductor did – while by now everyone has become accustomed to it – was new and extreme. He based his approach on his research into authentic music practice. This turned out to be particularly well suited to the musicians of the Concertgebouw Orchestra.

“For me the Bach passions were a revelation. His views were radically different from anything we had ever heard of, but his arguments were persuasive and clearly derived from the text. The Christ recitatives are accompanied by strings, and we were used to playing it with vibrato, because that sounds nice and warm. But Jesus is anguished and tormented. So, Harnoncourt said, you should hear dry sweeps on the strings. When we did, the sense of drama suddenly blossomed.”
-  Jan Kouwenhoven, former oboist in the Concertgebouw Orchestra, in the NRC of 13 October 2022

Honorary guest conductor

Until his death in 2016, Harnoncourt was a regular guest conductor and in 2000 he was given the title Honorary Guest Conductor by the Orchestra. His influence has been of crucial importance for the Concertgebouw Orchestra; with his interpretations he enriched the repertoire and the performance style of the Orchestra. In 2021, the orchestra awarded the title of Honorary Guest Conductor to Iván Fischer, who once started his career as an assistant to Harnoncourt and is viewed by many as his heir.

Colour wheel

A CD box as a tribute, commemorating his career, was inevitable after the loss of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The compilers, former Orchestra cello Daniël Esser and producer Lodewijk Collette, listened to all radio recordings made of the Concertgebouw Orchestra with Harnoncourt. To make the final selection they used the following criteria: all selected works had to be “the most beautiful of the most beautiful” and provide a “colour wheel” representing everything that the orchestra and conductor have performed together.

The 15-CD box set really does provide a unique insight into a very special relationship. It complements and nuances the existing Harnoncourt discography, allowing us to hear conductor, orchestra and music in constantly new ways as the years pass. The fact these recordings are all live imbues the music with a precious spontaneity.

“My absolute hero is and will always be Nikolaus Harnoncourt. He was actually not a real conductor and having everyone play the same tempo was absolutely not his ambition. He did have persuasive and clear ideas about articulation and sound, and the atmosphere during rehearsals was always very good, with a lot of respect for each and every musician. Mozart’s Da Ponte operas and Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony, the last concert we performed with him, are etched into my memory.”
-  Marc de Groot, second violin, in an interview for Preludium (Dec. 2022)


The popularity Harnoncourt enjoyed as a conductor clearly shows in the responses of the soloists who collaborated on the recordings which are now included in the CD box set. Without exception, everyone agreed enthusiastically.

The plan for the rcreation of the box set received the unconditional blessing of his widow, violinist Alice Harnoncourt, very soon after the death of the conductor. It is very sad that she passed away before the 15-CD box set was released. This box set commemorates a celebrated and well loved couple in the music world.