Early music pioneer and founder of Orchestra of the 18th Century passes at 79.

The Dutch conductor, recorder player and early music specialist Frans Brüggen has died at the age of 79. A pioneer of the period instrument movement, Brüggen founded the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century and leaves a rich recorded legacy.

Born in Amsterdam on October 30, 1934, Brüggen initially studied flute but also recorder (at that time an unfashionable choice) with Kees Otten at the Amsterdam Muzieklyceum. At the remarkable age of 21, he was appointed a professor at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague going on to become Erasmus Professor at Harvard University and Regent’s Professor at the University of Berkeley, making him one of the most precocious musical scholars of his day.

He became a professional flautist at first, playing a wide repertoire from Baroque to contemporary, but it was as a recorder virtuoso that he made his name going on to make many recordings alongside an academic career of writing and lectures.

In 1981, Brüggen founded the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, a period ensemble consisting of around 60 players from 22 different countries. The orchestra rapidly became world famous as a result of extensive touring and a contract with Dutch recording giant Philips. The orchestra began with the Baroque (Bach, Purcell, Rameau) but soon went on to embrace the Classical period (Haydn and Mozart) and the early Romantic (Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn). Their numerous excellent recordings can be found on Warners, Harmonia Mundi and most recently on Glossa (an award winning Beethoven cycle and some outstanding Bach choral works).

Brüggen also conducted leading European orchestras, including the Royal Concertgebouw, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment of which he became Emeritus Conductor.

He was made a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion in 2003 an was awarded the Honorary medal for Arts and Science of the Order of the House of Orange in 2010). The composer and colleague Luciano Berio wrote of him that he was “a musician who is not an archeologist but a great artist”.

Brüggen leaves behind his wife, art historian Machtelt Israëls, and daughters, Zephyr and Eos.

Frans Brüggen (October 30, 1934-August 13, 2014)

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