Born in Zwolle, The Netherlands, October 2, 1944, Ton Koopman had a classical education, and studied organ, harpsichord, and musicology in Amsterdam. He received the Prix d'Excellence for both instruments. Naturally attracted by historical instruments, and fascinated by the philological performance style, Koopman concentrated his studies on Baroque music, with particular attention to J.S. Bach, and soon became the leading a leading figure in the "authentic performance" movement.
As organist and harpsichordist, Koopman has appeared in the most prestigious concert halls of the world and played the most beautiful historical instruments of Europe. At the age of twenty-five, he created his first Baroque orchestra, and in 1979 he founded the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra followed in 1992 by the Amsterdam Baroque Choir. Combined as the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, the ensemble soon gained worldwide fame as one of the best ensembles on period instruments. With a repertoire ranging from the early Baroque to the late Classics, they have performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Théatre des Champs-Elysées and Salle Pleyel in Paris, Barbican and Royal Albert Hall in London, Musikverein and Konzerthaus in Vienna, Philharmonie in Berlin, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York, Suntory Hall in Tokyo as well as in Brussels, Milan, Madrid, Rome, Salzburg, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Munich, Athens, etc.
Among Ton Koopman's most ambitious projects has been the recording of the complete Bach cantatas, a massive undertaking for which he has been awarded the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis "Echo Klassik", the BBC Award, the Hector Berlioz Prize, and has been nominated for the Grammy Award (USA) and the Gramophone Award (UK). In addition to the works of Bach, Koopman has long been an advocate of the music of Bach's predecessor Dieterich Buxtehude and following the completion of the Bach project, he embarked in 2005 on the recording of the Buxtehude-Opera Omnia. The edition consists of 30 CDs, the last having been released in 2014. Koopman is President of the International Dieterich Buxtehude Society. In 2006 he was awarded the Bach-Prize of the City of Leipzig, in 2012 the Buxtehude Prize of the city of Lübeck, and in 2014 he received the Bach Prize of the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 2016 he received an honorary professorship with the Musikhochschule Lübeck and became Honorary Artistic Advisor of Guangzhou Opera House. In 2017 he received the RCO Medal Royal College of Organists (UK) and the Edison Klassiek Oeuvre Prize (Netherlands).
Ton Koopman has a very wide repertoire. As harpsichordist and organist, he has performed music from the Renaissance to the Classical period, with the ABO&C he has explored intensely the Baroque and Classical period and as a conductor with modern orchestras he also approaches the early Romantics.
In recent years, he has been very active as guest conductor. He has worked with the most prominent orchestras of the world, among them the Berlin Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, DSO Berlin, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France Paris, Vienna Symphony, Boston Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra.
Koopman has made an enormous number of records for Erato, Teldec, Sony, Deutsche Grammophon, and Philips. In 2003 he founded his own label “Antoine Marchand”, a sub label of Challenge Classics. He also publishes regularly. He has edited the complete Händel Organ Concertos for Breitkopf & Härtel, and recently published new editions of Händel’s Messiah and Buxtehude‘s Das Jüngste Gericht for Carus Verlag.
Koopman is professor emeritus of Historically Informed Performance of Early Music at the University of Leiden, Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in London and artistic director of the Festival “Itinéraire Baroque”. Since 2019 he is president of the Leipzig Bach Archive Foundation.
-- Biography from Koopman's website (text only)
© 2005 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Orchestra Hall, Chicago on June 17, 2005. This transcription was made in 2019, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.
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Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.