Gustav Leonhardt

The great harpsichordist has died. I bought an album–perhaps the last LP I ever purchased–of Leonhardt playing Froberger when I was a student in the 1980s. It revealed a world of color and expression I had never heard before in the instrument. Recordings that pierce you while you’re still young enough to fall intemperately in love with music are dangerous. They never leave, their imprint of the music remains indelible and obscures almost everything that comes after it. Jean-Jacques Rousseau described education in similar terms: The teacher constructs almost violent epiphanies, which remain permanent, emotionally powerful lessons. The danger of these epiphanies is that they lock in you the past. The mind has a tenacious connection to what has been learned or discovered, but can be inflexible thereafter. It’s still hard for me to hear other players render Froberger. But hearing Leonhardt again, this morning, dissolves time.

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