Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt has been awarded a gold medal by The Royal Philharmonic Society. The 82 year old was presented with the prize by RPS chairman John Gilhooly.

The accolade was awarded to Harnoncourt during a concert at The Barbican, where he was conducting a performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, for whom he acts as honorary guest conductor.

Harnoncourt is considered to be one of the early advocates of the period instrument movement. In 1953, with his wife Alice, he founded the baroque ensemble Concentus Musicus Wien, performing and recording work with period instruments. Harnoncourt collaborated with Gustav Leonhardt during the 1970s in an attempt to record all of Bach’s cantatas, a feat which they achieved in 1990.

A citation from the RPS paid tribute to his work: ‘Nikolaus Harnoncourt is a pioneer in the early period instrument revival, but much more besides. As a conductor his name is legendary with singers for his extraordinary vision into early, baroque, classical and even operetta. Performances with Harnoncourt are always unique and special.

‘Nearly 60 years ago he formed the Concentus Musicus Wien with period instruments, but he also works with most of the world’s main orchestras using modern instruments and was one of the earliest pioneers of this dual approach. He is a man who is dedicated to music and humanity.’

He said, when accepting his award, ‘Without a composer and wonderful musicians, I am a speck of dust.’ Harnoncourt, a talented conductor, cellist and teacher, joins a list of notable RPS gold medal recipients including Brahms and Stravinsky.