Alan Curtis (harpsichordist)

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Alan Curtis (born November 17, 1934 in Mason, Michigan) is a noted American harpsichordist, musicologist, and conductor of baroque opera. After graduate studies at the University of Illinois (PhD, 1960), where he wrote his dissertation on the keyboard music of Sweelinck, he studied in Amsterdam with Gustav Leonhardt,[1] with whom he subsequently recorded a number of the Bach concerti for multiple harpsichords. In the 1960s and 1970s he made a number of groundbreaking recordings of solo harpsichord music, including albums dedicated to the keyboard music of Rameau and the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, including a famous set of the Goldberg Variations made on a 1728 Christian Zell harpsichord.[2]

Following an academic career divided between UC Berkeley and Europe, Curtis now devotes his time to performing dramatic music from Monteverdi to Mozart. As a student in the 1950s he was the first modern harpsichordist to address the problem of Louis Couperin's unmeasured preludes for harpsichord and subsequently recreated operas by composers such as Monteverdi and Rameau using period instruments and authentic choreography.[citation needed]

He commissioned both the first chitarrone and the first chromatic (split-key) harpsichord to be built in the 20th century and in a production of Handel's Admeto (1978) he made the first successful attempt to revive Handel's opera orchestra, including the now widely accepted use of the archlute.[citation needed]

Curtis founded the European ensemble Il Complesso Barocco.[2]


  1. ^ Sherman, Bernard D. (2003). Inside Early Music: Conversations with Performers. Oxford University Press US. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-19-516945-4. 
  2. ^ a b Alan Curtis biography at Allmusic