Pieter Jan Leusink
About Pieter Jan Leusink
Pieter Jan Leusink is best known as the founder and conductor of the Holland Boys Choir, a group that has generally been comprised of about 30 boys and 18 men, covering the traditional SATB vocal structure. Chief among Leusink's achievements was his 12-volume, 60-CD set of the complete sacred cantatas of J.S. Bach, a project completed over a period of just 15 months! Though Leusink has been primarily associated with Baroque-era music, he has extended his repertory to include works by Mozart, Fauré, and modern composers. In the latter category, Leusink and the Holland Boys Choir achieved acclaim when they gave the world premiere of Magna Opera Domini, a work by the contemporary Latvian composer Juris Karlsons.
Leusink was born in Elburg, Holland, in 1958. At eight he began organ studies, already having developed an interest in choral music. Advanced training came at the Zwolle Conservatory in Holland, where Leusink studied organ, voice, and conducting, the latter with Gottfried van der Horst. Leusink later took conducting and choral lessons from David Willcocks in England.
By the time he graduated from the Zwolle Conservatory in 1983, Leusink had developed a keen interest in boys' choirs. In April 1984 he founded the Elburg City Boys Choir (Stadsknapenkoor Elburg). Leusink served as organist at a local church during this time, but after disputes over repertory, he abandoned his organ post to focus on his work with the choir. In 1990 he and his group performed Bach's St. Matthew Passion for the first time, and thereafter took on other challenging repertory as well, generally receiving positive response from both critics and public alike.
Throughout the 1990s Leusink and his group steadily gained notice for both their concerts and recordings. The 1996 name change of the ensemble to Holland Boys Choir seemed to coincide with its growing celebrity and less provincial status. In 1999 Leusink began his massive Bach cantata project with the choir and the Netherlands Bach Collegium for the Brilliant Classics label, finishing it the following year. Detractors decried the celebrity of the endeavor, but critics generally approved of the results. Leusink and his choir remain based in Elburg (at St. Nicholas Church) over the years and have regularly toured Holland. Their 2007 schedule included concerts of Bach's St. Matthew Passion in Rotterdam, Utrecht, Arnhem, Amsterdam, and elsewhere in the Netherlands.