The prize, created in 1984 by Kazuo Inamori, founder of the electronics company Kyocera, honors "people who have contributed greatly to the progress of science, the advancement of civilization, and the enrichment and elevation of the human spirit." It carries a prize of 50 million yen, or about $460,000.
Harnoncourt was cited as "a musician of exceptional creativity who has contributed to the establishment of the historically informed performance of European early music, and who has extended his principles and interpretation to modern music."
The other winners are George Heilmeier, an engineer who pioneered liquid crystal flat-panel displays, and ecologist Simon Asher Levin.
The Berlin-born, Austrian-raised Harnoncourt began his career as a cellist and was a member of the Vienna Symphony from 1952 to 1969. He founded the groundbreaking early-music group Concentus Musicus Wien in 1953 and has made many important recordings with the group, including the complete Bach cantatas, recorded over 20 years; he is also a frequent conductor of orchestras around the world leading both early music and more recent repertoire. He has previously won the Polar Music Prize and the Siemens Music Prize, among other honors.
The prizes will be presented in a ceremony in Kyoto on November 10. In addition to the cash award, each winner will receive a diploma and a gold medal.