Since its founding in 1973, MAK has been led by, and identified with, Baroque violinist Reinhard Goebel; he and his colleagues have been famous for a combination of virtuosity, vigor and ferocious discipline.
In 1990, Goebel's left hand was struck by a form of focal dystonia, a neurological disorder that causes paralysis of an isolated body part. (This same condition ended the violin career of Peter Oundjian, who led the Tokyo String Quartet before turning to conducting, and disabled the right hands of pianists Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman.)
Goebel turned his discipline to the task of relearning the violin altogether, holding and fingering the instrument with his right hand while bowing with his left. He continued to play this way until 2001, but the disorder is now forcing him to give up his instrument entirely. As Oundjian did before him, Goebel plans to concentrate on conducting, including work with modern-instrument orchestras.
Goebel and MAK will make all their scheduled appearances through the end of 2006, including performances at various German festivals this summer, a tour of east and Southeast Asia in October and visits to five U.S. cities (New York, Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles and Berkeley) in November.
MAK's recordings for Archiv have won many prizes in various countries over the past three decades. Among their most highly-regarded releases have been Heinchen's "Dresden" Concerti (which won five major awards); Biber's "Mystery" Sonatas with Goebel as soloist; two discs with Anne Sofie von Otter, arias and Marian cantatas by Handel and a collection of 17th-century works entitled Lamenti e Cantate; Biber's mammoth Missa Salisburgensis (with Paul McCreesh's Gabrieli Consort and Players); a 2005 disc with Magdalena Kozenš entitled Lamento; and the soundtrack to the 2001 film Le roi danse.
Yet the group's most famous recording must surely be its fearless 1987 account of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, to this day regularly mentioned in online discussion groups for its combination of precise execution and sheer flabbergasting speed.