Henri Ledroit led a colorful and highly unusual career: he began as a baritone, but at the age of 26 converted to countertenor, thereafter garnering critical acclaim as one of the finest countertenors of his time. He developed a highly successful career in opera, but is probably best remembered for his concert work. Early and Baroque music were his specialties, reaching from the works of Janequin and Lassus up through those of the Bach family. Though he died in 1988, his recordings are still prized today, whether in the motets of Lully and Charpentier, the cantatas of J.S. Bach or the sacred works of Rameau. Ledroit made numerous recordings during his relatively short life, many available on Astrée, Ricecar, Solstice, Harmonia Mundi, and Warner Classics.
Henri Ledroit was born in France in 1946. He was a gifted youngster who showed an affinity for both singing and piano. Ledroit's advanced studies were at the Nancy and Paris Conservatories in singing, piano, chamber music performance, and music history. After studies Ledroit exhibited great promise as a baritone, but could not quite make a major breakthrough.
In 1972 things would change dramatically: Ledroit met iconic countertenor Alfred Deller, who convinced the 26 year old that his real talent was as a countertenor. Ledroit then began intensive study of Baroque and early music singing with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, René Clemencic, and René Jacobs.
By 1976 Ledroit was making his mark on the international scene. Two recordings that year -- a disc of Janequin chansons on Astrée and an album of Lassus songs -- were drawing positive responses from both critics and public alike.
Other popular recordings followed, including more than a half-dozen on the Ricecar label. By the early '80s he was scoring many successes with a number of operatic roles, including the title role in Handel's Orlando (1983).
Ledroit continued appearing in concert performances across Europe, as well as in the U.S. In the mid-'80s his career seemed still on the ascent when he was stricken with AIDS. His last recording (issued on Erato and winning a Grand Prix du Disque) was made in 1987. It featured a performance of Tristan and Yseult (music adapted by Joel Cohen on texts by thirteenth century poet Gottfried von Strassburg). Ledroit's last concerts took place in Merkin Concert Hall, New York, in February 1988, in the premiere of this work, given by the Boston Camerata, led by Cohen.