Koopman had a "classical education" and then studied the organ (with Simon C. Jansen), harpsichord (with Gustav Leonhardt) and musicology in Amsterdam. He specialized in Baroque music and received the Prix d'Excellence for both organ and harpsichord.In 1979 Koopman founded the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and the Amsterdam Baroque Choir in 1992 (now combined as the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir). Koopman concentrates on Baroque music, especially that of Bach, and is a leading figure in the "authentic performance" movement. While a number of early-music conductors have ventured into newer music, Koopman has not. He has said, "I draw the line at Mozart's death" (1791). One exception is his recording of the Concert Champêtre of Francis Poulenc, written in 1928.
Bach cantatas project
Among Koopman's most ambitious projects was the recording of the complete cycle of all of Bach's cantatas, a project completed in 2005. This project had started while Koopman was an artist of the French Erato Classics label. However, after 12 volumes (36 CDs) the project was stalled when owner Warner Classics wound up its French subsidiary in 2002. Koopman was able to buy back rights for the first 12 volumes and continue the series in 2003 with his own label Antoine Marchand, distributed by Challenge Classics. "Antoine Marchand" is a French translation of his own name. Soloists for the project were among others Lisa Larsson, Sandrine Piau, Sibylla Rubens, Barbara Schlick, Caroline Stam, Deborah York and Johannette Zomer (soprano), Bogna Bartosz, Michael Chance, Franziska Gottwald, Bernhard Landauer, Elisabeth von Magnus, Annette Markert and Kai Wessel (alto), Paul Agnew, Jörg Dürmüller, James Gilchrist, Christoph Prégardien and Gerd Türk (tenor) and Klaus Mertens (bass).
In addition to the works of Bach, Koopman has long been an advocate of the music of Bach's predecessor Dieterich Buxtehude. He had previously recorded the keyboard works for Philips Classics and several cantatas for Erato. He was elected president of the "International Dieterich Buxtehude Society" in 2004. Following the completion of the Bach cantatas project Koopman then embarked on a recording of the complete works of Buxtehude. In 2005 he has commenced Dieterich Buxtehude – Opera Omnia, a project to record the complete works of Dieterich Buxtehude. As of March 2010, eleven volumes have been released.
Besides his work with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, he is in frequent demand as guest conductor and as harpsichordist and organist. In 2011, Koopman began a three-year stint as artist-in-residence with the Cleveland Orchestra.Some of his organ interpretations have drawn criticism for their overuse of ornamentation. His aim is always to achieve authenticity in performance, using exact copies of historical instruments from the time of the composer.
Koopman is married to Tini Mathot, who is also an accomplished harpsichordist and fortepianist, and the two frequently perform together. Mathot is also his chief recording producer, as well as a teacher at the Royal Conservatory. On 11 October 2012 the documentary Live to be a hundred - a year in the life of Ton Koopman
was released in the Dutch cinemas. Filmmaker Paul Hegeman accompanied the energetic conductor, organ player, harpsichordist and musicologist on his whirlwind journey through the world. It is the first documentary about the life and work of Ton Koopman and gives an intimate insight in his special relationship with his wife Tini Mathot.