Internationally recognized as one of the preeminent authorities on the music of J. S. Bach and his contemporaries, German conductor HELMUTH RILLING is also acclaimed for outstanding performances with the world’s leading orchestras, most notably of the choral repertoire.
In 1954 he founded the Gächinger Kantorei, and in 1965 he established its instrumental counterpart, the Bach Collegium Stuttgart. In 1957 he became Cantor of the Stuttgart Memorial Church, a position he still holds today. His wide-ranging teaching activity led him in 1963 to the Academy for Church Music in Spandau, where he reestablished the Spandauer Kantorei. After studying with Leonard Bernstein in New York in 1967, he was named professor of choral conducting at the Frankfurt State Music Academy, a post he held until 1985. He also served as director of the Frankfurt Kantorei until 1981. He is the director of the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart, which he founded in 1981. Together with the teachers and ensembles of this institution, he has held Bach Academy sessions all over the world, in such cities as Buenos Aires, Cracow, Prague, Moscow, Budapest, Tokyo, and Santiago de Compostela. Of particular importance to Rilling is the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, Oregon, which was founded in 1969 and has taken place each year since. Rilling is a frequent guest conductor with leading orchestras in Europe, North America, and Japan, including the Boston Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Minnesota Orchestra.
Helmuth Rilling is the only conductor to have recorded all of Bach’s sacred cantatas, a pioneering project that has been followed by many other efforts to bring musical discoveries to light. Among the works he has been instrumental in reviving are the long-lost “Requiem for the Death of Gioachino Rossini,” never performed until its premiere under Rilling; Robert Levin’s revision of the Süssmayer edition of Mozart’s Requiem; and Edison Denisov’s completion of Schubert’s “Lazarus” fragment. His latest project was a critically acclaimed premiere of new Passions composed by Wolfgang Rihm, Sofia Gubaidulina, Osvaldo Golijov, and Tan Dun in Stuttgart in September 2000.
Rilling’s collaborations with the Hänssler Classic label culminated with the Edition Bachakademie, the first recording of the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Combining the expertise of the Bach Academy and the artistic direction of Rilling, Hänssler Classic released this edition – 172 CDs – to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death