A Bachakademie timeline

How it all began

Founding of the Gächinger Kantorei. In the 1953 summer holidays, meetings in the Haberer family house in Gächingen. The 20-year-old Stuttgart school music student Helmuth Rilling played second violin in quartets with his school friend and the two daughters of the Haberer family with whom he was friendly; the results were not exactly satisfactory. Searching for alternatives, at the end of the year people were invited to a singing week in Gächingen, which concluded with a small concert with twenty participants on 3 January 1954 in St. Georg’s Church. Further singing weeks followed, with rehearsals in living rooms in Gächingen, which Helmuth Rilling himself told people about by letter. In mid-October 1954 the first singing tour by the Gächinger Kantorei took them to Thuringia.

From the Swabian mountains into the world

1963: The ensemble conducted by Helmuth Rilling

Concerts with Distler’s ›Choral-Passion‹. The press praises the »wonderfully balanced choral sound« and the »admirable quality« of the 30-voice ensemble, which has flourished »more or less in seclusion«. Helmuth Rilling becomes music director at the Gedächtniskirche Stuttgart in 1957, where he establishes a successful series of sacred ‘Abendmusiken’, or evening concerts. Concerts in and around Stuttgart with works by Johann Nepomuk David (including the first performance of his ›Sechs Evangelienmotetten‹), Willy Burkhard, Kurt Hessenberg, Hugo Distler and Ernst Pepping. 1961, first LP recordings for Musicaphon. Concerts in southern Germany, in Berlin, Kassel, Basel, Budapest and Cologne. 1963, Rilling is appointed Church Music Director in Stuttgart.

1966: Romantic choral music in the Mozart Hall

Founding of the friends’ association Stuttgarter Musikfreunde e. V. and the Bach Collegium Stuttgart. Beginning of cantata services at the Gedächtniskirche. 1965, first performance of Bach’s St John Passion there. At the International Heinrich Schütz Festival in Berlin, first performances of new works by Petr Eben and Milko Kelemen in the Philharmonie. Concerts by the Ensemble in Stuttgart, Lugano, Frankfurt, Schwetzingen, Brno, Nuremberg, Baden-Baden, Maulbronn, Speyer. 1968, first USA tour (concerts in 21 cities) with Bach’s St John Passion, Mozart’s Requiem and Penderecki’s ›Stabat mater‹. 1969, first performances of the Mass in B minor, including on a tour of Czechoslovakia and at the Bach Week Ansbach.

1974: Osaka (Japan)

Helmuth Rilling is co-founder of the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene and assumes artistic directorship from then onwards. Beginning of the Bach cantata recording series. First performances: St Matthew Passion and Brahms ›Ein deutsches Requiem‹ (1970) Verdi’s ›Messa da Requiem‹ and the first complete performance of Parts I–VI of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (1971). 1972, founding of the ›Stuttgarter Konzertvereinigung e. V.‹. 1974, first Japanese tour, 1976 first Israeli tour (including Brahms’ Requiem with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau). 1977, first LP recordings for CBS (Mass in B minor). 1978, first Lecture concert (in Frankfurt). 1979, first ›Summer Academy Johann Sebastian Bach‹ Stuttgart (held annually, later alternating with the Music Festival, until 1999).

Establishing a foundation, 1981

November 16, Establishment of the International Bach Academy Stuttgart Foundation (Managing Director: Andreas Keller, from 2000 to 2008 as Artistic Director). Summer Academy 1981: »Bach – Haydn – Mozart«. For the opening of the Alte Oper Frankfurt, concert series with Lecture concerts on Bach’s Mass in B minor and cantatas. In January, third USA tour (visiting 11 cities) with the Gächinger Kantorei and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Tour of Germany, Spain, Austria (St Matthew Passion). Concerts in Berlin, Leverkusen, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Vienna, and, as part of the 56th Bach Festival of the Neue Bachgesellschaft (IVth International Bach Festival in the German Democratic Republic), on 9 December in the Main Hall of the New Gewandhaus in Leipzig. TV productions for ZDF of the ›Liebesliederwalzer‹ op. 52 by Brahms.

Up to the new millennium

1984: The Gächinger Kantorei in the Ulrichskirche Halle

Tours: Switzerland (1982), Israel (1983/1986), USA (1983), Japan (1985/1988), Italy (1985), Canada (1987/1989), Granada (1989). The first Bach Academies: Japan (1983/1984/1987/1988), Buenos Aires (1985, held annually until 1994), Krakow (1986), Prague (1987), Bergen, Norway (1988), Moscow (1988), Budapest (1989). 1984, dedication of the renovated building of the Bachakademie in Stuttgart. GDR tour with the Mass in B minor. »Stuttgart Bach Weekend« (held regularly until 1998). Conclusion of the complete recording of Bach’s church cantatas. 1985: Major tour of Eastern Europe: Prague, Krakow, Warsaw, Leipzig, Dresden, Moscow. 1st European Music Festival Stuttgart 1988 with the first performance and ZDF TV production of the ›Messa per Rossini‹ (with volume 1 of the Bachakademie’s scholarly series of publications). 1989, collaboration between the Gächinger Kantorei & New York Philharmonic Orchestra (Mass in B minor and ›Messa per Rossini‹).

1994: Helmuth Rilling with Arvo Pärt in Berlin

Tours: Israel (1990), Gran Canaria (1990), Europe (from 1990), Japan (1991). Bach Academies in Budapest (1991/1992), Moscow (1991/1992/1994), Krakow (1992/1993), Santiago de Compostela (1992/1994), Riga, Cluj-Napoca, Romania (1992), Leipzig, Rio de Janeiro (1993), Venezuela (1993/1994). On 3 October 1990 participation in the state ceremony for German Unity in the Philharmonie Berlin. At the 1991 Music Festival, first performance and CD recording of the completion of Mozart’s Requiem by Robert Levin. On 30 December 1992, concert in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela marking the beginning of the 1993 Holy Year. 1994 premiere of ›Litany‹ by Arvo Pärt. CD and TV recordings (including Haydn’s ›The Seasons‹ and ›The Creation‹, Mendelssohn’s ›St Paul‹, Bach’s St Matthew Passion). Golden disc for a million CDs sold (Hänssler Verlag). UNESCO IMC Music Prize.

1998: The Gächinger Kantorei with the Vienna Philharmonic in the Musikverein

European Music Festival Stuttgart 2012 »War, Reconciliation, Peace – Requiem, Passion, Mass«: premiere of the commission ›Requiem der Versöhnung‹ [Requiem of Reconciliation] (with the Gächinger Kantorei, Krakow Chamber Choir and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra), later that year the Theodor Heuss Prize for Acts of Reconciliation. Tours to Israel (1995/1998) and Japan (1995). Bach Academies in Venezuela (annually), Buenos Aires (1996) and Santiago de Compostela (1998). 1995, foundation and first phase of work for the ›choir and orchestra of the international Bach Academies‹. 1996, premiere of the commission ›Lazarus‹ (Franz Schubert, completed by Edison Denisov). 1998, premiere of the commission ›Credo‹ by Krzysztof Penderecki. 1998, collaboration between the Gächinger Kantorei and the Vienna Philharmonic. 1999, first Stuttgart Bach Week.


European Music Festival Stuttgart 2000 »PASSION 2000«: Premieres of four commissioned works Deus Passus (Wolfgang Rihm), St John Passion (Sofia Gubaidulina), La Pasión según San Marcos (Osvaldo Golijov) and Water Passion (Tan Dun). Bach Academy Venezuela South America tour with Mass in B minor Concerts in Munich (the Gächinger Kantorei and the Munich Philharmonic), Baden-Baden, Vienna (Osterklang), Milan, Reggio Emilia, Ottobeuren, Hanover (Expo), Leipzig (Bachfest 2000), Salzburg Festival (Rihm, ›Deus Passus‹), Vienna (Gächinger Kantorei with the Vienna Philharmonic), Bonn, Düsseldorf, Treviso. Conclusion of the Edition Bachakademie (complete recording of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach). TV productions Christmas concert for ARD (from Zwiefalten Abbey), twelve-part series on SWR with Bach cantatas for the church year (Lecture concerts).

New directions

2004: Helmuth Rilling with the Festival Ensemble

2001, foundation of the »Festival Choir and Orchestra« (later the Festival Ensemble Stuttgart) as the ensemble of the European Music Festival Stuttgart. Bach Academies in Krasnoyarsk and Athens (2001), in Venezuela and Donetsk (2004). 2001, »Echo Klassik« and the Cannes Classical Award for the complete recording of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach (Edition Bachakademie) and a Grammy award for CD of Penderecki’s ›Credo‹. 2002, SWR TV production of Mendelssohn’s ›Elijah‹ in Zwiefalten Abbey. 2003, premiere of the commission ›Insula felix‹ by Wolfgang Rihm in Stuttgart. 2003, Israel tour. 2004, premiere of Mendelssohn’s early work ›Der Onkel aus Boston‹ (in the Philharmonie Essen, TV and CD productions).

2008: Holy Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome

2005, Mass in B minor with the Festival Ensemble Stuttgart, concerts also in Leipzig (Rilling’s first concert in St Thomas’s Church), in the Philharmonie in Berlin and Essen. First Toronto Bach Festival 2005. Premiere of the new version of Mozart’s C minor Mass by Robert Levin in New York (in Carnegie Hall), followed by a tour of Germany, Italy, Poland, Austria and CD recordings. Cinema film ›Klang der Ewigkeit‹ (to music from the new recording of Bach’s Mass in B minor). Bach Academies in Venezuela and Krakow (2006). Israel tour (2006). 2007, Sofia Gubaidulina, St John Passion & St John Easter in Dresden and Stuttgart (first performance of the German version, with CD recording). 2008, celebration of mass in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Christian Lorenz becomes General Manager of the Bachakademie in 2008.

2011: rehearsal for concert in Beijing

Bach Academies in Venezuela and Katowice (2009). Israel tour (2009) with 100th joint concert. MUSIKFESTUTTGART 2009 »LICHT«: ›Messiah‹ by Handel and Sven-David Sandström (commissioned work, premiered at the 40th Oregon Bach Festival) with the Festival Ensemble Stuttgart, also concerts in Eberbach Abbey and the Berlin Philharmonie. 2009, first South Korea tour and concerts by the Gächinger Kantorei and New York Philharmonic in the Avery Fisher Hall in New York. 2011, foundation of the JSB Ensemble (Young Stuttgart Bach Ensemble) of the Bach Week Stuttgart. 2011, first China tour with concerts in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai. 2012 – »the year of the B minor Masses« (Bach Week with Italy tour, on a South American tour, in Germany and France). First Bach Academy in Frutillar (Chile)

Passing the baton

Gernot Rehrl becomes new General Manager of the Bachakademie Stuttgart. End of April: Akademie concert with works by Brahms, Mendelssohn and the premiere of ›Stille Feste‹ by Wolfgang Rihm (for Helmuth Rilling’s 80th birthday) with a following concert in Baden-Baden. 80th birthday of Helmuth Rilling on 29 May. On 24 August the passing of the baton‹ to his successor Hans-Christoph Rademann with a speech by German Federal President Joachim Gauck as part of the MUSIKFESTUTTGART 2013 »NEUGIER«. The beginning of a new era under joint directorship. Changeover, inaugural concert, Summer Academy, the series »Sichten auf Bach« and the beginning of a new series »Sakral Modern« with a broad, positive response from audiences and the press. In December first dance project »BACHBEWEGT!«.