Founder of the Academy

Helmuth Rilling

»Music should never be merely comfortable, never fossilized, never soothing.
It should startle people and reach deep down inside them, forcing them to reflect.«

This is the personal mission statement of Helmuth Rilling, the conductor, teacher and ambassador of Bach throughout the world, who founded the International Bach Academy Stuttgart in 1981 and directed it until 2013. As the "original cell," Helmuth Rilling gathered singers to form the Gächinger Kantorei in 1954, and in 1965 the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart joined him as an instrumental partner. His intensive study of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach dates from this period. He has also contributed to the rediscovery of Romantic choral music and promotes contemporary music by regularly commissioning compositions. With his ensembles, Rilling has given countless concerts internationally and has been in demand as a guest conductor with leading orchestras around the world. A special friendship binds him to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which he conducted in over 100 concerts together with the Gächinger Kantorei. From 1970 to 2013 he was Artistic Director of the Oregon Bach Festival, which he co-founded, one of the most high-profile music festivals in the USA.

Helmuth Rilling © photo Holger Schneider
photos © Holger Schneider

In 1981 he founded the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart. Rilling's music pedagogical impetus manifested itself internationally in workshops and work phases at universities and colleges worldwide, as well as in the compilation of international youth ensembles. Helmuth Rilling was the first conductor to record all of Johann Sebastian Bach's cantatas; for the Bach Year 2000, the complete recording of Bach's works appeared on 172 CDs under his artistic direction. With his recording of Penderecki's 'Credo' he won the Grammy 2000 for best choral performance and was nominated again in 2001 for his recording of 'Deus Passus' by Wolfgang Rihm. On the list of his extensive discography from recent years are works by Gubaidulina, Britten's 'War Requiem', Sven-David Sandström's 'Messiah' initiated by Rilling, the Verdi Requiem and Honegger's "Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher".

For his multifaceted commitment, Helmuth Rilling was awarded the International UNESCO Music Prize and the Theodor Heuss Prize "Deeds of Reconciliation," among others, and in 2003 he was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2008, on the occasion of his 75th birthday, the conductor received the Great Staufer Medal in Gold, the highest award of the state of Baden-Württemberg. In November 2011, Helmuth Rilling was awarded the prestigious Herbert von Karajan Music Prize of the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, and on Reformation Day 2012 he received the Luther Medal of the Evangelical Church in Germany. In October 2013, Helmuth Rilling received the ECHO Klassik for his life's work.


Small selection for 90th birthday