Helmuth Rilling

Founder of the Internationale Bachakademie

Helmuth Rilling (Photo hs)

Helmuth Rilling, born in 1933 in Stuttgart, is a conductor, teacher and ambassador for Bach’s music throughout the world. In 1954 Helmuth Rilling founded the Gächinger Kantorei, followed in 1965 by the Bach Collegium Stuttgart as its 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.

Rilling has given concerts throughout the world with the Bachakademie ensembles, and is much in demand as a guest conductor with leading orchestras internationally, including the Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Japanese NHK Symphony Orchestra and others. He has enjoyed a special friendship for over thirty years with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2012/13 Helmuth Rilling was a guest conductor and lecturer in the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, the USA, South America, Moscow, Russia and Poland. Since its inauguration in 1970, he has been Artistic Director of the Oregon Bach Festival, of which he was a co-founder, one of the most high-profile music festivals in the USA.

In 1981 he founded the International Bach Academy Stuttgart. Rilling’s zest for music education is widely manifested in workshops and periods of work at universities and colleges worldwide, in the Bach Academies, and in the setting up of international youth ensembles. Helmuth Rilling was the first conductor to record all the cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach; for the Bach anniversary year in 2000, a complete recording of Bach’s works on 172 CDs was issued under his artistic direction. He won a 2001 Grammy Award for the best choral performance with his recording of Penderecki’s »Credo«, and was nominated again in 2001 for his recording of »Deus Passus« by Wolfgang Rihm. In recent years CDs have been released of works by Haydn, Handel, Gubaidulina, Britten’s »War Requiem«, Sven-David Sandström’s setting of »Messiah« which Rilling instigated, and the Verdi Requiem. Rilling’s latest recording, Honegger’s »Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher«, was released in August 2013.

Helmuth Rilling has received numerous prizes in recognition of his many diverse commitments. In 2011 he was awarded the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize from the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, and in 2012 the Martin Luther Medal in St Thomas’s Church Leipzig. On the occasion of his 80th birthday in May 2013, Helmuth Rilling retired from all his work as director of various institutions, but remains active as a conductor and lecturer internationally.