The idea to perform all the listed Bach Cantatas in Lucerne, came to the musicians Franz Schaffner and Rudolf Zemp in 1980. On the occasion of a cantata seminar of the Bach specialist Helmuth Rilling at the former Akademie für Schul- und Kirchenmusik Luzern came to this bold idea, considering that J.S. Bach composed 224 cantatas. But the two musicians could not be swayed. Appropriate singers and musicians, who could be inspired by this idea were sought and on January 2, 1981 was the first concert at the Matthäuskirche in Lucerne. Admission free, collection to cover the expenses ...
The repertoire of the Bach-Ensemble Luzern (= BEL), which has been performed so far is very impressive: 128 cantatas, 29 masses, oratorios and motets, and 43 instrumental works by J.S. Bach, as well as 78 various works by other composers, for a total of 278 works! From 1981 to 1991 the focus in the programmes was almost exclusively works by J.S. Bach. From 1992 to 1996 works by J.S. Bach's sons and relatives, including Mozart and Jan Dismas Zelenka were performed. There are 4 concerts per year. A chamber concert complements the three-cycle-related issues, followed by a Christmas concert, in which half of J.S. Bach's Weihnachts-Oratorium (BWV 248) is performed. Since 1997, the annual cycles are dedicated also to a composer, whose compositional life were related to J.S. Bach: Antonio Vivaldi, Felix Mendelssohn, J.D. Zelenka, Georg Philipp Telemann, Scarlatti.
The BEL consists of choir and orchestra. The size of the orchestra depends on the required occupation of the respective works. It is composed of professional musicians and qualified musicians. In the choir, whose size is planned to reflect the clarity and balance of the Baroque sound, sing enthusiastic amateurs. About 200 singers and 50 instrumentalists have been involved in the course of the years in various concert projects. Renowned soloists from all over Switzerland and neighboring countries have participated. The number of participants is adapted is the realization of the compositions. Choir and orchestra are project-related, which 25 years ago, was an extraordinary new view.
Without supporting infrastructure, despite the personal commitment of co-artistic director and conductor Franz Schaffner, the courage to take risks and the great use of volunteers, such a rich concert programme would not have been feasible. The "Gesellschaft der Luzerner Bachfreunde" was founded in 1982 as a patron of the Bach Ensemble Luzern, and in 2000 there was an organizational merger of that company with the performing ensemble to the Verein Bach Ensemble Luzern, which have today about 350 members.