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Franz Kelch (Bass-Baritone)

Born: November 1, 1915 - Bayreuth, Bavaria, Germany
Died: June 5, 2013 - Munich, Bavaria, Germany

The German bass-baritone, Franz Kelch, was allowed to visit, at the age of 10, a Parsifal performance at the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth. Later, and still a young person, he sang in 1933-1934 with the Meistersinger performances in the choir at the background. From that place he heard the most famous singers of the time, from there came the first impulse to become a singer. As he grew up, he received at school instrumental music training on the violin. An immediate singing study was not to be thought of. Only after 2 years of mandatory military service (1937-1939) he could begin his singing training with Henriette Klink in Nürnberg, parallel to the military service and financed with the help of the Schmalen Soldes.

The outbreak of the World War II interrupted the training so hopefully begun and destroyed all prospects and plans for many years. During the war Franz Kelch was arrested for two years in prisoner-of-war camp. He worked purposefully also there on the perfection of his voice and gave Lieder recitals with fastidious programmes before the along caught prisoners-of-war.

After returning home, in desolate time, it was a venture for Franz Kelch to hold to the occupational aspiration as free-lance Lieder and oratorio singer. Since he had married had to take care for his constantly growing family with ten children, he had to teach immediately. Among other things he was responsible for vocal training at a seminar for priests in Freising and at the Jesuitenkolleg in Pullach. The Bayerische Rundfunk (Bavarian broadcast) used him frequently with programmes of early music and with new works of Munich composers (Haas Zilcher Rossmann Suder Jacobi Kammeier Altmann).

Already in 1948 Franz Kelch appeared with the Münchner Philharmoniker under Rudolf Lamy in the Deutsche Requiem by Johannes Brahms; a little later in the Mass in B minor (BWV 232) by J. S. Bach under Michael Schneider with the Heinrich-Schütz-Kreis and with the Bamberger Symphoniker in L.v. Beethovens 9th Symphony of under Joseph Keilberth. In 1951 he came with the young Karl Richter to Munich. Immediately a fruitful co-operation resulted in the following years (1952-1957), whereby Kelch sang the bass parts of all big Bach works and numerous cantatas. The Thomaskantor Günther Ramin got him for his two tours of Western Europe and for the Archiv Produktion recording of J.S. Bachs Johannes-Passion (BWV 245) in Leipzig. After short time Franz Kelch, with the wide bass-baritone voice, expanded his repertoire to include works from Monteverdi to the modern times. He always experienced special appreciation in the role of Christ in the Bach Passions.

In addition to his extensive concert activities, Franz Kelch taught successfully for 25 years at the Leopold-Mozart-Konservatorium Augsburg. With 28 of his students, he enruched the musical life of Augsburg with performances of short operas from various periods and styles. After finishing this activity, he trained in 1980 the soloists for the Passionsspiele (Passion Play) in Oberammergau.

The bass-baritone voice of the Franz Kelch was documented on numerous recordingss, some of which have since been reissued on CD. In the early 1950's there was Monteverdi Renaissance and Franz Kelch sang the role of Seneca in the first recording of L'incoronazione di Poppea in 1952 (Grand Prix du Disques), followed by other recordings of Monteverdi works. Fritz Werner engaged Franz Kelch and others for LP recordings of the J.S. Bach Passions (BWV 244 & BWV 245), B Minor Mass (BWV 232) and numerous cantatas by Erato.

Special appreciation should be given to , Franz Kelch's performances as Christ in the Passions. K.H. Ruppel, the chief critic of Süddeutschen Zeitung, wrote on the occasion of Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) conducted by Karl Richter in 1956 was engraced in the memory of Günther Ramin: "Die Gestaltung der Christus-Partie durch Franz Kelch gehört in der geistigen Durchdringung, der Wärme des Ausdrucks und der kultivierten Führung der edlen Baßstimme zum Schönsten, was man sich an sängerischer Bachinterpretation denken kann."

Source: Pasinger Website [N/A], English translation by Aryeh Oron (November 2005, April 2010); blog 'Karl Richter in München' [Photo]; Family of Franz Kelch (April 2010, June 2013); Photos 04-05 by Gerhard Schwengler (August 2010)
Contributed by:
Burke Smith (November 2005, November 2007); Family of Franz Kelch (April 2010, June 2013)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Hans Grischkat


BWV 201, BWV 205, BWV 233-242

Günther Ramin


BWV 245

Karl Richter


BWV 232 [1st]

Fritz Werner


BWV 6, BWV 65, BWV 67, BWV 76, BWV 78, BWV 80, BWV 85, BWV 87, BWV 104, BWV 140, BWV 147
BWV 232, BWV 243, BWV 244, BWV 245

Links to other Sites Der Münchner Konzertsänger Franz Kelch feiert am 1.11.2005 seinen 90. Geburtstag [German, N/A]
Karl Richter in München [German]
Discography Franz Kelch [PDF]

Franz Kelch (Wikipedia) [German]
Franz Kelch (Wikipedia) [English]

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Last update: Monday, May 29, 2017 07:21