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Karl Richter & Münchener Bach-Chor & Bach-Orchester
Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works
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Karl Richter and the cantatas

Heikki Antila wrote (March 31, 1998):
As a start I would like to introduce myself. My name is Heikki Antila and I live in Turku, Finland. I have been interested in Bach's music ever since I was a schoolboy (that is about thirty years). My musical training is limited to a few years of piano lessons in the late 1960's and early 1970's, but I have always loved listening to music, mostly recordings. Unfortunately thirteen years of married life and a five-year old son has seriously limited also this hobby.

I have followed with interest the discussion of different recordings of Bachīs cantatas. For some reason, the cantatas have always been somewhat unfamiliar to me, and I have only very limited number of them in my CD collection. Now I have been planning to correct my obvious mistake and start collecting them. I have already got quite a few valuable tips from this list. However, I have wondered, why the complete (?) set of cantatas recorded by Karl Richter and the Munich Bach Choir and Orchestra has constantly been ignored in the discussions. It is still available in Archiv Produktion either as a complete set of 26 CDs or five smaller sets divided according to religious holidays of the church year. Has anybody any experience or comments about them??

I have always been a great fan of Karl Richter. My first Bach recording was the 1958 recording of St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) by Richter and I still think it is one of the best interpretations of St. Matthew (BWV 244) I have ever heard (from this You can quite rightly conclude, that I am not necessarily a fan of period instruments and "authentic" style, whatever that means). In his early years Richter was among the first to challenge the old romantic style with huge orchestras and choirs and excessively slow tempi. Although he still used modern instruments, his performing style was then considered authentic (Harnoncourt and Leonhardt were still yet to come, I believe). To modern ear, his early recordings from the late 1950's and early 1960's undeniably sound romantic, but the full sound of large orchestra and choir as well as the convenient tempi have always fascinated me. Unfortunately, during his later years Richter turned to the performing style which he had confronted earlier, using agonizinly slow tempi, occasional rubato, and some odd choices of instruments (harpsichord played by himself in the continuo of the St. Matthew (BWV 244) recording of 1979).

You see my problem?? I adore the old Richter recordings and hate the newer ones. I am afraid the cantata recordings were made during the 1970's and, consequently, they may belong to the latter category. Should I be loyal to my old friend Richter or turn my back to him?? Comments, please!!

A Kurt W. Reiss wrote (March 31, 1998):
In my opinion the Richter Cantatas suffer from age- the performances are slow and heavy handed, and suffer from the Germanic" style of singing- aspirating each note in a run , etc. The Rilling's cantatas are an updated version of the classic approach to Bach and are more fun to listen to.

George Murnu wrote (April 1, 1998):
I share a lot of your thoughts about Karl Richter and I do agree that generally his older recordings are preferable to his later ones. Yet sometimes even that slow, romantic approach seems to work. I especially adore his recording of the cantata BWV 21, which is among others my favorite Ernst Haeflinger recording that I have heard. His singing of "Bäche von gesalznen Zähren" (aria number 5 which is sung by a soprano in the Koopman recording, but by a tenor again in Rilling's set) must be heard to be believed. Richter's recording of BWV 137 is also a favorite of mine. As for the rest of the set I feel that Richter catches the grandour of the music especially well and I particularly like the powerful trumpets and drums. So definitely an uneven set but IMO worth exploring.


Vocal Music

Emíle Swanepoel wrote (June 20, 1998):
Am I mistaken or do the members of the group prefer the instrumental works of the great master? Certainly any lover of Bach knows and loves the St. Mathews Passion (BWV 244). But it would seem a bit odd not to, hey?

While I am on this track.... What is everybodys opinion about the singers used by Karl Richter on his recordings. Especially Edith Mathis, Fisher-Dieskau and my personal all time favourite Gundula Janowitz?

Maybe I'm terribly old-fasioned!

Jaime Jean wrote (June 21, 1998):
I agree: Karl Richter made some wonderful choices of soloists, and that in itself makes the Richter cantatas worth listening to. His cast of soloists also includes Peter Schreier, Hertha Töpper, Enrst Haefliger and Ursula Buckel, all of them great - and often underrated - singers.

IMHO, however, the major flaw in Richter's recordings is his Münchener Bach-Chor. especially the sopranos, which sound like Alvin & the Chipmunks. This is especially evident in his Mass in B-minor (BWV 232) and other of his later recordings dating from the 1970's.

I am also a great fan of Gundula Janowitz, but do not recall having seen her featuring in a Richter cantata. Can you tell me some of the recordings where she appears?


About good old Richter

Marie Jensen wrote (June 22, 1999):
Wim Huisjes wrote:
< But IMO Richter seems to be very much under-rated on this list. Any general opinions, apart from the trumpets and the fact that his recordings are non-HIP? >
About good old Richter:

What I like about him is his intensity and focusation on bringing out the human feelings in vocal Bach works. He makes Bach take place here and now in his fully deserved universality, with the modern instruments possibilities and expressive voices. He does not let the music take place in Heaven, as some of the HIP's do with angel like soloists singing asexually focused on divine beauty above all, like their tears allready had been wiped away by the good Lord himself. Neither does he reduce Bach to a historic phenomena with a museum sound, that makes it hard for me anyway, to get through to the very heart of the music.

What I dislike about Richter is when he makes movements too monumental (though still clearly played) with heavy rhytm, big choir, too triumphant trumpets, etc.The recitativos might sound too slow and solemn, a bit outdated perhaps, but they bring out so many feelings.

Two examples:

1) I love his intense St. John (BWV 245) very much, but in the last bars of the final chorus he goes too far, with grandiousity and forte fortissimo. In my imagination I can see his extremely serious face with the lips quivering, while his arms firmly maybe even prussian are conducting the session, and the hairs stand on end on the overwhelmed audience.

2) I just heard his Actus Tragicus (BWV 106), which has a beautiful ouverture, with two recorders circling over the dark bass, like eternal light over a grave. I was moved a lot by the ariosos of young Bach, in spite of a heavy rhytm and large choruses. On the same CD ( DG 463 008-2) are BWV 56 conducted by Baumgartner (no comments here), and BWV 147 again conducted by Richter, which I can't say any bad things about at all. It's great.


Karl Richterís Bach

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 17, 2001):
I got the attached message to my Inbox from a non-member of the lists. I like the idea and I hope that the members of both lists will like it too and will act accordingly.

Michael Siegel wrote (May 15, 2001):
Hi, I am not a member of the Cantata group of yours, but you might want to pass on the following message to the mailing list, it is up to you:

I have started a petition to Deutsche Grammophon asking them to make a deal with Unitel to bring out a boxed-set of DVDs of the videos ofKarl Richter performing Bach works as a conductor and soloist. See the list of videos at

These have never been released to the public! This is the 20th anniversary of Richter's deat, and next year would have been his 75th birthday. This is a great time to issue these DVDís!

If you want to help, try these steps:

1. Put your name on the petition! Just go to and look for Miscellaneous Topics in the DGG Discussions. There you will find a topic titled TO DG: Karl Richter DVD Petition. Just add your comment of support for the idea!
2. Write DG an email. This is simple, just write one sentence or so (or more if you want) and send it to
3. Write a letter to DG asking for the release of Karl Richter DVDs at:
Deutsche Grammophon GmbH
Alte Rabenstrasse 2
20148 Hamburg

Anyone who likes Richter, please give at least one of these steps a try. Signing the petition and emailing DG both take no time at all. If we don't push for it, these performances might sit in a dark closet for another 30 years!


Richterís cantata survey

Peter Bright wrote (November 20, 2001):
As a great admirer of Richter's Bach, I have decided, at last, to buy his complete (ish?) set of cantatas. This will necessarily involve duplicating those I already have, but there are many more I have not yet heard. Does anybody know whether they are available as a single box set? I have only seen them sold in sets of 5 or 6. Incidentally, my intention is to have a copy of each of the cantatas in HIP and non-HIP forms - the best solution, for me, being the Richter and Suzuki series.

Peter Bright wrote (November 20, 2001):
Ah, I've just found a 26 CD set on the web site priced at 149.95 UK pounds. Does anyone know whether this represents all Richter's recorded cantatas? I would have expected a larger set than this... Is it a reasonable price?

Thanks for your advice.

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 20, 2001):
[To Peter Bright] I prepared a list of all the recordings of Bach Cantatas and Bach's Other Vocal Works by Karl Richter. You can see the list in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website:

You will be able to see that the 26-CD box set includes most but not all his recordings of Bach Cantatas. The level of his earlier (pre-Archiv) recordings (most of them for Teldec) is very high indeed. The Archiv set is highly recommended for every lover of the Bach Cantatas. The vigour, boldness and glory that Richter brings to the Cantatas is rarely found among most of the modern recordings, altough he has his shortcomings too. I do not believe that there exsists any ideal recording of a cantata, and if you want to discover more dimensions of these works you must hear as many recordings as you can.

Regarding the price, I don't know, because I bought this set in Israel, but it seems to be a little bit expensive. My advice is to check also other Internet stores.

Peter Bright wrote (November 20, 2001):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thanks so much for your advice Aryeh - I should have realised that this information would be available on your superb site.

Pablo Fagoaga wrote (November 21, 2001):
[To Peter Bright] The 26 CD set from Archiv represents 99,9% of Richter's recordings of Bach Cantatas.

The set is divided into 5 boxes (available separately, by the way), with the cantatas distributed according lutheran liturgical year. The 26 CD set is just the 5 boxed sets wrapped together with a band. It includes 75 SACRED Cantatas. This means that Richters's rendition of BWV 202 is NOT included.

It is a curious coincidence that you mention that you already own some of the Cantatas. Like you, I thought that my previous aquisitions would inevitably be repetitions, and I was determined to get rid of them. However, two findings made me change my mind:

1) I don't know for sure (please somebody help me on this!!) but the "75 Kantaten" set has been remastered. I say this because the BWV 4 (Christ lag in Todesbanden) recording I had (it comes along with BWV 56 and BWV 82, you know, the Galleria series disc, with the black cover with a marble crucifix) sounds a bit darker in the original CD issue, with high frequencies somewhat damped. On the contrary, the master issued in the boxed set sounds brighter, which means that you can notice with ease some imperfections and bumps in the original recording (specially if you listen to it with headphones. Try the opening Sinfonia!!). So in a way the brighter sound is for better because they sound more clearly, and with some more detail, but it also puts emphasis on some rather serious technical limitations of the recordings.
So I decided to keep that earlier issue.

2) Some three weeks ago, I was working on my MS Access recordings database, and I thought that in order to register the boxed set recording of BWV 26, I just had to "copy and paste" the data about the recording I owned from the previous release, on Archiv Galleria, that included BWV 26, BWV 80 and BWV 116. I obviously pressumed that it was the very same recording....
OOPS!! The Archiv Galleria recording is from 1977, with Edith Mathis, Trudeliese Schmidt, Peter Schreier and Dietrich F. Dieskau, and a noticeably slower tempo (it's about 2 and a half minutes longer, which in a 15 minutes range is a lot). On the other hand, the recording included in the 26 CD set is a 1966 rendition, with Ursula Buckel, Hertha Töpper, Ernst Haefliger and Theo Adam....
So I kept this disc too..


New to amj-s-b

Jack W. Moore wrote (December 15, 2001):
I've enjoyed lurking on this ng, tho most discussion is way over my head. I just wanted to share a fortuitous experience. A month or so ago I was in a public library in Alexandria, VA, which reserves a corner for used books etc. for sale. Included was a shelf of used LPs, which I, like most people nowadays, wouldn't pay attention to (even though I still have a functioning turntable). But my eye fell upon a section of classical LPs, including several handsome box sets (Fidelio, Tannheuser, Verdi's Requiem to name a few). To my amazement the records appeared virtually in mint condition. As they were only a quarter apiece, I snatched them up -- over 30 in all. Anyway, one record in particular has captivated me: Bach's "Actus tragicus" BWV 106 & "Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig" BWV 26. Performing is the Munich Bach-Orchester, Karl Richter conducting. Both pieces were new to me, and the former in particular ranks among the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard. The introductory part with recorders(?) strikes me as quite progressive and atonal. Almost as impressive is the album cover. It's an Archiv release from 1966, and it seems to be part of a series of Bach cantatas. It folds over twice, and has both the translation (French/English) and a Werner Neumann essay which informs me that the works were widely performed in the 19th century. "As an early proof of his mastery it still merits our wholehearted admiration today," he says. I could not agree more. I just wanted to say hello and share this remarkable find with you.


Harnoncourt / Leonhardt, AND RICHTER

Dick Wursten wrote (January 7, 2002):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< I certainly agree that their radical change was essential and important. But, in retrospect, it sounds now almost as skewed as the Richter
approach. Times change, and so do tastes. >
A friend of mine, with whom I have the privilege to perform Bach-cantates (Historically Informed: indeed a betterm than 'authentic') always has a weak spot for Richter in his heart, because of his use of the (grand) organ. He thinks Richter deserves a rehabilitation in this point... I don't know what to think of this, for the abovementioned friend of mine is an organist himself. So perhaps a little bit pre-?? (don't know the word, you will understand what I want to say).

Peter Bright wrote (January 21, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] Richter remains a touchstone for me. I am also gratified that my favourite "HIP" Bach conductor, Masaaki Suzuki agrees:

"I think we should define the word authenticity," says Suzuki. "According to one opinion, Helmuth Rilling and Karl Richter were not authentic. Of course they didn't use period instruments, but they were together with the mind and spirit of Bach. I have played with Rilling's orchestra. The way of playing is very different, but it has insight. And when I was at school I listened to the Richter B Minor Mass (BWV 232) a thousand times. I have no contradiction in me in enjoying both types."

(from an interview with Suzuki, UK Independent 20 August 2000)

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 7, 2002):
Dick Wursten stated:
"A friend of mine, with whom I have the privilege to perform Bach-cantates (Historically Informed: indeed a better term than 'authentic') always has a weak spot for Richter in his heart, because of his use of the (grand) organ. He thinks Richter deserves a rehabilitation in this point... I don't know what to think of this, for the abovementioned friend of mine is an organist himself. So perhaps a little bit pre-?? (don't know the word, you will understand what I want to say)."
Prejudiced!! It may be understandable that an organist might think this way.

As I have pointed out, perhaps before you joined this list actively, Mattheson states that the use of the organ in accompanying a sacred cantata should always be such that the organ can not be heard over the voices. Occasionally Richter succeeds in achieving this effect, but far too often he selects strident organ stops that sound an octave or two above the actual voices. Also, he is not playing the basso continuo, as one might expect, but rather duplicating the entire set of vocal parts. The only reasons that I can imagine why he would do this are 1) to establish and maintain the tempo so that the huge choir does not slow down and 2) to remind the choir members to maintain the proper pitch and keep them from going sharp or flat. My guess is that the Herkulessaal in München must present some considerable problems in acoustics so that it becomes difficult when singing to hear properly what the other performers are doing. More often than not, the choir tends to go sharp while the organ remains at the established pitch. The result of this disparity is very difficult to listen to. Too bad that Richter could not find another way to remedy this problem (perhaps a different venue).

I would hope that Richter would NOT be rehabilitated regarding the "use of the (grand) organ." This is a defect that fortunately does not extend to all of the cantata recordings in this series. Let us cherish the Richter cantata recordings where this 'device' is not apparent to the listener.

Charles Francis wrote (January 7, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Paul McCreesh, in the notes to his OVPP recording of Bach's Magnificat (BWV 243) and Easter Oratorio (BWV 248), writes:
"The demands of present-day concerts and recordings are such that we have become all too used to hearing Bach's concerted music with discreet and often inaudible chamber organs. It has therefore been a particular pleasure to return to the church of Brand-Erbisdorf ... and continue our exploration of Bach's music with the sound of a large church organ at the core of the ensemble"

Having said that, his performance is really poor, so maybe he should read Mattheson!

Paul Farseth wrote (January 8, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] It seems to this listener to Richters' performances that the organ takes on an almost human quality, given the breathiness of the baroque organ's flue pipes, right down to the deep sighs of the bass flue pipes reinforcing the ending of a line played by string basses. Harpsichords serve a different tonal purpose. Doesn't the Matthew Passion (BWV 244) use both? (I'm trying to remember a live performance done in English back about 1957.)

(Or have I misunderstood what this discussion was about?)


Hello & a question

Drora Bruck wrote (April 16, 2002):
I am happy to be joining this group...and hope you do not mind if I begin with a question.

My boy friend is a Karl Richter fan, and has been seeking for a few years now, the recording of the 'Dorische' (BWV 538) that he recorded for Telefunken, and now is on CD by Teldec, issued in 1995, catalogue number 450997901.

I have been all over the net, and it seems to be out of print, and still 2 suppliers are seeking it. Does anyone here know of a source where I can find it, or maybe even has one to sell ???

I shall be grateful for any assistance.

Pete Blue wrote (April 16, 2002)
[To Drora Bruck] The Karl Richter CD you want appears to be in print on DGG (or Polygram, which seems to be the same thing). It is available at under the name "Bach: Toccata & Fugue" for $7.98. If you are in Europe, lists it under the name "Toccaten & Fugen BWV 538 & 565" for a mere 4.99 EURO.

Peter Bright wrote (April 16, 2002):
[To Drora Bruck] Welcome to the group.

BWV 538 ("Dorian" Toccata & fugue in D) by Karl Richter is available on the American Amazon site at:

Curiously, it doesn't seem to be available on the UK or some other nation sites. It's super budget ($5.69) on DG. The one reviewer here declared:

"Karl Richter interpretation and registration for Bach organ pieces is, by far, the best of all the great organists. Track 4, BWV 538, the "Dorian"-Toccata will stop you dead in your tracks ! ! ! ! "

Well, I hope he's not right, literally speaking!

Riccardo Nughes wrote (April 16, 2002):
[To Peter Bright] Actually I think she's referring to the Telefunken recording, not to the DG-Archiv one.
It is this:

And it seems to be out of print, unfortunately for her.


Karl Richter / Bach and bigger forces

Thomas Gebhardt wrote (December 31, 2002):
< I think one of the best versions of BWV 140 is the one by Richter. The way it is played reminds me the description of this cantata in the Anna Magdalenaīs Chronicle (yes, I know she didn't actually wrote >that book, but the book is still amazing). I like very much Richter's Cantatas, with a big orchester and big chorus, not like most of the other recordings. I think Bach would perform his works with a big orchester if he could, as he suggested in a letter that he didn't have enough musicians for the church service. >
I think that Karl Richter's recordings of Bach have really much to say about Bach's music and his genious - and I admire what Richter did, though I prefer an absolutely different style from his one...

But I've got to contradict you in that Bach wished to be able to perform his works with big orchestra and large choirs: this is absolutely not what he said in his famous letter! He is saying there that he would need some more than only around 30 able singers to do his weekly job... and this weekly job was not to sing one concert or church service here or there but to perform music in service at 4 (FOUR) different places each week-end, and therefore he would need that amount of singers, because he had to share this group into 4 roughly even-sized groups which would beable to sing adequately at all places!

And also for the orchestra he complains to have not enough players who are good enough to perform his music... he didn't want masses of orchestra musicians, but he needed enough good players to have a complete orchestra (of his time) of around 15-20 players or sometimes a few more altogether!

So, Richter is great - but his large choir/orchestra ideal can't be argued for by quoting Bach!


(still happy to have performed Bach's Christmas Oratorio last weekend)

Matthew Nerugebauer wrote (January 1, 2003):
[To Thomas Gebhardt] As well, I think the "Bach would have used bigger forces had they been the norm for the time" is completely irrelevant! Of course he would have! The point is that the forces of the time (well, what he wanted from his authorities) was in fact the standard force of the time. John Williams composing a movie score for a modern symphony orchestra would seem to Mr. Williams, in perspective, as the same force as Bach composing a cantata for a maybe 3 or 4 to a part choir and the possibly 20-piece something instrumental ensemble to Herr Bach-its all about perspective.

Here's another, more concrete example- the operas of the baroque and classical periods are all examples of what is now known as "divided opera"; usually following a recit-aria-recit-aria form with very slight variation to this scheme, if any at all. However, by the turn of the century this divided opera idea was more or less smoothed over if not completely abandoned, and each act is typically one continuos mvmt. Would a composer of a modern opera suddenly use divided opera after 100 years or so of this form being outdated? Of course not! The concept of opera has changed greatly to react more closely to plot and drama, instead of simply music (this all really started with Wagner's music-dramas). (Note: I have made a personal choice to approximate the styles and forms of the baroque and classical eras, and if I choose to become a composer, my work will doubtless be the exception, not the rule-but Bach was definitely not as much the exception, but more the greatest genius in working with the norm that it sometimes seems to defy the norm)

Neil Halliday wrote (January 1, 2003):
Thomas Gebhardt wrote:
"So, Richter is great - but his large choir/orchestra ideal can't be argued for by quoting Bach!"
Maybe not, but I for one would certainly argue that the pendulum has moved too far in the direction of chamber-music sized ensembles for the 'ideal' performance of these magnificent works, especially in those movements whose very purpose is to express the idea of majesty, nobility and magnificence.

The search for 'authenticity' ought always be subjugated to the search for musical excellence; and there are far too many examples of HIP articulation and timbres that are less than ideal, for making this music speak most effectively to modern listeners.

What I look for in performance is clarity of the musical line, moderate tempi, and freedom from intrusive stylistic elements such as excessive vibrato (admittedly a major sin with some of the vocalists of Richter's time, and the sole reason I don't rush out and buy his cantata recordings), and freedom from exaggerated HIP articulation.

I love the clear, strong string sound of the best modern-instrument chamber orchestras with their soaring viola and cello lines, eg, the English Chamber Orchestra, as opposed to the English Concert with its HIP timbre and articulation, which to my ears seem to intrude upon and detract from the clarity of the five string lines.

So I'm waiting for a Bach Cantata cycle performed by a good modern-instrument chamber orchestra, with maybe a 20 voice choir (4-6 singers per part), soloists that can sing purely and accurately without continuous vibrato, and engineers with the skill to get every note on the sound track of the CD.

We have a wonderful soprano in Australia who I would want to be part of this team - Sara Macliver; Robin Blaze would fit the bill as alto, and Ian Bostridge for tenor. Any suggestions for a bass that would complement the the above?

Enough of my wish list for the present.

BTW, I hope the performance of the Christmas Oratorio was enjoyed by all.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 1, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday] I agree entirely with Neil, and would only add that modern trumpets offer a radiant sound, clean attacks, and dynamic range that isn't available even with the best pseudo-authentic (finger-hole) valveless instruments.

If we had a time machine, I would recommend Raimund Herincx, Hermann Prey, or Hans Sotin for your bass. Among current performers, I don't know of anyone I find fully satisfying. Ramey has the voice but not the concept. But if it's a baritone role (not below low A), Bryn Terfel is awesome.

I would also recommend von Otter for alto.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (January 2, 2002):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< I would also recommend von Otter for alto. >
How about Scholl? I really think he's one of the greatest cts ever-maybe (not from what I've heard) in opera, but as we're talking about concert/recital then I think he's a great choice to fit the bill.

Dick Wursten wrote (January 2, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] It's all a matter of perspective... Matthew wrote.. (a statement which is true 9 out of 10 times. the problem is: which time is the 10th time). It inspired me to a change of perspective, slightly off topic but... I want to introduce next to the historical perspective the apperception (is this an existing word?) of the music from the 'auditive' position. Music is heard in different places/situations and this is also important in my appreciation of different kind of performances and their scales.

1. When I am in the Gothic Antwerp Cathedral and a Bach-cantata is performed there with a small orchestra, a choir of 16 people and half-voiced soloists (hypothesis) only the people who are sitting within a circle of 50 meters will be able to hear something specific, the rest will only hear an ever changing sound. To exaggerate: Suppose the musicians would have taken their place in the choir behind the altar (which is put in front of the choir and about 2 meters higher than the floor of the choir; Vaticanum II) no one in church would see anything. They would only hear a remote and distant noise. What to do? I would suggest: Don't sing a Bach-cantata there. There is much
more appropriate (fit) music for a 'space' with cathedrallike acoustics, like medieval vocal music from composers who worked at cathedrals: Their music not only is de tempore, but also de spatio/loco. But suppose you want to perform Bach there. Search for the best location in the church and try to find out with what kind of an instrumentarium (both vocal and instrumental) you can make the best of it. It is the experience of the listener in the church which is decisive for a good performance. Music is composed to be heard.

2. Normally I am at home, in my living room or office or even lying in bed with my ear-phones... What do I want to hear ? Not the acoustics of the Antwerp Cathedral, nor the imperfections of the instruments, no: I want to hear music. And - if possible - as much of its richness as can be heard in a musical way. And I am always aware: this is not the real thing I am listing to, I am not in a church, let it be in a churchservice, no I am at home or.., and the sounds I hear are not coming from instruments but from a
Loudspeaker. Whether we like it or not: it's not the real thing on the CD/LP/TAPE it is a digital (or analog) reproduction of it. For Bachís cantatas with its intricate harmonies and complex contrapunct I am Ė at home - quite satisfied with a small but clear playing orchestra and half-voices are enough for my ears. When they are going cathedrallike or operatic they sometimes sound so overdone at home. A souple and precise singing choir (not to big) is okay, but they have to be distinguishable from the soloists and perform as a 'group' (blend).

Am I the only one who distinguishes between the listening experience at home and the attendance of a live performance ?

BTW: on the same grounds I can not seriously listen to organmucoming from those silly things in my living room, called loudspeakers. The discrepance (gap) between the real thing (that wondrous machine as Purcell calls it in one of his odes for St. Cecilia's day), that filled a monumental church with its sounds and the hearing of the recorded remnants of it in my living room I find a litlle silly (of course this is only MVHO).

Robert Sherman wrote (January 4, 2003):
[To Dick Wursten] I agree entirely with Dick. Performance and reproduction should always be what is most gratifying for the situation in which they will be heard. For whatever it may be worth, that's what JSB did, and it's ridiculous for us not to do the same. This means that the forces that worked best for Bach in his situation may not be the best for today's performance or recordings.

IMHO it's fascinating to hear which departures from Bach's practice work well or better than the original, and which don't work. Again IMHO, some modern instruments fall into the former category but Wagnerian-size forces are in the latter.


Richterís repertoire

Uri Golomb wrote (January 13, 2003):
Brad Lehman asked, almost in passing:
< (How much 17th century music did Karl Richter perform, really? Did he ever once conduct an opera?) >
Richter recorded Schütz's Musikalische Exequien in 1953, with a group called the Heinrich-Schütz-Kreis (the choir of the Markus-Kirche in Munich, where Richter was Kantor; shortly afterwards, this gruop became the Munich Bach Choir). As for operas: Richter made one commercial recording of Händel's Giulio Cesare (and there is also a recording of one of his live concerts of this work), he also did Gluck's Orfeo (and also Händel's oratorios Messiah and Samson). And this is just what he recorded, not counting live performances.This information, BTW, is derived from Roland Woerner's book on Richter. As far as I could tell from that book (which contains quite a comprehensive list of Richter's recordings and live performances alike), Richter did not often return to Schütz after that 1953 recording, and he never did any pre-Händel opera. So the answer to Brad's first question seems to be "Some, but not much"; and to the second, it is probably "Yes -- by Bach's contemporaries and by later composers, but not anything by earlier composers". However, my information might be incomplete. Is Roland Wörner still a member of this list? If so, perhaps he can supplement what I said here.



Nicholas J. Philiposian wrote (January 20, 2003):
I am looking forward to having some very good discussions about the music (cantatas) of Bach! I think one of the greatest interpreters of the music of Bach is Karl Richter. His performance of Bach's cantatas is very moving.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 21, 2004):
[To Nicholas J. Philiposian] I agree with your assessment of Karl Richter.

I recently purchased his 1965 recording of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), and found it to be a joy from beginning to end, with only a few blemishes, no small feat for a work consisting of 64 individual movements arranged in six parts.

The recording technology employed is also remarkably good, despite its year, allowing one to enjoy Richter's colourful orchestration and mostly moderate, spacious tempi to the full.

This work comes up for discussion later on in the year; I will save a detailed account of it until then.

Richard Sams wrote (January 21, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] I recently heard Richter's recording of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) and also think it is excellent, particularly considering that it was done about 40 years ago. While my favorite recording of the CO (BWV 248) overall is Gardiner's, Richter runs it pretty close and Fritz Wunderlich (who was to die in a tragic accident just a year later) is the best Evangelist I've heard in this work.

Peter Bright wrote (January 21, 2004):
[To Richard Sams] Yes, I think it's one of Richter's best. Of all modern interpretations this is by far my favourite (of those I've heard). Overall, however, this is just surpassed in my estimation by the Suzuki from a few years back. But nothing beats Richter in that opening movement...

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 22, 2004):
[To Nicholas J Philiposian] Not just his Kantaten recordings, but also his recordings of other Bach works (not just Vocal, but also instrumental).

He, the Thomanerchor Leipzig, Ludwig Güttler, and other Leipzig and Saxon ensembles are the ones (with a few exceptions) that I recommend most highly.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 22, 2004):
[To Nicholas J Philiposian] Another is the Kurt Thomas recording featuring the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.

Peter Bright wrote (January 22, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] I am a great advocate of Richter, but in response to David's post I would recommend caution in buying into Richter's non-vocal Bach recordings. I wrote a review of The Brandenburg Concertos 1,2 and 5 [] recorded in the mid to late 1950s. This was fairly disastrous in my opinion - the instruments were poorly tuned and (VERY surprisingly for Richter) the brass section in the first concerto is barely audible. Richter was far more successful in the Brandenburgs when he revisited them in 1967. However, Richter is best known as a brilliant choirmaster and interpreter of Bach's vocal works, and it is to these that I would urge non-aficianados to turn (at least those who believe that there is a world to discover outside of period instruments and the HIP movement). The Deutsche Grammophon budget priced disc of the Magnificat (BWV 243), together with unbelievably powerful renditions of cantatas BWV 63 and BWV 65 is a desert island disc for me.

Nicholas J. Philiposian wrote (January 22, 2004):
[To Peter Bright] I do have the Brandenburg Concertos conducted by Richter; but the recording that I have was made in 1964. It is the Archiv Label with the tea cup on the cover. I think it is an excellant recording (maybe a little too fast). Most of the works that I have by Richter are his vocal ones. You are right Richter was an excellent choirmaster. I am amazed that (to my knowledge) he never performed the motets of J.S. Bach or the shorter masses (BWV 233-236). Maybe he thought like many people that Bach's greatest works are the Mass in B-minor (BWV 232) and the St. John (BWV 245) and St. Matthew Passions (BWV 244) which he performed many many times. Do you know where I can purchase a video of Karl Richter conducting any of Bach's Passions?

Peter Bright wrote (January 23, 2004):
[To Nicholas J Philiposian] I'm afraid that I don't have any Richter videos at all, but you will find relevant info and discussions on the Bach-Cantatas site at:

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 24, 2004):
Peter Bright wrote:
"However, Richter is best known as a brilliant choirmaster and interpreter of Bach's vocal works..."
When did this happen?

His preeminence comes from the fact that he is an all-around musician. In fact, I would bet that many people know his as an organist rather than as a conductor. I myself came to this understanding of his art only 5-10 years ago (I am 30 now). All I knew about him before then was that he was an organist.


Review of "Karl Richter in München 1951-1981"

Peter Petzling wrote (January 6, 2005):
For those who read Ger, there is an extremely insightful review by Ellen Kohlhaas in the Jan 4, 2006 issue of the FAZ entitled


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 04.01.2006, Nr. 3 / Seite 30 Kategorie: Sachbuch.

The subject is Karl Richter's 30 years' work with the Bach Choir of Munich.

All those who value the adroit teaching that Brad Lehmann has brought to this list, will especially appreciate the review.

Peter Bright wrote (January 7, 2005):
[To Peter Petzling] Would anybody be kind enough to summarise this review? My understanding is that Richter became quite bitter about the 'new' HIP movement towards the end of his career and died a depressed man. I have remained in two minds about him - he produced absolutely glorious recordings, particularly in the '50s and early '60s (the trumpets and choir in those recordings are something to behold!) - but later on, he became seemingly entrenched in a particular view of how Bach should be performed - and thoroughly rejected the new style of Bach performance that Leonhardt, Harnoncourt, et al. brought in. A real shame that he couldn't open his ears to this - as both types of interpretation hold enormous merit to my mind...

Peter Petzling wrote (January 7, 2005):
[To Peter Bright] With a deadline for a manuscript closing in, I am hard pressed for time.

The book that is being reviewed in the FAZ issue of 4 Jan 06 "Karl Richter in Muenchen 1951-1981" by Martin Johannes is trying to provide a better take of Richter.

Around 30 people, who worked with him or closely watched his relentless quest to form a great choir have been quizzed/interviewed. This book puts their recollections between two covers. One things comes into focus: Richter was utterly compelling - but he also took offense. There is a commemorative date in sight: The 25th anniversary of Richter's death on 15 Feb 1981.

A blog has been created:

Go take a look. It will throw some light on his legacy and reputation.

Lastly, Ellen Kohlhaas is a very gifted music critic. I couldn't resist touting her review of the book in the FAZ.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 9, 2005):
[To Peter Bright] In retrospect one can appreciate Richter and all other musicians who interpreted according to their times. There is both in Richterian Bach and in so-genannt HIP Bach a large variety of both inspired and uninteresting performances. What makes us very rich today in a way that Richter could not foresee is that we have available a plethora of performances preserved on CDs, a type of choice and an abundance of choice that frankly for most of us, those of us who do not collect (and analyze) in the manner of e.g. Teri Noel Towe can acquaint ourselves with.

Most of us were introduced to Bach's music on some LP that by some means was the regnant performance of that time. I was for example introduced, after I first bought the Grossman MP in a Vox Box and found it most disappointing compared to some parts I had heard on the radio, to both the MP and the JP by the Archiv Richter recordings. In the case of the MP shortly thereafter I also got the Klemperer on 10 LP sides, something that still amazes me as it is not THAT LONG. I also shortly thereafter got the Wöldike and a friend at whose house I was staying that summer played my LPs to death, almost literally. For some reason the first name of this conductor has always remained in my head with a bar through the o in Mogens.

One day and we are speaking of Summer, 1968 a very knowledgeable young man who worked in one of those two legendary NYC 8th St. LP shops. This was the one downstairs and this young man was not the more famed man from the Discophile who recently died and was remembered with fond thoughts by many; Indeed I no longer recall which was the name of the store downstairs; what I do remember is that the things this young man used to bring to my attention, often imports, were all beyond my customary spending habits. I bought my LPs in either Sam Goody's or in Korvettes and kept a list of desiderata until either place had a sale. Goody's would have sales on certain labels whereby the whole label went from c.$5.00 per LP to $2.50 per CD and that's when I bought.

Amidst this the young man in question brought out the Gillesberger JP and said to me with one of those eye-holding mind-melds that "After you hear this, you will never be able to listen to Richter's recording again". Richter's was my only JP (BWV 245) and now that I know that Richter did several, I cannot tell you off the top of my head which Richter it was. The only problem was that the Gillesberger was not available at that time and the guy told me a place on a highway in NJ where I could get off a bus and find the only available place that had one copy left.

The same guy at the same time informed me of the Telefunken recording of Monteverdi's Vespro della beata vergine conducted by Jürgen Jürgens. I did in fact purchase both recordings and nothing in my many decades of listening to music has ever been so revelatory to me as the Gillesberger JP. At the same time JJ's Vespro was my first introduction to this work.

What does this say? It says only that Gillesberger's Bach did something for me that was so very different from the other recordings and live performances I was aware of that I immediately found myself of the non-Richterian partisans.

Today we have available all kinds of performances and Richter, to judge from this list, still has a large following.

It was very sad that he died so young and I doubt that we can ascribe that to heart-break over the HIP movement.

Perhaps it would make him smile to know that in 2006 he is being discussed with wide admiration on the internet.

I personally was rather horrified at the time I heard of his death. I myself have never listened to his Bach again.

But what a choice today in all music things compared to the relatively narrow choices at that time and that time was the flowering of baroque, let us not forget.


Blog about Karl Richter

Terejia wrote (March 16, 2008):

As of writing this, I am listening to Karl Richter's organ CD (and an hour ago, his rendition of BWV 4, 6, 67 set ). This link may well have been already introduced by someone else, I wonder ?

I enjoy inspiring episodes in this blog and the same kind of spiritual inspiration in Karl Richter's recordings.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 16, 2008):
[To Terejia] Thanks for adding this information Terejia.

I want to ask a question that will expose my ignorance, but to clarify. Your name - Terejia - was brand new to me when you came on the list. I was chatting with Harry the other day and he mentioned you in the feminine gender. I thought your name was male. Could you clarify for me if you are a man or woman. I hope this doesn't sound to silly.

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (March 16, 2008):
[To Terejia] Thanks, Terejia, I did not know this blog !

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (March 16, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] I should wait confirmation by Terejia , but I guess that "Terejia" is the japanese form of the same (Christian) name as mine. If it is correct, it definitely is a feminine name!

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 16, 2008):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Thanks Thérèse,

This is helpful.

Terejia wrote (March 17, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen & Thérèse Hanquet] As Therese said, Terejia is a Japanese form of my Christian name,
which is Therese in Avila.a female name. When it comes to web communication, people take me for a male gender for more than 90 % of times be it a Japanese web or English forum and Jean is by no means the first person who took me for a male. I am rather proud of my male spirituality in writing. I wear long skirt even when I play BWV 542 or BWV 536 that in real life nobody has ever took me for a male.

Back to the blog featuring Karl Richter, there are times that I feel it strange that he used tutti where most others use solo- example "Mein treuer Heiland" BWV 245 cello part. I happen to have 1 DVD and three CDs of this piece and all other renditions than Richter use solo obligato cello. Only Richter uses tutti. Another would be BWV 248 Teil 4 Tenor Aria. I have 3 CD sets and my father has Karl Richter. All others than Richter uses 2 solo violins and Richter uses tututti violin here. Technically refined sound seems to be victimised, I'm afraid.

Also, Muenchner Bach Choir, as I've heard, is an amateur choir and according to hearsay evidence I can recall(being a non professional, I am not able to quote from an exact source referrence), Karl Richter deliberately avoided professional singers in his choir.

But then, I personally wish to call such a practice " deliberate anti-aethetics" instead of calling it "ugliness" or " coarseness"(these adjective-noun sounds like implying unawareness of aethetic effect for me), IF others don't mind....

I love technical refinedness but I also love such anti-aethetics.

Terejia wrote (March 17, 2008):
[To Jean-Pierre Grivois] Glad to know that the info was useful for some readers.

Bon Soir(according to Japan time)

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 17, 2008):
[To Terejia] Thanks Terejia, for clarifying your name and that you are a woman. Now maybe a few more people will know.

Terejia wrote (March 20, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Thank you for your reply, Jean.

About cantatas for the week, I think BWV 82 is one of the most beautiful piece.

However, as far as this particular week concerns, I personally have my own personal priority on Passions and Easter cantatas.

I was listening to 3 Johannes Passions (BWV 245) this week-Suzuki (with different score, I suppose), Gardiner, and Karl Richter. I was just listening to Karl Richter. Comparing with the former 2, indeed Karl Richter sounds the least refined for me. Too noisy harpschichord right hand arpegio accompanies Evangelist(Peter Schreier) recitative; chorus sounds way too amateurish and primitive compared to the other two who have professional singers in their choirs, just to mention a few points I noticed.

I would say, had it been rendered by somebody else than Karl Richter, the rendition couldn't bear to listen to but somehow I was arrested by some magical inexplicable charm of his rendition. Strange to say, I don't feel Richter only appealed to dramatic impact as some music critic says nor I don't think Richter didn't pay attention to precise rendition of detail.

I am not and nowhere near a professional music critic but just for my personal taste it sounds that Richter penetrated into the core of passion smusic so much that deliberate use of anti-aethetic/anti-refinement was his natural consequense rather than artificial creation of dramatic impact...

I would very appreciate if I could hear from any other Richter fan?

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 20, 2008):
[To Terejia] I have noticed that others have been writing about the Passions also this week, and that's most appropriate. I had to wonder why BWV 82 was the chosen text for what we call Easter week, when it then occurred to me that Easter does not always fall on the same day (or in the same week). Right off hand I do not remember how the date is set, but I am sure someone on-list does.

There is an interesting parallel, however, and in BWV 82 Simeon reveals his contentment with facing death--a paradigm for Christians this week and throughout the year. In this day and age few contemplate death with the familiarity of Bach's day when nutrition and medicine had not reach the heights of modern living. I constantly discover in the cantatas unspoken textual parallels such as this--where the view to heaven incorporates death and resurrection as in BWV 82, and is also the theme for this week in the Christian community. However, contentment is not so much evidenced in the passions, but rather they are the telling of history.

In one way, the infant Jesus and the Jesus who bore the cross are not at odds here in the study for the week, but a matter of coming nearly full circle~~Ascension and Pentecost filling out the circle and they are yet to appear in the church year as primary observances.

I don't know how the cantata cycle was set for the discussions, but I sometimes imagine that the full impression of the texts and study would make more sense to us as modern people if they were adapted to the modern calendar. However, that would probably be too complex an undertaking and we have a good system in place.

Messiah by Handel and SMP (BWV 244) are my two primary Easter week favorites, as I participated in singing them when I was a college student during Messiah Week at Bethany College. Later on I had a chance to sing Messiah a number of additional times, and once to sing the Rejoice Greatly solo with an orchestra during a Messiah sing-along at a community college in California.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the recordings, and to the others who have been discussing the passions this week.

I still hope we will also hear a little from some others on BWV 82.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 21, 2008):
Terejia wrote:
>I would very appreciate if I could hear from any other Richter fan?<
I enjoy Richters cantata recordings very much. I think your evaluation is very accurate, he often finds an interpretation which sounds personal and special. Is that what you named anti-aesthetic? In any case, it hardly matters whether it is authentic, or not.

At one time, the cantata set of 26 CDs was available for about US$100, and I recommended it as an outstanding bargain. The price seems to be much higher, at the moment, but the music remains outstanding. This weeks cantata, BWV 82, is especially good, if you have the opportunity to hear it.

John Pike wrote (March 26, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] I grew up as a child with some of Richter's recordings, especially his 1958 SMP (BWV 244). I liked them very much at the time, and still do, but my tastes have moved with the times, and these days I would prefer Gardiner, Suzuki, Herreweghe etc.

Terejia wrote (March 26, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Oh, my goodness...first of all what was it that made me miss your kind reply message to me ?? I would say sleepiness peculiar to spring season in Japan is the culplrit.I'm so dreadfully sorry for delay, Ed. I didn't notice you replied to my message until John replied to your message.

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I enjoy Richters cantata recordings very much. I think your evaluation is very accurate, he often finds an interpretation which sounds personal and special. Is that what you named anti-aesthetic? In any case, it hardly matters whether it is authentic, or not. >
I'm a type of audience who rather listen to aethetic frequency/vibration permeated through the performer than analytically and technically refined beauty.

Once I had a conversation with my organ teacher who is a professor at music university that Bach Score Complete Works includes/exclude the same piece from the works every now and then, the revision speed of which , I replied to my teacher, can compete good with that of the revision speed of Commercial Law in Japan. Every specialist has his/her own busy works to catch up with on-going revisions. I would -actually cannot but leave authenticity to dedicated music specialists' hands.

< At one time, the cantata set of 26 CDs was available for about US$100, and I recommended it as an outstanding bargain. The price seems to be much higher, at the moment, but the music remains outstanding. This weeks cantata, BWV 82, is especially good, if you have the opportunity to hear it. >
Thank you for your info. Hopefully I do well in my legal career and then in the future and can afford have 3 or 4 sets ofcomplete Cantata collections including Kuijken but firstly I'd go for Richter - actually, I can buy CDs and DVDs only after I will have bought elegal book collections of my work. Indeed Bach is refreshing and comforting.

Terejia wrote (March 27, 2008):
Authenticity? Re: Blog about Richter

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I enjoy Richters cantata recordings very much. I think your evaluation is very accurate, he often finds an interpretation which sounds personal and special. Is that what you named anti-aesthetic? In any case, it hardly matters whether it is authentic, or not. >
Belatedly, I noticed that the word authenticity is used differently on this list from what my organ teacher used : in my short experience of joining this list and reading others' posting including some (not entire) of the archives, authenticity here seems to mean historical approach based on analytical academic study. My organ teacher used this same word to mean German tradition which is conveyed to and shared with by something beyond analytical study, by something what newagers might call telepathy or sixth sense.

When it comes to German tradition, then Karl Richter has much forte: as I heard by hearsay and probably most of you know far better than my hearsay study, first he learned Bach's cantata as a boy soprano singer in a choir, as he grows up his voice range lowered and lowered down to Bass, as an adult he became the cantor of the same church Bach served as cantor.

For sure, when it comes to historical academic approach, Karl Richter may not be authentic. Yet when German tradition matters, Karl Richter might also be authentic. That's my own understanding anyway and that mostly based upon hearsay evidence from my music teachers.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 27, 2008):
[To Terejia] I have repeated Terejia s entire post, in order not to add any confusion. I used the word <authentic>, as in <performance with authentic instruments>, for example, to avoid the acronym HIP, for <historically informed performance>.

Terejia is exactly correct, authentic can have different shades of meaning. Certainly, one meaning is that Richter is authentic, because of his connection to the continuity of Bach in Leipzig. I chose to include this in what I called <personal and special>.

Terejia is also correct to observe that in terms of analytical academic study, Richter would not be called authentic, at the present time. As I understand it, at least. I am simply a reader and listener, without academic affiliation or credentials in music.

Again, thanks to Terejia for taking the time in a busy schedule to add her thoughts, and to stimulate discussion.

Mary Vinquist wrote (March 27, 2008):
Terejia wrote:
< ....... Bass, as an adult he became the cantor of the same church Bach served as cantor. >
Correction: Richter was the organist at St. Thomas in Leipzig; Bach was not. He was the Cantor which was "top dog" in the city, responsible for the music at all of the main churches.

Terejia wrote (March 28, 2008):
[To Mary Vinquist] Thank you for the information. I looked up Wikipedia in a new unit of time and it was as stated above.

I first read Japanese Wikipedia, which has a long article-would be of essesntial interest to Richter fans. I intended to give a link of English but when I saw an English wikipedia, it doesn't seem to contain more than general outline.

As to Japanese Wikipedia article, what impressed me was that the author says something to the effect that Richter had his preference rather on music itself than historic and scholartic study of music. Of course I am not saying that those two elements are exclusive to each other, by no means it should be, but there could be a choice of either-or/entweder-oder for dedicated musicians on some occasions (on some occasions, not generally).

Uri Golomb wrote (March 29, 2008):
Terejia wrote:
< As to Japanese Wikipedia article, what impressed me was that the author says something to the effect that Richter had his preference rather on music itself than historic and scholartic study of music. Of course I am not saying that those two elements are exclusive to each other, by no means it should be, but there could be a choice of either-or/entweder-oder for dedicated musicians on some occasions(on some occasions, not generally). >

It is certainly true that Richter made no effort to keep up-to-date with scholarship; to cite just one example, he continued using the 19th-century BGA edition of the B-minor Mass (BWV 232) after Smend's NBA version came out (the most telling sign -- using a violin rather than a flute in the 'Benedictus'). Of course, the Smend NBA had its own problems, and several of its users saw fit to modify it accordingly; but in the case of Richter (who, according to his biographer Roland Wörner, openly questioned the relevance of musicology to performance, it's more likely that he simply saw no reason to replace the edition he was familiar with). I also seem to recall his using -- sometimes, not always! -- flutes where Bach explicitly called for recorders, etc.

Thanks to his association with Archiv, Richter acquired a reputation as a historical performer. As far as I could tell, that reputation was largely manufactured for him without his own cooperation -- I don't think he ever claimed historical-musicological credentials for his performances. He was quite content to present himself as the heir to the more recent Leipzig-Dresden tradition (having sung in the Dresden Kreuzchor under Rudolf Mauersberger, and studied and worked as organist with Thomaskantors Karl Straube and Günther Ramin), though he did not entirely follow the precepts of that school, either. For instance, his Munich Bach Choir (also the erstwhile choir of the Munich Markuskirche, where Richter was Kantor) was a mixed choir, even though Richter emerged from a tradition of male (boys and men) choirs. This is no contradiction -- continuing a tradition does not necessarily mean adhering to its every detail: traditions get changed and altered with time. But for the most part, Richter indeed used musical rather than historical reasoning to justify his performance choices.

I go into all this in greater detail in chapter 3 of my dissertation on recordings of the B-minor Mass (BWV 232); abstract and link on:

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 29, 2008):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< Thanks to his association with Archiv, Richter acquired a reputation as a historical performer. As far as I could tell, that reputation was largely manufactured for him without his own cooperation -- I don't think he ever claimed historical-musicological credentials for his performances. >
It would be interesting to gp back and reread the reviews of Richter's major recordings. I remember critics lauding and condemning his "new" way of performing Bach (I'm not sure if the word "authentic" was ever used). His recording of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232), which is still my favourite, was criticized for its small chorus (I think it had 60 voices), the lack of expression in the string playing (read lack of vibrato), and that the soloists were "small" voices, not the usual operatic types. The greatest criticism was levelled at his tempi which opened a new era in Bach interpretation. The "Crucifxus" in particular offended many because it was taken at literally twice the speed that was traditional. Even if Richter was not a doctrinaire authenticist, he certainly broke the stranglehold of the Romantic symphony orchestra and choral society performing Bach.


OT: Karl Richter's Cantata recordings

Tutomu Nagamiya wrote (July 11, 2009):
I have updated my site and Karl Richter's 1955 recording of BWV 137 and BWV 140 have been added tothis page:

This recording corresponds to E1 of this page prepared by Mr. Aryeh Oron:

Please visit my site and enjoy!


Karl Richter: Short Biography | Münchener Bach-Chor
Recordings of Vocal Works:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Recordings of Instrumental Works | General Discussions | Richterí Video
Vocal Works:
BWV 232 - K. Richter | BWV 244 - K. Richter | BWV 245 - K. Richter | BWV 248 - K. Richter
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Famous Bach Organ Works from Karl Richter | Karl Richter Performs Bachís Partitas & Goldbergs | Review: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1, 2 & 5 - conducted by K. Richter
Table of recordings by BWV Number

Conductors of Vocal Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Singers & Instrumentalists


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