Helmut Rilling

Yesterday, I happened to find a set of CDs of B minor Mass conducted by Helmut Rilling with Gaechinger Kantorei and Bach-Collegium Stuttgart. Before going to bed, I listened to it for a while. It sounded in the same way as I had listened to him conducting Stuttgart Bach Ensemble playing Matthews Passion in Tokyo in late '70s. Warm hearted Bach was there.

I was in the anatomy training at that time. The 3rd grade of medical faculty. One time, a teacher asked us if there was anyone who would like to listen to that Matthews Passion right on the day. I raised hand for that. Earlier than ususal, around sunset, I hurried to NHK Hall in Shibuya, where the concert was supposed to be held.

It was an overwhelming performance. One of the very few musical experiences that I was moved not only emotionally but also in the depth of existence. Warm heartedness in this tragic passion has kept me. I still remember Rilling conducting passionately and the bass singing the part of Jesus. That bass singer has sung the bass part of the chorus in the final piece hanging his head down. It seemed everyone has devoted to the music in that way. My anxiety. worry and difficulty in life was, even if for a while, relieved listening to that performance.

Wondering how Rilling was doing now, I have googled about him. He seemed to have retired at the age of 80 years 3 years ago. I knew that he had been working at Oregon University. It was a surprise that Bob W6CYX had told about him being invited as a conductor at Carmel Bach Ensemble years ago. I guess I have already told about it somewhere in this blog. I felt Rilling had linked me and Bob through the concerts in Tokyo and Carmel.

A video clip of a lecture concert in oregon in 2010. He must be around 77 years old at this time. Still very sharp and active. He gave a good lesson about the first 3 pieces of this enormous work. Based on his hard work on Bach, his performance still sounds warm hearted to me.



  1. Hi Shin
    I watched that You Tube lecture on HD TV. The recording quality is excellent. I also saw the next lecture in the series. These episodes help describe the complex structure of the mass, which has always put me off until recent months. The use of 5, 6 and sometimes even 7 choral parts must be technically very difficult for the singers. It's am amazing piece. One which we can spend a long time listening to repeatedly. Not only technical mastery, but a spiritually satisfying experience. Thanks for the link and for adding to my appreciation of this great mass.

    1. Reading "Mess in h-Moll" by Christopf Wolff, I learned it had not been performed for over a century. As Rilling told in this lecture, bach himself had not listened to this mass as a whole in his life. I know the chorus in this music is pretty difficult. At Carmel bach Festival, in the description of "Carmel Impresarios", it has taken a long time for them, mainly amateur in music, to do with this piece with their chorus.

      It is amazing that a 77 year old person could make such a perfect lecture even though he had been a researcher in Bach's music. Ever since I first listened to his performance of Matthews Passion, I have been wondering what makes his performance sound warm hearted. HIs lecture told me not to give up studying and practicing cello even if the progress is too slow.