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Karl Richter

Karl Richter

Karl Richter is best remembered for his interpretations of Johann Sebastian Bach's and Handel's music. As well as a conductor, Richter is also remembered as an excellent organist. His performances of Bach's organ pieces are known for their imposing registrations and favorable pace.



The German organist, harpsichordist and conductor, Karl Richter, studied with Rudolf Mauersberger, Karl Straube and Günther Ramin in Leipzig and received his degree in 1949. In the same year, he was appointed organist of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig.

In 1951, Karl Richter started teaching at the Conservatory of music in Munich. He later had a professorship there and was cantor and organist at St. Mark's Church.

During his first year in Munich, Karl Richter became conductor of the 'Heinrich-Schütz-Kreis', which had been founded at the end of World War II, and renamed it Münchener Bach-Chor (Munich Bach Choir) in 1954. Together with his newly established Bach Orchestra, Richter and the ensemble gave numerous concerts in Munich and performed regularly at the Bach-Tage (Bach Days) in Ansbach until 1964. Within a short time, Karl Richter successfully used 'his' choir to make Bavaria a second home for the Leipzig musical tradition. According to the encyclopaedia 'Music in Geschichte und Gegenwart' (Music in the Past and Present), Protestant church music is indebted to the organist of St. Mark's Karl Richter for his 'exemplary work with Bach's music', which has been an important part of the musical life in Munich - 'apart from the church as well'. This was a clear reference to the Munich Bach Choir's achievements on the occasion of the 1959 Protestant Church Convention in Munich.

The sixties and the seventies were dominated by recordings and tours abroad that took the choir to USA, the Soviet Union, Japan and South America. The choir became internationally renowned at the same Karl Richter was acclaimed for his interpretations of J.S. Bach's music, both as solo harpsichordist and accompanist.

Over the years, Karl Richter built up a broad repertoire with the Münchener Bach-Chor that included choral works by Heinrich Schütz, J.S. Bach, George Frideric Handel, Mozart, L.v. Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Max Reger as well as 20th-century composers. J.S. Bach's B minor Mass (BWV 232) alone was performed 90 times and the St. John Passion (BWV 245) 45.

In February 1981, Karl Richter died of a heart attack at the age of 54. It was a sudden end to his work with the Münchener Bach-Chor, which had lasted almost 30 years. The choir was said to be Karl Richter's true instrument in many obituaries.

Today (1992), the Münchener Bach-Chor is conducted by Hanns-Martin Schneidt and is still an important part of the concert life in Munich.