The absolute climax for all the members of the Munich Bach-Choir and Bach-Orchestra was without a doubt the barely three week long tour of Japan in the Spring of 1969, with twelve Concerts in Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama. The program exclusively Bach’s music: the B-minor Mass, the Passions and the Magnificat, Cantatas as well as pieces for the Orchestra.
Departure in Munich Riem
"Japan was surely the climax. We were impressed not only by the interplay from the podium and Karl Richter’s charisma, but also by the reciprocal action of the audience. This was the first unabbreviated performance of the Matthew Passion to be heard in Japan. And we can remember the glorious Bunka Kaikan Hall. Filled to the last seat and that the audience had the text in German. And they followed every word, turning the pages, we felt that they were turning the pages, but we didn’t hear a sound! Their concentration was fascinating. It was probably the most impressive Matthew Passion of my whole life. The closeness and unity between audience and musicians was a complete entity you couldn’t have inserted a sheet of paper between them. For me, it was t h e Matthews-Passion Experience."
Bach’s High Mass in Bunga Kaikan, Tokyo
Karl Christian Kohn was supposed to have been the Bass singer on the second Russian Tour, as not only the B-minor Mass was to be performed but Haydn’s 'Die Jahreszeiten' was also on the program.
Karl Christian Kohn
"My father was ill, and we knew he was not going to last very long. But that it died on my birthday that really shocked me. It was impossible for me to sing. I spoke to Richter and explained, that I was not capable of putting one foot outside the house, never mind singing. Even though everyone begged me on bended knee to sing, I said, that I wanted to see my father one more time and that I was going home for his burial. "
Siegmund Nimsgern, who in the following years constantly appeared in Karl Richter’s ensemble, took the place of Karl Christian Kohn.
"Herr Vetter, the organizer of that time, called me from Munich: “we are here at the Airport On our way to Moscow and Leningrad with the Mass in B-minor and the “Jahreszeiten”, with Karl Richter and the Munich Bach-Choir and Bach-Orchestra, can you join us”? I said: “Yes, wonderful!” He replied: “You will get a pre-paid ticket, you fly today from Munich to Copenhagen, where you will stay overnight and on the next day you fly to Moscow without a visa. Once there you will be picked up and given a visa and in the evening, take part in the Mass in B-minor at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, without rehearsals, without anything at all!!
It was there, that I saw Karl Richter for the first time in my life. He said, “Good Evening, well you know the piece”? “Yes”, “very good, okay”. We arrived separately at the Academy, Richter stroked my cheek lightly and said: “You know it all ”, as if to reassure himself. I replied: “Yes, everything is okay” and I sang as he specified. The whole tempi etc., everything was right. We understood one another blindly, without a word being said. And I think, he felt the same way too. I was of course happy and proud, to have become a part of the Bach-Choir in this way and to be able to work together with Karl Richter, who for me was a demigod when it came to Bach."
In 1967 Siegmund Nimsgern won the Mendelssohn Competition in Berlin.
"Of course I had sung Mendelssohn, among other things. And I think the aria that I sang for the competition, “Ist nicht des Herren Wort wie ein Feuer?” (Is not the word of the Lord like a Fire) had inspired many. Others however were afraid of this piece, because it is of course an absolute battle of material. I have sung Ravel, I have sung all manner of things, but I had always had a special relationship to Elias, he had accompanied my career from the very beginning right up to the present day. The first time was in 1964, when I was still a student. I think that I, in my own modest way, was able, now and again, to convince some choirs and some conductors what a great role this Elias is. The whole piece is fantastic."
Rehearsal at the Grand Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow