In these three decades of Karl Richter’s era in Munich, the concert tours with and without the Munich Bach-Choir and Bach-Orchestra had increased and multiplied not only within Europe, but also in far away countries such as Brazil, Argentina, the USA and Japan.
I can’t remember all the Concert tours very well; it was not very nice in the very beginning. The plane was late and we didn’t land in Washington until around midnight and then had to sing on the next day. What I can remember is a trip from New York to Princeton, we had hired a car and Kieth Engen was driving. It was late September and I saw for the first time these incredible forests of Maple trees. It was a wonderful autumn day filled with sunshine, it was very beautiful.
Anna Reynolds during our interview on August 1, 2004
I was once in Buenos Aires with Richter. We performed the 'Missa solemnis' from Beethoven, the Matthew-Passion and the opera Xerxes from Handel. He conducted the Opera and it was very, very exciting: for three or four weeks we lived in very cramped quarters together with the director. Richter was always present at rehearsals. It was very exciting for us to see him, the absolute concert conductor standing at the podium of, for that time, the biggest Opera house in the world. We, on stage, were often 20 to 30 meters away from him and we really had to pay attention.
Horst Laubenthal during our interview on October 24, 2004
Johannes Fink and Edda Moser
Once a cellist or someone who played the Bass viol was so off-key that John van Kesteren gave him a disparaging look, whereupon the cellist went at van Kesteren with a knife. Richter of course disappeared immediately, thinking there was going to be a knifing. Then there was nothing else for it but to have Johannes Fink flown in. The cellist was anything else but reliable, and at one point or other during a break Richter said either to himself or to John van Kesteren: “ you can only hear him, when he plays in the interval”. Unfortunately the Cellist was one of the few who could understand German, and he of course felt his honor had been offended. There was a lot of excitement and a huge row, ending with the removal of the Cellist from the Orchestra, and that is why Johannes Fink was flown in.
Edda Moser during our interview on July 26, 2004
A fixed program event was and remained Ottobeuren. Every year in summer great musical works for Choir and Orchestra were performed, as well as the traditional Organ concert, which took place on the eve of the event itself. Here many an Oratorio from Georg Friedrich Handel could be enjoyed: Judas Makkabaeus, Samson, Belsazar, the Messiahs and Israel in Egyptian in addition to Mozart’s Requiem. Hayden’s Schoepfung, Mendelssohn’s Elias, Bach’s Passions as well as the high Mass in B-minor could also be heard.
For the big concerts in Ottobeuren, the organ builder Albrecht Deininger always brought a Continuo-Organ with him. And then we knew, what was in store for us. But there were other situations, when the Dreifaltigkeits-Organ was to be played. The Dreifaltigkeits-Organ has an old tuning, meaning a half a note lower. I then had to play the complete Continuo half a note higher.
Dreifaltigkeits-Organ at the Basilica Ottobeuren
The problem with both of these historical organs in Ottobeuren, on the right the Dreifaltigkeits-Organ, on the left the Heiliggeist-Organ, was that in those days there was no standard keyboard. That meant that the keys were either pretty broad or pretty narrow, and the pedals were cramped and short, it really meant getting into practice to be able play at an organ Concert. And Richter really knew how to do just that excellently. I often used to wonder how he in such a short time and on such an organ was able to deliver the concerts that he did. He was truly a virtuoso.
Heiliggeist-Orgel at the Basilica Ottobeuren
Of course Richter grew up in the great tradition of the Kreuzchor in Dresden, but Mendelssohn suited him better. The sweetness of the music and the immense drama of the choir, that satisfied him, he could really live out his feelings. He had done this with Bach in such a way that one had the feeling it could not have been done better, but when he conducted Mendelssohn or the Missa Solemnis from Beethoven, it was as though other resources deep within him started to flow.
Edda Moser and Karl Richter in Paris 1974