13. Februar 2008

Remembering the Era Karl Richter in Munich: Year 1956 ff. [EN]

Kieth Engen

"In 1956 Karl Richter went on his first Concert tour as Organist in USA. He gave a concert in San Francisco in the Grace Cathedral, and the next day there was a seminary with all the organists from the surrounding district. They spoke about the works he had played. He had performed, among others the choral 'Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme'. The next day when he was together with the young Americans, they asked him why he had played so slowly. And he asked: “Do I play slowly?” and they answered: “Yes, really slowly, we’re used to hearing it played faster, sort of jazzed up.”

And then something very important about Karl Richter could be noticed. He had in his innermost being an intuitive set of rules; but he had never regarded them as rules but as a part of his life.

He said to the young musicians: “Give me a Bible! Take a look! The foolish and the wise maidens fall asleep and then the Bridegroom comes, and only then do they wake up. Awake! When we are awakened from a deep sleep, we are at first slow to get going, we have to take our time”. For the young Americans this proved to be a good explanation, why he used a slower tempo."

St. Gumbertus - Bachwoche Ansbach 1956

In 1954 and 1955 Karl Richter had already given Concerts at the Ansbach Bach Festival (Bachwoche in Ansbach). In 1956 the Munich Bach-Choir appeared on the scene for the first time and sang on four evenings 14 Bach Cantatas. Apart from that Richter together with Yehudi Menuhin and Aurèle Nicolet performed Chamber music from J. S. Bach.

Jehudi Menuhin and Karl Richter at the Bachwoche Ansbach 1956

On the occasion of the gala concert for the inauguration of the Marien organ, the Munich Bach-Choir and Karl Richter were invited for the first time to the Collegiate Basilica in Ottobeuren, where they together with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra performed Bruckner’s Psalm 150.

Basilika Ottobeuren

1958 brought the addition of Ursula Buckel, Ernst Haefliger and John van Kesteren.

Ursula Buckel

"Edgar Shann, a famous Oboist had engaged me for a Bach concert in a wonderful old Church in Lutry on the banks of Lake Geneva. After he had heard me sing, he said: “I must call Karl Richter right away, you are a voice for Richter.” I was then called upon to go to Munich for an audition. When I had finished singing, they said: “Yes, a lovely voice”! I should however work on my voice for another year, I could become a lot better. We will come back to you in one year’s time."

Ernst Haefliger

"A joint friend, the oboist Edgar Shann, had introduced me to Karl Richter. Now and again he used to come to Davos. I can still well remember us sitting on the terrace on a wonderful August night with a bottle of very good red wine and that he kept asking: “Should I or should I not?” I didn’t know, what he wanted until he, at last said, that he had received an offer from the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft, but that he had already done recordings with Teldec, and he didn’t know how to make up his mind. In all likelihood he probably had already decided."

John van Kesteren

For many years the ideal casting of the soloist ensemble had been established: Antonia Fahberg or Ursula Buckel, Soprano, Hertha Toepper, Contralto, Ernst Haefliger or John van Kesteren, Tenor and Kieth Engen, Bass. In 1959 Christian Kohn was engaged for very specific passages, in the oratorios from Handel and Haydn, as well as in the Mathews Passion.

Karl Christian Kohn

"Yes it could only have been possible, that Karl Richter had heard me in Mozart’s Figaro and in roles like Leporillo and Entfuehrung. He came so to say to me. I believe it was at that time Samson, that was very early. And then we got together. There wasn’t much rehearsing, just once or twice, main and general rehearsals and then in at the deep end."