11. März 2008

Remembering the Era Karl Richter in Munich: Year 1964 ff. [EN]

UNIQUELY INGENIOUS!!! was the title given to an article in the Spiegel in November 1965, about Karl Richter’s artistic development. Richter had been summoned from America to play the official Kennedy Memorial Concert at the New York Philharmonic Hall. Karl Richter, his Munich Bach Choir and the Bach Orchestra had become in the meantime, as the music critic Ulrich Dibelius stated, a fixed institution on the musical scene. Karl Schumann saw in Richter one of the most significant Bach interpreters of the century.

In the meantime new names had joined the established protagonists of concert performances and gramophone recordings these in chronological sequence were: Hermann Prey, Johannes Fink, Maurice André, Christa Ludwig and Gundula Janowitz, Franz Crass, Ernst- Gerold Schramm, Peter Schreier, Julia Hamari, Peter van der Bilt, Hermann Baumann, Edda Moser, Horst Laubenthal, Edith Mathis and Helen Donath.

Johannes Fink with Bach-Choristers

Johannes Fink

"In May 1964 I was on my way to lessons at the Music Academy. I was walking past the main door with my Cello case, when suddenly a big stout perspiring man rushed out of the door in my direction and asked, “Do you have a dress coat? And do you have a valid passport? You are engaged”! I was a bit confused and asked, what it was all about, and this person told me, that in two days time a concert tour of the Munich Bach Choir and Orchestra was due to leave on it’s way to Italy and the opera cellist had had to say no, because his boss would not give him time off. And he now desperately needed a cellist.

I went to my Professor to ask his advice and he said, I should accept at all costs. I then went to the caretaker of the Academy, who was as it later transpired figuratively speaking, Karl Richter’s ”right hand”, and said, “Yes”. The next day I was in the Markuskirche for two rehearsals, and two days later with my dress coat and my valid Passport, which were so to say my Qualifications, I was sitting in the train as part of the Bach Choir and Orchestra."

Maurice André was on this Concert Tour for the first time too. He had come to Munich in 1963 to act as juror at an ARD Television Trumpet Competition, but had then decided to take part himself and won an unchallenged and outstanding first prize. Karl Richter engaged Maurice Andre on the spot for his stage performances. André’s debut took place on the concert tour in Italy and Switzerland, where in Palermo, L’Aquila, Florence, Turin, Milano, Vicenza and at the Bach Festival in Schaffhausen, where not only Haydn’s 'Schoepfung', but Bach’s Johannes Passion and the b-minor Mass a part of the program.

Maurice André during the Italian tour in 1964

Lotte Schaedle

"The crossing from Reggio to Messina was in itself an uplifting experience. Under a starlit heaven Maurice André stood on deck and played his Bach trumpet, it was glorious."

Karl Christian Kohn

"This very last Concert on the Italian tour in Vicenza was uncanny. I sometimes had the feeling, that he could feel death’s proximity. After the concert he was rather quiet, he sat down and drank his red wine. Seeing him like that, it was almost impossible to imagine, that on the next day he would be full of life again. But the way he would sit there after a Concert as he did in Vicenza, the impression it left was incredible. A genius. Here was a music genius at work. That was the difference between Richter and other good conductors; here was a Genius at work. Absolutely faultless."

Karl Richter in Italy 1964

Back in Munich it was time for the Gramophone recording of Georg Friedrich Handel’s 'Messiahs' for the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft: the first recording to be made with Maurice André on the Trumpet. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio followed in February 1965, featuring Gundula Janowitz, Christa Ludwig, Fritz Wunderlich and Franz Crass, and of course Maurice André. In April of the same year, Richter, together with Choir and Orchestra, set off for the very first U.S.A - Concert tour.

In 1966 Karl Richter flew with his ensemble to Finland for concerts in Helsinki and Turku and a short time later to the English Bach Festival in Oxford. Bach’s High Mass in b-minor was to be found on each and every concert program and Maurice André was always part of the team.

Hertha Toepper

I know, that once in Helsinki we had an incredibly successful b-minor Mass. There was this feeling of complete and utter harmony: Keilberth would have said, that God was present - it was a tremendous atmosphere, you had the feeling “nothing can go wrong”. It was as though we were under a protective Cloche. Every one of us gave his or her best, we felt as though we were somehow being lead and that we couldn’t do anything else but give our best. It was an enclosed and almost floating performance."

Karl Richter and Maurice André in Helsinki 1966

"In November 1966 Handel’s 'Judas Maccabaeus' was put on stage in German Museum in Munich. Karl Schumann wrote in the Sueddeutschen Zeitung: ”It was an evening full of conducting brilliance and glory and thanks to the austere, rapturous resonance of the Bach Choir, Maurice André’s wonder trumpet and the Bach Orchestra’s forceful strokes of the bow, will always remain a precious Concert memory. The applause was such it could have brought the walls of Jericho tumbling down.” ..."

Johannes Fink

"One day Karl Richter’s Casting Director, Herr Kirchner, called me and asked: “do you trust yourself to play the Bass Gambe in a Bach Passion?” Now at that time I was 22, 23 years old, an age where one trusted oneself to do a great number of things, and I of course answered with yes. I then went to the first rehearsal. Karl Richter looked at me very tentatively, but did not say a word. Then came the general rehearsal for the Johannes Passion. Hertha Toepper sang the 'Es ist vollbracht' - aria . He did not say anything after the General Rehearsal either, but when we were leaving the podium he came to me and said: “but tomorrow evening you are not to play off by heart!” But of course I’ll play by heart, Herr Professor, when I play something from memory; it means I know the piece very well. He thereupon: “And what will you do if somebody else makes a mistake??“ “That won’t happen”. “No I don’t, want you to play off by heart, it makes me nervous.”

At that I had to smile a bit because he had conducted and practiced and played everything from memory. He knew all the measures by heart. So despite everything I played by memory and he never said another word about it. When something was played for the first time, you always waited for him to say: “It was good” or maybe even more so to hear “it was not good”. Not a word was said."

Johannes Fink