© Yvonne Chan
"Music should startle people and
reach deep down inside them,
forcing them to reflect."
Helmuth Rilling was born in Stuttgart in 1933, and is known throughout the world as an acclaimed conductor, pedagogue and Bach scholar. In 1954, he founded his internationally-recognized chorus – the Gächinger Kantorei. Eleven years later, the Bach Collegium Stuttgart was added as the choir’s regular orchestral partner. It was then that Rilling began his intensive work with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. An equally fervent advocate of neglected Romantic choral music, Rilling has also regularly commissioned and presented contemporary choral music by significant composers of our time.
Rilling is co-founder and Artistic Director of the Oregon Bach Festival, begun in 1970 and now recognized as one of America’s most prestigious music festivals. In 1981, he founded the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart. Together with his own ensembles or as a guest conductor, he performs on the international concert podium throughout Europe, the United States, Canada, Asia, and South America. Additionally he appears with many of the most important orchestras in the world such as the Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic and Japan NHK Symphony Orchestra. Rilling has cultivated a special friendship with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for more than thirty years and performed with this orchestra and his Gächinger Kantorei in more than 100 concerts.
Working with young musicians from around the globe has always been a central focus of Rilling’s work, and led to the formation of the Festivalensemble Stuttgart and Junge Stuttgarter Bach-Ensemble (JSB-Ensemble). Rilling presents workshops for students in all parts of the world in his international Bach Academies. In 2010 he toured Japan, USA, Spain and Italy; 2011 in Mainland China (with Gächinger Kantorei and Bach-Collegium Stuttgart for the first time); and 2012 in South America.
Helmuth Rilling’s inexhaustible, creative activity is documented in hundreds of CD, radio and television productions. He was the first to record all cantatas by J.S. Bach, and was the artistic vision behind the International Bachakademie’s critically-acclaimed project to record all Bach’s works, released as 172 CDs during the Bach anniversary year in 2000. In the same year, Rilling won the coveted Grammy Award for his recording of Krzysztof Penderecki's Credo, and was again nominated in 2001 for his recording of Wolfgang Rihm's Deus Passus.
The recipient of numerous international awards, Rilling received the UNESCO International Music Prize in 1994, and the Theodor Heuss Prize (Deeds of Reconciliation) in 1995. In 2003, he became an Honorary Member of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences, and in 2008 – on the occasion of his 75th birthday – he was awarded the Staufer Gold Medal, the highest award of the State of Baden-Württemberg. His stature in the music world was further acknowledged when he received the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden Herbert-von-Karajan Prize in 2011.