Karl Richter | News | Karl Richter: Complete Recordings on Archiv and Deutsche Grammophon

Karl Richter: Complete Recordings on Archiv and Deutsche Grammophon

Karl Richter, Peter Schreier
© Werner Neumeister
We announce the coming Complete Recordings box set of all-round musician Karl Richter. The 97 CD & 3 Blu-ray Audio set show a wide-ranging portrait of Karl Richter, as an organist and harpsichordist, chamber musician, continuo player, and as conductor of major orchestral and sacred choral works, Including all of Bach’s cantatas and major sacred works on Blu-ray Audio in audiophile resolution of 24bit/96kHz.
Karl Richter earned himself a reputation as an interpreter of Bach’s early in his career. He impressed audiences around the world as a virtuosic organist, but even more as conductor of the Munich-based Bach Ensemble he formed over the years. Karl Richter touched his listeners through pure emotion and expressivity and was referred to as “Thomaskantor of people’s hearts”.
Hardly any 20th century musician could come closer to the role model of a Saxon cantor, and so to the ideal of J. S. Bach himself as Karl Richter. The son of a Protestant clergyman, Richter had his first lessons with the organist of Dresden’s Kreuzkirche, he was able to practice at the world-famous Silbermann organ at Freiberg cathedral and also sang in Dresden’s Kreuzchor. He later became a pupil of the legendary Thomaskantor Karl Straube, and traced a career largely dedicated to sacred music.

Richter literally soaked up all the musical tradition in Saxony, and soon attracted the attention of the wider musical world. He was appointed organist of St. Thomas in Leipzig in 1949 and after winning the international Bach competition there, he transferred the focal point of this work to Munich, a city which had no Bach or significant Protestant music tradition. Here he established not only a reputation as a brilliant organist but built up the Münchener Bachchor and brought many outstanding instrumentalists into his Munich orchestra.

Richter built a solid network in the European musical scene and soon came to the attention of Decca/Telefunken’s producers and Fred Hamel, the early music pioneer and producer at Archiv Produktion. Formally with Archiv Produktion and later Deutsche Grammophon, Richter became one of the great and acknowledged Bach and Baroque music interpreters on disc and one of the few artists of the 20th-century whose interpretative approach became an acknowledged and admired brand. In the 1950s, a time when the early music movement was gaining ground and wider support in the musical world, Richter followed his own intentions and convinced listeners through emotion, expressivity, vitality and sonority. “Modern instruments are enjoined on us by the course of history, and an interpretation that is not properly thought through and filled with emotion is not improved by a harpsichord, no matter what its date,” commented Karl Schumann, a Munich music critic who knew Richter over decades. “Richter, it is true, had his feet firmly in the 20th century, but he had been schooled by masters in whom the 19th-century tradition continued to flourish” which can be traced back through Karl Straube and Günther Ramin and the Mendelssohn conservatory in Leipzig to the origins of the cantorate at St. Thomas’s and more or less to J. S. Bach himself.

Although steeped in tradition, Karl Richter’s perspective showed no backward orientation – his merit in contrast was to establish “Bach for contemporaries” by sweeping away the mists of an unfocused, bombastically monumental Romantic sound world.  Four decades after his death, his recordings remain the definitive choice for many.

“I am determined to stick to my chosen path as a church musician, even though this is proving to be tremendously difficult. Yet this is my calling: as an artist chosen to receive the gifts from God’s hand and to be a servant of musica sacra. But whenever I become fully conscious of my responsibility, I feel a very real need not to waste a single minute. […] Life, after all, is alarmingly short.”
The box set will be released on November 6, 2020 and the pre-order period starts today October 2, 2020. Listen to the first pre-release track Handel: La Rèjouissance (from Music for the Royal Fireworks) here.