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As a student Helmuth Rilling was initially drawn to music that fell outside the then normal performance repertoire. He dug out old works by Lechner, Schütz and others for his musical gatherings with friends in a little Swabian mountain village called Gächingen, where they sang and played together from 1954 on. He soon became enthusiastic about Romantic music too, despite the risk of violating the taboos which applied to this area in the 1950s. But it was above all the output of contemporary composers that interested Rilling and his “Gächinger Kantorei”; they soon developed a wide repertoire which they subsequently performed in public. An immense number of the first performances of those years were put on by this passionate musician and his young, hungry ensemble. Even today, Rilling’s repertoire extends from Monteverdi’s Vespers to modern works. He was also responsible for many commissions, including Arvo Pärt’s Litany, Edison Denisov’s completion of Schubert’s Lazarus fragments and, in 1995, the Requiem of Reconciliation, an international collaboration between 14 composers. On 21 March 1985, JS Bach’s 300th birthday, Rilling completed a project which is still unparalleled in the history of recorded music: a complete recording of all Bach’s church cantatas. This achievement was immediately recognised by the award of the “Grand prix du disque”, and for the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death in the year 2000 the secular cantatas will be added to the set. Helmuth Rilling is no ordinary conductor. He has always remained true to his roots in church and vocal music, yet he has never made any secret of the fact that he is not interested in making music for the sake of making music or in working for work’s sake. The meticulousness and philological accuracy with which he prepares his concerts is matched by the importance he attaches to creating a positive atmosphere, one in which the musicians under his direction can discover the music and its meaning, both for themselves and for the audience. “Making music means learning how to know and understand other people and how to get on peacefully with them”: this is his creed. That is why the International Bach Academy founded by Helmuth Rilling in 1981 is often called a “Goethe Institute of music“. Its aim is not to teach culture, but to inspire and to encourage reflection and understanding between people of different nationalities and backgrounds. Helmuth Rilling’s philosophy is largely responsible for the many outstanding honours he has received. For the ceremony in Berlin marking the Day of German Unity in 1990 he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic at the request of the German president. In 1985 he received an Honorary Doctorate in Theology from the University of Tübingen, and in 1993 the Federal Service Medal and ribbon. In 1995, in recognition of his life’s work, he was awarded the Theodor Heuss prize and the UNESCO music prize.

Role: Conductor 
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