Karl Richter (conductor)

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Karl Richter
Born (1926-10-15)October 15, 1926
Plauen, Germany
Died February 15, 1981(1981-02-15) (aged 54)
Munich, West Germany
Genres Classical music
Occupation(s) Conductor, choirmaster
Notable instruments
Organ, harpsichord

Karl Richter (15 October 1926 – 15 February 1981) was a German conductor, choirmaster, organist, and harpsichordist. He was born in Plauen and studied first in Dresden, where he was a member of the Dresdner Kreuzchor and later in Leipzig, where he received his degree in 1949. He studied with Günther Ramin, Karl Straube and Rudolf Mauersberger. In the same year, he became organist at St. Thomas Church, Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian Bach was the Musical Director for 27 years. In 1951 he moved to Munich, where he taught at the conservatory and was cantor and organist at St. Mark's Church. He also conducted the Münchener Bach-Chor starting in 1954 and the Münchener Bach-Orchester. In the 1960s and 1970s he recorded a lot and toured Japan, the United States, Canada, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

He played and conducted a wide range of music (sacred works from Heinrich Schütz to Max Reger, as well as the symphonic and concerto repertoire of the Classical and Romantic periods - even including Bruckner's symphonies), but is best remembered for his interpretations of Johann Sebastian Bach and Handel. Richter's performances were known for their soulsearching, intense and festive manner. He avoided the fluctuations in tempi that were then characteristic of the prevailing Romantic manner of conducting Bach, and devoted much attention to the woodwinds and to balance. His recordings from 1958-70 are notable for "discipline, rhythmic tautness and expressive intensity.".[1]

As well as a conductor, Richter is also remembered as a virtuoso harpsichordist and organist. His performances of Bach's organ works are known for their imposing registrations and favorable pace.[citation needed]

In the 1970s, according to Nicholas Anderson, "with the growing interest in historically aware performance... Richter's values were questioned"; in 1981, "a victim of passing fashion and changing taste, he died an embittered man.[2]" While staying in a hotel in Munich in 1981 he suffered a fatal heart attack, and was buried in the Enzenbühl cemetery in Zurich eight days later.


  1. ^ Nicholas Anderson, "Karl Richter," in Oxford Composer Companions: J.S. Bach, Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 420
  2. ^ Nicholas Anderson, "Karl Richter," in Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 420


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