Rudolf Kelber began his musical education at high school in Nuremberg State Conservatory and received instruction in piano, organ, cello and music theory. From 1967 to 1974 he studied church music, conducting and organ (master class) at the Musikhochschule in Munich. Among his teachers were Karl Richter and Franz Lehrndorfer (organ), Maria Landes-Hindemith and Erik Then-Bergh (piano), as well as Jan Koetsier and Kurt Eichhorn (conducting).
Rudolf Kelber worked as a theatre conductor in Gelsenkirchen (1974–1976) and in Heidelberg (1976–1982). At the same time he played chamber music extensively and attended authentic performance practice classes with Alan Curtis, Gustav Leonhardt and Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
Kelber initiated the fundamental restoration of the Arp Schnitger organ, the largest sounding baroque organ in existence, in the Hauptkirche St. Jacobi, which was completed in 1993. The second organ of St. Jacobi (Kemper 1960/1968) was also repaired on his initiative in 2008.
Three performances of the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach in 1985, 1994 and 2000 have been the highlights of Kelber’s appearances as a concert organist.
Kelber has performed as organ soloist in the U.S., Japan, Israel, and almost all European countries with a wide repertoire: in addition to composers in the North German tradition (determined by the historic Schnitger organ) he also plays the music of Liszt, Reger and Messiaen, as well as arrangements of symphonies or parts from operas, tango and blues. He has frequently accompanied silent films with organ improvisations.
Rudolf Kelber has conducted the great Passions, oratorios and requiems as well as a lot of baroque, classical, romantic and modern symphonic works.
Staged performances of operas and oratorios by Cavalieri, Monteverdi, Stradella, Purcell, Handel, Gluck and Mozart have developed under his direction in both Heidelberg and Hamburg
- Andrew Lloyd Webber: Requiem (North German premiere 1987)
- Ernst-Ulrich von Kameke: Moabiter Requiem "In Tyrannos" (premieres in Hamburg (1999, Hauptkirche St. Michaelis) and in Hannover at the Expo 2000)
- Edward Elgar: The Apostles (Hamburg premiere 2005)
- Olivier Messiaen: La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ (Hamburg premiere 2008, Bremen premiere 2008)
- Missa super Cantus Lennonenses McCartnesque (mixed choir a cappella / 2001)
- Cantata in honorem Henrici Sagittarii (soprano, vibraphone, mixed choir / 2006)
- Paul-Gerhardt-cantata (mezzo-soprano solo, choir, brass / 2007)
- I Bambini di Sant' Anna (mixed choir a cappella /2014)
- "Obersalzberg" - Musiktheater about Sigmund Freud and Adolf Hitler 1929 in Berchtesgaden (2016)
Reconstructions and compilations
- Claudio Monteverdi: Arianna (1997)
- Johann Sebastian Bach: St Mark Passion (1998)
- Claudio Monteverdi: Vespro secondo (1999, compilation)
- Modest Mussorgsky: Glagolitic Mass (2005)
- Johann Sebastian Bach: St Luke Passion (2011, pasticcio)
In 1972 Kelber received the Richard-Strauss-Prize of the city of Munich.
In 2015 he was awarded the Arp Schnitger Verdienstmedaille of the Arp Schnitger Society.
- Europäische Orgelmusik des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts - Arp Schnitger organ (1993)
- Johann Sebastian Bach - Arp Schnitger organ (1997)
- Nu ward veel dusend Lichter hell - Low German Christmas carols (1998)
- J. S. Bach, Markus-Passion BWV 247 in the reconstruction of Rudolf Kelber (1999)
- Monteverdi: Vespro secondo (new compilation of psalms / 1999)
- Organ improvisations on theme sketches by Hans Henny Jahnn (2000)
- Fremde Vögel - Missa Super Cantus Lennonenses McCartnesques for choir a cappella, Tangos, Blues, Ragtimes for organ and harpsichord (2003)
- Mattheson: Opera "Boris Goudenow" (2005)
- Mattheson: Opera „Die betrogene Staats-Liebe” or „Die unglückselige Cleopatra” (2006)
- Gott loben, das ist unser Amt - Kantorei St. Jacobi Hamburg 1958 - 2008 - concert recordings (2008)
- Ostwärts schweift der Blick: Mussorgskij, Glagolitische Messe and Kodály, Missa brevis (2010)
- J. S. Bach, Lukas-Passion in the reconstruction of Rudolf Kelber (2011)
- Norddeutsche Orgelmeister und Bach – Arp Schnitter organ (2013/2014)
Deutsche Nationalbibliothek / Deutsches Musikarchiv:
Concert programs, CDs and the German newspaper "Hamburger Abendblatt" (with about 240 entries for "Rudolf Kelber" in the "Online-Archiv"):