Johann Sebastian Bach: Secular Cantatas. Helmuth Rilling. © 2023 Profil Medien GmbH

CD Spotlight

Full of Warmth and Devotion

GERALD FENECH unreservedly recommends Helmuth Rilling's recordings of the J S Bach secular cantatas

'... this eight CD set will prove to be a revelation ...'


Helmuth Rilling was born on 29 May 1933. This year he is ninety years old, but what he has achieved as a conductor will always by remembered for decades to come, especially by J S Bach afficionados. In 1994, Rilling started on a mammoth project, that of recording not only all Bach's Secular Cantatas but also the rest of the Bach output. This huge undertaking took six years to complete and the music spanned 172 CDs.

Hänssler Classic is now proud to present Helmuth Rilling's landmark recording of the Secular Cantatas in a new collector's edition. Indeed, Rilling was the first conductor to ever record the complete Bach Cantatas and still, twenty-five years after they were first released in celebration of the Bach tercentennial in 1985, they remain the standard by which all other interpretations are judged. This box set includes timeless performances featuring many of Europe's finest singers at the height of their careers.

Born in Stuttgart, Rilling is acclaimed worldwide as a conductor, pedagogue and Bach scholar. In 1954, he founded the internationally recognized Gachinger Kantorei choir, which joined forces with the Bach Collegium Stuttgart as its regular orchestral partner eleven years later. It was at this time that Rilling began his intensive work with the music of J S Bach. He has both fervently advocated neglected choral music of the Romantic period and promoted contemporary music by regularly commissioning and performing pieces by key composers of our time. He has toured across Europe, the States, Canada, Asia and South America, either as guest conductor or with his own ensembles. Rilling has also collaborated with some of the best orchestras in the world, including the Vienna and New York Philharmonics and the Japanese NHK Symphony Orchestra.

Most of the secular cantatas were composed for the enjoyment of the 'collegium musicum' associated with the Neukirche in Leipzig, an ensemble of students professionals and skilled amateurs founded by Telemann, which Bach directed during the 1730s. The performances usually took place in the outdoor garden of Zimmermann's Coffee House.

Listen — J S Bach: Sich üben im Lieben
(Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202)
(HC23011 CD2 track 7, 0:00-0:47) ℗ 2023 Profil Medien GmbH :

Another interesting detail concerns the audience. It is known that no more than two hundred programmes, with texts of the cantatas, were printed for such occasions, so we can surmise both the number and what strata of society were those who attended.

This re-issue again enforces the fact that Rilling's dedication to the Bach cause is unimpeachable. Indeed, his musicianship and the masterly way he coaxes his soloists, choruses and players, enable him to bring out the sheer beauty of Bach's vocal music.

Listen — J S Bach: Lust der Völker, Lust der Deinen
(Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen, BWV 213)
(HC23011 CD7 track 37, 2:11-2:54) ℗ 2023 Profil Medien GmbH :

For those wanting a recorded cycle of these unique works, this eight CD set will prove to be a revelation full of warmth and devotion to the music. This milestone in the history of Bach recordings, wonderfully packaged and also at a very attractive price is unreservedly recommended.

Copyright © 15 August 2023 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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