The Munich Bach Choir, founded in 1954 by Karl Richter, soon gained international renown, particularly for performing the works of Johann Sebastian Bach – live onstage on major international concert tours (be it in Paris, Moscow, Tokyo or New York) or as documented by numerous recordings. After Richter’s death in 1981 – Leonard Bernstein conducted the memorial concert in his honour – Hanns-Martin Schneidt took over the baton between 1984 and 2001. He expanded the choir’s repertoire and continued the by now traditional touring activities. The following years saw the choir collaborating with several guest conductors, predominantly Baroque specialists such as Peter Schreier, Bruno Weil and Ralf Otto.
A new era began in 2005, when Hansjörg Albrecht was appointed as new Musical Director – “a godsend for the Munich Bach Choir”, as Süddeutsche Zeitung phrased it. Under his leadership the ensemble developed a new artistic profile with a clear, transparent choral sound that many critics since have highlighted. Agile, animated performances of Bach’s works, inspired by historically
informed practices, remain a key focus of the choir’s schedule. Unusual programming concepts and a steadily expanding repertoire have become additional trademarks in recent years, marked by collaborations with the ballet companies of John Neumeier or Marguerite Donlon and with acclaimed soloists such as Marlis Petersen, Simone Kermes, Klaus Florian Vogt, or Michael Volle.
The Munich Bach Choir regularly performs with its traditional artistic partner, the Munich Bach Orchestra, but also regularly teams up with other notable European ensembles. It sings in Munich’s grand concert halls as well as at other important musical centers and international festivals. Numerous recordings document these fertile collaborations.
In 2016 the Choir sang in Moscow for the first time in over 35 years and toured eight major cathedrals of southern France. 2017 saw the choir in Passau for the international Europäische Wochen festival, at Ottobeuren Abbey and Budapest’s Palace of Arts. In October 2018 the Munich Bach Choir debuted in Israel, invited by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to sing Mozart’s Coronation Mass at ten sold out concerts under Zubin Mehta. Shortly after returning to Germany, the choir set off on another journey to Moscow with Bach’s Mass in B Minor.
After two tours to Italy in early 2019 (with Haydn’s Creation and Mozart’s Requiem), a series of concerts sent the choristers all across Bavaria in May, tracking local Bach traditions. In July the ensemble returned to Israel for another seven concerts with the Israel Symphony Orchestra and Zubin Mehta, this time to sing Verdi’s Requiem. With a splendid performance of Handel’s Messiah the choir celebrated the anniversary of the Ottobeuren Basilica Concerts. Before another trip to Moscow in November, the choir sang at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, where Bach had served as music director for three decades.
The year 2020 started promisingly with another tour to Italy. Then the pandemic forced the choir into apparent silence for months – cancelling milestones like the St Matthew Passion had been unimaginable until then. However, the ensemble quickly resumed rehearsals and successfully returned to the stage in October 2020.