Scaling a Bach Monument With a Masterly Touch
From The New York Times
January 15, 2007
By JAMES OESTREICH
It seems remarkable at first glance that the annual weeklong Carnegie Hall choral workshops, founded by Robert Shaw in 1990, have only now gotten around to Bachs St. Matthew Passion, perhaps the cornerstone of the Western choral literature. But anyone who attended any of the workshop sessions last week must have come away with a new appreciation of just how vast and varied a canvas the St. Matthew is, and how difficult to prepare in a mere six days with an ad-hoc chorus.
True, this was a chorus of music professionals, many of them choral directors themselves. Still, it takes a master to pull it all together quickly, and Carnegie had one in the person of Helmuth Rilling, the German Bach specialist, who directed the workshop and conducted the culminating concert on Saturday evening in the Stern Auditorium.
Asked in an interview earlier on Saturday how many times he had conducted the work, Mr. Rilling, 73, replied: "I didn't count. At least 100, maybe 300. It has occupied me throughout my life."
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