OBF Maestro Honored on Park Ave
[caption id="attachment_2888" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Kurt Masur and Helmuth Rilling."][/caption]On the night of February 12, 2009, Conductor’s Society members, friends and staff of the OBF, and notable leaders of the German-American community were treated to a classy and cordial reception at the Park Avenue home of Dr. Horst Freitag, German Consul General for New York.
A crowd of about 85 gathered in the beautiful salon of New York’s most exclusive residence for a tribute to Maestro Helmuth Rilling, honored in his 75th year for the work he has done over four decades to develop a lasting and fruitful exchange of German-American cultures at the Oregon Bach Festival.
After welcoming the guests—which included Helmuth’s esteemed musical colleague Kurt Masur, the NY Philharmonic’s emeritus conductor—Dr. Freitag began his well-researched remarks with a little-known story about how Helmuth Rilling, at the time a student of Leonard Bernstein and unable to afford a concert ticket, managed to talk his way into a seat among the violins during a Bernstein-led performance of the Vienna Philharmonic.
Dr. Freitag’s warm and heartfelt introduction was followed by a greeting from OBF Executive Director John Evans, who, asking for the pardon of his hosts, quoted English poet W. H. Auden to capture the German conductor Rilling’s unique abilities “to all musicians, appear and inspire.”
University of Oregon Provost James Bean brought cheerful greetings from Rilling’s adopted home state and UO President Dave Frohnmayer as he raised a glass for a collective toast.
Quietly accepting the ebullient praise, Maestro Rilling spoke of his belief in how, like his mentor Bernstein, being a humble, understanding, and collaborative leader is the way to create great music. He also paused for an emotional moment to say how deeply he missed Pete Moore of Eugene, the key OBF donor, leader, and friend who had recently passed away. “As we go on to success,” Helmuth said, “a part of the Festival will always be his.”
And then, a surprise, not on the elegant printed program: Dr. Freitag summoned Maestro Masur from the crowd for words from a music peer. “Helmuth Rilling does not contest to be the world champion of Bach,” Masur thoughtfully offered. “He gets to the truth. He gives to us the spirit of Bach.”
Capping these tributes, Marla Lowen, pianist, and James Taylor, the tenor who has been a longtime collaborator with Helmuth in Eugene, Stuttgart, and, on this Valentine’s Day weekend, in New York, filled the room with touching renditions of Bach’s aria “Erfreue Dich” from cantata BWV 21 and Schubert’s “An die Musik.” The music ended, but the lyricism and harmony lingered with the guests long into the New York night.
See more photos in the OBF Gallery.