Reassessing Karl Richter’s mid-century exploration of Bach and others—in 100 CDs

Posted on: January 22, 2021

“It was Karl Richter’s Bach that pushed Nikolaus Harnoncourt over the edge,” writes David Allen in Thursday’s (1/21) New York Times. “ ‘Bach-Richter,’ Harnoncourt called him—and the name wasn’t inappropriate, so fully had Richter become associated with Bach through dozens of recordings as a conductor, harpsichordist and organist, made primarily for the Archiv imprint of Deutsche Grammophon and now brought together in a 100-disc box set. Harnoncourt, who transformed the way generations of later listeners heard Baroque music, could not stand this ‘profound connoisseur of style,’ his sarcasm snapping at the work of a man who had himself once been hailed as a revolutionary…. But with the period-instrument movement having been, for the most part, victorious, the old arguments have lost their edge. The time is right to listen to Richter again. Peer beyond the polemics, and the Deutsche Grammophon box reveals an interpreter of more than antiquarian interest: a musician of intensity, invention and sincerity—one whose rehabilitation might point the way to a more open atmosphere for the performance of this repertory…. The 100-disc set offers a comprehensive account of his achievement, with Handel, Haydn and even Beethoven framing 64 CDs of Bach.”