The Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart (= GKS) was founded in 1953 by Helmuth Rilling in Gächingen, a small village (in the Swabian Mountains) on the outskirts of Stuttgart, and it retained its name after moving to that city.
Often referred to as ‘the master-singers of Stuttgart’, they are distinguished from other choirs by requiring superior music training of all candidates for membership, and by suiting themselves to the requirements of the works to be performed, from 24 to over 100 singers. Its members come from all over south-west Germany and the German-speaking regions of Switzerland.
After mastering the entire a cappella repertoire available at the time, the choir turned towards oratorios of every period. It has played a considerable part in the rediscovery and representation of the Romantic choral repertoire, especially works by Brahms and Mendelssohn. It is notable for its role in performing the first and hitherto only complete cycle of all J.S. Bach’s church cantatas and in giving the first performance of the Requiem of Reconciliation in 1995 in Stuttgart.
Enjoying an enviable reputation of one of the world’s finest vocal ensembles today, and a synonym for excellence, they have appeared throughout Europe, as well as the USA, Mexico, Japan and Israel (first appearance with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1976), usually together with the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart.
The choir has won many recording prizes and has received critical acclaim for its CD, radio and television recordings.
With the 2016-2017 season a new era begins for the world-famous ensembles of the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, which will then perform under the joint name of Gächinger Cantorey. Originally, the choir which Helmuth Rilling founded in 1954 was called the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart. This was heard in all the well-known international concert halls with illustrious partners such as the Wiener Philharmoniker, New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
The historicised spelling of the name Gächinger Cantorey now refers both to the choir, widely recognised and recently transformed by Hans-Christoph Rademann since he became Akademie Director in 2013, and also to the the newly-formed baroque orchestra of the Internationale Bachakademie which performs alongside the choir.
In the 18th century, the era of J.S. Bach, the term »choir« did not just mean what it has come to mean today – an ensemble comprising exclusively of singers. »Choir« could just as well mean »instrumental choir», that is an orchestra. Against the background of this tradition, in 1730, in a written petition to Leipzig city council, Bach grouped both singers and instrumentalists together in the concept of a »well-established church music ensemble«, and thought carefully about the ideal musical forces which, in his opinion, a music director should have at his disposal.
It was self-evident to Bach that, in these ideal forces, the instruments of the orchestra should blend with the voices of the choral singers to form a homogeneous, and at the same time translucent overall sound. Today we can only achieve this authentic sound ideal through the use of baroque instruments, by using players familiar with baroque performance practice techniques, and by forming a choir from singers who are equally at home with the demands of being a »ripienist« (ensemble singer) and a »concertist« (soloist).
By deciding to have its own baroque orchestra and a choir formed of singers with practical, performing criteria in mind, the Bachakademie is forging a new path. The basic kind of sound, and at the same time the unique international selling point of this new approach underlies the Bachakademie’s decision to commission a historical replica of a chamber organ by the legendary organ builder and contemporary of J.S. Bach, Gottfried Silbermann. An original instrument by him has recently been discovered in Seerhausen, Saxony. As an example of the baroque sound, true to the original, this replica embodies the approach at the very heart of a Bachakademie of the future.
The newly-founded baroque orchestra and the newly-constituted choir of the Bachakademie will perform under the joint name Gächinger Cantorey from now onwards. Based on the historic foundations of the J.S. Bach era, and with roots in the living performance history of the choir founded by Helmuth Rilling, this name represents an integrated musical approach and the aesthetic sound ideal of the Baroque.