Born: January 26, 1900 - Kiel, Germany
Died: December 24, 1967 - Lisbon, Portugal
The German conductor, Karl Ristenpart, created three orchestras in his lifetime and is mostly remembered for his outstanding recordings of Bach and Mozart in the fifties and sixties with the Saar Chamber Orchestra for the French labels Les Discophiles français, Erato and Club Français du Disque, which were later released by various American (notably Nonesuch) and Japanese labels on both LP and cassette.
Karl Ristenpart studied at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin and in Vienna. In 1932 he became the conductor of a little string ensemble in Berlin, called the Karl Ristenpart Chamber Orchestra and composed mainly of women. In 1946 his clean political record allowed him to be entrusted with the production of orchestra music for the "Radio in the American Sector of Berlin" (RIAS). There he recorded music from Monteverdi to Igor Stravinsky with the RIAS-Choir, the RIAS-Kammerorchester and often also with the RIAS-Symphonie-Orchester. In parallel, with his Karl Ristenpart Chamber Orchestra and with soloists like Agnes Giebel, Helmut Krebs and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, he also produced an impressive J.S. Bach concert cycle from 1947 to 1952. The growingly difficult political and economic situation in Berlin in the early 1950ís led him to accept an offer to create a chamber orchestra for the Saar Radio in the Fall of 1953.
This new Saar Chamber Orchestra was much appreciated from the very beginning by the top French instrumental soloists such as flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal and his Quintette à vent Français. Approximately 170 albums featuring Karl Ristenpart and this Saar Chamber Orchestra with the works of 50 composers (mostly from the baroque and early classical eras but also award-winning records of B. Britten, Roussel and Paul Hindemith pieces) have been marketed all over the world. Ristenpartís lasting fame as an interpreter of mostly Bach and Mozart overshadowed the fact that his Saar Chamber Orchestra actually recorded works by some 250 composers, at least half of them considered modern or contemporary, for the Saar Radio.
Karl Ristenpart died after a heart-attack while on tour in Portugal with the Chamber orchestra of the Gulbenkian Foundation in December 1967. After 4 years under Antonio Janigro, the Saar Chamber Orchestra merged with the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1973.