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Hermann Max

A pioneer in the German historical performance movement, choral conductor Hermann Max is especially noted for performances of music by the Bach family. He was the longtime conductor of the Rheinische Kantorei choir and the Baroque orchestra Das Kleine Konzert. Max was born in Goslar, in Germany's Lower Saxony state, in 1941. Early in life, he studied the organ with Karl Straube and Günther Ramin, placing him in a tradition leading all the way back to J.S. Bach's tenure as music director at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Max studied at the Musikhochschule Berlin and the University of Cologne, taking not only music courses but also those in art history, archaeology, and musicology. He went on for further studies in contemporary church music at the Folkwang-Hochschule in the city of Essen. In 1977, Max founded the Jugendkantorei Dormagen, a youth choir. He became church music director at the Christuskirche in Dormagen, remaining in that post until 2006. The Rheinische Kantorei choir evolved out of the Jugendkantorei Dormagen by 1985, and he later founded the Baroque orchestra Das Kleine Konzert. With those groups, Max launched a recording career that grew to encompass more than 100 albums. In 1994, he released a series of albums devoted to J.S. Bach's sons Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, and from then on, his recorded output often featured choral music of Bach's lesser-known sons as well as those whose music is frequently recorded. He also recorded music by Johann Michael Bach (1745-1820), J.S. Bach's nephew, and by Georg Philipp Telemann. Max established the Knechtsteden Early Music Festival at a church near Düsseldorf in 1992, remaining its director until 2023. He also edited early music publications and led seminars on early music performance. In 2004, Max directed a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem and conducted the Israel Camerata in Bach's St. John Passion there two years later. He has continued to record prolifically, mostly for the Capriccio and CPO labels, and for the latter, he led soloists from the Rheinische Kantorei and Das Kleine Konzert in a 2024 album, Georg Philipp Telemann: A Christmas Oratorio Pasticcio.
© James Manheim /TiVo


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