Longtime Conductor Leaving Bach Festival

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EUGENE, Ore. — This weekend marks a passing of the torch at the Hult Center as a major arts figure gives up his baton.

Thursday morning at the Hult Center, inside the seats are mostly empty. Just a few onlookers watched what appears to be a routine rehearsal.

Only it wasn’t routine. In fact, it was the beginning of the end of one of the greatest runs in Oregon arts history.

Helmuth Rilling has been the driving force behind the Oregon Bach Festival for decades. From Stuttgart, Germany, the 80-year-old conductor has traveled to Oregon to interpret his life’s passion, the work of J.S. Bach.

On Sunday, Rilling will perform Bach’s B-Minor Mass, considered by many to be Bach’s greatest achievement.

But, of course, the Bach B-Minor Mass is not only trumpets and choir. It has many subdued and also important movements. Moving movements.

What’s so special about Sunday? Not only is it the finale of this year’s Bach Festival, it will also be Rilling’s last concert at the podium. After Sunday, he’ll move to emeritus status.

Musician John Spelling says it’s been the thrill of a lifetime to work with Rilling. And it’s a love that’s been returned, like the music that inspired it.

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