Thüringer Bach Collegium

The Thüringer Bach Collegium – old music travels to new shores

»Together with the Thüringer Bach Collegium, Gernot Süßmuth has undoubtedly cultivated his own unique style and interpretation of Bach’s works, which is well worth listening to and enjoying.« (RONDO Das Klassik- und Jazz-Magazin 2021)

The founders of this orchestra in the cultural scene of Thuringia are two experienced hands. The ensemble is led by Gernot Süßmuth, Johann Sebastian Bach’s successor as concertmaster of the Staatskapelle, formerly known as the Hofkapelle Weimar. The managing director and double bass player is Christian Bergmann, who has been playing in the Staatskapelle Weimar for over 20 years. Both have links with the music of J. S. Bach since their earliest childhood and youth. Christian Bergmann, for example, was born in Arnstadt and baptised in the Bach Church.

The Thuringian Bach Collegium revives the musical gems of the Thuringian residences. The musical state of Thuringia holds a unique treasure of compositions from the time of the Thuringian residences. In the 17th and 18th centuries, with all its courts and residences competing in the arts, Thuringia was at the heart of Germany’s musical landscape, and the »Bache« or Bachs, Johann Sebastian Bach’s ancestors and relatives, became synonymous with it. The name Bach even became the name given to the profession of a musician.

In the four years of its existence, the Thuringian Bach Collegium has already recorded numerous treasures of Thuringian music

Its highly acclaimed debut CD »Concerti« is the first complete recording of the works of Prince Johann Ernst IV of Saxe-Weimar (1696–1715).

The four orchestral suites by Johann Bernhard Bach, who was organist at the Georgenkirche in Eisenach for 42 years, were recorded in this church, at Johann Sebastian Bach’s baptismal font.

In Arnstadt’s Oberkirche (main church), the Thuringian Bach Collegium recorded all of Anton Schweitzer’s religious compositions still surviving today. In the autumn of 2020, the ensemble devoted itself to the arrangements of instrumental concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach and moved back to the Oberkirche for this reason. The organ arrangements alone were played on the Wender organ in the Bach Church by Jörg Reddin for this recording.

In December 2020, the Thuringian Bach Collegium performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 together with the Ensemble Polyharmonique for the »Euroradio Christmas Music Day« from the Bach Church in Arnstadt, which was broadcast worldwide. A CD recording of the concert was also produced.

The Thuringian Bach Collegium is based in Arnstadt

As Thuringia’s cultural ambassador, it sees its mission as bringing to life the treasures slumbering in the archives, works of those composers who played at the Thuringian courts and residences. It brings Thuringian music to the world both via concerts and as a guest at numerous festivals.


Thüringer Bach Collegium · Group picture (Photo: Jan Kobel)
Thüringer Bach Collegium · Group picture (Photo: Jan Kobel)

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Dagmar Spengler-Süßmuth

Dagmar Spengler, principal cellist with the StaatskapelleWeimar studied at the Cologne Music Conservatory with Claus Kanngiesser, graduated with honours in 1998 and then accepted Bernhard Greenhouse’s invitation to study with him in the USA. In 1998 she also won a scholarship of the »Deutscher Musikwettbewerb Bonn« with the piano-trio »Rebecca-Clarke-Trio«. In 2001 she completed her studies at the Conservatory Cologne with the Performer’s Diploma.

Dagmar Spengler has assisted as principal cellist in the Folkwang Chamberorchester several times. From August 2001 until August 2003 she was cellist in the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden (Semperoper). Dagmar Spengler has teaching experiences in the music Conservatory Franz Liszt. Weimar as well as in the »Musikgymnasium Schloß Belvedere«.

In 2006 she gave a masterclass in Krakau with the »Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart« and played with Helmuth Rilling in the »Bachcollegium Stuttgart«. Actively engaged in chamber music, she performs with the sextet »Vivace!« as well as with the pianist Oliver Drechsel. 2001 the duo released the CD »dialogo«.

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Gernot Süßmuth

Gernot Süßmuth, who has performed as a chamber musician, violin soloist and orchestra leader at all important podiums of the world, was Concertmaster of the Berlin Staatskapelle, under Daniel Barenboim. He is first Concertmaster of the Weimar Staatskapelle and professor at the Franz Liszt Conservatoire in Weimar. He is one of the most sought after chamber musicians in Germany.

In his international career, spanning three decades, he has been a member of the international acclaimed Petersen String Quartet, artistic director of the European Union Chamber Orchestra, Concertmaster of the Oregon Bach Festival and Intendant of the Nordrhein-Westfalen Festival Westfalen Classics.

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Frithjof-Martin Grabner

Frithjof-Martin Grabner studied at the College of Music in Leipzig double bass with Prof. Achim Beyer and Prof. Konrad Siebach and chamber music with Prof. Gerhard Bosse. He has already performed as a graduate and winner of international competitions in numerous symphony concerts as soloist and as a continuo player of the great oratorios.

Grabner spent 18 years as a solo bass player with various orchestras. mdr-Symphony-Orchestera Leipzig, Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin, Staatsoper »Unter den Linden« Berlin.

As a guest he played with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, with the Bamberg Symphony, all operahouses of Berlin, the Deutsches-Symphonieorchester Berlin, the Gewandhausorchester, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Munich Chamber Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic, the Dresden Philharmonic and many others.

Frithjof-Martin Grabner was and is a member of renowned ensembles such as the Bach Collegium Stuttgart, Gaechinger Cantorey Stuttgart, the New Berlin Chamber Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra »Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach«, the Leipzig Consort, Capella Fidicinia, the Berlin Bachakademie and the Frankfurt Chamber Orchestra »Skyline Symphony«. He played radio, television and CD recordings.

Concert tours took him through Europe, Asia, North and South America and Israel. Grabner taught at the University of Music »Hanns Eisler« Berlin. Since 2001 he has been Professor of Double Bass at the University of Music and Theater »Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy« Leipzig. He gave masterclasses in the Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, USA, and at various international festivals. Grabner is a juror of various international competitions and artistic director of the »Mühldorfer Sommerakademie«.

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Alexandre Castro-Balbi

Alexandre Castro-Balbi was born in 1991 in Besançon/​France and grew up in a musical family of Latin American origin. At the age of seven he received his first cello lessons from György Adam at the conservatory of Besançon. In 2004 he graduated with a music diploma to continue his lessons with Marc Coppey at the conservatory of Paris. Two years later, he began his studies at the National Superior Conservatory of Paris (CNSM) with Philippe Muller, which he completed with a master’s degree. Subsequently he deepened his studies with Prof. W. E. Schmidt at the University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar.

After completing a semester at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin with Claudio Bohórquez as part of the ERASMUS programme he went to Clemens Hagen at the Mozarteum in Salzburg for another semester. He also participated in numerous master classes, among others with Steven Isserlis, László Fenyő, Lluís Claret, Sadao Harada, Peter Bruns, Raphaël Pidoux, Xavier Gagnepain, etc.

Alexandre won several international prizes such as second prize and special prize at the Carlos Prieto International Cello Competition in Morelia, Mexico. He also received the second prize at the Prince of Asturias Villa de Llanes competition in Spain. At the International Competition Franz Schubert and Modern Music in Graz, Alexandre was awarded the second prize (no first prize awarded) with his Piano trio »Suyana« and the special prize for the best interpretation of a contemporary work.

Already at the age of 19 years Castro-Balbi reached the semi-final of the ARD music competition in Munich. He won scholarships from the Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe, the Académie musicale de Villecroze and the Foundation for Young Musicians in Besançon.

Alexandre has been invited to a variety of international festivals such as the Internacional Festival of Cello, Lima (Peru), the Festival of Asturias (Spain), the Music in the Mountains, Colorado, Festival International de musique de Besançon »and the Festival of« Villa Musica »(Rhineland-Palatinate). As a soloist, he performed with the Munich chamber orchestra, the Jena Philharmonic, the Budapest Chamber Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Panamá, the Berlin-Brandenburg Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre du Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, the Provincial Youth Orchestra Peru and the Orchester Philharmonique de Besançon under the baton of renowned conductors such as Seiji Ozawa, Myung-Whun Chung, Péter Csaba and Zsolt Nagy in the Berlin Philharmonic, the Salle Pleyel, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, the Munich Philharmonic, the Victoria Hall Geneva, the Teatro Nacional Madrid, the Graz Music Association and Solitaire Salzburg.

His chamber music partners are among others Lucas Debargue, Markus Groh, Natasha Prischipenko, Christophe Giovaninetti, Svetlin Roussev, Diana Ligeti, Mayu Kishima, Marc Bouchkov, Marie Chilemme, Adrien Boisseau, Regis Vincent, Lena Semenova, Guillaume Chilemme, David Castro-Balbi and Thibaud Epp. Alexandre is Principal Cellist of the German Nationaltheater and Staatskappelle Weimar since June 2015.

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Jörg  Reddin

The German choral conductor, organist and church musician, Jörg Fritz Reddin, realized his big interest in music and organs already in childhood. He received in 1985 his first piano lessons. At age 15, he was sitting in Warnemünder Kirche on the organ bench, and in 1988 began training on the organ with LKMD Christiane Werbs, Erich Piasetzki, Fritz Abs and Eva Schad. After two trips to the forming professional offset printing world and the commercial accounting office, he realized that this was not to be his main life tasks. So he devoted himself at this time already intensively playing the organ as a hobby. In 1994 he participated in the »Jugend musiziert« National Competition in organ, and in 1996 he won the first prize at the International Organ Competition of the Hanseatic cities in Elburg (Netherlands).

From autumn 1997 to summer 2001, Jörg Reddin studied church music at the der Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, with KMD Jan Ernst (organ) and Wilfried Jochens (singing), among others. During his studies in Hamburg he founded the Kammerchor Cantus Hamburg and was its first director. He conducted the chamber choir in the projects of Michaelisoratorium by Carl Adoph Kuntzen and Weihnachtsoratorium by Camille Saint-Saëns. An Erasmus scholarship took him to Vienna in October 2001. There he studied organ with University Professor Michael Radulescu at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst, and from 2002 to 2005 singing with University Professor Dr. Gertraud Schmid-Berka. In addition, he trained in choral conducting with University Professor Alois Glaßner and in organ with University Professor Dr. Florian Pagitsch. He also attended master-classes for organ with Michael Schönheit (Leipzig) and Professor Dr. Martin Sander (Heidelberg) and courses for singing with Tünde Szabóki (Budapest) and Burgtheater actress Maresa Hörbiger (Vienna). During his studies, he sang in January 2005 as a choir soloist in a concert performance of Mozart’s opera Idomeneo under the baton of Daniel Harding at the International Mozart Week in Salzburg in 2005.

After his studies, Jörg Reddin worked as a church musician in small towns in Mecklenburg, including at the Bismarck-Gedächtniskirche in Aumühle and as a Kantor at the Stiftskirche zu Bützow. Besides, he studied between 2008 and 2010 church music A in Halle (Saale). In 2013, he was appointed Kantor of the Protestant Churches in Arnstadt, as successor of the longtime Kantor KMD Gottfried Preller

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Jonathan Kliegel

Jonathan Kliegel was born in the cultural city Weimar, where he started playing the violin when he was a child. Later he visited the Musikgymnasium Schloss Belvedere and changed to the deeper, a little more melancholic viola shortly before his school exam.

The professors Ditte Leser and Erich Krüger had a big influence on his playing while the seven years of studies, absolved also in his hometown Weimar. Jonathan loves to play in ensembles and different groups of chamber music, also as permanent member in the NDR Radiophilhamonie Hannover, the radio orchestra of Hanover.

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David Castro-Balbi

David Castro-Balbi was born in a family with a long musical tradition. At the age of five he received his first violin lessons in the class of Bernard Mauppin. At the age of 13 he graduated from the Besançon Conservatory (DEM). In 2007, he was accepted into Larissa Koloss class at the Paris Conservatory. He won his Prix Supérieur unanimously in June 2009. In the same year, he was admitted to the National Conservatory CNSMDP in the class of Svetlin Roussev. He is a founding member of the trio »Suyana«, which recorded the Quatuor Ysave chamber music at the Paris Conservatory. David is the winner of the Académie Internationale des cimes de Val d’Isère (under the direction of Prof. Larissa Koloss).

At the age of 15, he was selected to play with l’Académie Internationale de Musique in Victory Hall, Geneva, as well as in the Théâtre du Champs Elysées in Paris, conducted by world-renowned conductors Seiji Ozawa in June and July 2009. David won the first prize of the »Young Artist Competition« in Colorado (USA) and the first prize of the »First International Violin Competition« Mirecourt, where he presented the Mendelssohn Concerto in E major with the Lorraine National Orchestra under the direction of Jacques Mercier. He also won prizes at the international »Jeunesses musicales de Belgrade« competition as well as a public prize, where he performed the first Shostakovich concerto with the RTS Simphony Orchestra. In 2012, he played the Saint-Saëns Concerto op. 20 and Havanaise with the Bordeaux String Ensemble conducted by Jean-Jacques Kantorow.

As a chamber music artist, he won the second prize and special prize for the best interpretation of contemporary music at the International »Franz Schubert and Modern Music« competition in Graz, Austria. With his trio »Suyana« he won the first prize at the international competition Bacewic in Lodz, Poland. In October 2013 David Castro-Balbi was awarded the first prize and four special prizes at the »Louis Spohr Violin Competition« in Weimar.

David successfully graduated from his Master’s degree at the University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar under the direction of Prof. Dr. Friedemann Eichhorn in February 2017, where he currently completes his studies with a concert diploma (»Konzertexamen«).

In December 2017, David won the audition for principal 2nd violinist at the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. He plays a violin by Jacques Fustier, custom made for him and offered by CIC Nord. He also plays a Giovanni Battista Guadagnini violin. The instrument, that Louis Spohr used to play, was donated by the University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar.

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Irina Zwiener

Irina Zwiener already wanted to play the violin when she was four years old – just like her father. She was given one and received her first lessons from her father. A few years later, she visited the conservatorium in Nantes. In 2002, she won the Prix de Violon and the Prix de musique de chambre there.

Her quest to develop her skills further led her to Germany where she continued her studies at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Leipzig (Leipzig Academy of Music and Theatre), taking classes with Mariana Sirbu. In 2006, she returned to her family roots and spent a semester at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she was inspired by the violinist Stefan Gheorghiu.

In 2008, she completed her final diploma in Leipzig and was granted a scholarship by the Akademie des Gewandhausorchesters, where she received additional training from musicians such as Sebastian Breuninger, Andreas Seidel and Henrik Hochschild, rounding off her professional training.

In 2014, she started studying the baroque violin at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Weimar with Nadja Zwiener. Irina Zwiener finds her new musical home at the Staatskapelle Weimar in 2015, where she plays the second violin.

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Raphael Hevicke (*1987) had his first violin lessons at the age of four. He has always played different styles of music. He also played guitar and drums in several bands and was a member of many youth orchestras. He was also a prize winner of »Jugend Musiziert«.

He has been composing classical music intensively since 2004. Besides some smaller works he has written a string quartet, a mass, a cantata as well as a symphony for string orchestra, premiered at the »Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar« by the Thuringian Chamber Orchestra Weimar in 2016.

Between 2007 and 2013 he studied violin with Olaf Adler and Prof. Matthias Wollong at the University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar. He furthered his studies with Annegret Siedel and Prof. Midori Seiler (baroque violin), Prof. Çigdem Iyicil, Prof. Christian Sikorski, Prof. Maria Egelhof und Radboud Oomens and Stephan Mai (Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin).

The frequent »Duo Hevicke« concerts, founded with his sister Patricia, are especially close to his heart. Their repertoire includes rarely performed compositions for two violins.

After some experience as a substitute in the Jena Philharmonic Orchestra and the Weimar Staatskapelle, including a temporary contract with the latter ensemble, he is now a member of the Weimar Staatskapelle since 2017.

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Jürgen Karwath

Jürgen Karwath studied violin from 1973 to 1980 at the »University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar«, two years later he became member of »Staatskapelle Weimar«, 1988 assistant concertmaster of the second violin section and 2004 member of the »Bayreuther Festspielorchester«.

He has been performing baroque and classical music on contemporary instruments for several years. 1986 he founded the »Weimarer Barockensemble« and became its leader.

He is member of the baroque orchestra of Leipzig as well as of the one in Dresden. Jürgen Karwath took part in many recordings on radio and CDs. He was awarded with the »Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik 3/​2003«.

His concert tours led him amongst others to Austria, Finland, Japan and Switzerland. In the »Thüringer Bach Collegium« he plays two instruments the violin and the viola.

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Frank Forst

Frank Forst was born in 1969 and began his first bassoon lessons there at the age of eleven with Prof. Gerhard Hase in Stuttgart until 1989.

He is prizewinner oft he international music competition »Prague Spring« and scholarshipholder oft he German Music Competition.

During his studies with Prof. Klaus Thunemann in Hannover he was member oft the Young German Philharmonics.

In 1992 he became solo bassoonist oft the Berlin Symphony Orchestra (today’s Konzerthausorchester Berlin). Since 1997 he works closely together with the Camerata Salzburg, where he is solo bassoonist.

From 1996 to 2003 he has been assistant teacher of Prof. Klaus Thunemann at the University Hanns Eisler in Berlin. 2003 he has been appointed as a professor at the Franz Liszt University in Weimar.

Frank Forst has appeared as a soloist with many orchestras including the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Camerata Salzburg, the Bremen Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Philharmonic Rheinland-Pfalz, the North West German Philharmonic, the Camerata Europaea, the California Youth Symphony and the New Berlin Chamber Orchestra.

He was teaching in masterclasses in many countries like Germany, Greece, Spain, Luxembourg, China, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, Hungary and the USA.

In 2016 he was appointed as a visiting professor at the University of the Arts in Aichi, Japan and since 2016 he is also a visiting professor of the Academy of Music in Krakow, Poland.

Also he is a member of the Euphorion-Ensemble and since 2018 of the Linos Ensemble.

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Trumpeter Rupprecht Johannes Drees was born in Halle, Westphalia, and studied at the Detmold Academy of Music under Professor Max Sommerhalder, one of the most respected trumpeters and pedagogues whose class has already produced numerous internationally sought-after trumpeters. In addition, he attended various master classes with Pierre Thibaud, Bo Nilsson and Timofei Dokshitser.

In 2002, Rupprecht Drees graduated from the Detmold Academy of Music with a degree in music, followed two years later by a concert exam with distinction. As a guest, he regularly plays with various German orchestras, such as the SWR-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden/​​Freiburg, the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt, the Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the Bayerisches Staatsorchester, the Staatskapelle Halle and other symphony and opera orchestras.

From 2002 to 2006, Rupprecht Drees played as solo trumpeter with the Göttingen Symphony Orchestra. He subsequently took on this same position in the Staatskapelle Weimar.

In 2009, Rupprecht Drees was engaged as solo trumpeter for one year with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in Finland and, in 2011, with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra in Copenhagen.

Rupprecht Drees regularly performs on the baroque trumpet with various chamber orchestras and ensembles such as the Händelfestspielorchester Halle and many other ensembles, including the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin, Il Gardelino, Le Concert Lorrain, Collegium Vocale Gent, Collegium Marianum Prague and many more.

Together with various piano and organ partners, Rupprecht Drees gives recitals in German-speaking regions. Extensive concert tours have taken him to numerous European countries as well as to Japan and South Korea. He is also a regular guest at many festivals, such as the Salzburg Festival, the Rheingau Festival, the Lucerne Music Festival, etc.

In 2004, Rupprecht Drees was awarded the European Promotion Prize by the European Cultural Foundation »Pro Europa« for his extraordinary range of musical activities.

Thuringia Cultural Ambassador

»The Thüringer Bach Collegium stands for immense musical enthusiasm and energy. Our concerts are intended to touch the listeners and to enable them to dive into a world beyond the everyday hustle and bustle«, says Christian Bergmann describing the motivation behind the newly founded ensemble. »We unite highly qualified musicians from the whole of Thuringia. As an ambassador from Bachland Thüringen, we wish to go out into the world to present Thuringia’s music culture and, above all, our rich treasure of Baroque music. Across all languages and generations, with music something ›resonates‹ – in the true meaning of the word – inside the listener. Baroque music has brought forth many pieces of music, which meanwhile are intuitively known to a broad public, for instance from commercials and films. In order to reach as many people as possible, we appear at festivals and in (Bach) churches. Here the threshold is lower than, say, in a theatre or opera house, where Baroque music is less frequently found in the repertoires.«