Thüringer Bach Collegium

A new orchestra playing ancient music

Thüringer Bach Collegium

Thuringia is often described as the land of Bach, as the Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach (*1685 in Eisenach — †1750 in Leipzig) spent the first 30 years of his life in Eisenach, Arnstadt, Weimar and other towns and cities of Thuringia. He came from a musical dynasty that had already shaped the Thuringia music scene for 150 years at the time of his birth.

Throughout the world, he is the most famous member of the Bach family of musicians. Thuringia practically »breathes« Bach and it has a long tradition of preserving Bach’s musical heritage. Although his works initially fell into oblivion after his death, classical music since the 19th century has meanwhile become inconceivable without them. Innumerable concerts and festivals honouring Bach and his music bear witness to this. In many areas of music, Bach paved the way and contributed to the enhancement of musical forms and language. Some of his works continue to transcend the established canon of forms. Hence, the »Bach« in the new ensemble’s name not only symbolises the programme itself but also its claim of offering a new, fresh and captivating sound.

Thüringer Bach Collegium – ancient music heads for new shores

A new star has risen in the sky of ancient music in Weimar. The Thüringer Bach Collegium is playing works by Johann Sebastian Bach, his ancestors (from the Altbachische Archiv), his sons and his contemporaries in a historically informed performance on antique instruments.

The founders are two »old hands« in the orchestra business of Thuringia’s cultural scene. The ensemble is being conducted by the Gernot Süßmuth, Johann Sebastian Bach’s successor as concertmaster of the Staatskapelle Weimar. Christian Bergmann, general manager and double bass player, has been performing in the Staatskapelle Weimar for 17 years. Both musicians have been associated with the music of J. S. Bach since earliest childhood and youth. Christian Bergmann, for instance, was born in Arnstadt and baptised in the Bach Church.

Real experts and connoisseurs with experience and musical enthusiasm

Thüringer Bach Collegium · Group picture
Thüringer Bach Collegium · Group picture

The founders and other members of the Thüringer Bach Collegium have many years of experience as soloists and first-chair players in large symphony and opera orchestras. And, if required, the ensemble is complemented by freelance musicians, experts in the field of ancient music and, in particular, with special instruments not played in a conventional orchestra, such as the viola da gamba, recorder, natural horn and Baroque trumpet.

They all allow their expertise from working with major conductors and soloists to flow into their music. Their wealth of experience from music culture to contemporary music, combined with the latest scientific insights into historical performances, complements and enlivens the current concert programme in the field of ancient and Baroque music. Regular performances with internationally renowned conductors and soloists enhances the orchestra’s musical spectrum.

Instruments – witnesses of their era

The Thüringer Bach Collegium plays on valuable historical string instruments, including violins from Giovanni Grancino or replicas of historical wind instruments. The string instruments are all around 300 years old. This means they were already being played and listened to during the lifetime of Johann Sebastian Bach.


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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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Christian Bergmann

Christian Bergmann, born on 1st May 1974 in Arnstadt, studied double bass under Professor H. D. Wenkel at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Weimar from 1990 onwards. He passed the concert exam and completed his studies in 1998 »with distinction«. His training was rounded off with master classes given by Professors Janne Saksala, Michinori Bunya and Günter Klaus.

Already during his studies, he became involved in extensive solo and chamber music activities. Concert tours take him to nearly all European countries and several times to Asia.

After being contracted by the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, he became a member of the Staatskapelle Weimar in 2001. Several German orchestras engage him regularly, including the Deutsche Oper Berlin Orchestra, the large Rundfunk-Sinfonie Orchester in Cologne, Berlin and Leipzig, the Philharmonische Staatsorchester Hamburg and the Bamberger Symphoniker.

He is a jury member at regional and national competitions of Jugend musiziert as well as a coach for register for various youth orchestras. Between 2012 and 2018 Christian Bergmann was the Chairman of the orchestra board of the Staatskapelle Weimar and Chairman of the Thüringer Orchesterkonferenz. He was also a presidential member and representative of the Deutsche Orchester Vereinigung (DOV) in the Landesmusikrat Thüringen.

He was a founding member and has been managing director of the Thüringer Bach Collegium since 2018.

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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.

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.«