Hermann Max was born in Goslar. He studied sacred music at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin and musicology, art history and archaeology at the University of Cologne. For many years, his musical focus was concentrated on the Christuskirche in Dormagen, where he was music director. With the foundation of his ensembles – Das Kleine Konzert, which specialises in performing on period instruments, and the professional choir Rheinische Kantorei – Hermann Max rapidly transcended the boundaries of church music, positioning himself as conductor – a conductor who, through the methods of historically informed performance practice, explored not only the baroque repertoire, but later also romanticism and contemporary music in all its genres, from symphonies to opera, bringing them to life.
Thus has the conductor become an expert in musical rarities, in undervalued or forgotten treasures of music history. He has saved numerous masterpieces from oblivion, documenting them through performances, broadcasts and recordings, and authoring modern scores and performance materials based on the original sources. Equally, however, Hermann Max continues to examine the well-known core repertoire, such as the great oratorios of Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann. In doing so, he finds new interpretations which are deemed by musicologists, audiences and critics alike to be both spectacular and convincing.
Without the contribution made by Hermann Max our picture of baroque music and the German romantic era would be less complete. Thanks to his efforts entire musical landscapes have come into focus: the worlds of Johann Sebastian Bach, his sons and numerous relatives, of his predecessors and successors as Thomaskantor, and of his contemporaries, colleagues and pupils. In public recognition of these achievements, Hermann Max has been honoured with the city of Leipzig’s Bach Medaille, with the Telemann Preis by the town of Magdeburg and the Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande.
While basing himself in Bremen, the Hermann Max remains ever faithful to his long-standing geographical focal point, the Rhineland: the Festival Alte Musik Knechtsteden – which Max himself founded in 1992 – has become an internationally renowned platform both for notable period instrument ensembles and for newly discovered works and composers. The festival’s emphasis on education, and encompassing as it does an ambitious children’s program, has brought yet another of Hermann Max’s interests into focus: music education which relays musical content is dear to his heart, whether he is enthusing primary school children about Bach or passing on his insights during international seminars. In addition to this, he is being invited by more ‘modern’ orchestras to apply historically informed performance practice to the classical repertoire. This he does with as much enthusiasm as he applies to his ventures into the world of opera, where he obeys his credo with verve: music is a language which narrates enthrallingly and craves to be understood.