He studied organ at the Stuttgart College of Music, in Rome and in Siena. In 1954, while still a student, Helmuth Rilling founded his first choir, the 40-member Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, with which he gained an international reputation. From 1957 he was organist and choirmaster at the Stuttgart Gedächtniskirche. From the mid 1960s he was leader of the Bachcollegium Stuttgart and the Frankfurter Kantorei, from 1969 to 1986 he was professor at the Frankfurt Music College.
First principal conductor of Real Filharmonía De Galicia between 1996 to 1998.