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Broadcast from Radio Munich (Studio Franconia) on Sept. 9th, 1999
Dr. Wolfgang Graetschel
(Director of the 'Meistersinger' Conservatory at Nuremberg, Germany)

Homage to the Trumpeter Adolf Scherbaum,
on the occasion of his 90th birthday

Dear listeners, let's go back half a century to the years during which our country, as well as others that were devastated by the Nazis, was rebuilt with amazing effort. Surely, there is one thing that stands out in your memory: the key-phrase 'economical miracle'! Everybody knows this phrase, but another one, which could describe the tremendous start-up during this period with the same justification, has never been coined. It's the phrase 'cultural miracle'. This is because besides the new Volkswagens and the swooning tunes of the 'Capri-Fishermen' type which enkindled so many romantic dreams, there was an avalanche of fascinatingly new discoveries in the realms of culture, theater, literature (enhanced by paperbacks), in the movies, as well as in the radio and in music halls. All countries presented their cultural achievements, it was sheer ecstasy!

And what happened in the music scene? The audiences of the 50s had to devour three important new fields. There was the new world of jazz, then there were the modern tone compositions of the 30s and 40s which the Nazis had dubbed 'perverted art', and there was the rediscovery of old instruments, especially in connection with Baroque-music, for which a surprisingly large number of unknown tunes were found in various libraries and archives.

From this tremendous wealth of old and new discoveries, out of this maze of unknown compositions, new ensembles, and new artists, emerged (in the early 50s) a rumor about a new musician, a trumpeter, who had opened up a totally new field for his instrument. It was Adolf Scherbaum....

Adolf Scherbaum is , like so many others in the heart of Europe, the offspring of two different cultures. Born in Eger (Czech Republic), he played even as a school boy together with his brother and his father at local festivals. He was instructed by a professional musician who was a member of the Spa-Orchestra of Franzensbad (Czech Republic). At the end of world war-1, Adolf Scherbaum , like all all residents of this formerly Austrian/Hungarian area, had to take on Czechoslovakian citizenship and thus he has mastered both, the Czech and the German language equally well his whole life long.

He was 14 years of age when a Czech post office employee recognized the boy's talent and sponsored his enrolment at a school for military music at Prague. This meant hard military drill as well as musical training, first at Prague, later at Beroun, "with not much more to live on than black coffee and dark rye bread", as he told us. On the side, he earned himself a few pennies in a movie house, playing in civilian clothes. At the age of 21, following a brief upgrading course at an academy in Vienna (Austria), he got his first professional job as principal trumpeter at the county-theater of Brünn (Czech Republic). He held this job for nine years, then experienced the German occupation, and was engaged in 1939 by the German Philharmonic Orchestra at Prague which Josef Keilberth had assembled from members of the world-famous 'German Theater'. And then it was war-time again (1940), Adolf Scherbaum was 31 years old by then. Forced by an emergency, Wilhelm Furtwängler, the legendary conductor of the Berlin-Philharmonic, asked for help from Prague. Keilberth complied by sending Adolf Scherbaum who had to promise that he would return. Scherbaum had fully intended to do so, but higher orders compelled him to stay at Berlin, far away from his wife whom he had married in the meantime, and far away from his little son. In a notorious bunker in Berlin, he suffered through the last days of world war-2, but continued to be a member of the Philharmonic Orchestra, now under the direction of the young Romanian conductor Sergiu Celebidache, because he (Scherbaum) was politically unblemished. However, in July 1945, Scherbaum mounted his bicycle with the intention to join his family at Prague, an undertaking that was absolutely crazy in those days!

At Prague the inevitable happened, he was apprehended as a German and sent to a detention camp. But some "deus ex machina", Scherbaum never found out who it had been, ordered his release. And again he was drafted: this time as principal trumpeter to the radio station of Pressburg. Soon thereafter he was offered an academic chair at the local conservatory. This was, by the way, for a long time the only academic chair held by a German in liberated Czechoslovakia.

Then fate struck again, the communists took over, the general living conditions deteriorated quickly and got successively worse. In 1951, Scherbaum succeeded with the aid of the international red cross in obtaining a permit to leave the country. He headed for Western-Germany where he and his family first lived in a refugee camp near Neustadt-Weinstrasse. The owner of a winery allowed him to practice on his premises. And this, he told us, was the actual turning point for his future carrier. At Prague, Josef Keilberth had constantly battered
into his brain: " you must fight for the extremely high tones in Bach's 2nd Brandenburg concerto, because you are the one who can achieve what nobody else could do up to now!" And here, in the middle of grapevines, Scherbaum was successful. He experimented with various blowing techniques until he found the solution to the problem. He kept trying until he was the first one who could master the staggering heights that are the essence of so many Baroque tunes, and that would later draw veritable storms of ovation from his audiences...

After having spent one year in the refugee camp, he was called to Hamburg. Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, the director of Northern-Germany's Radio Symphony Orchestra, engaged him as principal trumpeter. This was the actual starting point of his carrier as a celebrated soloist who was in constant demand. He played all the commonly known classical and Baroque trumpet concertos, but he also looked for, and found, unknown literature that was dormant in many a library. It is especially for this type of music, that he established his own ensemble and toured the entire globe with it. And wherever he appeared, he was hailed and esteemed not only as music virtuoso, but also as the sensitive, noble partner of his fellow-musicians in the ensemble, which he certainly was...

By the mid-50s, Adolf Scherbaum had become one of the best-known and best-liked musicians in the international concert scene. And his top hit, as one would term it today, was the 2nd Brandenburg -Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach. His second wife, a physician, who married him as widower and lives with him in Heilsbronn (Franconia), handed the score sheets of this concerto to us. The last page is covered on the back by his handwriting, providing a chronicle of all the renditions he gave in foreign countries. In 1956, he performed this concerto 5 times, in 1957 eight times, then in 1959 the score rose to as many as 16 performances, and this increased to 17, at which level it remained right through to the end of the 60s. And among the cities noted you will find places such as Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Basel, Zurich, Edinburgh, several times New York City, and several times Moscow, as well as Leningrad (Russia). In 1961, at the last mentioned city, Adolf Scherbaum accompanied the first concert-tour that an orchestra from Western-Germany carried out in Russia after world war-2. It was the Northern Radio Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg which played the 2nd Brandenburg Concerto, of course.

Scherbaum was celebrated everywhere as the most popular trumpeter of these years. And he rewarded his fans with unrelenting diligence, and with a large number of concerts and recordings. He was a passionate car driver, and among the orchestra musicians who were waiting for him to arrive at a rehearsal the word went around: " Watch Scherbaum come flying in again on his super-tuned Citroen!" Mrs. Scherbaum gave us a record cover from the French 'Club National du Disque' which shows his dedication to the job. Written on it is an itinerary that starts off with, what else could it have been, the 2nd Brandenburg-Concerto! This is followed by remarks such as: "1956, on the day prior to this recording, I did the 2nd Brandenburg publicly in Paris, and immediately prior to this recording I performed the Telemann-concerto, then rushed to the airport heading for Nuremberg to do the B-minor mass". That's a little glimpse from the life of an artist endowed with unique stamina and unbelievable vitality.

This man from the Eger region has always been an amiable colleague, always in good spirits, and in spite of his temperament, he was never arrogant. If you met him somewhere, for example, in the cafeteria of the music academy at Saarbrücken, which had endowed him with an academic chair, he was always in a good mood and loved to talk to you. In other words, he was a regular chum. It is not surprising that he enjoyed teaching at the academy and later, when his carrier had somewhat quietened down a bit, at the music school of Sulzbach- Rosenberg where he was almost worshipped. The town of Sulzbach-Rosenberg awarded him, who had received so many prizes and medals, their prize for cultural achievement on his 70th birthday. The award ceremony was embellished by a concerto in which, would you have guessed it, the honored person participated actively!

Since we are taking the liberty to become somewhat more personal at this point, we will reveal to you what Sherbaum had written on the record cover from Paris, which we mentioned a while ago: " Today, 8.1. 82, I listened to this record together with my beloved wife for the first time".

A couple of days ago, Adolf Scherbaum reached his 90th year of life. His whole family assembled around him and many, many people sent greeting cards. A large number of these came from his former pupils and students. Even though he could no longer register in detail all the admiration and good wishes bestowed on him, he seemed to be quite happy on that day.

I am grateful to Mr. Rolf Ziegler, Böblingen, for his translation into English.