in memoriam Bertold HummelBer

Karl Heinz Wahren: in memoriam Bertold Hummel
Martin Hummel: Speech on the 27th November, 2002

On the occasion of a Memorial Concert on the 27th November, 2002 in the Music College, Wuerzburg, the following speech was delivered by Martin Hummel, son of the composer:

A warm welcome to you all, who have come together here to remember Bertold Hummel.

For most of you, my father's name is linked to his compositions, many think fondly back on his heartiness and humour, some have happy memories of him as a colleague, mentor or friend.

For the family, he has been taken out of our daily life. Whether for the children, who paint pictures at school of grandfather's coffin decked with flowers, or for us adults, who in our normal daily pursuits - such a short time after his for us so unexpected death - are repeatedly caught up without warning in feelings of deep sadness: we try to grow accustomed to the fact that his voice, his familiar movements and his touch are no longer with us.

This is not an easy time for us, but we are however aware that, in contrast to some who have to come to terms with such a severe loss, we have the privilege of doing this together with many others who share our feelings.

The many people who came together for his impressive requiem in the cathedral, the many musicians who spontaneously approached us and wanted to honour the deceased with their art in many different places: they help it to become true that, as Tagore expressed it so beautifully - the pain melts into song.

Today, on his seventy-seventh birthday, we are especially grateful that the Music College has considered it a matter of course to organise this concert in memoriam Bertold Hummel. We are very pleased that so many students were willing, in co-operation with their teachers, to take a closer look at his work.

This was exactly how my father understood music - as an art that brings about human contact. Music as an expression of friendship and warmth.
It was gratifying that the numerous obituaries recognised the composer's understanding of his work as a modest contribution to a more humane world.

There is hardly a composition which he did not dedicate to someone, be it a child, a great musician or our loving God.
He knew for whom he wrote the pieces. As his grandson Fabian began to play the violin, a little violin concerto was composed for him - in first position, of course. When the Berlin Philharmonic commissioned his "Visions from the Apocalypse of St. John", the violin parts were somewhat more demanding.
One or two of his colleagues probably turned up their noses at this concept of a work of art. But he felt himself to be part of a community. "No-one lives for himself on this world, he is also there for the sake of all the others" This motto still hangs today above his piano.

Often a particular event inspired a composition. I still remember well how shocked he was to hear on the radio on the 4th December, 1976 the news of Benjamin Britten's death. He withdrew to his study and after a couple of hours played us on the piano the Adagio which opened this programme.

The rapid mental decay of his zestful friend Dietrich von Bausznern shook him deeply and was the immediate inspiration for the "in memoriam" we just heard.

The "Ave Maria" (in the German version) was written in 1993 under the impression of the death of his sister Erika. A year before his own death he revised the composition and considered the Latin version now the more successful.
I feel that in this work one can hear the mental clarity with which he was fortunate enough to face his own death.

During the last years of his life, much against his habit of leaving pieces lying around unpublished for ages, he brought his works to publication and revised earlier ones.

The publication of "Games with Keys", which he composed and played on occasions such as birthdays and Christenings of the grandchildren, was accomplished with unusual speed.

The setting of texts for a song cycle on scurrilous poems by Hermann Hesse, which I had strongly commended to him years ago, was his last composition.
Before I drove him to the hospital, he discussed final corrections with me. Generally he was happy to accept my suggestions on the sequence of the poems, but on this occasion it was important to him that the following poem should be at the end:

Instruction

More, or less, my dear boy,
All words of man are in the end swindle,
Seen relatively, we are most honest
In our nappies and. later, in the grave.

Then we lie down with our fathers,
Are wise at last and thoroughly cool and clear.
With bare bones we rattle out the truth,
And one or the other would rather be living and lying again.

This ambivalence of death was something he experienced plainly during his last days. On the one side the rapid failing of his body, which he accepted stoically:
hearing that he would receive a blood transfusion, he answered: not from a hit singer, please.
On the other side his mental vitality still hung onto life:
between the doctors' examinations, he used the time to set Christmas carols for two melody instruments and just shortly before the end he gave last instructions regarding a page of sketches for a Violoncello solo.

Some of his works will probably still be being played when we who knew him are no longer here.
This is for us a beautiful vision.

As thanks for the honour and friendship which my father and his work were always received in this institute in particular, we would like to bequeath to the Music College Library his complete printed works (which amount to nothing less than 185 volumes.), and our wish is that in the future it will continue to happen that one person or another will take the opportunity to seek to understand the musical universe of his life's work.

The last book my father was reading was "The Discourses of Seneca".
There he had underlined the following passage:

Look closely at all the days of your life - and you will see how few are left to be called your own ... But whosoever lives rightly, uses each moment and structures each day as if it were his last, he lives in an eternal Now.
There are enough teachers for art and science, but living has to be learned continually on one's own throughout this existence, until one has mastered it.
So many press and storm forward and suffer under longing for the future, suffer under discontent with the present. Your are busy, your life rushes onward; in the meantime, death will appear to you, for whom, whether you will or not, you have to take time...
The greatest hindrance to happy living is the expectation which depends on tomorrow.
You lose this present day; you attempt to organise that which is in the hands of fate; that which is in your hands you neglect. How wrongly you think!

I thank you for your attention.


 

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