Riemenschneider Bach Institute

 

Foreword, by Selma M. Riemenschneider

Published in Great Britain, India, and Pakistan by the Oxford University Press

London, Bombay, and Karachi

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 60-7039

Printed in the Netherlands

I am greatly moved in writing this introduction to a catalog of the Emilie and Karl Riemenschneider Memorial Bach Library. My mind is crowded with memories at this moment, memories of my husband, Albert Riemenschneider, and of his wonderful parents. At his suggestion we are naming this collection of books for his parents, for whom he had the most tender feelings. It was his father in particular who instilled in him, as a child, a passion for fine books, so that from his young boyhood on he had his own collection of various printed matter. His mother, though lacking the very fine education of his father, had an innate leaning towards the fine arts. When my husband was about nineteen years old, after having studied piano and later organ for some twelve years with both his father and Mr. James H. Rogers of Cleveland, he came to the decision that he would devote his gifts as a performer to the organ. Since an organist's reper­toire is composed largely of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, he naturally began to use his carefully hoarded savings to buy various editions of Bach's organ works. The next steps were collecting Bach's numerous works in other fields and searching for biographical and historical material on this great composer.

I feel sure that he had no intention of making a real col­lection of Bach's works and of books about him until about twenty-five years after this period, though in the meantime he was constantly adding to his material. It was some time after our marriage in 1904, when he realized what a sizable Bach collection we had, that he began to gather catalogs from prominent book dealers in the United States and abroad. This step excited his keenest desire to know much more about the musician whom he had come to revere profoundly. He also made the acquaintance of many of these book dealers, and at every opportunity he and I would pay them a visit.

My husband made seven trips to Europe, practically all for the purpose of studying with Alexandre Guilmant and Charles-Marie Widor, both of whom were influential in directing his growing taste for Bach. During these trips, too, he formed a deep and lasting friendship with Marcel Dupré, who was a fellow student of Guilmant and Widor then. One of the most decisive influences upon my husband's life and work was his friendship with Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who had studied with Widor a few years previously. It was not long before he and my husband began an interesting corres­pondence, exchanging views on various matters ranging from stamp collecting to Bach and the organ. This relation­ship was most precious to my husband.

It was when he and I were both studying in Paris after our marriage that we had the privilege of hearing choral works of Bach for the first time. Our very first opportunity was a concert given by the Bach Society of Paris with Guilmant at the organ. It included various cantatas of Bach and proved to be a revelation to both my husband and me. These cantatas inspired him to attempt the presentation of smaller choral works of Bach and even the Magnificat on the campus of Baldwin Wallace University at Berea, Ohio, where he was Director of the growing Conservatory of Music for over fifty years.

The next step in his development was the planning of annual trips to the Bach festivals at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was at about this same time that Dr. Riemenschneider made the acquaintance of Dr. Henry Drinker of Merion, Pennsylvania. A beautiful friendship developed between the two men, and my husband looked forward to letters from this friend, who shared many of his feelings towards Bach and his works. In addition to hearing the Bach festivals in Bethlehem, my husband and I planned a trip to Europe in 1935 (the two hundred fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Bach) for the express purpose of hearing two great Bach festivals-one at Zürich lasting three days and one at Leipzig lasting ten days. The latter festival was directed by Karl Straube with Ramin at the organ. The concerts were held in many different places identified with the work of Bach in Leipzig, most of them at the St. Thomas Church. Following this festival at Leipzig, we made a trip to Eisenach and to other small towns in the vicinity of Leipzig where Bach had worked. There we saw one of the churches where Bach's first wife had been soprano soloist as well as many of the beautiful small organs which Bach had opened and played. This trip added con­siderably to the fund of knowledge which my husband had already accumulated on Bach.

A little over twenty-five years ago, as my husband and I returned from one of the Bethlehem festivals, we began to talk over the possibilities of organizing a Bach festival on the Berea campus.and again to make an earnest effort to present choral works of Bach. My husband felt strongly that there was a sore lack of such concerts in the Middle West. The outcome of these plans was the first in our series of twenty-five annual Bach festivals. I remember at that time my husband's remark to me that our growing Bach collection would be in­valuable for the preparation of these festivals. And so it has proved to be. This Bach library has also been the basis for my husband's published editions of Bach's works, and he used it extensively in preparing his Bach organ recitals, which were given on the Baldwin Wallace campus. His complete rendition of these organ works in a special series of recitals drew the attention of music lovers throughout our country. My husband also drew on the resources of this library for the many articles he published in various professional journals. Soon scholars began to apply, and many of them came to spend days or weeks in this library.

My husband's ambition was that we constantly add im­portant things to the library, and for this reason we have established a memorial fund in memory of our older daughter, Lois, whose early passing was a severe blow to us both. It is my earnest hope that I may, as long as I live, do my full part in enlarging this library in every possible way in order to make it a place where music lovers from the entire world will come for study and research.



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