Typed and autographed letter signed in pencil by the legendary organist, harpsichordist, conductor and Thomaskantor to the Jewish, German born, Argentine concert manager and promoter Gerard Uhlfelder, Leipzig, May 14, 1955 planning the Thomanerchor upcoming tour of South America. Included is a sepia original photographic postcard of Ramin at the harpsichord.
Leipzig, May 15, 1955
Dear Mr. Uhlfelder,
I will immediately send you the program you have requested for television. The first 15 minutes is spiritual, then there are two very beautiful old madrigals, and finally folk songs. I think it's a very nice program.
As for the concert in the Colon, I hope that you have taken program B, namely half spiritual and half secular. I should absolutely like to ask that this program be sung in the Colon, which is by far the most varied, and in my experience, it is better to end with secular songs in a theater hall than if you only perform spiritual works for the entire evening and the choir as well can demonstrate from a completely different angle. I really hope that you have planned this program B for the concert in the Colon! If there really isn't a piano there, I believed that I could easily get Mr. Maximo Berger or Mr. Montes to lend us the piano for that day. The transport to the Colon couldn't cost all the world. Naturally, I cannot take a bad piano, which is, as you write, very used and what is available there. I hope we can agree on that. (Ramin’s hand) In the Colon, I assume there is also a playable piano from which I can conduct.
Regarding the daily allowances on the ship, I have calculated that the amount of 3 daily allowances will be too tight for a period of about 3 weeks, since the drinks go extra and this or that becomes necessary during the stay on land. I was therefore asking you to make the amount of 5 daily allowances available to us on the ship. Should that upset your calculation, we had to come to the conclusion that over there on the mainland you might have to withhold 2 daily allowances if necessary. In any case, it is a somewhat eerie thought for me to have too little walk around money available with the large ensemble.
I am very reassured that you succeeded, though the Argentine and Brazilian visas cost us over 1000 West (German) Marks, which Mr. Montes will contact you about the money himself.
Kind regards, I am.
(post script in Ramin’s hand) They tell me in Berlin (Kleiber etc.) that in the Colon with a choir, or soloist concert of the orchestral groups in honor of your wishes, we should not sing on stage or around the stage. this is very important and……..
Ramin the well-connected Thomaskantor at in Leipzig, as part of East German cultural exchange took his Boys Choir, the Thomanerchor to Russia twice in 1953 and 1954. A further tour was planned of South America in 1955. He employed the most prestigious musical representation in South America, Gerard Uhlfelder, a German-Jewish émigré concert manager who had left Germany in 1938. Planning a tour for 90 boys ages 9-18 was a big undertaking. Also assembling an orchestra to travel with them throughout South America and all of the handlers involved would have been a job unto itself.
The legendary German organist, (1898-1956) was originally a member of the Thomanerchor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, also attending the school there for the choirboys. He was conscripted into the Germans army during World War I, his mentor Thomaskantor and organist Karl Straube, a Reger at the time helped him exit the army early by having him elected titular organist of the Thomaskirche. Once released, he studied at the Leipzig Conservatory with Teichmuller and Krehl and became Straube’s assistant. In 1920 he was appointed organist of the Gewandhaus orchestra and was named organ professor at the Leipzig Conservatory. From 1933-1942 he was also the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Chorus. From 1945-1951 he was the Chorus Director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. In 1940 he was appointed Kantor of the Thomaskirche, (Johann Sebastian Bach held the same position.) upon the retirement of his mentor Karl Straube. It was the single most prestigious organist/choir director post in the German speaking world, East, or West. In addition, Ramin maintained a solo career, both organ and harpsichord and was known as one of the greatest improvisationists in the World. His solo tours took him throughout Europe and the Americas, after World War II, those tours were confined to the Communist block Countries. In 1955, Ramin took the Thomanerchor on a South American tour and Gerard Uhlfelder was his manager for the tour. He died of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage the following year at the age of 58.
Gerard Uhlfelder, a German-Jewish concert manager and promoter left Germany in 1938 for Buenos Aires, where he established Organización de Conciertos Gérard in 1948. He quickly became the leading promoter of Classical concerts throughout South America, catering to the large population of Europeans living in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Uruguay and other Countries on the Continent. He managed the tours of among others; Maurice Abravanel & the Utah Symphony, Wilhelm Kempff, Ruggiero Ricci, Joseph Szigeti and many others.
A look inside the preparations to bring a large musical organization from Europe to the Americas for concerts, made more difficult as the musicians were young boys.
GUNTHER RAMIN - CONDUCTOR & ORGANIST
Phone: 212-860-5541 * Fax: 917-677-8247