- Göteborg Concert Hall, 1937
- Thomaskirche, Leipzig, 1948
- Musikhalle, Hamburg, 1950s
Günther Werner Hans Ramin was an influential German organist, conductor, composer, and pedagogue in the first half of the 20th century.
Ramin, the son of a pastor, was born in Karlsruhe, Germany. At the age of 12 he was accepted into the famed Thomanerchor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig by the then-cantor, Gustav Schreck. At the time, Karl Straube, the organist, conductor, publisher, and advocate of the music of Max Reger, was Schreck's assistant, and he took note of Ramin's abilities as an organist and composer. Later, when Straube took over the cantorate at the Thomaskirche, Ramin became his assistant, filling in for him as choirmaster and director.
During World War I, Ramin was drafted into military service; however, he managed to complete his examinations at the Leipzig Conservatory with distinction in January 1917 and on 30 May 1918, Straube was able to write to him on the front that he had been chosen as organist of the Thomaskirche. Ramin returned from the war and took up this position, which he held for twenty-two years until World War II broke out.
Ramin built a successful performing career as a concert organist; however, in the 1930s he increasingly devoted himself to conducting. He took over the directorship of the Lehrergesangsverein in Leipzig in 1923 and worked regularly with the choir of the Gewandhaus. In 1935 he became the conductor of the Philharmonic choir of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, increasing his fame. He was the organist at the 1936 Nuremberg rally, playing on a specially constructed organ, the largest in Germany at the time. On New Year's Day 1940, Ramin was appointed the cantor of the Thomanerchor at the Thomaskirche, succeeding Karl Straube, a post he held until his death. After this appointment, Ramin devoted himself to performing the choral works of J. S. Bach, earning for himself and the choir international acclaim through two concert tours to Russia (1953) and South America (1955). The year after this last tour, Ramin suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage and died on 27 February 1956.
As mentioned in the Wikipedia text Günther Ramin turned his attention toward conducting which might explain the lack of organ recordings. This is quite unfortunate because the organ recordings presented here show a virtuoso organist in the highest order. Fortunately he recorded for the Welte Mignon-organ and some of these recordings (and many other) were re-recorded on the Britannic organ at Museum für Musikautomaten i Seewen, Switzerland and is published by the Oehms Classics label.
A note on the recordings:
Johann Sebastian Bach:
I’m a bit unsure of where Ramin recorded this piece. Most sources say that it’s the Sauer organ in the Leipziger Thomaskirche which in many ways make sense, but I’ve with help from a colleague compared the sound and recording with other recordings by Ramin which for sure was made in Thomaskirche and the sounds doesn’t seem to match. I of course know that many factors and limitations were in play when making a 78rms organ recording but if anyone knows anything please send me an email.
For many years I havn't been able to find the location for these recordings until just recently. Thanks to Karsten Unverricht who has provided me with a discography it has turned out these recordings were recorded at Musikhalle in Hamburg on the Beckerath organ.
Georg Friedrich Händel:
Thanks to a generous contribution from Claudia Zachariassen, the owner of the Marcussen organ building firm, I can present a unique recording with Günter Ramin. It was recorded on a Marcussen organ during the inauguration concert of the organ in Göteborg concert hall April 28th 1937 with Günther Ramin. The recording was cut on acetate discs most likely from a radio transmission and presented to the former owner of Marcussen Sybrand Zachariassen (1900-1960), so they most likely only exist in this exact copy.
I couldn’t find information about the orchestra playing with Günther Ramin, but it would be reasonable to assume that it is the Göteborg Symphony Orchestra which I assume existed in some form back in 1937.
The sound quality is rather very good, but due to the age and perhaps the decaying of the acetate discs the Günter Ramin recording some places have a high degree of background noise and some other flaws.
Again thanks to Claus Byrith for the transfers of all the recordings.