Adolf Scherbaum was born in Eger in 1909 and studied in Prague and Vienna where Professor Dengler was one of his teachers. His first job as trumpet soloist at the county theatre of Brünn (Brno) was followed by engagements under conductors such as Joseph Keilbert with the German Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague, and Wilhelm Furtwängler with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Berlin.
In the aftermath of world war II, Adolf Scherbaum was offered an academic chair at the university for music at Pressburg, which he accepted, before eventually obtaining an official passport that allowed him to legally leave the country (Czechoslovakia) for the Federal Republic of Germany to take a job at the radio broadcasting station of Northern Germany (NDR) in Hamburg.
Numerous concert tours through nearly all continents of the world as well as a large number of recordings established his international reputation as a great trumpet soloist. He was accompanied by some of the most famous orchestras in the world, such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orkest, the Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Rome, or the Gewandhausorchester at Leipzig, and others more. He played under the leadership of some of the most renowned conductors in the world, such as Furtwängler, Karajan, Klemperer, Knappertsbusch, Schmidt-Isserstedt, and others. One of his most brilliantly played pieces, namely J. S. Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg Concerto, was performed by him publicly on more than 400 occasions and recorded numerous times. Nobody other than he himself dared to play the very risky trumpet concerto of Michael Haydn live on stage.
In addition to this, Adolf Scherbaum also became known as the discoverer of forgotten trumpet literature. Especially the old Bohemian masters (primarily P. Joseph Veivanovsky) owe it to him that they became known again.
Adolf Scherbaum (1909 - 2000)
Scherbaum was the first player who used the high B flat trumpet for music intended to be played on a D-type instrument. Through intensive training, he developed extraordinary strength in the muscle power of his diaphragm and his cheeks (up to 2.2 bars of pressure were measured at the University of Basel!). This enabled him to blow the C in the 4th octave relatively effortlessly. I heard him render even the 4th octave A. That is why Schmidt-Isserstedt sometimes nicknamed him "Scherstrong". However, Scherbaum nevertheless preferred the non-pressure method (that is, blowing the trumpet without pressure), and that is what he taught his pupils.
Together with his son he developed the ‘Scherbaum high B flat trumpet’ which features an exchangeable bell and a three-part mouth piece which enables his pupils to practice with a deeper bulb and then change to a more shallow one which allows them to reach the high tones virtually effortlessly.
Scherbaum maintained social relations with Jean Cocteau, Pablo Casals, Yehudi Menuhin, and the Oistrachs, based on friendship and mutual admiration.
Jean Cocteau dedicated this picture to Adolf Scherbaum in 1962, one year before he died.
Bach Weeks at Ansbach, 1955: From left: Karl Richter, Aurèle Nicolet, Yehudi Menuhin, Adolf Scherbaum
In 1963, Scherbaum established his own group of baroque musicians with whom he undertook extended tours for many years through the concert halls of numerous countries (including Belgium, France, Italy, Austria, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, the Swiss Confederation, and on two occasions Russia).
For the LP "Masterly Trumpet Concertos", he was given the Edison-Award, after he had already earned the "Grand Prix" award five times. His records were on the best-seller list for three years in succession.
From 1964 on, following his contract with the radio broadcasting station of Northern-Germany, Scherbaum taught as a professor at the State Academy of Music at Saarbrücken (Germany). Many of his pupils today are soloists in renowned orchestras.
In 1968, Scherbaum was awarded the ‘Nordgau-Culture Prize’ of the city of Amberg. At that time, a friendship struck up between him and Oswald Heimbucher who succeeded in enticing him to engage himself on several occasions in a joint venture with the Sulzbach-Rosenberg Orchestra. It was this friendship and his new place of residence, Heilsbronn, (where his wife practiced as a physician) which motivated him to start teaching at the municipal music school of Sulzbach-Rosenberg during the period from 1977 to 1986.
Many youngsters received inspiration, impetus, and a sense of achievement from this great teacher. This was one of the primary reasons for honouring him with the Culture-Award of the city of Sulzbach-Rosenberg on October 14th , 1979.
On the 23rd of August 1979 (on his birthday) he had already been awarded the Albert-Schweitzer Peace Medal for reconciliation and abstention from violence.
This award had previously been bestowed only on Pablo Casals, Pablo Picasso, Josef Hromodka, Martin Niemöller, and Günter Slotta.
Members of the awarding jury were: Günther Anders, Karl Bechert, Dom Hélder Câmara, Robert Jungk, Linus G. Pauling and Rhena Müller-Schweitzer.
One of his last great concerts (and simultaneously his last recording) took place at the monastery of St. Gerold in Austria, on the occasion of his 75th birthday
Prof. Adolf Scherbaum died on August 2nd 2000, after a long and full life. But even though he can no longer play his instrument- we will continue to enjoy his records just as much as ever...
I am grateful to Mr. Rolf Ziegler, Böblingen, for this translation into English!