Rudolf Volkmann (1889 – 1947)

University Music Director


Rudolf Volkmann was born in Schlackenreuth on July 4, 1889.

He studied composition with Friedrich Klose, piano with Prof. Schmidt-Lindner, organ with court organist Ludwig Felix Maier and conducting with court opera director Felix Mottl at the Royal Academy of Music in Munich.


In 1911 he became director of the Singakademie in Glogau (Głogów). In the years before World War 1, he performed as a pianist in various chamber music settings - including with Max Reger - and as a lied and aria accompanist in many German cities.

During World War I he was wounded in the Battle of the Somme in 1917 and came to Berlin, where he made the acquaintance of Richard Strauss and Arthur Nikisch, among others.


On Jan. 1, 1919, he was appointed university music director in Jena.

He thus took over the direction of the Academic Concerts and the Philharmonic Choir and the office of organist at the Stadtkirche. Almost simultaneously, he founded the a capella choir and merged the Bürgerlicher Gesangverein and the Zeiß'schen Gesangverein to form the Jenaer Männergesangverein.

He also founded the evening concerts in the city church.

After he first found accommodation in the house of Max and Elsa Reger, he later lived in Sedanstr. 16 (today's Ebertstr.) until his death.

Although he began his work in Jena under very unfavorable post-war conditions, he led the city's musical life to a new flowering through his musical and organizational energy. The conception and realization of the traditional Jena Academic Concerts bore his signature. The care of the memory of Max Reger was also a permanent concern for him due to his personal acquaintance with the composer. Jena music festivals with the participation of local ensembles and first-rate, internationally known musicians and singers, Bach festivals and German Tonkünstler festivals were decisively organized by him.

The 7th German Brahms Festival in 1929 was certainly a highlight in Jena's musical history. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and its conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler were guests in Jena. Among other things, there was a memorable performance of Johannes Brahms' German Requiem with the united Jena choirs - more than 500 singers - and the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler. Rudolf Volkmann was responsible for the composition and rehearsal of the choir, thus ensuring a lasting success of the performance.

  On the occasion of his 50th birthday, one could read that Rudolf Volkmann "is not only the appointed choir director to his singers, who is able to inspire the singing community for the glory of art, but that his lively, always forward and upward striving manner and his versatile untiring activity have elevated Jena to one of the leading musical cities in Thuringia." (Jenaer Stadtnachrichten, 5.7.1939)

 As a conductor and song and chamber music partner, he made music with artists such as Erna Berger, Adolf Busch, Karl Erb, Eduard Erdmann, Emanuel Feuermann, Edwin Fischer, Carl Flesch, Dusolina Giannini, Ria Ginster, Paul Grümmer, Gustav Havemann, Alfred Hoehn, Ludwig Hoelscher, Maria Ivogün, Wilhelm Kempff, Karl Klingler, Georg Kulenkampff, Tiana Lemnitz, Walter Ludwig, Enrico Mainardi, Maria Müller, Alma Moodie, Sigrid Onegin, Max Pauer, Mia Peltenburg, Josef Pembaur, Gertrude Pitzinger, Elisabeth Schumann, Rudolf Serkin, Max Strub, Franz Völker and Friedrich Wührer.


Rudolf Volkmann kept Jena's musical life alive through the war years with tireless energy, and as early as 1945 he was again conducting major choral symphonic performances.

In November 1945, the President of the State of Thuringia withdrew his supervision of the Academic Concerts and transferred it to Hermann Abendroth, General Music Director of the Weimar State Orchestra.

Rudolf Volkmann took his own life on October 2, 1947, and was buried in the Johannis Cemetery.


 © S. Krahnert