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News from the Committee

Memorial Event for Josef Lienhart in Freiburg May 6
Memorial Event for Josef Lienhart in Freiburg May 6.

On Saturday, May 6th, the joint commemorative event of the RWV Freiburg and the RWV International took place in the Kaisersaal of the historic department store Am Markt in Freiburg, for our founding president of the Richard Wagner Association International and chairman of the RWV Freiburg for decades, Josef Lienhart.
In the presence of the entire Lienhart family, the members of the Freiburg Association, guests of honour and numerous chairmen from Germany and Europe, we bid farewell to our most important and meritorious personality, who not only founded our international association in Lyon in 1991, but of which he was also the first president.
In his speech, Klaus Winkler, the chairman of the RWV Freiburg, spoke about his work and his achievements for decades in the local society as chairman and finally deputy chairman, which went on into his last days, including still fully organized society trips and opera visits.
The current president of the RWVI, Rainer Fineske, emphasized his unique achievements in the field of founding international associations. The foundations, which often required greatest diplomatic skill, and were also performed  with great deal of diplomatic skill from which he could draw immeasurably.   

 The memorial event was framed by W.A. Mozart's String Trio K.V. 404 and between its individual movements were the commemorative speeches and a reading from the book „Weißt Du, wie das ward“? by Josef Lienhart and three Wesendoncklieder were also performed.

Memorial speech Rainer Fineske:

Dear Annemarie, dear Lienhart family, dear friends and guests,

"The most beautiful monument that a person can receive is in the heart of his fellow human beings".

  With these words of Albert Schweitzer, the physician, philosopher and musician who was born not far from Freiburg in Kaysersberg near Colmar, I would like to recall Josef Lienhart in a few words of remembrance. All of us, the Wagner Societies worldwide, were deeply saddened by the death of its revered President and Honorary President of the Richard Wagner Association International, for decades.

All the more so since his sudden departure was completely unexpected for all of us.

At that time, on February 2nd, we were in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Why am I mentioning this?

In March 2008, our President Josef Lienhart, Dr. Ronald Perlwitz and Sheikh Dr. Zaki al Nusseibeh founded the first Richard Wagner Society on Arab soil. On this occasion there were 435 German and French members of our Wagner Societies.

They had all followed the call of our then RWVI President to the desert of the United Arab Emirates.

The Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, under Fabio Luisi, gave the first Wagner concert in an Arab country.

Josef Lienhart's unbelievable skills also included his talent for languages.

He learned a few sentences in Arabic especially for the first greeting of the Arab and international guests for the welcome evening in order to show a gesture of sympathy to the sheikh and his Arab guests.

His excellent physical and mental vitality and his esprit were and are groundbreaking and exemplary for all of us.

The numerous condolences of the chairmen and presidents from all over the world have shown us in a very special way that his work for Richard Wagner did not simply end with his active termination as president of the international association.

He was always true to his topic around Richard Wagner, whether as a member of the Freiburg board or as honorary president of the RWVI.

It is thanks to his great dedication and passion for Richard Wagner that he donated a large part of his Richard Wagner collection to the Wagner Museum in the Pallazzo Ca' Vendramin Calergi, in Venice.

The museum is one of the few authentic places where Richard Wagner lived and worked and where he died on February 13, 1883.    

As far as his busy schedule allowed, Josef was present at our international meetings and always maintained his loyalty to his successors in the truest sense of the word as grand seigneur.

He never interfered in our daily discussions, but was always an inspirer and wise advisor for all our questions with proper advice and, above all, with his great balance.  

He remains at heart our mentor, the international pioneer and founder of the worldwide Richard Wagner Associations. Above all, a good friend and sincere advisor.

A personality with extensive philosophical knowledge, a competent philanthropist in the truest sense of the word, well versed in all musical and literary genres.

  His lectures in our Richard Wagner Societies on topics of festival history and on Richard Wagner and his musical environment are legendary.

  No wonder, Josef Lienhart was one of the first Bayreuth scholarship holders after the Second World War. When the foundation resumed its work in the early 50s, he came to Bayreuth as a young Freiburger. At that time, for financial reasons, the scholarship holders were only able to attend 2 performances with a small accompanying program. But he licked blood, as they say, and Bayreuth with its whole lot completely captivated him. In Bayreuth he met the first two great chairmen of the Federal Association.

These were Lotte Albrecht-Potonié and Mercedes Bahlsen, both ladies came from the famous house of Bahlsen, as did Mrs. von der Leyen.

Later, he grew into the tasks of the two so agile national chairmen who were so important for the work of Wagner and the Bayreuth Festival and his direct predecessor, the conductor and chairman of the Nuremberg Association Helmut Goldmann, who died suddenly on 19 October 1988 after only a few years as federal chairman, into the new role of federal chairman.

There is no doubt that it was a beneficent line-up for the development and future of German and worldwide societies and being equipped with a brilliant diplomatic talent to find one's way around the completely different structures of the individual societies and the new international societies that began with his era and the problems associated with them, and to get them off the ground, in 1991, Josef Lienhart founded the Richard Wagner Association International at the international Richard Wagner Congress in Lyon. He became president of this newly founded international association and at the same time remained chairman of the German Federal Association until its merger into a joint Richard Wagner Association International, which was unanimously confirmed in Bayreuth in 2008 by all associations worldwide with the new International Statutes.

Above all, his great knowledge of Wagner's works enabled him not only to understand Wagner's musical epics in the analytical field, but also to penetrate them.   Thus, in many productions, such as "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" by Katharina Wagner on the Green Hill, he clearly found the common threads in her production. It had been received extremely ambivalently by the audience.

For me, he has always been a great source of learning and did expand my knowledge around Richard Wagner. But not as a teacher imparting knowledge, but well-dosed and dressed in the form of aphorisms (quotes, sayings) from his popular areas of literature and the world of operas, always perfectly formed, often disguised as a bon mot, never hurtful!

He was always in personal contact with the singers of his and the following generations. Singing and interpretation of Wagner's operas and works were elementary for him and so it is not surprising that he had a very special relationship with Anja Silja. The muse of Wieland Wagner and the great interpreter of Wagner's works on the Bayreuth Festival stage.

Together with her, he went on a veritable tour with a slide show through many associations. The audience was thrilled. No lecture ended without questions and reports of the listeners' own experiences to Anja Silja and Josef Lienhart.                           

We have outstanding memories of his excellent lectures on Giorgione, Titian and El Greco, which he gave not only in his Freiburg association, but also in numerous other societies.

Thus, with his passion for classical painting, a completely different side of his artistic talents appeared. There was truly no question of a one-sidedness, like we find by many people.

His great legacy are 124 associations worldwide, of which 80 were founded by or with his direct help and advice, almost always on site, with his personal commitment.

But the fact that this was possible at all, we owe it above all to his wife, as he always said so beautifully poetically from Richard Wagner's Siegfried, “seinem Weibchen zu bedanken”.

Dear Annemarie, if you had not been such an energetic woman, with great competence for your day-to-day business and your constant presence on site, this would not have been possible for Josef and for all of us.

There was also a quote from the president for this.

My wife had to be present at the international congresses, because that's where the people want to see their president!        

The estate of the great inheritance, which he left us, must not only be cared for and preserved, but also further developed. It is not the preservation of the ashes, but the carrying on of the fire, which is the carrier into the future.

We can say with great bow to him and his life's work, Joseph, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Rainer Fineske
1. Klaus Winkler and Rainer Fineske with a photo von Josef Lienhart
2. Gesine Mayer-Eggen, Klaus Winkler snd Ullo v. Peinen 
3. f.l.  Kristina Hinsch, Dessau; Klaus Winkler; Selma Gudmundsdottir, Island; Alessandra Pugliese, Venedig; Corinna Lienhart; Marlene Lienhart; Annemarie Lienhart; Hans-Georg Lienhart; Rainer Fineske, President RWVI; Thorsten Fineske; Claudia Bilotti, Rom.
4. Ullo von  Peinen, Barbara Kiem, Reinhard Buhrow, Mareike Zorko, Gesine Mayer-Eggen, Sebastian Wohlfarth, Lisa Immer;
5. Annmarie Lienhart, Selma Gudmundsdottir, Rainer Fineske, Kristina Hinsch, Torsten Fineske, Claudia Bilotti