Dr. Thomas A. Lange
Patron of the Ruhr Piano Festival 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends of our Ruhr Piano Festival,
In the name of the NATIONAL-BANK, I welcome you as Patron of this year’s Ruhr Piano Festival: your faithfully renewed interest in our festival cycle brings me great joy – this year more than ever, since our Festival will again be taking place during a moment in history where each and every one of us is called to make difficult sacrifices and face unforeseen challenges. This is particularly true for culture, whether it be art, music, dance, or theater. We are called to close our ranks shoulder to shoulder, attempting to provide help and assistance wherever we can.
The NATIONAL-BANK’s 100th anniversary is certainly an appropriate occasion to do so: it was founded on 24 February 1921 in Berlin by a group of courageous men, all members of the Christian Union Movement (Christliche Gewerkschaftsbewegung), made up of Catholics and Protestants alike. Their point of departure was a speech given by Adam Stegerwald in the Saalbau auditorium in Essen on 21 November 1920. Stegerwald was a politician of the Centre Party (Zentrumspartei); his speech would later become famous, and he went on to found the postwar Christian Democratic Party (CDU). On that day in 1920, however, Stegerwald faced the delegates of the 10th Congress of the Christian Union Movement. “Soon we will be presenting a new bank to the public”, he prophesied: “its scope shall be limited at first, and its financial basis will thus be all the more sound.”
Since then, the NATIONAL-BANK has overcome a number of challenges, and each one was special. Each challenge seemed even more formidable than the last, including recent events: the world financial crisis, followed by an economic crisis and massive state debt in many countries. But despite the fact that Angela Merkel, our Chancellor, has referred to the COVID-19 pandemic as “the crisis of the century”, we continue to look confidently into the future. The sound integrity evoked by Stegerwald remains the guiding principle of our actions, as it guided those of our predecessors. We are taking the original etymological meaning of the word “bank” quite literally when we insist upon solidity.
It is wonderful that the NATIONAL-BANK’s 100th anniversary coincides with the 10th year since the Ruhr Piano Festival Foundation was launched: back then, it was the NATIONAL-BANK that had the privilege of providing the Foundation’s initial capital. The Foundation has flourished, just like its financial benefactor. We therefore thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for having continued to attend our concerts, and for having remained faithful to the Festival for many years. I also wish to thank the great number of donors who have generously supported the Foundation as members of the Founders’ Circle, the Silver Circle, or the Jubilee Circle. I hope that many others shall follow their example!
Yet all of this would never have been possible without one man: Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, our Director. His cornucopia of ideas and boundless enthusiasm have given this festival a unique character that stands out prominently on the national and worldwide level. Thanks to his formidable personal dedication, he not only ensures excellent programming, but ever since 2020, with his team, he has tirelessly endeavored to ensure that the complex hygienic guidelines are followed to the letter, thus providing artists with a podium, and audiences with a chance to participate in all security.
Participation is what it is all about, and participation is not only the privilege of those of us who can attend concerts. The Ruhr Piano Festival takes the concept of participation a step further. Over the past 15 years, with the motto “Creative teaching, effective support” in mind, the Ruhr Piano Festival has developed a wide-ranging Education Program particularly oriented toward youth, kindling their interest for the fascinating universe of the piano and inspiring them to develop an active, creative approach to music. A strong emphasis is laid on developing long-term cooperation projects with educational institutions, such as the Little Piano School, where 2-to-6-year-olds discover the world of music and the piano in a playful way. In small groups, they experiment with sounds, sing and play simple songs, move their bodies to music, and are introduced to the basics of piano playing.
Within the framework of its neighborhood school projects in Bochum and Duisburg, the Festival has likewise committed itself to long-term support for the development of the creative artistic abilities of underprivileged youth. The Festival is thus not only setting a powerful social example, but it is also reaffirming the legacy of the founding fathers of the NATIONAL-BANK, who always put the common good above the benefit of the individual.
Despite demanding circumstances, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the NATIONAL-BANK and the 10th birthday of the Ruhr Piano Festival Foundation offer us an occasion to celebrate. But we are not thinking of celebrating a Jubilee Year as in Old Testament times! “Jubilee” comes from the Hebrew word “Yobel”, which means “a sound of rejoicing”. When the rams’ horns were sounded to announce the Jubilee Year, all citizens indeed rejoiced. In Leviticus, the 3rd Book of Moses, we read that all debts were periodically cancelled – such rejoicing might be going a bit too far nowadays, particularly for a solid bank such as ours! Our rejoicing is thus more modest. In tandem with the Ruhr Circle of Initiatives, the NATIONAL-BANK gladly and prominently supports this year’s Ruhr Piano Festival, for our bank, along with many of its customers, shareholders, and employees, feels a special tie with the Festival. It is a godsend for our region. And this type of commitment does not pay mere lip service to long-term regional development: the NATIONAL-BANK, the Ruhr Circle of Initiatives, and the Ruhr Piano Festival have been putting that concept into practice for decades. That is why, as a representative of our bank, I am glad to assume this year’s patronage.
In the name of our Executive Board and of all NATIONAL-BANK employees, I wish us all a wonderful Festival season. Let us not lose our enjoyment of music, particularly in times such as these. The program is attractive; the artists are marvelous. So is the Festival!
With my heartfelt greetings and best wishes for good health
Dr. Thomas A. Lange
Patron of the Ruhr Piano Festival 2021
Chief Executive Officer of NATIONAL-BANK AG
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