Buffalo Freie Presse - Monday, March 2, 1903Johannes Gelbke.
Page 5, Center.
Many friends and acquaintences were shocked to learn yesterday of the death of the beloved musician and composer, Mr. Johannes Waldmar Gelbke. People knew that he had been suffering from a nervous condition for the past few months however he seemed physically sound and the doctors expected he would eventually make a full recovery. As late as Saturday night he was in the best of spirits, he played the piano and spoke with his wife about his students. Yesterday morning he suddenly lost consciousness and by the time the physician was summoned he could only confirm Mr. Gelbke was dead. He succumbed to a heart attack.
Johannes Gelbke, one of the most talented musicians in the city, made a name for himself throughout the world as a song writer. He was born on July 19, 1846 as the son of a physician from Radeberg, a small city near Dresden. At an early age he exhibited an exceptional love of music which developed quickly when the boy received lessons in piano and violin. At the recommendation of his music teacher, upon graduation from the elementary school in his home town he attended the Kreuzschule in Dresden. He was gifted with an exceptional soprano voice and was accepted into the old and famous Alumni Choir, which performed church music for the three main evangelical churches in the city. Julius Otto, then choirmaster, had discovered the young man's musical talent and took an interest in him by giving him instruction in musical theory. Even back then young Gelbke composed a variety of songs and church hymns which garnered him much praise.
In 1866 he composed the music for the festival production of "Dornröschen" which was performed at the dedication of the new Kreuzschule. It was at this time that Gelbke decided to dedicate himself solely to music instead of his original intention to study theology. He moved to Leipzig and passed the examination for acceptance into the Royal Conservatory headed by Ignaz Moscheles. The teachers who helped him the most were Friedrich Richter and Oscar Paul in theory and composition and Theodor Corvius and Wenzer in piano. In addition to this he attended lectures in music history, acoustics and other subjects at the University of Leipzig and this contributed significantly to his musical prowess. During his stay in Leipzig he composed a series of solid compositions, many of which have stood the test of time. He directed several singing groups in Leipzig and the neighboring city of Wurzen and taught voice and piano.
In December 1882 he came to the United States to respond to an offer to take the baton for the Buffalo Orpheus. He remained at this posting for three years. For many more years he was director of the Buffalo Sängerbund. Of the 12 local singing societies he also directed the Central Sängerbund, the Beethoven Club, the Mendelssohn Club, the singing section of the Buffalo Turnverein. Additionally he directed the Niagara Falls Orpheus for 10 years. After retiring for some time from directing singing societies and dedicating himself to private instruction he was convinced to take the directorship of the Harugari Frohsinn. Last fall he laid down his baton after bringing the society to full artistic fruition. Testimony to the deceased's popularity can be seen in the number of certificates of honor he received from his singing groups. His numerous compositions, which receive more recognition and appreciation as the years go by, are collectively known for their distinctive character, beautiful melodies, and intimate nature. Among his earlier works is his most famous song, performed at the opening of the last song festival. It is titled Heimath [Homeland] and starts with the words "Hark, I hear the old oak rustling." It would be truly fitting if when the singers escort him to his grave they would honor him with a rendition of this wonderful song.
He was married to Mathilde Margarethe Hütter in December 27, 1887 and had a happy though childless marriage. Besides his widow he is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Ottilie Fuchs of Berlin and Mrs. Anna Zschau of Würzen in Saxony. One brother and one sister preceded him in death.
Johannes Gelbke was an extrordinary and true soul, a human being of purehearted goodness who helped where he could when someone turned to him.He did not accumulate riches but as a man and an artist he has left behind a legacy of which he can be proud. May he rest in peace!