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Blowing a Trumpet for the Frauenkirche

DW staff (jp)October 4, 2005

Ludwig Güttler is one of the world's most successful trumpet virtuosos. From the former East Germany, he also played a key role in the campaign to reconstruct Dresden's landmark Frauenkirche, or Church of our Lady.

Güttler used his musical talent to foot the bill for Dresden's renovationImage: AP

Born in 1943 in Sosa, Saxony, Ludwig Güttler says that October 3, 1990 is a date he'll never forget.

"German unification was one of the most extraordinary and moving times of my life," he said. "It was as if a wound that had never stopped hurting finally began to heal."

Success in east and west

Der weltweit gefragte Trompeter Ludwig Güttler
Ludwig Güttler has played a crucial role in the reconstruction effortImage: dpa

In fact, Güttler had been one of the lucky ones. During East Germany's communist years, he was solo trumpeter at the Händel Festival Orchestra in Halle and the Dresden Philharmonic before going on to teach at the International Music Seminar in Weimar and the Carl Maria von Weber Conservatory in Dresden, where he was a professor until 1990.

Even so, gaining permission to travel outside the confines of the GDR was a constant battle. But by the time the Berlin Wall had fallen in 1989, Ludwig Güttler was performing where and when he wanted. He was recognized as a virtuoso of international stature and acclaimed around the world as a conductor, scholar, concert promoter and sponsor.

Unlike many others from the GDR, he went from strength to strength over the next 15 years, appearing as a soloist and conductor at major concert venues both at home and abroad.

Reclaiming an East German landmark

Not content with his illustrious career, he threw himself into the reconstruction of Dresden's Frauenkirche, a project that cost over 100 million euros. Güttler's appeals and fundraising activities proved invaluable.

"Nothing is impossible," he said. "The reconstruction of the Frauenkirche has a crucial social significance -- it was an overwhelming task in terms of building, but it also represented so much more than that."

The advantages of fame

Bildgalerie Dresdner Frauenkirche
The Frauenkirche (left) is now part of Dresden's skyline againImage: AP

After Dresden was destroyed in the Allies' fire-bombing in 1945, the Frauenkirche remained a ruin for decades. The ruling communists were uninterested in its renovation, but it became a touchstone to East Germany's grass roots peace movement. Then, after the collapse of the Iron Curtain, a lobby group came together that was committed to seeing the Frauenkirche returned to its former glory -- a development that would never have come to fruition in the GDR. Despite his successful career, Ludwig Güttler worked tirelessly as its spokesman.

"From the very start, I wanted music to remain my main priority," he said. "But at some point I put my work as a teacher on hold in order to devote myself to the reconstruction project."

Ludwig Güttler Archivfoto / Dresden (Sachsen): Die erste Weihnachtsvesper seit 1944 findet am 23.12.1993 vor der Ruine der Dresdner Frauenkirche statt.
Güttler participated in charity concerts, such as this one on Dec. 23, 1993, from the beginningImage: AP

But it was also his musical credentials that made his fundraising so effective. Ludwig Güttler played many concerts on behalf of the Frauenkirche. Today, he says it was worth it.

"Coming here now and seeing all the people gathered gives me a great sense of joy," he said.