Chronological Table


Gerard Bunk is born in Rotterdam on 4 March, the youngest of seven (surviving) children of the school principle, music teacher and choral conductor Gerardus Cornelis Bunk and his wife Maria.


After first musical instructions from his father and after the five-year-old has been found to have absolute pitch awareness, he is taught to play the violin (which only lasts three years, “because much more talent for the piano and the organ”) and theory.


Enrolment at the Rotterdam Conservatory of the Maatschappij ter bevordering der Toonkunst; Bunk studies piano with the pianist, choral conductor and composer Anton Verheij (1871–1924); for a short time also organ lessons with Johan Besselaar (1874–1952), but Bunk learns to play the organ mainly through self-study.
In the meantime, he attends secondary school, is an assistant organist in various Protestant churches and is head of the pupilsʼ section of the Koninklijke Zangvereeniging “Rotte's Mannenkoor”.


13 December: dating of the first surviving composition, a Romance for piano four hands


4 March: First full organist position in Rotterdam taken on


June: Stay in London; possibly piano studies with the Russian-British pianist Mark Hambourg (1879−1960).
In September, departure for Hull/England to continue piano studies there − but break off:
Already in October or November he moves to Bielefeld to attend the special training class of the piano teacher Hans Hermanns.


3 March: Max Reger gives a concert in Bielefeld. Bunk has "scrawled the beginning of his ingenious B.A.C.H. Fantasia on the wallpaper before his arrival in his hotel room" (Liebe zur Orgel, p. 72). Reger is amused and signs a congratulatory postcard for Bunk's nineteenth birthday the next day.
20 June: first organ concert in the Bielefeld synagogue.
October: Bunk as master student and his later wife Else Geßner go to the Hamburg Conservatory with Hermanns, who becomes the "first teacher of piano playing" there.
23 December: Contract as piano, organ and theory teacher with the Bielefeld Conservatory.
Beginning of actual concert activity on piano and organ


After the draw of lots (common in the Netherlands), exemption from military service.
Letter from Karl Straube to Bunk's mentor Wilhelm Lamping (1861−1929) from 24 April: "... I would be very pleased to accept him as a pupil. ... and Mr. Bunk could take composition as a minor with Reger; or he may take Reger as a major and my class as a minor."
Composition of the organ works Legend op. 29 in May, of the Variations on an Old Dutch Folk Song op. 31 in December


January to March: Composition of the Sonata for Organ op. 32.
20−22 March: The new organ of the Reinoldikirche in Dortmund by E. F. Walcker & Cie. in Ludwigsburg with 105 stops on five manuals is inaugurated with a Bach festival. It is regarded as an important reference instrument of the Alsatian organ reform around Émile Rupp and Albert Schweitzer.
In the summer, Bunk organises six organ concerts in Bielefeld's Neustadt Church, in which he performs (according to a contemporary encyclopaedia of artists) "the works of the most important organ composers since Bach"; one evening is devoted exclusively to Max Reger.
Further organ concert cycles in the next few years in the synagogue. "I may perhaps ... assume that my good reputation as an organ player has found its foundation through these events."


5 May: Bunk stands in at short notice at the Max Reger Festival in Dortmund; he plays the organ of St. Reinoldi for the first time, alternating with Reger. Reger gives him the following advice: "Young man, don't play my things too fast; Brahms and I made the same mistake: we wrote down our tempi much too fast, play everything quite calmly, even if it is written faster! (Liebe zur Orgel, p. 74)
As Bunk's first compositions appear the Six Songs op. 22 and the Legend for organ op. 29 in the publishing house of J. Nöroth in Trier.
19 May: first letter from Albert Schweitzer (about the Legend).
September: on Reger's recommendation, appointed as teacher for piano training classes at the Dortmund Conservatory.


January/February composition of the Passacaglia for organ op. 40


Organist of the Old Catholic Krimkapelle in Dortmund.
3 January: Premiere of the childrenʼs operetta Gerda at the Groote Schouwburg Rotterdam.
30 March: Marriage to fellow student Else Geßner (1890–1976) from Bielefeld.
Composition of Der 1. Psalm for soprano solo, choir and organ op. 47.
In September founding of the Dortmund Trio.
From Dortmund, conductor of a municipal choral society Emmerich am Rhein (until the outbreak of war in 1914, performance of Schumann: Rose Pilgerfahrt, Haydn: Jahreszeiten, Bach: Johannespassion)


In September, takes up first organ lessons at the conservatory.
13 September, advertisement in the Rheinische Musik- u. Theaterzeitung: "Ibach grand pianos play exclusively in their concerts" with the following names of Max Reger, Bunk and numerous other pianists.
17 November: Bunk conducts a choir of 600 school children at the Groote Doelezaal in Rotterdam in two performances of his cantata Holland Herleefd op. 48, a work commissioned to celebrate the liberation from Napoleonic rule 100 years ago on a text by the reform pedagogue Jan Lighthart (1859−1916).


July: the Variations on an Old Dutch Folk Song (Herr, sieh die Not) op. 31 are published by Tischer & Jagenberg. Cathedral organist Bernhard Irrgang (1869–1916) performs the composition in the Berlin Cathedral; afterwards he reports the statement of the lady of the court Claire von Gersdorff “that the Emperor would certainly like it very much” (because of the Dutch “Trutzlied”). Tischer then advertises the Variations as “war music”.
Regardless of this, Charles-Marie Widor and Marco Enrico Bossi praise the work. It does not reach Albert Schweitzer, who is interned in Lambarene; Bunk plays the Variations for him in St. Reinoldi in 1928.
Composition of the Legend in F minor for organ and brass quartet op. 55a during the Christmas holidays


For the Rheinische Musik- und Theaterzeitung, Cologne, Bunk reviews organ music and writes music reports and essays over the next five years.
31 March: first participation (until 1931) as organ soloist in a concert of the Berlin Königl. Hof- und Domchor (later Domchor or Staats- und Domchor). Its director Hugo Rüdel (1868–1934) will recommend Bunk as Reinoldiorganist in 1925 with a letter of recommendation.
In August, composition of the Fantasia for organ op. 57.
6 October: Bunk plays with Max Reger his Mozart Variations op. 132 in the version for two pianos.


During a marital crisis in autumn, Else Bunk goes to Berlin-Charlottenburg to work in a bookshop. Her husband composes the Stieler Songs op. 61 during this time. Reconciliation meeting in Berlin


1 October contract with the Dortmund Orchestra: "Mr. Gerard Bunk commits himself as [permanent] soloist and accompanist (organ and piano) for the concerts of the Philharmonic Orchestra and, if necessary, also as organist for the opera performances of the Municipal Theatre".


7 November: premiere of the Symphonic Variations for organ and orchestra op. 67 at the Saalbau Essen under Max Fiedler (1859–1939).
23 November: first concert as conductor of the "Musikverein" in Unna (Mozart: Requiem), with which Bunk in future performs "two major works of choral literature every year".
End of 1919 ...


... or January 1920: Appointed organist and choirmaster of the Petrikirche in Dortmund.
The Eight Character Pieces for organ op. 54 are published by F. E. C. Leuckart.
October, advancing economic crisis: "with regard to the now almost prohibitively high fee rates of the orchestra involved in oratorio performances, especially for smaller choir societies", Bunk advertises himself as organist and pianist. "In the absence of the orchestra, a performance of even the larger choral works with organ or piano accompaniment might be justified, if it is performed with consideration of the instrumentation and according to other artistic principles."
November: Bunk's compatriot, the later conductor Paul van Kempen (1893–1955) becomes violinist in the Dortmund Trio; cellist is the solo cellist in the Municipal Orchestra, Carl Roser.


In 1922, the Riemann Musiklexikon lists him as a "sought-after accompanist". "Special adaptability," Bunk himself explains in a 1958 curriculum vitae, "led to accompaniment for many famous vocal soloists and instrumentalists who in earlier years did not travel with their own permanent accompanists as they do today."
26 June: premiere of the Concerto for organ and orchestra op. 70


15 April: joint concert with Günther Ramin in Leipzig's Thomaskirche.
1 July to 15 September secret stay in Zermatt as pianist of the house orchestra of the Seiler Hotels, in order to escape the situation "in the terrible Dortmund", which had become acute due to the occupation of the Ruhr, and to obtain stable currency


Bunk can be heard in first radio broadcasts at the piano on the Münster radio station.
6 May: Berlin premiere of the Concerto for organ and orchestra op. 70 with the Blüthner Orchestra


1 October: Bunk becomes organist at St. Reinoldi and conductor of the Bachverein.
November: A church music school is attached to the now municipal conservatory; Bunk continues to teach organ at the Protestant department.
23 November: premiere of the Symphony op. 75 in Karlsruhe.


27-30 July participation in the Freiburg Tagung für Deutsche Orgelkunst (Conference for German Organ Art).
First organ transmissions from St. Reinoldi, heard as far away as England. In 1937, the organ virtuoso Wilhelm Middelschulte, a friend of Bunk's, presumably listens in Chicago: "... I could hear my Passacaglia played by Gerard Bunk in Dortmund (Sunday Febr 7th) if I connect with the Köln-Reichssender (Cologne) – plays about 11.00 o'clock Sunday − Is that about 5 or 6 in the morning in America? I will try to connect and get up at that time − It is a novelty."(quoted from Meyer 2007, p. 492 )


13 July and 4 August: Bunk demonstrates a Walcker concert organ at the Frankfurt Internationalen Ausstellung Musik im Leben der Völker (International Exhibition Music in the Life of Nations).


19 September: naturalisation, after concerns had already been raised during Bunk's application to fill the position of Reinoldi organist with a "foreigner" (Liebe zur Orgel, p. 87).
On 11 November, meeting with Albert Schweitzer, who plays an organ concert in St. Reinoldi


6 October: The Thomanerchor Leipzig gives a guest performance in St. Reinoldi under Karl Straube; Bunk plays organ works by Sweelinck and Bach.
6 November: Bunk's first Orgel-Feierstunde (organ ceremony) in St. Reinoldi; the organ ceremonies are intended to "provide an overview of the most important works of organ literature" and are now held fortnightly by Bunk; the focus is on the works of Bach and Reger.
He now regularly conducts the Bachverein at St. Reinoldi for festive services (a cappella literature, Bach Cantatas) and passion performances.

Programme of the first organ ceremony


Revision of the Sonata for organ op. 32.
Bunk also becomes organist of the Dortmund synagogue with a Walcker organ.


In February, first concert with the Orchestra of Professional Musicians at the Dortmund Employment Office (Orchester der Berufsmusiker beim Arbeitsamt Dortmund), which Bunk uses for church music performances and conducts in entertainment concerts broadcast by the Cologne and Breslau radio stations (he includes Intermezzo and Spanish Dance from his children's operetta Gerda on the programmes under the pseudonym "F. Cornelius", derived from his second and third first names Cornelis Filippus).
In the organ ceremony on 7 October, Bunk plays Sigfrid Karg-Elert's Passacaglia op. 25B, among other works. "That my little children are heard on the magnificent Reinoldi organ," Karg-Elert writes to Bunk, "which I was allowed to play through friend Holtschneider's willingness in 1911, is a very special joy to me, and that you (yourself a highly gifted composer of repute), who wrote such wonderful and wise words about me in an article X years ago, supports my works, is a special honour to me."
18 October: premiere of the motet Selig seid ihr Armen op. 77 in St. Reinoldi by the dedicatee Carl Holtschneider (1872−1951) and his Madrigalchor


Attack on Bunk in the first issue 1933 of the journal Musik und Kirche: whether this is "really the task of an organ ceremony", asks the anonymous author "A." of a gloss (probably the hymnologist and music researcher Konrad Ameln, 1899−1994) and quotes abbreviated from the explanatory text of the organ ceremonies: "'to enable everyone to hear the monumental.... organ work.... (5 manuals and pedal, 107 stops, 79 subsidiary stops, echo organ, a total of 7104 sounding pipes) in regular recitals....' […] how little even church musicians often think about the meaning and purpose of organ ceremonies" (p. 45).
3 May: Bunk demonstratively begins a series in the organ ceremonies entitled "Masterpieces of German Organ Art"; it will comprise eight events until September 1934.
11 May: post of organist at the synagogue "resigned" (later note by Else Bunk; the exact circumstances have not survived).
13 May: Bunk takes part in a charity concert of the Mandolin Concert Society in St. Reinoldi under Theodor Ritter (1883−1950), who is significant for the mandolin movement. The complete programme is printed in Musik und Kirche and condemned as "unholy": "An iron broom is needed, for we know well enough: it must be swept again and again until the last evil roots of such rampant weeds are seized. The 'charitable end' justifies the means? No! [...] Church musicians ahead in the fight for German culture!" (p. 209f., "W. R.")
In the July-August issue of Musik und Kirche, Bunk, thus put under pressure, signs the Declaration of the German Orgelbewegung. The manifesto of "numerous leading personalities of church music and organ art" is virtually an address of loyalty to the new rulers (p. 187f.).
The allegedly "elitist" Musikverein Unna is transformed into the "Städtischr Volkschor" (Municipal People's Choir); Bunk initially takes over the direction, although according to the newspaper "Gerard Bunk, the conductor of the dissolved Musikverein, [is] not [allowed] to be the leader of the new choir, because many Volksgenossen see him as an exponent of that association" (13 November).
3 December: first concert with the Bielefeld Children's Choir, which Bunk will accompany on the organ until the end of his life, especially in Christmas concerts.
At the end of the year, the Dortmund press writes that "the organ ceremonies are an outdated concert form that no longer has a raison d'être in the Third Reich. The circle of people who could understand these events is too small. The ideal concert form is the liturgical one. In this form, every listener takes a lively and active part in the music performed." (quoted from Boecker 1995, p. 143)


October 9: The Dresdner Kreuzchor sings under Rudolf Mauerberger in St. Reinoldi, Bunk participates as organist. Mauersberger wants to bring him to the Kreuzkirche afterwards. The change does not come about, but Bunk uses the discussion in the Dortmund newspapers about a possible departure to improve his position at St. Reinoldi.
Publication of the Passacaglia for organ op. 40 by Breitkopf & Härtel


August: summer stay with the Heinrich Walcker family in Murrhardt. Disguised as a fitter, Bunk visits the construction of the Walcker organ in the Kongreßalle in Nuremberg, which is not accessible before completion.
30 October: The publisher Breitkopf & Härtel asks Johann Nepomuk David for an expert opinion on Bunk's Fantasia for organ op. 57.


Publication of the Fantasia op. 57 by Breitkopf & Härtel. The assessment of the work written in 1915 in a review as a "concert piece for the concert hall of a cosmopolitan type" for the "virtuoso" is a disparagement by the standards of the Orgelbewegung (Zeitschrift für Kirchenmusiker, 1 December 1939).
18 October: Pastor Martin Niemöller from Berlin-Dahlem speaks at a Confessing Church meeting (Bekenntnis-Gemeindeversammlung) in the Reinoldikirche. Bunk plays the organ.
Konsistorialrat Oskar Söhngen delivers Bunk's appointment as a director of church music by the Berlin Oberkirchenrat on 21 October.