The early years: Wolfgang Drees, Gustav Fülleborn und Rudolf BremenCopyright: © Collegium Musicum
Orchestra rehearsal under Rudolf Bremen's direction at the Institute of High Frequency TechnologyCopyright: © Collegium Musicum
In the winter semester of 1952, Professor Helmuth Schepp took the initiative to revive orchestral culture at RWTH Aachen University and founded a small orchestral ensemble with about 30 members. This was led by Kapellmeister Wolfgang Drees (Stadttheater Aachen). After some initial smaller appearances, the tradition to hold university concerts was first started in 1954 with G. F. Händel's "Overture to Theodora," which was performed in the university dining hall, or Mensa. After Gustav Fülleborn led the orchestra in 1955 and 1956, Rudolf Bremen took over the ensemble and founded the university choir, whose academic direction lay with Professor Herbert Döring. The ambitions of the now two-part ensemble grew steadily under Bremen's direction.
Early on, Collegium Musicum started to show a knack for winning young talent to collaborate with the ensemble. For instance, the ensemble performed with Christoph Eschenbach, a pianist, who was 18 years old at the time and now directs the Konzerthausorchester Berlin. First cooperations with the universities of Liège (1959) and Maastricht (1963) served to deepen the relationships with other universities and at the same time enhanced the supra-regional importance of the ensemble. These partnerships were even expanded in 1964 and 1965, when first Professor Schepp and then Professor Schlögl took over academic direction of the orchestra and choir respectively. In the following years, the concert program could thus be heard at other venues in addition to Aachen, such as Maastricht and Bonn for example.
In recognition of his many years of service to music culture at RWTH, Rudolf Bremen was named an honorary citizen of the university on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the university concerts. In 1980 and 1981, the academic direction was transferred to Professor Faissner (choir) and Professor Möller (orchestra). The new management team continued the cooperation with Liège with the 1984 Aachen-Liège University Days. Featuring Matthias Hölle – today an opera singer at the Stuttgart Opera – as bass soloist, the ensemble performed Ludwig van Beethoven's "Mass in C major" at the Royal Conservatory of Liège. The 1986 university concert is considered a special event in Collegium Musicum’s history. After conductor Bremen suddenly fell ill between dress rehearsal and concert, Michael Plur – then student concertmaster – jumped in and saved the evening with Mozart's "Overture to Titus" and Schubert's "Mass in E-flat Major".