Former Sikorski publishing director Jürgen Köchel has passed away

On 4 May 2021, former Sikorski publishing director Jürgen Köchel passed away at the age of 95 in his adopted home of Bochum. 
 
He first studied piano, flute and singing, occasionally appearing on stage as an oratorio singer and worked as a music teacher in Berlin at the beginning of his career. He was then employed by Moeseler Verlag in Wolfenbüttel as a publicity manager for a few years before taking over as head of the classical music department at Sikorski Verlag in 1969 - a post he held for 30 years. Through his ideas and his approach to publishing, he shaped the programmatic direction of the publishing house. Most significantly, he championed the work of important Russian composers of the post-Shostakovich era and German avant-garde composers. He was a contact person, mentor and important source of inspiration for many authors who were acquired for the Sikorski catalogue in the 1970s and 1980s. He also accompanied, for decades, the careers of the young Peter Ruzicka, Hamburg composer Jens-Peter Ostendorf, Ulrich Leyendecker and Milko Kelemens. In the music world, Jürgen Köchel was a well-known figure, not least for his German text adaptations, libretti and music pamphlets, which were written in tandem with his publishing work. He regularly travelled to music festivals in the former Soviet Union. On one of his early journeys he met Alfred Schnittke, with whom he shared a close friendship until the latter’s death in 1998. He has left deep traces in Schnittke’s opera oeuvre as librettist of the “Historia von D. Johann Fausten” and translator of “Gesualdo”. 
 
Further to his publishing activities, Jürgen Köchel was programme editor for the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and the Kissinger Sommer, but also a passionate collector of bibliophilic treasures. He owned one of the world’s largest private collections of Mozart publications comprising approximately a thousand early and first editions of Mozart works. Other focal points of his collection were German and Russian-language poetry of the 20th century (including works by Rilke, Paul Celan, Marina Tsvetaeva and Anna Akhmatova). His passion for Mozart led to the founding of the Hamburg Mozart Society in 2003, which he chaired until 2016.
 
In 1985 he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his commitment to promoting German-Russian relations.
 
Photo from left: Jürgen Köchel, Alfred Schnittke, Prof. Hans W. Sikorski