Spending most of their lives an ocean apart did not stop David Larky ’48 and the late Hans Baer ’47 ’97H from strengthening their undergraduate friendship into a relationship of deep admiration and respect.
In a recent interview on campus, Larky recounted how he and Baer both went to Zurich in the early 1950s. Larky, an electronics engineer, was sent by RCA to Europe to “introduce the color TV.” Baer returned to his native Switzerland to join his grandfather’s international banking business.
After several years in Europe, Larky returned to the United States. Baer, who died in 2011, became the leader of his grandfather’s business and became a patron of the arts and a major influence in furthering Lehigh’s global presence.
On Sunday (Jan. 19), evidence of the strong bond between Larky and Baer was seen and heard in the Zoellner Arts Center at the world premiere of “BaerMusik,” a piece commissioned by Larky and his wife, Suzanne, in honor of their lifelong friend.
Before an audience of about 400 people, “BaerMusik” was performed by the Philadelphia Brass, along with Lehigh faculty and student musicians and other guest artists, under the direction of Paul Salerni, the NEH Distinguished Chair in the Humanities and professor of music.
“BaerMusik” was composed by Margaret Griebling-Haigh of Ohio.
The concert was presented by Lehigh’s department of music and titled “An Afternoon with the Philadelphia Brass.” It also included music by Johann Sebastian Bach, 17th-century German composer Samuel Scheidt and a trio of 20th-century American composers: jazz pianist and orchestra leader Duke Ellington and songwriters Jimmy Van Heusen and Frank Loesser.
Baer’s daughter, Monique, who lives in Switzerland, attended the premiere, in addition to her relative, Simon Baer, who is a member of Lehigh’s Class of 2016.
Larky said he and his wife wanted the new commission to reflect Baer’s life.
“We wanted something majestic, large as his accomplishments in life, that would also be a tribute to his broad interests in people and the world around him,” he said.
“BaerMusik,” said Larky, is a series of variations on the letters of Baer’s name, and is scored for the full brass complement of an orchestra.
“We think this announces him to the audience as he was in person,” Larky said.
Baer, who earned an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from Lehigh, established the Hans J. Baer Endowed Chair in International Finance, now held by Nandu Nayar, and the Hans J. Baer Endowed International Scholarship to help international students attend Lehigh.
In 2004, Baer was the lead donor for the Baer International Centre, located in Coxe Hall. He was also the founding chair of the Global Council.
A passionate patron of the arts, Baer also sponsored an on-campus exhibition of the work of artist H.A. Sigg and brought the Zurich Tonhalle Symphony Orchestra to perform here.
As an undergraduate student, Baer played the cello in the Lehigh orchestra.
Baer received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, the Alumni Award, and the L-in-Life Award from Lehigh for his personal and professional accomplishments and his contributions to the university. He was a member of the College of Business and Economics Advisory Council and an honorary member of the university’s Board of Trustees.
In addition to the performance, The Philadelphia Brass and Griebling-Haigh attended a private reading of brass quintets written by Lehigh student composers.
The concert, the student composer reading and the residencies by The Philadelphia Brass and Griebling-Haigh were co-sponsored by the Larkys, the Klees Family Instrumental Ensemble Endowed Fund, and Ichiko M. and Joseph W. Long ’88 and family.