Erich Röhn

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Erich Röhn (1910-1985) served as concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic under Wilhelm Furtwängler. The broadcasts here were made in Berlin between 1942 and 1944. None of these rare performances for German Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft have been published before and aims to bring Röhn's artistry back into the present.

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ERICH RÖHN plays Bruch, Beethoven, Vivaldi and Schubert – Wartime German Radio Recordings

‘Eminent Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic under Wilhelm Furtwängler’

1-3. BRUCH: Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26 [23:45]
Recorded · 09 April 1942 · Berlin · Masurenallee · Haus des Rundfunks · Saal 1 · Reichssender Berlin · Radio Studio Recording
Erich Röhn · violin
Großes Berliner Rundfunkorchester
Hanns Steinkopf · conductor

4. BEETHOVEN: Violin Romance No.2 in F Major, Op.50 [09:19]
Recorded · 13 April 1942 · Berlin · Masurenallee · Haus des Rundfunks · Saal 1 · Reichssender Berlin · Radio Studio Recording
Erich Röhn · violin
Großes Berliner Rundfunkorchester
Hanns Steinkopf · conductor

5-7. VIVALDI: Concerto for 3 violins in F Major, RV.551 [09:38]
Recorded · 10 November 1942 · Berlin · Masurenallee · Haus des Rundfunks · Saal 3 · Reichssender Berlin · Radio Studio Recording
Erich Röhn, Rudolf Schulz, Georg Kniestädt · violin
Michael Raucheisen · piano

8. SCHUBERT: Rondo for violin and strings in A Major, D.438 [11:59]
Recorded · 29 June 1943 · Berlin · Masurenallee · Haus des Rundfunks · Saal 3 · Reichssender Berlin · Radio Studio Recording
Erich Röhn · violin
Kammermusikalische Vereinigung der Berliner Philharmoniker

9. BEETHOVEN: Rondo for violin & piano in G Major, WoO 41 [04:15]
Recorded · 1944 · Berlin · Masurenallee · Haus des Rundfunks · Saal 1 · Reichssender Berlin · Radio Studio Recording
Erich Röhn · violin
Michael Raucheisen · piano

Additional Information

Article number: MC 2017
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050392
Total time: 58:58

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Erich Röhn family collection
With special thanks to Andreas and Daniel Röhn
From the Original Masters · © 2014 Meloclassic

Erich Röhn was born in Groß-Leuthen, Brandenburg, Germany on April 16, 1910. He started violin lessons with a pupil of Joseph Joachim, Else Mendel-Oberüber in Guben, where he gave his first performances as a solo violinist (café violinist) with the local traditional ensemble “Kurt Kutschan Kapelle” performing waltzes and polkas of Johann Strauss and Joseph Lanner. He then entered the Berlin Municipal Conservatory to study with Ria Schmitz-Gohr and Gustav Havemann. He became a violinist in the Berlin’s Kroll Opera Orchestra in the 1st violin section, selected by Otto Klemperer, the director of the opera. After the Kroll Opera was finally closed in July 1931, Röhn became Concertmaster of the Orchestra of the Deutschlandsender Berlin.

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In 1934, aged 24, Röhn was chosen by Wilhelm Furtwängler as Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, alternating as Concertmaster with Hugo Kolberg and Siegfried Borries. Kolberg, whom Furtwängler had protected in that position as long as possible, had fled with his Jewish wife in 1939. In 1934 Furtwängler stepped down from his position as principal conductor for one year.

Under the baton of guest conductor Leo Borchard, Röhn had his first performances as a soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic:
• 22 April 1935, Mozart’s Adelaide Violin Concerto
• 04 February 1936, Brahms’s Violin Concerto

In August 1941 Röhn was appointed First Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic as successor to Siegfried Borries. Karajan convinced Borries to join the Preussische Staatskapelle Berlin as its concertmaster.

In 1943 Röhn became head of its chamber music ensemble “Kammermusikalische Vereinigung der Berliner Philharmoniker”. The Berlin Philharmonic chamber group performed standard repertoire such as Beethoven’s Septet for strings & woodwinds, Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet, Mozart’s Horn Quintet, Schubert’s Octet, Schubert’s Rondo for Violin and Strings, and Schubert’s Trout Quintet with Oskar Rothensteiner as a pianist.

Röhn premiered Hermann Zilcher’s Violin Concerto op. 92 under Wilhelm Furtwängler and performed Max Trapp’s Violin Concerto op. 21 under Karl Böhm. On 09 July 1943, he performed the rarely heard Emil von Reznicek Violin Concerto in E minor with the orchestra of the German opera Berlin under Artur Rother.
He also performed as a soloist of the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Hans Knappertsbusch and Hermann Abendroth:
• 15 February 1944, Händel‘s Concerto grosso in D Major, HWV.323 (Knappertsbusch)
• 13 October 1944, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.3 in G Major, K.216 (Abendroth)

Röhn was the last soloist to play in the old Philharmonie on 12 January 1944, performing the Beethoven violin concerto, with Furtwängler conducting. The “Alte Philharmonie” vanished in a bombing raid on 30 January 1944.

When Germany surrendered in May 1945, a new era began for the Berlin Philharmonic as well. The precise nature of the discussions between Berlin Philharmonic members as they first met in the new era are lost to history. Clear is only that Röhn and certain musicians either did not wish to, or were not invited to participate in the orchestra’s post-Nazi constitution. Gerhard Taschner (violin), Reinhard Wolff (viola), Arthur Tröster (cello) and Adolf Scheerbaum (trumpet) were among those who did not return. Röhn, Tröster, and Wolf quickly jumped to more stable and lucrative positions in Hamburg offered by the conductor Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt. In 1945, after the end of World War II, the British military authorities invited Schmidt-Isserstedt to found an orchestra at the North German Radio in Hamburg. Six months later, he assembled the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra (Sinfonieorchester des Norddeutschen Rundfunks) and conducted its first concert in November 1945. Röhn was Concertmaster of the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1945 until his retirement in 1974.

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Furtwängler gave two concerts with the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra on 22 September 1947 and 27 October 1951 at the Musikhalle in Hamburg, conducting his two former Berlin Philharmonic Concertmasters Röhn and Tröster in performances of Brahms’s Double concerto for Violin and Cello.

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Immediately after World War II in 1945, Röhn joined two chamber music groups. The Conrad Hansen Trio together with the pianist Conrad Hansen and cellist Arthur Tröster. They have recorded the major works of the piano trio repertoire for German radio stations and for the label Telefunken, such as Schubert’s Trio Op. 100, Dvorak’s Trio E minor, and Mozart’s Trio K.502. The trio has also performed at many of the leading music festivals and has performed several times Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with various German orchestras. The trio was extended to a quartet including the violist Reinhard Wolf, named “Hamburger Kammermusik Vereinigung”. Röhn performed the Walton violin concerto on 10 June 1949 with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Artur Rother. Röhn also was one of the founders of the “Nordwestdeutsche Musik-Akademie” in Detmold, Germany in 1946 and taught for many years at the Hamburger Musikhochschule. Among his pupils were his son Andreas, Wolfgang Marschner and Wilhelm Melcher (founder of the Melos string quartet). Röhn also played premières and modern repertoire such as Halfdan Cleve, Walter Girnatis, Giorgio Cambissa, Julian Francois Zbinden, Henk Badings, Claude Ballif, Giselher Klebe, Ludwig Thuille and Heinz Schreiter.

Erich Röhn died on August 1, 1985 in Hamburg, Germany.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014

Audiophile Audition Classical Review October 2014

Published on October 8, 2014

A collection of wartime studio recordings attests to Erich Roehn’s versatility in various ensembles.

Erich Röhn (1910-1985) served as concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, succeeding Siegfried Borries in 1941 upon Borries’ departure for the Prussian State Orchestra and Herbert von Karajan. DGG issued a 1944 performance of the Beethoven Concerto with Roehn and Wilhelm Furtwaengler, a fine alternative to the later 1953 concert performance with Wolfgang Schneiderhahn. The major work Meloclassic reissues, the Bruch Concerto in G Minor (9 April 1942) suffers a thin acoustic, and the orchestral tissue under Steinkopf remains distant. Roehn plays with intense ardor, a fast vibrato, and a thin, nasal tone that reminds me of Szigeti. The second movement enjoys its lyrical moments, but the tape suffers from obvious deterioration. The last movement Allegro energico projects flair and athleticism, the style typical of the German school of playing, especially if we have been accustomed to hearing Schneiderhahn, Kulenkampff, and Taschner.

The Beethoven Romance No. 2 (13 April 1942) also with Steinkopf seems to have placed Roehn even further into the microphone than in the Bruch collaboration. The ensemble remains muddy and not always synchronized. Still, the performance retains style and sympathy, and the woodwinds make their warm mark in the ensemble. The playing achieves a truly soaring line in the middle section, prior to the ritornello theme andscalar passages echoed in solo and orchestra.

The Vivaldi Concerto in F for 3 Violins has Michael Raucheisen’s keyboard for aconcertino; and Roehn and compatriots (10 November 1942) Schulz and Kniestadt relish their ripieno ensemble, despite the occasional flubbed entry or fuzzy harmonization.Roehn had formed a distinct chamber ensemble among members of the Berlin Philharmonic, and with this select group Roehn performs (29 June 1943) Schubert’s relatively infrequent Rondo for Violin and Strings in A Major. Again, curiously, this constitutes a piece that Szigeti would program – in our own day Tetzlaff and Kremer – with good effect. The technical control Roehn exerts with his honed players provides the most effective musical impression from this assemblage. The extended, sometimes explosive, singing line and transitions into Schubert’s lyrico-dramatic alternations occur with seamless enthusiasm, in the manner of a bucolic laendler.

Finally, from 1944, Roehn and Raucheisen pair directly for Beethoven’s early Rondo in G Major, a real, Viennese coffee-house piece played with verve and ingratiating charm.

© Gary Lemco

Musicweb International Classical Review August 2014

Erich Röhn (1910-1985) was one of the Berlin Philharmonic’s eminent concertmasters, succeeding Siegfried Borries in 1941 when the latter was poached by Karajan to take the similar position with the Preussische Staatskapelle Berlin across town. His broadcast with Furtwängler of the Beethoven Violin Concerto has survived, has been reissued a number of times, and is deservedly admired. I should add that whilst Röhn’s son Andreas was a good violinist, his grandson Daniel is even better and I remember reviewing his Claves CD with much pleasure.

The broadcasts here were made in Berlin between 1942 and 1944. The main work is the Bruch ‘in G minor’ in which the Grosses Berliner Rundfunkorchester is directed by Hanns Steinkopf. Fortunately this is yet another sophisticated broadcast recording in which the soloist is placed quite close to the microphone. This ensures that his slightly nasal tone, chiselled and razory, can be heard to its full extent. The orchestra is rather lumpy, occasionally lurching when accompanying, but recovering for the tuttis. Röhn has few technical problems but his endemically fast vibrato limits breadth of tone, vital in the slow movement, and together with the non-committal conducting, lends the performance a very uneven impression. Still, it is good to hear the violinist in another major concerto.

Beethoven’s Romances are difficult pieces to bring off, but the Op.50 goes well in this performance from the same forces, given a few days later. The orchestral basses are certainly more audible now, and whilst there are a few ungainly, gulped slides from the soloist, this is a very effective traversal. Vivaldi’s Concerto for three violins is one of those friendship concertos that inspires colleagues to play together. Here Röhn is joined by Rudolf Schultz and Georg Kniestadt with the support of leading accompanist Michael Raucheisen. His piano sounds a touch muddy and it’s undeniable that the ensemble between the three fiddlers is sometimes a bit hit and miss in the ensemble passages, but there’s real esprit here. Especially nice are the ‘orchestral’ pizzicati behind the solo line in the central movement. Kniestadt, born in 1895, had a well-known quartet with whom he recorded and he also made solo discs on 78 for Polydor and Grammophon. Schulz, born in 1911, made post-war recordings for Urania, as well as discs for Odeon and Clangor on 78.

Schubert’s Rondo for violin and strings is given with colleagues from the Kammermusikalische Vereinigung der Berliner Philharmoniker – the chamber wing of the orchestra – and they display style and stylistic awareness of this little-performed piece. Raucheisen’s piano can be heard at its best in Beethoven’s Rondo in G major where he and Röhn – still astringent as ever – offer a slightly acerbic reading.

The notes are good, and the re-mastering highly sympathetic to the source material. This is a well-conceived and executed disc, revealing the variety to be heard on German radio stations of the time, and broadening one’s perception of Erich Röhn as soloist and chamber player.

© Jonathan Woolf

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