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Schneiderhan Quartet

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Wolfgang Schneiderhahn (1915-2002) began his international concert career as a major violin talent in the 1930s, having been appointed as concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony. In 1938, he formed his Quartet with Otto Strasser, violin; Ernst Morawec, viola; and Richard Krotschak, cello. The ensemble endured until 1951, after which Schneiderhahn resumed his solo career. All the recordings here were made for German Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft in 1944 and have never been published before. These are certainly amongst the earliest of the group’s surviving performances and will appeal strongly to its many admirers.

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SCHNEIDERHAN QUARTET plays Haydn, Brahms and Schumann – Wartime German Radio Recordings

1-4. HAYDN: String Quartet in C Major, Op.76, No.3 [19:36]
Recorded · 15 April 1944 · Vienna · Senderaum · Reichssender Wien · Radio Studio Recording

5-8. BRAHMS: String Quartet in C minor, Op.51, No.1 [29:03]
Recorded · 04 October 1944 · Vienna · Senderaum · Reichssender Wien · Radio Studio Recording

9-12. SCHUMANN: String Quartet in A Major, Op.41, No.3 [25:50]
Recorded · 31 October 1944 · Vienna · Senderaum · Reichssender Wien · Radio Studio Recording

Schneiderhan Quartet: Wolfgang Schneiderhan · 1st violin, Otto Strasser · 2nd violin, Ernst Morawec · viola, Richard Krotschak · cello

Additional Information

Article number: MC 4001
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050538
Total time: 74:31

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Vienna Philharmonic Archive
With special thanks to Dr. Silvia Kargl from the Vienna Philharmonic Archive
From the Original Masters · © 2014 Meloclassic

Wolfgang Schneiderhan was born on May 28, 1915 in Vienna as the son of the actor Theodor Schneiderhan, and received his first violin lessons from his mother, the prominent zither virtuoso Emma Schneider-Fallmann. He performed in public for the first time as a child prodigy in 1920. He then studied with Julius Winkler in Vienna, and supplemented his training through studies with Otakar Sevcik in Pisek, as did his brother Walther, who later became concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony. By the end of the 1920s Wolfgang Schneiderhan’s international career had begun, which would lead him to important centers of music and festivals worldwide. In addition to this, he developed a very successful orchestral career, becoming concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony in 1933 before taking up the same position with the Vienna State Opera on September 1, 1937. He was awarded membership in the Vienna Philharmonic on March 1, 1938. Shortly thereafter in 1938, together with Otto Strasser (2nd violin), Ernst Morawec (viola) und Richard Krotschak (cello), he founded the Schneiderhan Quartet, an ensemble which existed until 1951. He was co-founder, together with Rudolf Baumgartner, of the renowned Festival Strings Lucerne in 1956, where also he first met probably his most prominent student, our unforgettable concertmaster Gerhart Hetzel, who died in a tragic accident on July 29, 1992. Schneiderhan’s professorships at the Salzburg Mozarteum and Vienna College of Music are indicative of his lifelong activities as pedagogue, which he complemented through his endeavors as editor and publisher of numerous classical violin compositions, and articles and lectures pertaining hereto, which continued up until his death. Schneiderhan performed with the most prominent musicians of the 20th century: Geza Anda, Karl Böhm, Edwin Fischer, Pierre Fournier, Ferenc Fricsay, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Gerhart Hetzel, Herbert von Karajan, Istvan Kertész, Hans Knappertsbusch, Clemens Krauss, Richard Krotschak, Enrico Mainardi, Yehudi Menuhin, and Janos Starker. Richard Strauss regularly attended Schneiderhan Quartet concerts, and entrusted this ensemble with the first performance of the Sextet from “Capriccio”, his last opera, on May 7, 1942, after having personally rehearsed this enthralling prelude and having “sent them the score for corrections and entering of bowing marks” For Richard Strauss, Schneiderhan was the measure of all things relating to the violin, as is demonstrated in a letter he wrote to Karl Böhm on September 30, 1944: “For quite a while now, I have been working on an exercise which should even keep Schneiderhan in form – an adagio for about 11 solo strings, which may turn into an allegro seeing as how I cannot stand this Brucknerian organ tranquility for very long.” This “exercise” eventually became the Metamorphosen for 23 Strings. Schneiderhan passed away on May 18, 2002 in Vienna. Walter Legge, the influential English classical record producer, was listening to the Schneiderhan Quartet’s records of Beethoven’s F minor Quartet, half an hour before he died on March 22, 1979. To his wife he said, “You see, it is not enough to be a great composer. To write music like that you must be a chosen instrument of God”.

Otto Strasser was born on August 13, 1901 in Vienna. He studied violin at the Vienna Imperial Music Academy with Julius Stwertka, a concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic, member of the Rosé Quartet and pupil of Joseph Joachim. Strasser gave his debut performance in 1923 playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the Akademische Orchesterverein in Vienna under Franz Pawlikowsky. Strasser was member of the Tautenhayn Quartet, comprising Max Weißgärber first violin, Otto Strasser second violin, Anton Sonderegger bass guitar, and Tautenhayn, accordion, and playing light music. The Quartet was founded in 1922, and was highly successful until 1945, including radio performances. Strasser was a violinist with the Vienna Philharmonic between 1923 and 1967, for many of those years as principal second violinist. He had been chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic, a self-governing body. After the Austria’s Anschluss in 1938, Strasser was appointed the new managing director of the Vienna Philharmonic. In this function, Strasser was concerned about the ramifications of the possible lay-off of such a significant number of musicians, as well as the sudden loss of some conductors. Therefore, Strasser approached Furtwängler, who since the end of his engagement in 1930 had regularly performed with the orchestra on at least one occasion per year. Explaining the predicament the philharmonic was in, Strasser told the conductor that the anticipated loss of talented musicians and the unavailability of prominent conductors would ultimately mean an overall loss of quality of the composition and the performance of the orchestra. Convinced of such repercussions, Furtwängler, besides promising to take the position as main conductor again and thus save the orchestra from a decline into ‘artistic insignificance’, agreed to intervene and encourage Goebbels to grant at least the nine Versippte (who either had some Jewish ancestry or were married to a Jew) special permission to continue their work, similar to the special status the Versippte within the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra had obtained. Goebbels again agreed; the nine musicians were allowed to stay. On April 1, 1940 Strasser became a member of the Nazi Party NSDAP. His former teacher Stwertka was, according to Strasser, too old to start a new life in a different country. Instead, he was living in poor conditions after the Nazis had forced him out of his residence in Vienna. As his deportation approached, he contacted Strasser, who then contacted Furtwängler, to intervene. Two times, Stwertka evaded deportation due to Furtwängler’s intervention. But when the responsible office ordered him a third time to appear at a gathering place for Jews, this time in the middle of the summer when the concert season was over and Furtwängler and Strasser were on vacation, no help was in reach. Stwertka died on December 17, 1942 at the KZ Theresienstadt. On the 26-concert World Tour of the Vienna Philharmonic which Strasser took part as chairman of the Administrative Committee, the first two performances were given in New Delhi and Bombay on October 19 and 20, 1959. Strasser had helped Zubin Mehta to his Philharmonic debut and invited the 25 year old to conduct a festival concert on June 11, 1961 (Strauss’ 97th birthday) in the Musikverein. Otto Strasser died on May 27, 1996 in Mannersdorf, Austria. Strasser was member of other string quartets as well: Barylli Quartet: Walter Barylli (1st violin), Otto Strasser (2nd violin), Rudolf Streng (viola), Richard Krotschak (cello) and Vienna Philharmonic Quartet: Willi Boskovsky (1st violin), Otto Strasser (2nd violin), Rudolf Streng (viola), Emanuel Brabec (cello).

Ernst Morawec was born on June 15, 1894 in Inzersdorf, southern suburb of Vienna. He studied violin with Julius Stwertka and with Otakar Ševčik at the Vienna Imperial Music Academy. During World War I he was as a bandleader of an Austro-Hungarian Empire military orchestra. In 1919 Franz Schalk, the conductor of the Vienna State Opera and music director of the Vienna Philharmonic, appointed Morawec as principal violist of the Vienna State Opera (1919) and Vienna Philharmonic (1920). He was a member of the Feist Quartet which comprised Gottfried Feist (1st violin), Franz Polesny (2nd violin), Ernst Morawec (viola) and Wilhelm Winkler (cello) from 1919 until the quartet was disbanded in 1922. Morawec became a member of the Mairecker-Buxbaum-Quartet in 1921 with Franz Mairecker (1st violin), Max Starkmann (2nd violin), Ernst Morawec (viola), Friedrich Buxbaum (cello), who premiered Zemlinsky’s Third String Quartet in Vienna on 26 October 1924. Franz Mairecker (1879-1950) served as a Concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic from 1921 until his retirement in 1945. Friedrich Buxbaum (1869-1948) had been cellist in Arnold Rosé’s quartet from 1900 until 1921, and served as principal and solo cellist of the Vienna Philharmonic until March 13, 1938, when he and other Jewish members of the orchestra were dismissed. He died in exile in London on October 2, 1948. Max Starkmann joined the Vienna Philharmonic in 1911 as violinist, suspended shortly after the annexation of Austria in 1938. In Vienna on October 5, 1942, Starkmann and his wife Elsa were forced under to board a train as part of a mass transport to Maly Trostinec (about 18 km from Minsk). Only four days after their departure from Vienna, both thus suffered a violent death. Morawec was a legendary figure in the Viennese music scene and also the leading viola pedagogue at the Vienna Music Academy from 1930 to 1966. In 1950, he left the Schneiderhan quartet and his pupil Rudolf Streng joined the quartet instead. Schneiderhan left the Vienna Philharmonic and disbanded his quartet in 1951 in order to resume his solo career. Ernst Morawec died on April 17, 1980 in Vienna.

Richard Krotschak was born on December 30, 1904 in Holzmühl, Böhmen (now Jihlava/CZ). He studied cello at the Prague Conservatory and with Friedrich Buxbaum at the Vienna Music Academy from 1922 to 1925. In 1924 Ferdinand Löwe, the conductor of the Vienna Symphony, appointed Krotschak as principal cellist. He joined the Vienna Philharmonic in 1934 as principal cellist. He taught at the Vienna Music Academy from 1932 to 1938 and was suspended shortly after the annexation of Austria in 1938. Krotschak was married to a Jewish woman and could remain in the Vienna Philharmonic only on basis of a “special permit.” The special permit was revoked in 1942. There is also the possibility that up to 1942 his request was never authorized and that his continued retention in the orchestra – as with other colleagues – was simply silently accepted. Allegedly only an intervention of Karl Böhm and Wilhelm Furtwängler could avert the renewed danger of Krotschak’s exclusion from the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. This danger could be sustainably contained only after Krotschak and his wife could supply evidence that Mr. Krotschak was “Half-breed in the first degree” (Mischling 1. Grades). Now, Richard Krotschak could even apply for membership in the Reich Chamber of Culture as a precondition for ‘free’ exercise of his artistic profession. From April 1942 “Non-Jews” (Nichtjuden) married to “Jews” (Juden) were forced to move to Jewish residential areas. Except for the case of the cellist Richard Krotschak – his wife was classified as “First degree half-breed” and managed to survive the Nazi era. For 12 years Krotschak was a member of a trio (1937-1949) that included Walter Panhofer (piano) and Willi Boskovsky (violin). He became a member of the Barylli Quartet until 1955, replaced by Emanuel Brabec. Richard Krotschak died on March 9, 1989 in Vienna.

MusicWeb International Classical Review December 2014

The string quartet that bore Wolfgang Schneiderhan’s name was founded in 1938 and survived until 1951. Otto Strasser was second violin, Ernst Morawec violist, and Richard Krotschak cellist. Morawec was the oldest and most experienced chamber player of the foursome, having played in the Mairecker-Buxbaum Quartet from 1921, with which group he premiered Zemlinsky’s Third String Quartet in 1924. The Schneiderhan Quartet enjoyed great prestige in Vienna, and was especially liked by Richard Strauss who was a known admirer of Schneiderhan the violinist. In this release, all sporting excellent sound quality, we hear three quartets performed for Vienna radio on three separate occasions in 1944.

Their Haydn (April 1944) is immensely self-confident, spick and span in its brisk, almost brusque first-movement purposefulness. The element of rhythmic bumptiousness is there, so too opportunities for more rubato-laden phraseology, but the overriding impression is of a somewhat tensile but brilliantly cool approach, not at all avuncular or especially wittily phrased. In short, zesty-virtuosic. The slow movement, with the Austrian hymn, is by contrast spun out with a certain ardent quality, though never over-taxed by too much tonal colour, and thus able to make its expressive points the better. One can hear Morawec at great length in the Menuetto, attractively so, though the finale reverts to the rather brittle and blandly extrovert virtuosity of the first movement. In October they taped Brahms’s Quartet in C minor, Op.51 No.1. Architecturally this makes an interesting comparison with the famous Busch Quartet set; both quartets plump for almost identical tempi in the outer movements but the Schneiderhan – predictably, perhaps – press ahead in the Romanze. Their collective ensemble sonority is more horizontal than that of the older group, and Schneiderhan’s tight silvery tone makes a wholly different impression from that of Adolf Busch’s more expressively freighted playing.

At the very end of October, they were again in the studios of Reichssender Vienna, from which event we hear the Schumann A major Quartet, Op. 41 No.3. In many ways this is the pick of the trio of quartet performances. They deal justly with the sentiment of the slow movement and are suitably athletic elsewhere. The upper voices can dominate for stretches, the internal balance of the group being often weighted toward the leader’s own sonority. Schneiderhan was a good decade younger than Krotschak, over twenty-years younger than Morawec with the other two somewhere in between; his seems to have been the dominating influence, not merely as primarius but as tonalist.

The disc comes complete with some excellent biographical details about the four men and an attractive in situ booklet photograph from one of their recording sessions. These are certainly amongst the earliest of the group’s surviving performances and will appeal strongly to its many admirers.

© Jonathan Woolf

Audiophile Audition Classical Review July 2014

An important new label restores historic performance from wartime German radio by the famed Schneiderhahn Quartet.
Published on July 20, 2014

Meloclassic was founded in by Lynn Ludwig in Germany in December 2013, the label dedicated to releasing previously unissued historical recordings of live radio performances and broadcasts. Whenever possible the discs include original radio announcements and applause. The recordings are meant to serve as historical documents. The sound quality tends to remain extraordinarily quiet, with no trace of tape or wire hiss.

Wolfgang Schneiderhahn (1915-2002) began his international concert career as a major violin talent in the 1930s, having been appointed as concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony. In 1938, he formed his Quartet with Otto Strasser, violin; Ernst Morawec, viola; and Richard Krotschak, cello. The ensemble endured until 1951, after which Schneiderhahn resumed his solo career.

The Haydn “Emperor” Quartet was recorded for Reichssender in Vienna 15 April 1944. The lean athletic style of performance completely infuses this reading with a deft Viennese spirit. Particularly arresting, Morawec’s viola tone in the Menuetto movement captures the rustic vitality of the music, in concert with Schneiderhahn’s often concertante part. The famous “Austrian National Anthem” tune of the Poco Adagio. Cantabile movement may have had even more resonance given the political tenor of the times of the inscription. The slashing opening to the Finale. Presto sets a tone of inflamed agitation on a virtuoso level in all parts.

The Brahms 1873 C Minor Quartet thrusts itself upon us, Allegro, the performance from 4 October 1944. Richard Krotschak’s deeply resonant cello proves the vital factor here. The prevalence of a “symphonic” texture dominates the tautly nervous aesthetic of this work, especially given the tonic key’s significance for both Brahms and his idol Beethoven. The Schneiderhahn group drives this music in volatile eighth notes hard, and even the relative serenity of the secondary theme in E-flat Major does little to console us. The coda persists in its relentless intensity, and the soft last chord in C Major offers little by way of resolution.

The Romanze in A-flat Major has all four parts moving together in melancholy song. If a rustic atmosphere exists, it becomes a tragic lament in the middle section. The affect seems close to the third movement of the F Major Symphony. The dry, rather austere sound of the Schneiderhahn Quartet deliberately eschews the over-use of vibrato, and the sound conveys an intimate anguish. Brahms extends his dark musing into the Allegretto, a movement that wavers between two gloomy keys, C Minor and F Minor. The cello’s deep tones, often in syncopated figures, add to feeling of a martial intermezzo on its way to some tragic revelation. Schneiderhahn and viola Morawec converse eloquently in this uneasy moment of emotional transition. The final Allegro aligns itself with the first movement’s vehement energy, here in athletic polyphony. First violin and cello operate in hyper-drive, the motion furious and frenetic, with a moment of repose once more offered in E-flat Major. Despite the severe and somber color of the movement, Brahms aims to conclude in C Major, the optimistic ending of the composer’s venerated Beethoven Fifth. The Schneiderhahn ensemble pushes the music to its glowing coda whose severity of style had never really abated.

Schumann’s 1842 Third Quartet gestated in a matter of a few days, the composer’s having studied long and hard the examples of his idols Haydn and late Beethoven. The Haydn influence makes itself felt in the sighing falling fifth motif at the outset of the Andante espessivo. The dreamy atmosphere exploits the colloquy in sonata-form, Schneiderhahn and Krotschak in ardent, sweet dialogue (rec. 31 October 1944). The first half of the soft melody interests Schuman for motivic development. Marked Assai agitato, the second movement consists of a theme and five variations. Rather dark colors infiltrate the colloquy of Schneiderhahn and Krotschek, at least until Variation 4, a melodic canon that involves Schneiderhahn and violist Moraweg. Some turbulence ensues in Variation 5, but the coda returns to a serene mood in major.

It seems Schubert’s influence permeates the expansive Adagio molto, a good example of the Schneiderhahn Quartet’s unity of affecting tone. The rhapsodic mood suffers some storms and stresses that move to a kind of march, which the anguished main theme tries to offset with a lyrical hymn in the first violin over a plucked accompaniment. For his Finale: Allegro molto vivace, Schumann resorts to his characteristic, unbuttoned elan, an opportunity for the Schneiderhahn group to realize a fervent rondo in abridged sonata-form, a la Haydn. More than once, the vitality of the music adumbrates Smetana and Dvorak. The sequences assume the form and drone that we know from Schumann’s C Major Symphony and his Overture, Scherzo and Finale. Commentator Melvin Berger once characterized this movement – punning on the Wagner epithet for the Beethoven Seventh – as “the apotheosis of the rondo form.” A most happy realization of this fine chamber opus from Schumann, I must say, and beautifully restored.

© Gary Lemco

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