Sunday, February 23, 2014

Wolfgang Schneiderhan

Wolfgang Schneiderhan (Wolfgang Eduard Schneiderhan) was an Austrian violinist, conductor, and teacher born (in Vienna) on May 28, 1915.  He was well-known for being a concertmaster as well as a concert violinist.  His many recordings for the German record label, Deutsche Grammophon, are also well-known and his portrait is easily recognizable in that he almost always wore horn-rimmed glasses – he even bore a resemblance to an American diplomat.  He spent most of his career in Europe, though he toured the U.S. in 1958 as part of a chamber orchestra.  He was also caught up in political movements of the time as were most German and Austrian musicians of that era.  His first teacher was his mother, beginning at age 3.  He made fast progress and his first public performance took place at age 5 in Vienna.  In 1923, he started studying with Otakar Sevcik in Pisek (Czechoslovakia) but later returned to Vienna to study with Julius Winkler because Sevcik was not one to linger long in any one place.  In 1926, he played the Mendelssohn concerto in Copenhagen and subsequently began to tour as a prodigy.  He was 11 years old.  Between 1929 and 1932, he worked in England.  He was 17 years old when he returned to Austria.  He then became concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony.  In 1937, he became concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic and remained there until 1951 (some sources say 1949.)  All the while, he was concertizing and recording as a soloist.  He also formed the Schneiderhan Quartet in 1937 (which he disbanded in 1951) with Otto Strassner, Ernest Moravec, and Richard Kroschak.  In 1947, he presented Elgar’s violin concerto in its first performance in Vienna.  He was 32 years old.  In 1948, he joined a piano trio with which he also recorded, though not much.  He left the trio in 1956.  In that same year, he left the Mozarteum in Salzburg – where he had been teaching since 1938.  He had also taught at the Vienna Academy (Hochschule Fur Musik) from 1939 to 1950 (one source says 1937 to 1950.)  He began teaching at the Lucerne Conservatory (Switzerland) in 1949 and co-founded the Lucerne Festival Strings in 1956.  His first solo appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic took place on November 3, 1942.  He played Viotti’s concerto number 22 in a minor – he was 27 years old.  He soloed with this orchestra many times.  His last appearance with them took place on October 3, 1987.  He played Frank Martin’s violin concerto on that occasion.  He was 72 years old.  He founded the Fritz Kreisler violin competition in Vienna in 1996.  His most popular recordings are probably the Beethoven concerto and the ten Beethoven violin sonatas.  Here is a YouTube audio file in which he plays his cadenza to the Beethoven concerto.  It is actually an arrangement by Schneiderhan of Beethoven’s own revised cadenza to his piano version of the violin concerto.  Schneiderhan does a magnificent job playing it.  The Beethoven concerto probably has had at least ten cadenzas written for it but the most played are the ones composed by Joachim and Kreisler.  Schneiderhan took up conducting in the middle 1970s but he did not do too much of that.  Among Schneiderhan’s violins was a 1715 Stradivarius - now known as the Schneiderhan Stradivarius – which had previously been owned by Martin Marsick – and a 1704 Stradivarius, currently owned by an Austrian Foundation.  Schneiderhan died (in Vienna) on May 18, 2002, at (almost) age 87.  


  1. Besides Schneiderhan, the following violinists and/or composers have written cadenzas for the Beethoven violin concerto: Vieuxtemps, Spivakovsky, Spohr, Zimmermann, Ysaye, Wilhelmj, Wieniawski, Schnittke, Sammons, Molique, Milstein, Markov, Laub, Kubelik, Kreisler, Joachim, Novacek, Prihoda, Auer, Achron, David, Flesch, Hubay, and Elman - among others.

  2. You neglected to mention that Scheiderhan was a member of the Nazi Party .