Friedrich Wührer

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Friedrich Wührer (born June 29, 1900, in Vienna; died December 27, 1975, in Mannheim) was an Austrian-German pianist and piano pedagogue. He was a close associate and advocate of composer Franz Schmidt, whose music he edited and, in the case of the works for left hand alone, revised for performance with two hands; he was also a champion of the Second Viennese School and other composers of the early 20th century. His recorded legacy, however, centers around German romantic literature, particularly the music of Franz Schubert.

Biography[edit]

Wührer began piano study at age six with an Austrian teacher named Marius Szudelsky; after entering the Vienna Academy in 1915, Wührer continued studying piano with Franz Schmidt, along with taking courses in conducting under Ferdinand Löwe and music theory under Joseph Marx.[1] His performing career began in the early 1920s, and he toured Europe and the United States in 1923.[2]

Wührer was a founder of the International Society for Contemporary Music in Vienna.[3] He formed friendships with composers Hans Pfitzner and Max Reger, and became associated with Arnold Schönberg and his circle, participating in performances of Schönberg's setting of 15 poems from Das Buch der hängenden Gärten, op. 15; his Pierrot Lunaire as part of a touring company presenting the work in Spain;[4] and Webern's Pieces for Cello and Piano, op. 11. Wührer also performed music by Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, and Paul Hindemith.[2] On July 3, 1930, he performed Schönberg student Paul Pisk's Suite for Piano in the first broadcast of that composer's music by the British Broadcasting Corporation.[5] Wührer made his Salzburg Festival debut in 1938.[2] In 1939, as Paul Wittgenstein, who commissioned the work, had fled Austria, Wührer performed in the premiere of Schmidt's Quintet for piano, violin, clarinet, viola, and cello in A major, albeit in his own arrangement for two hands rather than, as originally written for piano, left hand alone.[6] Thereafter, Wührer performed all the Schmidt left hand compositions in his own two-hand arrangements. He and Wittgenstein viewed each other with animosity; Wittgenstein accused Wührer of being an enthusiastic Nazi who later tried to cover it up, and Wührer disparaged Wittgenstein's personality and pianism. Whether for this or some other reason, the recital programmes did not, as Wührer had promised Wittgenstein, make any note of the latter's exclusive rights to the works, and as a descendent of Jews, Wittgenstein had no recourse in Nazi-governed countries.[7]

Wührer continued his advocacy for modern works at least into middle age. For instance, he gave the premiere of Pfitzner's Sechs Studien für das Pianoforte, op. 51, of which he was the dedicatee,[8] shortly after its composition in 1943[9] and in the 1950s, he performed the Piano Concerto, op. 21, which was written in 1939 by Kurt Hessenberg.[10] Nonetheless, notwithstanding his pioneering work for music of the Second Viennese School and other moderns of his day, Wührer's principal focus as a performer, his posthumous reputation, and his recorded legacy came to rest on performances of music from the romantic era, particularly works in the German and Austrian traditions.

Later in life, Wührer was a juror at the Second Van Cliburn International Piano Competition from September 26 to October 9, 1966, which awarded first prize to Radu Lupu.[11] Wührer was also a member of the piano jury at the 1968 Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition.[12] Wührer's son, also named Friedrich, was a violinist and conductor who made classical records.[13]

Pedagogy[edit]

Outside the concert hall, Wührer was a teacher in Vienna, the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Mannheim[14] in 1934, Kiel in 1936,[1] the Salzburg Mozarteum in 1948,[2] and finally at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Munich.[15] He also regularly taught master classes at the Salzburg Mozarteum. He was denied an academy teaching position in East Germany in 1952, however, on grounds that he had been a leading Nazi in Austria during World War II.[16]

Wührer's students included composers Sorrel Hays,[17] Helmut Bieler,[18] and Richard Wilson;[19] pianists Geoffrey Parsons,[20] Frieda Valenzi,[21] and Felicitas Karrer (who described him as having an unusually well-balanced left hand);[22] and harpsichordist Hedwig Bilgram.[23]

Publications[edit]

Among Wührer's editorial activities, he wrote Masterpieces of Piano Music (Wilhelmshaven, 1966); compiled a collection of works by old masters; and prepared editions of the Chopin Etudes, polonaises by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach,[24] and the piano music of Franz Schmidt. Claiming to be respecting the composer's own wishes, he created two-hand redistributions of the left-hand works that Schmidt had written for Paul Wittgenstein, although Wittgenstein evidently voiced strong objections.[25] Besides editing the Etudes, Wührer wrote 18 Studies on Chopin Etudes in Contrary Motion (1958) as a pedagogical work for equalising the facility of both hands. Wührer also composed and published cadenzas for Mozart's piano concerti in C Major, K. 467; C Minor, K. 491; and D Major, K. 537.[26]

Discography[edit]

In 1935, Wührer performed piano solos for the Carmine Gallone film Wenn die Musik nicht wär, which is also known in Germany as Liszt Rhapsody and in English-speaking countries as If It Were Not for Music.[27]

Wührer made numerous commercial phonograph records. While his discography includes 78 rpm records, such releases are outnumbered by his output during the early LP era, which was mostly for the American Vox label. Among his LP recordings was the first nominally complete cycle of Schubert's piano sonatas.[28] It omitted a few fragmentary works, but it offered Ernst Krenek's completion[29] of the C Major sonata D. 840 (Reliquie), possibly otherwise represented on records only by Ray Lev's Concert Hall Society account of similar vintage.[30] In recent years, some of Wührer's LP recordings have emerged on compact disc. Vox bypassed his Schubert sonata cycle in favor of one recorded a few years later in stereo by Walter Klien, but a third party, Bearac Reissues, appears to have issued compact disc editions of the set copied from LPs.[31] Downloads of the Schubert recordings in .mp3 format are also available through Amazon.com.

The following lists contain the bulk of Wührer's recordings. Unless specified otherwise, all 78 RPM discs were 10" discs, and all LPs were monaural 12" discs. The Vox Boxes were all three-record sets. CD issues mostly derive from radio broadcasts; CD releases of material originally appearing on analogue discs are noted in the sections for their original formats, with the CD section listing only recordings not released in other formats.

78 rpm[edit]

LP[edit]

CD[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Munzinger Archiv, accessed December 16, 2009 (in German)
  2. ^ a b c d Kennedy, Michael and Joyce Bourne, "Wührer, Friedrich," The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music, 1996, accessed at Encyclopedia.com December 16, 2009
  3. ^ American Symphony Orchestra, Frederick L. Kirshnit, Looking Forward, Looking Backward — Franz Schmidt: Concertante Variations on a Theme of Beethoven (1923)
  4. ^ Program notes for Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center performance of Johann Strauss Waltzes arranged by Arnold Schönberg, September 23, 2009, accessed December 16, 2009
  5. ^ Doctor, Jennifer Ruth, The BBC and Ultra-modern Music, 1922-1936: Shaping a Nation's Tastes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999
  6. ^ Brofeldt, Hans, Piano Music for the Left Hand Alone, Catalogue of composers who wrote for left hand, entry on Franz Schmidt accessed December 16, 2009
  7. ^ Waugh, Alexander, The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War, New York: Random House, 2009
  8. ^ Williamson, John, The Music of Hans Pfitzner, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992
  9. ^ Kater, Michael H., Composers of the Nazi Era: Eight Portraits, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000
  10. ^ Cassandra Artists, Hessenberg, Kurt, A Brief Autobiography
  11. ^ Van Cliburn Foundation Archives for Second Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, September 26-October 9, 1966
  12. ^ Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition of Belgium Archives — jury members
  13. ^ Sound Fountain, Little Things Mean a Lot: Some Cherished 7" records
  14. ^ Mannheim University of Music and the Performing Arts, accessed December 16, 2009
  15. ^ The Juilliard School, faculty biography of Robert Bailey
  16. ^ Thacker, Toby, Music After Hitler — 1945-1955, Ashgate Publishing Company, 2007
  17. ^ Sorrel Hays home page, biographical sketch
  18. ^ The Living Composers Project, biographical sketch of Helmut Bieler
  19. ^ Vassar University, biographical sketch of Richard Wilson
  20. ^ The Accompanists’ Guild of SA Inc., biographical sketch of Geoffrey Parsons
  21. ^ The Remington Site, biographical sketch of Frieda Valenzi
  22. ^ The Remington Site, biographical sketch of Felicitas Karer
  23. ^ Classic Concerts Management, biographical sketch of Hedwig Bilgram
  24. ^ Österreichischer Bundesverlag edition, 1949
  25. ^ Brofeldt, Hans, Piano Music for the Left Hand Alone, Appendix, Rearrangement of left-hand music for two hands accessed December 16, 2009
  26. ^ di-arezzo, Scores by Friedrich Wührer
  27. ^ Internet Movie Database entry for Wenn die Musik nicht wär
  28. ^ Schubert Society of the USA, SSUSA Newsletter Vol. 3 no. 1, 2005
  29. ^ Hinson, Maurice, Guide to the Pianist's Repertoire, Third Edition, Bloomington: Indiana University Press (2000)
  30. ^ Album notes to Franz Schubert, Piano Sonata No. 15 in C Major (Unfinished); Allegretto in C Minor — Ray Lev, Pianist, Concert Hall Society Release B3 (78 RPM, 1947)
  31. ^ Bearac Reissues web site, accessed August 26, 2008 at the Wayback Machine (archived October 29, 2007)
  32. ^ Lumpe, Ernst A., Catalogue of Royale records, Royale performances identification