Hans G. Adler

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Hans G. Adler
Hans Adler performing on his modern Pleyel harpsichord
Hans Adler performing on his modern Pleyel harpsichord
Born25 February 1904
Died1 February 1979(1979-02-01) (aged 74)
South Africa

Hans Georg Adler (1904–1979) was a German musicologist, collector, and classical music promoter in South Africa.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Germany, into a family interested and involved in classical music. His mother, Johanna Nathan was a professional soprano, and performed for noted composers such as Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Busoni and Julius Stockhausen (who was her tutor).[1] He studied music under Eduard Jung (a piano teacher from Dr Hoch's Conservatorium, Frankfurt, specialising in talented future prospects) and left Nazi Germany for South Africa in 1933. There he was employed by a hardware Wholesaler Corporation, and frequently performed keyboard works on air with the South African Broadcasting Corporation.[2]

Contact and interaction with the musical scene in Southern Africa[edit]

His passion for classical music grew as he matured, and fed his desire to offer South African music lovers the highest quality of international concert presence.[3] He was Chairman of the Johannesburg Music Society (South Africa's oldest Musical Society, a registered non-profit organisation) from 1954 through till 1969, when he became honorary chairman. The Society was among the first to invite many international artists and groups to perform in South Africa, and quickly expanded. Johannesburg soon became the centre of performers' broad African tours, that included the large cities of South Africa (Pretoria, Durban, East London, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, recordings with the South African Broadcasting Corporation -SABC-) as well as visits to Kenya, the former Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Mozambique, the Islands of Mauritius and Reunion, the former South West Africa, Angola and sometimes the former Belgian Congo.[4] Consequently, the quality and variety of concert life and classical music appreciation in Southern Africa improved vastly.[5][6]

For this achievement and the musical museum he had built up, a PhD(Hon) degree from the University of the Witwatersrand was conferred on him in 1978.[7][8]

The collection and museum[edit]

Glasschord by Beyer, 1786, this collection,s one of only four thought to be extant

This passion for, and love of music consumed most of his spare time, and after World War II, he began expanding on the small library inherited from his father with classical music dictionaries, encyclopaedias, manuscripts, complete composer compendiums, etc. in many languages, and volumes of music scores. In addition, he acquired ancient and early keyboard instruments -a 1589 Clavicytherium, Clavichords, a Glasschord, Spinettino, Harpsichords, a Hammerklavier and early pianos (eventually comprising 19 instruments, plus 2 modern Steinway Grands)- depicting the development of the piano; the collection also included a Viola d'Amore.[9]

The collection,s Andreas Ruckers Epinette or Virginal, ab1610
The collection,s one of only two known, Menegoni Ottavino or Virginal 1689
The collection,s 1750 Italian 2 manual Harpsichord
From the collection – the ex Wanda Landowska 16th century gothic harpsichord

His library grew very comprehensive, especially in keyboard compositions and productions, and, together with the instrument collection, evolved into a museum housed in his Johannesburg home.[10] Tours for University students were sometimes conducted, and the SABC periodically aired early composers' works which he would perform there, (often together with touring overseas performers) on authentic Harpsichord(s) or a Clavichord or Hammerklavier.[11][12] Most of the musicians and groups touring Southern Africa through his invitation, between 1954 and 1978[13] were invited to browse in the Library and or try out the instruments. A number discovered interesting or little-known works. (See note 7 in: examples of unusual works referenced.)[14][15]

The Fine Arts Departments of South African Universities were very interested in the Museum (which was considered by some musicologists to be one of the more outstanding museums of this nature in private hands), and it was eventually willed to the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, who opened a "Hans Adler Memorial Museum" in their Arts Building in 1980.[16][17]

Examples of unusual works referenced[edit]

  • At one time he donated to the British Museum, who did not possess this, one of his two rare copies of Frontispice by Ravel, music which was unknown, as Ravel had violated his publisher's sole publishing rights when it appeared in the popular Paris magazine "Feuillets d'art" in 1919[18]
The collection,s Frontispice by Ravel, published in 1919, then withdrawn due to copyright infringements, and officially published after WW2
  • Are there just 5 Beethoven piano concertos? H.A. has collection evidence of a 6th piano concerto of Beethoven's, and two other piano concertos that may be regarded as Beethoven's works
  • A violin & piano sonata with two movements by Robert Schumann, one by Brahms and one by Albert Dietrich, in honour of Joachim
  • A Schumann quartet for 4 horns and piano
  • A Schumann andante and variations for two pianos, two cellos and French Horn long out of print, as Schumann rearranged it for two pianos alone
  • Variations on a Russian theme, written by Artciboucheff, Wihtol, Liadov, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Sokolow and Alexander Glazunov
  • An original Josef Suk (composer) string orchestra serenade
  • Leopold Mozart's 1st edition (1756) of a Violin Tutor book
  • A 1492 Incunabula by Boetius. Treatise: Arithmetica Geometria et Musica Boetii[19]
Hans Adler's 1st edition copy of Leopold Mozart's Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule
3 pages from collection,s 1492 Boetius Incunabula: Arithmetica Geometrica Musica,
  • Borodin's almost forgotten piano quintet
  • A signed, numbered copy of Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Skizzen und Manuskripte" and one of Detlef Kieffer's "3 Pieces Breves" donated to him when they toured S.A.
  • A composition for him by John Ogdon and another by Julian Dawson-Lyell.
  • Information and some photographs of the above examples can be seen on the H.A. "showcase of rare and unusual works" site.[20]
  • He also donated, to South African Composer/Conductor/SABC Head of Music Gideon Fagan, a rare copy of Vol 1 of "The Edwin Fleischer Music Collection" for which Mr. Fagan had been searching for a decade.[21]
  • Discoveries of unusual Cello Works by local cello enthusiast/journalist, Joe Sack, which he passed on to other professionals, works such as:[22]
  • Over one hundred and twenty five Touring musicians' dedicated photographs, recital programs and music-room comments during their Southern Africa tours.(Just a few examples: Elly Ameling (Dutch Soprano, 2 S.Africa tours), Paul Badura-Skoda and Eva Badura-Skoda (Austrian Pianist and Musicologist/Librarian Duo), Malcolm Binns (British Pianist, 2 S.Africa tours), Enrica Cavallo/Franco Gulli (Italian Violin-Piano Duo, 2 S.Africa tours), Alicia De Larrocha (Spanish Pianiste, 4 S.Africa tours) Joerg Demus (Austrian Pianist), James Galway (Irish flautist), Heinz Holliger (Swiss Oboist), John Ogdon (English Pianist, 4 S.Africa tours), Siegfried Palm (German Cellist, 2 S.Africa tours), Edith Peinemann (German Violinist, 5 S.Africa tours), Hans Richter-Haaser (German Pianist, 4 S.Africa tours), Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach (German Conductor), Ruth Slenczynska (American Pianist, 2 S.Africa tours), Gerard Souzay (French Baritone, 3 S.Africa tours), Karlheinz Stockhausen (Modern German Composer), Sergio Varella-Cid (Portuguese Pianist), Gaspar Cassado (Spanish Cellist, 3 S.Africa tours), Loewenguth Quartet, Hungarian Quartet, Koeckert Quartet (repeated tours among the many noted ensembles who visited), Maria Stader (Austro-Hungarian soprano), Shura Cherkassky (Russian Pianist, 3 S Africa tours), Aaron Rosand (American violinist, 3 S.Africa tours), Salvatore Accardo (Italian violinist/conductor, 3 S.Africa tours), Jean-Pierre Rampal (French flautist, 3 S.Africa tours), Julian Lloyd Webber (British cellist))[23]


  1. ^ Soprano Johanna Nathan and 19th Century Composers
  2. ^ Programs and early recitals for South African Broadcasting Corporation, 1935–39
  3. ^ dedicated photographs of tours of most of the musicians that performed
  4. ^ Musiker Reuben, (Professor and Head Librarian, Witwatrsrand University) (1980). Hans Adler Memorial Volume, a Collection of Tributes, page 1. Johannesburg Wits University Library Press. ISBN 0854946217. Hans Adler Memorial Volume
  5. ^ Johannesburg Musical Society's History in their 80th-anniversary program and news cuttings – see "best years" and "resourcefulness"
  6. ^ Andor Foldes, American Pianist, writes of his Southern African Musical Tour in Etude Magazine, 1953
  7. ^ Witwatersrand PhD tributes and cuttings of some reports
  8. ^ Introduction and Biography in ISBN 0854946217
  9. ^ Hans Adler Musical Instrument Collection Website
  10. ^ Cuttings on the Collection from various local Newspapers and magazines
  11. ^ Archives of newsclippings of public performances on Pleyel harpsichord, the antique hammerklavier, and Neupert clavichord
  12. ^ Transcripts of a few SABC harpsichord duets
  13. ^ [1] short introduction to 127 musicians and musical groups touring Southern Africa
  14. ^ Hans Adler Classical Musicians Autograph Collection
  15. ^ University of the Witwatersrand's Hans Adler showcase of Rare and Noteworthy Collection Exhibits
  16. ^ Wits University "Hans Adler Memorial Museum" Photos and Visitors Information Brochure
  17. ^ Wits University details of the Collection
  18. ^ [2] description and photographs from original frontispice
  19. ^ [3] description of 1492 incunabula and a few photographed pages
  20. ^ [4] Collection showcase of rare and unusual items
  21. ^ Musiker, Reuben (1980). Hans Adler Memorial Volume, a Collection of Tributes, page 20, (a tribute by Gideon Fagan, Head of Music, S.A.B.C.) Johannesburg Wits University Library. ISBN 0854946217. Hans Adler Memorial Volume
  22. ^ Musiker, Reuben (1980). Hans Adler Memorial Volume, a Collection of Tributes, page 49, (a tribute by Joe Sack, Johannesburg daily newspaper Music Critic), Wits University Library. ISBN 0854946217. Hans Adler Memorial Volume
  23. ^ [5] Album detailing artists' Southern Africa tours