Another year is coming to an end: time to look back on beautiful concerts and a successful CD; time to thank our loyal audience and all the organisers who share our curiosity; time also to look ahead and look forward to coming encounters and discoveries!
With this in mind, we wish everyone a happy holiday season and a happy new year!
Thoughts on the Piano Part in Josef Labor’s Trio and Cello Sonata
von Holger Busch
Page 1 of the score of the “Trio for Piano, Clarinet and Cello”, which Gerhard Waiz, the cellist of the ensemble TRIS, has lovingly and time-consumingly brought into legible form as a copy of the manuscript, has the following special feature: “Begun with God on 15 August 1917”. This arouses my interest and I turn to the last page, and after two quarter pauses and a double bar, I actually read “15 November 1917”, and in this way all the other sentences are also precisely dated, which would be righteously consistent.
There is no dedication under the title; on first inspection, the whole thing looks rather transparent than overloaded; only on the cover page of the “Cello Sonata in C Major” is the addition: “for Mr. Paul Wittgenstein” and, naturally, at the top left: “Begun with God on 18 August 1918”. Finally, the person to whom the work was assigned is mentioned by name, as was perhaps made socially acceptable with Beethoven, but in these cases both works are actually written to “fit” the pianist Paul Wittgenstein.
The piano part is traditionally notated in two systems, treble and bass clef, and seems balanced over long stretches. If one knew nothing more about the real circumstances, the pianist would consequently begin to study, play, learn, refine, but pause: Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm in 1915 during the First World War! Interestingly, there is no mention of this fact, no “For the left hand alone” in all its linguistic variations. Others did not shy away from prescribing clear handling and gave the pianists of this world full-fledged to ingenious works precisely for the left hand alone, more rarely also for the right hand; not a word about this from Labor. Perhaps they didn’t want to make a fuss about this special feature and wanted Wittgenstein to continue to be recognised as a “normal” pianist and not because of a handicap?
This compelling, because pragmatic, fact saves both works from the suspicion of being “show pieces” that owe their effect to the acrobatic gestures of the pianist. Nevertheless, when performed with the left hand alone, a number of challenges arise, some of which I would like to point out using the example of the trio.
No pedal indications at all, so the performer must decide how long a harmony should continue to sound despite additional notes that are not part of the chord.
Changes of register between bass and treble, wide chord leaps, as here in the 4th movement:
Playing in the highest position (unfavourable sitting position).
Excessive sixteenth-note passages, which are set monophonically but intended polyphonically (2nd movement).
Passages in thirds, sixths and octaves (4th movement, II. &. IV. Variation):
up to 6-part arpeggios (3rd movement).
rapid arpeggios in the highest register (2nd movement, Tempo di Menuetto):
large-scale fugato with 2 independent voices without a further supporting voice (4th movement, IV. variation).
In fact, I had originally rehearsed the trio left-handed and played it repeatedly in concerts with TRIS. The CD recording that we made in the summer of 2020 was a different challenge; recording studio instead of concert hall meant above all: hours of recording with repetitions until everything fit. Could I do this reliably without touching the little finger of the right hand, which is used to eliciting a silvery or radiant upper voice from the instrument in chord playing? So now the thumb of the left hand was always supposed to step in and take over a task for which it had not been trained for decades? A great burden was placed on me, which had to be mastered responsibly.
The decision was made after careful consideration, questioning again and again: I took courage and learned the trio “anew” with the help of my right hand! Not all the time and everywhere, not out of convenience, merely in great responsibility towards the artistic quality of the work.
I pay homage to the great pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had only his left hand at his disposal. I accept the task and use the means at my disposal: two hands. Otherwise, the work would remain forgotten, the manuscript slumbering unnoticed in the estate of Josef Labor.
In March the time has finally come: our CD with chamber music discoveries by Josef Labor will be released by “Capriccio” (C5446)!
Josef Labor (1842 – 1924) was a highly respected composer, pianist and organist during his lifetime. He contracted smallpox at the age of 3 and subsequently went blind. So although he himself could only rehearse his repertoire by ear, he made an international career as a pianist. To write down his own compositions, he needed an assistant who was able to notate the score by ear or dictation.
Labor was also appreciated as a teacher. His piano students included Arnold Schönberg, Alma Schindler and Julius Bittner, and he was a close friend of Johannes Brahms and Franz Schmidt. Today, however, he is one of the many forgotten masters of music history; even his monument opposite the Vienna Konzerthaus is hardly known.
TRIS has now tracked down two of Labor’s late chamber music works in the archives, edited them from the manuscripts and recorded them on CD for the first time. Both, a trio (1917) and a cello sonata (1918), date from the last years of the First World War, and both are – in spite of the historical events, so to speak – entirely rooted in the tonally sensual late Romantic tradition and classical form. But both are also dedicated to Labor’s pupil Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm as a soldier in the war. The piano part is therefore – and this makes the works highly interesting from a music-historical point of view – already composed for the left hand, even if this is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the manuscripts. We thus have here the prelude to a whole series of piano works of this kind, dedicated to Paul Wittgenstein by Hindemith, Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Prokofiev or Britten, among others!
We do not know whether the works were ever performed in concert. They were never printed, and the manuscripts have lain dormant in the archives in the decades since Labor’s death and Wittgenstein’s emigration in 1938. So it was high time to bring them out of oblivion and make them public. In any case, the CD recording is an absolute premiere!
The Pogrom Memorial Concert in November on the Wieden is already a tradition. After it fell victim to the pandemic last year, as so many things did, it can take place again this year. This time we will play music by the composers Robert Fürstenthal and Robert Kahn. Both are very much in the tradition of German late Romanticism, but have completely different biographies.
Kahn was one of the most respected composers of his time and was already 73 when he had to flee from the Nazis into exile in England. As a result, his work was largely forgotten; he was ostracised as a Jew by the Nazis, and he was too conservative for the post-war avant-garde as a late Romantic who was still completely committed to tonality. Only in recent years has his music been gradually rediscovered and appreciated.
In contrast, Robert Fürstenthal, born in 1920, had no chance at all to realise his dream of studying composition. He had to flee to the USA at the age of 18 and lost sight of his great childhood sweetheart, Franziska Trinczer. In the USA, he worked as a tax consultant and auditor, but never wrote a single note again. It was only when he met his childhood sweetheart again by chance in 1973 that he also began to compose again as a purely self-taught composer. “When I compose, I am back in Vienna,” he once said. However, he never seriously thought of publishing them, so that we can only discover his compositions now, after his death.
Come and listen!
Monday, 15 November 2021, 7:00 pm Ballroom at the Amtshaus Wieden Favoritenstraße 18, 1040 Vienna
Registration required under Tel.: 4000 04119
Please note the current Corona rules: 2G and FFP2 masks are mandatory in the Amtshaus.
TRIS finally returned to the concert stage with a concert at the Schönberg House in Mödling. It was a great pleasure for us to perform in front of an audience again after all these months.
The programme included works by Josef Labor, which TRIS has rediscovered and also recorded for CD. A trio and a cello sonata from 1917/1918, both dedicated to Paul Wittgenstein, both already set for the left hand in the piano.
In the concert, too, Labor’s music proved to be immensely impressive, effective and stirring. The audience thanked with enthusiasm and applause.
Today and tomorrow (11 + 12.12.2020) our last concerts of this darned year should have taken place. Unfortunately, like all our other concerts this year, they have fallen victim to the measures to combat the Corona pandemic.
At least there is already a replacement date for one of them on 12 February 2021! So let’s hope that next year we will finally be able to make and enjoy music again without restrictions!
Covid19 makes concert planning extremely difficult and unpredictable. Since the lockdown in March, we have not been able to play any concerts, and everything that was planned had to be cancelled, sometimes at short notice.
Unfortunately, our annual memorial concert in memory of the November pogroms, which should have taken place on 11th November, also fell victim to Covid19. Instead of the wonderful music of Robert Fürstenthal and Robert Kahn we want to remember in silence.
However, the concerts planned for December in Purkersdorf (11.12.) and Mödling (12.12.)are still on the agenda, and we very much hope that we will be allowed to play them! So please make a note of the dates and light one or the other candle…
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the organizers, who are doing a truly great job and are fighting with endless commitment to ensure that the concerts can take place even under enormous difficulties. In those cases where it didn’t work out this year, we have already arranged alternative dates or received fees for cancelled concerts.
We wish that politicians and the general public would also appreciate this commitment and finally allow the cultural sector, where no cluster has yet been identified, to get back to work. But above all, we hope that this pandemic will soon be so far under control that we will no longer be dependent on the decisions of politicians with little cultural affinity.
After the cancellations in spring and the long concert break, the time has finally come: In September we will play “live” in front of an audience again!
We will make up for the cancelled concert in June on the occasion of the Beethoven Year on the Wieden, in a somewhat shortened form with a program of about one hour without a break, but still: we will play again!
You will hear the great Trio op. 38, Beethoven’s own arrangement of his famous Septet op. 20, dedicated to the Viennese doctor Johann Adam Schmidt, with whom Beethoven was treated for his incipient hearing problems.
This work is preceded by “Before Beethoven”, a short trio by Karl Kohn. Kohn was born in Vienna in 1926, had to emigrate with his parents to the USA in 1938, studied there at Harvard and elsewhere, and then taught for many years at Pomona College in California. As a pianist and composer, Kohn is one of the most important mediators of contemporary music in the USA. It is a special pleasure for us to make his music sound in Vienna as well!
When & Where:
Happy birthday, Beethoven!
Monday, September 21, 2020 07:00 pm Festival hall of the Amtshaus Wieden Favoritenstrasse 18, 1040 Vienna
Attention! Due to the Covid19 regulations, there is only limited space available this time: registration is absolutely necessary! Phone: 4000-04 110 or e-mail: email@example.com
Masks are obligatory in the Amtshaus – at Corona traffic lights “yellow” also at your seat.
We are using the Covid-19-related concertless time for a CD project with chamber music by Josef Labor.
Josef Labor (1842 – 1924) is almost forgotten today, yet he was one of the great and important musicians of his time. As a child suffering from Blattern’s disease and blindness, he made an international career as a pianist and organist and also became famous as a teacher – his students included Arnold Schönberg, Julius Bittner, Alma Schindler and Paul Wittgenstein – and composer.
TRIS is now recording two of his late chamber music works for CD: we have just completed the Trio for piano, clarinet and cello from 1917, the Cello Sonata (1918) will follow soon.
Both works are previously unpublished and represent a small music historical sensation. They are dedicated to Labor’s pupil Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm as a soldier in World War I and yet continued his career as a pianist. The piano part is thus – although not clearly designated as such – composed for the left hand. So both works form the prelude to a series of piano compositions for the left hand which were dedicated to Paul Wittgenstein by Ravel, Hindemith, Britten, Richard Strauss and others.
Apart from this historical peculiarity, both pieces are also simply wonderful late romantic chamber music, which we play with great pleasure.
By the way, a monument for Josef Labor is located in a very prominent place and yet almost unnoticed right in front of the Konzerthaus in Vienna.
In these strange, unreal times of isolation, Easter will also be a new experience. The whole world is in a state of emergency, and we must be careful that it does not become a matter of course.
We hope very much that soon a normal life will be possible again, perhaps more consciously and meaningfully than before, but above all, we hope to be able to live again with what makes us human and what we miss so much: Encounter and culture!
The worldwide cancellations of events due to the Corona pandemic also affect us. All dates until summer are unfortunately cancelled for the time being.
But there is also good news: For our concert on the Wieden, which was planned for June 22nd, we have already arranged an alternative date! It is now scheduled to take place on September 21st, 2020, and we very much hope that the corona virus will have disappeared or at least be under control by then. With this in mind: We are looking forward to a musically exciting autumn!
An intricate biography between times and nationalities. By Michael Haas.
What do we know about Hans Winterberg? Not much, one might say, although we have been able to find out more and more from a deliberately veiled past. We know that Winterberg was born in 1901 to a Jewish family in Prague. The family had been living in Prague for 300 years and had, among other things, a former Chief Rabbi. Winterberg was born as an Austrian, but with the emergence of Czechoslovakia in 1918, he became a Czech citizen without transition. He confirmed this status in the 1930 census and also called himself Hanuš Winterberg. As a child he learned to play the piano with Therèse Wallerstein, who was later murdered by the Nazis. He studied in Prague at the German Academy of Music with Fidelio Finke and Alexander Zemlinsky. In 1939/40, together with Gideon Klein, he attended composition lessons with Alois Hába at the Prague State Conservatory. For some time he worked as a répétiteur in Brno and Gablonz.
In 1930 he married the pianist and composer Maria Maschat, who had become famous as a former child prodigy. She was German-Bohemian and not Jewish; her daughter Ruth was born in 1935. After the invasion of the German Wehrmacht many of Winterberg’s relatives were deported to the concentration camp, his mother Olga was murdered in 1942 in Maly Trostinez. Winterberg’s marriage was dissolved in 1944 according to the Reichsehegesetzt, and in January 1945 he was deported to Theresienstadt. In May 1945 he was liberated and soon afterwards his wife and daughter were again deported to Germany in cattle trucks on the basis of the Beneš decrees. It was not until 1947 that Winterberg was given a Czech passport, which enabled him to travel to Bavaria to visit his wife and retake possession of his manuscripts, which he had entrusted to his wife and friends abroad before being deported to Theresienstadt. In 1948 there was a communist coup d’état in Czechoslovakia, and Winterberg was faced with a dilemma: if he remained a Czech citizen, he would be returned to Czechoslovakia; in order to remain in Germany, he had to confess to the Sudeten German ethnic group. The Sudeten German conductor Fritz Rieger and other musicians stood up for Hans Winterberg, performed his works and recorded them for the BR, where a considerable number of recordings were made.
Some musicians who still knew Winterberg from Prague accused him of disguising himself as a German Bohemian out of opportunism. The possible exposure as a Czech, who had crept into the Sudeten German community, caused Winterberg worries.
The marriage with Maria Maschat did not last long in Germany, and Winterberg married three more times. The fourth wife, Louise Maria née. Piper, came from the Sudetenland. Winterberg also adopted her then 22-year-old son Christoph, whose biological father was a former SS man. After the death of Hans Winterberg and Louise Maria in 1991, Christoph sold the estate of his adoptive father for 6000 DM to the Sudetendeutsche Musikinstitut. In 2002, an agreement was concluded which blocked the estate and prohibited all information about the family until the beginning of 2031. It was also agreed that the Jewish origin of Winterberg should never be made public. Only in 2031, after the lifting of the ban, could Winterberg be discussed, but only as a “Sudeten German composer”.
Only through the efforts of Ruth Winterberg’s son (the daughter from Winterberg’s first marriage), Peter Kreitmeir, and the publication of the agreement with the Sudeten German Music Institute on Michael Haas’s blog “Forbidden Music” (mediated by Randy Schönberg) could the ban be lifted and the rights returned to the grandson. The estate of Winterberg is now being looked after at the exile.arte Centre at the Vienna University of Music.
Now that Winterberg’s music is accessible again, one notices that it has its origin mainly in the Czech school established after Janáček . Some members of the Sudeten German Community have always suspected of being “Czechs” again. As one hears from his music today, they were apparently right.
World premiere of the latest trio of the Austrian composer on 10 October 2019.
Alexander Wagendristel doesn’t just write good music, his works also take a stand on current topics and events with pleasure and often vehemently. In “life was so easy”, his new trio for clarinet, cello and piano, it is explicitly about flight, expulsion and exile.
Wagendristel quotes Schönberg’s Piano Concerto op.42: “life was so easy”, “suddenly hatred broke out”, “a grave situation was created” and “but life goes on” are the movement headings in Schönberg’s own sketches for this concerto. The musical material of the concerto is also spun further; after all, even its basic series is clearly audible at one point towards the end of the trio.
However, Wagendristel is not only concerned with remembering the historical catastrophe that National Socialism meant for Europe, but above all with the reference to the present: at that time people like Schönberg had to emigrate from Europe in order to escape annihilation. Today people flee to Europe for the same reason. How do we deal with this and where do we stand today? Is history repeating itself?
In any case, we are very much looking forward to premiering this incredibly exciting and complex work on October 10 at the Mödlinger Schönberg-Haus. Also to be heard at this concert will be compositions by Erich Zeisl, Robert Starer, Ernst Toch and Joachim Stutschewsky.
With the proclamation of the Republic of Austria on 12 November 1918, women in Austria also received the universal and equal right to vote, which they were able to exercise for the first time at the elections to the Constituent National Assembly in February 1919.
This anniversary is a wonderful occasion for us to play a programme exclusively with female composers this time. For a long time female composers had to struggle with the same prejudices as all women who could not and/or did not want to comply with traditional role clichés. Mild to pitifully smiled at, subtly suppressed and, if necessary, vehemently fought back, only a few women succeeded in gaining recognition and recognition. Some things have improved over the years, but not least the current #metoo debate shows that we are still a long way from real equality today.
For our programme we have chosen female composers from the 19th century to the present, from different countries and with different backgrounds, who, despite all prejudices and resistance, have gone their way and above all have one thing in common: They wrote and write incredibly good music!
With several concerts we celebrate the 100th birthay of the Austrian Republic.
100 years ago out of the catastrophy of World War I the Austrian Republic was founded. Times were hard and instable then and Austria wasn’t a “desired child”, so it didn’t exist very long. IIn 1934 the republic was destroyed by civil war and Austro-fascism followed by Nazi-occupation in 1938 and Worls War II. Only after the reestablishment in 1945 Austria became a stable democracy. Political consensus, social balance and economic growth made the Second Republic a success and finally a wealthy member of the EU.
In our concerts we perform music from the early years of the republic, but also works of contemporary composers. Most particular attention we give to those composers who were expelled in 1938 an forgotten after 1945.
Back then as well as today we find a fascinating artistic range, which can only be indicated in the works selected. But the variety 100 years ago was the result of insecurity, despair and social changes, while today it is the sign of an open and globally interconnected society. As we can learn of the history of our republic this openness and freedom are by no means granted, which we should never forget.
A great and successful year is coming to its end, and we would like to thank our audience, promoters and everyone who supported us.
Next year is going to be even more intense and rich of fascinating concerts. We’re looking forward to it!
A trio of the blind and today nearly forgotten composer can now be rediscovered.
“15. November 1917” is written by hand at the end of Josef Labor’s Trio in e-minor for piano, clarinet and cello. Exactly 100 years and one week later this trio will be performed again in our concert on November 22nd at Haus Hofmannsthal in Vienna.
Josef Labor (1842 – 1924), left blind since childhood due to contracting smallpox, was highly notable pianist, organist and teacher in Vienna at the turn of the century. Arnold Schönberg, Julius Bittner, Alma Mahler and Paul Wittgenstein were amongst his students. For Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm as a soldier in World War I but nevertheless intended to pursue his career as a pianist, Labor wrote the aforementioned trio. The piano-part thus is written for the left hand, one of the first works of this kind, which was to be followed by many others, for example by Ravel, Hindemith, Britten, Korngold and Franz Schmidt.
Today Josef Labor is almost forgotten, even his memorial opposit of the Konzerthaus in Vienna is hardly known.
November 22nd 2017, 07:30 pm
Concert in Haus Hofmannsthal
Reisnerstraße 37, 1030 Vienna
Phone: (01) 714 85 33, Fax.: DW 9
Two concerts presenting the composer’s chamber music.
75 years ago, on March 15th 1942, Alexander Zemlinsky, one of the most important composers of his age, died in exile in the USA in poverty and almost forgotten. At best he was remembered as Arnold Schönberg’s teacher, friend and brother-in-law, while his music remained unheard for many years. Like many otherss of his generation he was twice a victim of history: Menaced as a Jew and forced to emigration by the Nazis, the post-war avantgarde regarded him as conservative and therefor ignored his music completely.
Only in the nineties of the 20th century Zemlinsky’s importance became rediscovered and appreciated. Meanwhile his status is unquestioned, his operas and orchestral works being performed all over the world. TRIS, too, has been playing his music for many years. In November we invite you to attend two concerts with Zemlinsky’s complete chamber music for clarinet, cello and piano.
On November 6th you will hear his Fantasy pieces op.9 for clarinet and piano as well as his Cello Sonata in a-minor dating from 1894. The heaading of this concert is “Zemlinsky and Jewish Vienna”, so we will also perform Joachim Stutschewsky’s “Klezmer’s Wedding music” and Carl Frühling’s Trio op.40.
On November 22nd we will perform Zemlinsky’s Three Pieces for cello and piano and his famous Trio op.3 in d-minor. And you will hear Josef Labor’s Trio in e-minor, which he composed exactly 100 years ago for his pupil Paul Wittgenstein. Wittgernstein had lost his right arm in WW I, so the piano part is written only for the left hand!
The term “school” is seldom more appropriate in music history than in the case of Schönberg and his group of associates. Members of this school did not belong merely because of their direct status as pupils, but rather due to their identification with the compositional ideals that link the composers whose works are performed this evening. Wellesz, Schmid, Spinner and Skalkottas also make obvious, how different the directions taken nevertheless may be.
This includes Beethoven as well – Viennese Classicism is the source from which the teaching of the Viennese School takes its inspiration. The “Gassenhauer-Trio” will be performed as a reference to Mödling, where Beethoven spent the summer months of 1818/19 not far from Schönberg’s House.
The concert will take place at September 28th at 7:30 pm at the Schönberg-house (Bernhardgasse 6, 2340 Mödling).