Wolfgang Schneiderhan, one of the 20th century’s best-known violinists, died in a Vienna hospital, officials of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra said today (May 21). He was 86. Clemens Hellsberg, the chairman of the orchestra, gave no cause of death; the Austria Press Agency said Schneiderhan died Saturday.
A child prodigy, Schneiderhan quickly rose to international fame, performing as a soloist and with leading ensembles, including the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra and the Philharmonic.
A regular at Europe’s important music festivals, Schneiderhan, who was married for some 40 years to the late opera singer Christa Ludwig, played with Wilhelm Backhaus and other famous pianists and gave violin concerts under such renowned conductors as Bruno Walter and Wilhelm Furtwaengler. In later years, Schneiderhan was a teacher at the Salzburg Mozarteum and at the Vienna Academy of Music.
Born May 28, 1915, Schneiderhan received violin tuition from his mother from age three. He performed in public for the first time two years later before starting studies in Vienna and Czechoslovakia with Otakar Sevcik, founder of the famed Czech-Viennese violin school. Schneiderhan gave his first big concert abroad at age 11 in Copenhagen and subsequently performed with three of the stars of the then music world – Polish tenor Jan Kiepura and his wife Martha Eggerth, as well as Lotte Lehmann.
Already a distinguished interpreter of the music of fellow Austrian Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and of Ludwig van Beethoven, Schneiderhan was elevated to the prestigious position of concert master of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra at age 17, a job he later took with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1937.
In the mid-1950s, Schneiderhan founded the Festival Strings of Lucerne, Switzerland, and in 1992 he initiated the Fritz Kreisler competition for young musicians at the Vienna Konzerthaus.
Survivors and funeral arrangements were not specified.
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