Sonatas and Album Blatt.
Pianist and teacher
Image taken from the cover of the leaflet
in the VOX BOX VBX 103 with the Five Piano Concertos of Ludwig van Beethoven.
On Remington R-199-72 a fine performance of Beethoven's Fourth Concerto with conductor
Karl Randolf was released.
Concerto No 2 on R-199-32
Karrer in the nineteen forties.
early edition of the Grieg Concerto - RLP-199-3
Concerto No 2 on the earliest Remington label (RLP-199-32)
Plymouth Merit release of Rachmaninoff's Opus 18
release on Vibraton K 2016 of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto performed by pianist
Felicitas Karrer and conductor Kurt Wöss was re-recorded in electronic stereo.
Records were also released in Canada. The records were issued in a special Great
Composers series. The records were pressed in the Webster plant.
label and cover of the Grieg release (GCLP 907) the names of pianist Felicitas
Karrer and conductor Kurt Wöss are omitted. The Austrian Symphony Orchestra
is now the so called Festival Orchestra.
cover of the reissue on the Masterseal label of the Grieg Concerto. The picture
is not of Felicitas Karrer, but of a model, and was supplied by the Baldwin Piano
Company. Much later the recording was released on the Masque label (M 10005).
the time she recorded for Remington, she also made 78 RPM recordings for the Viennola
label. On P 6064: Chopin (Waltz Op. Posth., Mazurka Op. 7 No. 1 and Waltz Op.
No 2). On P 6065: Liszt (Gnomenreigen and Consolation).
Karrer in 1960 during a televised concert for Austrian Broadcasting Corporation
appeared on Remington discs, performing Beethoven, Grieg and Rachmaninoff, and
her records must have found their ways into many households. They were shelved
next to the world famous interpretations of the great Piano Concertos played by
the greats of her time: Dinu Lipatti (Grieg), Rudolf Serkin (Beethoven), and Arthur
Or, her records may just have been the affordable
alternatives to these recordings on Columbia and RCA Victor.
the art of this Viennese pianist, who recorded piano music of Richard Wagner and
Franz Schubert as well, and who is known to have performed Sergei Bortkiewicz's
First Piano Concerto Op. 16 in 1952 with the composer conducting, was soon forgotten
as circumstances changed her curriculum.
cover of Felicitas Karrer's booking brochure from the mid nineteen fifties with
biographical details, quotes from the press, and the listing of her repertory.
Picture restored and edited by R.A.B.
Karrer was born in Vienna on August 26, 1924. Her father was Cesar Karrer (1886-1963),
a well-known technician. He was a "Diplom Ingenieur" as the official
title is, and he played a significant role in the automotive world in Austria
by regulating many issues regarding the position of garages and their owners.
introduced the daylight garage (Tageslichtgarage), which was a novelty in the
first half of the past century. He built a unique 5 story garage with space for
400 cars. As he financed the enterprise himself, it took almost ten years to build
it (1929 till 1938). Cesar Karrer had two daughters, Sylvia, who studied to be
an architect, and Felicitas, who studied with Friedrich Wührer to be a concert
Karrer's Astoria Garage opened in 1938 and is still in full operation today.
at the age of 5 Felicitas started to play the piano. And it soon was discovered
that she had absolute pitch, which is of course a blessing as you will strive
for perfection. As a child she gave concerts playing music of Bach and Telemann.
When she was in the 8th grade studying at the Gymnasium, she simultaneously studied
at the 'Hochschule für Musik' - today 'Universität für Musik und
Darstellende Kunst'. From 1941 till 1945 she studied with Friedrich Wührer
(1900-1975; he also can be found on the Remington label playing Beethoven's Fourth
Piano Concerto). She passed the exam with flying colors.
"Friedrich Wührer had the best balanced left hand, like only few pianists have."
in various contests: Vienna (1948), Paris (1949, Concours Marguerite Long), Geneva
(1951), Munich (1952), and Siena (Academia Chigiana Siena). In Vienna she was
awarded when playing the Burlesque of Richard Strauss with Otto Ackermann
conducting. She was the first pianist to play all six Beethoven Concertos (Triple
Concerto included) in no less than three concerts. That was during the season
1949-1950. She again played the Triple Concerto in 1952 with violinist Willy
Boskovsky, cellist Emanuel Brabec and conductorVolkmar Andreae;
and the already mentioned performance at the occasion of the 75th birthday of
Sergej Bortkewicz in the Musikvereinssaal, also in 1952.
with many conductors: Hans Swarowsky, Robert Heger, Dr. Bernard Paumgartner (Mozarteum
Orchestra), Ernst Märzendorfer (Radio Orchestra Beromünster), Paul van
Kempen (Orchestra del Maggio Fiorentino), Felix Prohaska, Anton Konrath, Kurt
Rapf, Eduard van Remoortel, Karl Randolf (Graz Philharmonic), and many more. And
she performed in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Great Britain.
Prawy (36) and
Wolf (33), both in US Army uniform, returned to the devastated Vienna.
The war was over and though the atmosphere looked rather grim, they had plans
for a brighter future. Wolf eventgually picked up music making as a conductor
(he later decided to go back to the USA and try his luck there). Prawy started
producing records, from 1950 on for Don Gabor's Remington Records based in New
York, and in 1953 and the following years on his own account.
1950 Prawy and Wolf invited Miss Karrer to record Ludwig van Beethoven's Op.
75 (Emperor Concerto), the Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 of Edward Grieg and
Sergei Rachmaninoff's Second Concerto in C, Op. 18, together with
conducting the newly formed Tonkünstler Orchestra (Austrian Symphony), by
no means a virtuoso orchestra, but the musicians were working hard and were gradually
achieving better ensemble playing thanks not only to the individual musicians
who wanted to earn a living as a member of an orchestra, but also thanks to Kurt
Wöss who knew his way around. He had been a student of Felix Weingartner.
Steinweiss's cover for the recording of Felicitas Karrer's poetic and strong performance
of the Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 16 of Edvard Grieg, with Kurt Wöss conducting
the Austrian Symphony Orchestra - Remington R-199-3.
the release on the second label, edited by R.A.B.
for a Sound Clip of the Second Movement of the Grieg Concerto
performances were recorded "in einem Guss", Felicitas Karrer said. In
plain English: "in one cast". There was no time and money for an extra
rehearsal and only in case of a very big mistake a recording session would be
interrupted. Generally not more than one take was done, and splicing was practically
out of the question.
Although the recordings bear the marks of that practice,
the cooperation between Felicitas Karrer and Kurt Wöss was exemplary. "Yes,
we were on the same wavelength", Felicitas Karrer said when I mentioned the
good atmosphere in the orchestra and the very idiomatic playing by both pianist
and orchestra in the Grieg Concerto, and with a remarkable orchestral balance
too. The Grieg Concerto was recorded in the Wagnersaal (Musikverein) which
has extremely bad acoustics. The piano was placed very close to the back wall
to improve its presence. This recording of the Concerto shows that this is one
of the few performances reminding the listener of the orchestral writing for Henrik
Ibsen's "Peer Gynt" and of the Lyric Pieces. It also shows how able
a conductor Kurt Wöss was and how Felicitas Karrer at 26 played with ease
and concentration. "It is often played too fast", Felicitas Karrer says,
"and then the pianist drops too many notes from which a second concerto could
be constructed", she adds
information about the musicians who performed the Grieg Concerto, printed on the
back of the reissue of the early Remington on Masterseal in 1957, were probably
written for advertising purposes rather than for really informing the record buyer
about the artist and orchestra, but there is truth in it:
"The Viennese Symphonic Orchestra embodies the leading
musicians of Vienna and has won world wide acclaim for its outstanding performances.
Felicitas Karrer, one of Europe's outstanding postwar pianists, gained rapid fame
after the war by concertising throughout Europe. Her imaginative interpretations
of the great piano classics have gained Miss Karrer a legion of enthusiastic followers
who have established her among the elite of European concert artists.
combined efforts of Miss Karrer and the Viennese Symphonic Orchestra under the
baton of Kurt Wöss, offers indeed a performance to be cherished among your
the Rachmaninoff C minor Concerto shows how extremely gifted the pianist
is. Despite the order that "nothing shall go wrong" and it is obvious
that the playing has a somewhat slow pace in order not to make mistakes, the performance
is transparent, and here too the poetry is fully present. In essence her technique
is excellent and the concept shows grandeur. The listener may also discover that
there are more notes and lines in the piano score which are not always heard in
Emperor gets a clean, translucent and energizing performance, revealing the
logical connection to its predecessor, No. 4, Op. 58, and is a joy to listen to.
There is no excessive weight, nor are there fashionable ritardandos, rubatos,
and there is no restraint in this magnificent concerto. Felicitas Karrer still
remembers the serene beauty of the second movement, although she has not been
able to listen to the records for quite a long time. She was married in 1964 to
physician Dr. Konrad Kodrnja, originally from Slovenia. Her husband, with whom
she had a very harmonious marriage (he passed away in 2003), gave every so often
a record to an admirer of his Felicitas. Finally there were no more copies left.
Both the Rachmaninoff and Beethoven Concertos were recorded in the Mozartsaal
(Vienna Konzerthaus) which is in fact better suited for chamber music ensemble
playing, but has far better acoustics than the Wagnersaal, Miss Karrer told me.
played and rarely recorded: Wagner's Piano Sonatas and Albumblatt, in a sensitive
performance by Felicitas Karrer on Remington R-199-26, a disc not to be overlooked.
Wagner Sonata disc contains hardly ever performed and hardly ever recorded
compositions by the young Richard Wagner which show the influence of Beethoven
and a touch of Schubert, and than the older Wagner who in "Eine Sonate in
das Album von Frau Mathilde Wesendonck in A flat major" is foreboding the
tragedy of love in the grand opera of "Tristan und Isolde". Especially
this "Wesendonck Sonata" is played with intensity, sorrow, and rebellion,
much more so by Felicitas Karrer than by younger pianists in the modern recordings
of the nineteen nineties.
De Motte does review many a Remington recording in "The Long Playing
Record Guide" (Dell Publishing Company, New York, 1955), the performances
of the great concertos by Felicitas Karrer are not mentioned in this reference
publication. From the Fall of 1953 on, Gabor hired th RIAS Symphony Orchestra
(Berlin) to make new and technically better MUSIRAMA recordings. So it was decided
that the earliest recordings made in Vienna were deleted from the Remington catalog.
In the Spring of 1954 it was announced that Gabor trimmed down the catalog by
30%. And maybe the popular Grieg, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff were on the list
to be recorded in Berlin. But new recordings of these concertos were not made.
the low technical recording quality of the Rachmaninoff Concerto, one has to admit
that the recorded performance of this concerto (and of the other other concertos
for that matter) by Felicitas Karrer and Kurt Wöss do have the ingredients
for some good music making. When I sent a copy of the Grieg Concerto on CD to
Mrs. Karrer, she told me: "I quite like the performance of this Concerto.
I did not know it was that good."
Warren DeMotte did not make note of these in his guide, it was G.C. Burke who
had reviewed her Beethoven Emperor and included it in his Beethoven discography
in the spring of 1952. The other contestants were Victor Schioler (Mercury 10060),
Artur Schnabel (RCA Victor LCT 1015), Rudolf Serkin (Columbia ML 4373) and Clifford
Curzon (London LLP 114 38). In High Fidelity Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 4, Burke wrote:
"(...) Karrer-Wöss (whoever they are) have
given us, curiously the stateliest of the the five concepts. Miss Karrer has a
musical dignity somewhat above the limits of her strength but she and Wöss
mingle the serene majesty of their exposition with a complicating sense of human
friendliness, of uncustomary appeal." - G.C.
Karrer's repertory encompassed not just Beethoven, Grieg, Rachmaninoff, and Wagner,
but also Brahms (Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 15), music of Belgian composer
Jean Absil (Concerto Op. 30), Benjamin Britten (Piano Concerto),
César Franck (Symphonic Variations), Manuel de Falla (Nights
in the Gardens of Spain), Concertos of Mozart (K414, 449, 459, 466, 537),
Sergei Prokofiev's First Concerto Op.10, Carl Maria von Weber's "Konzertstück"
and Concerto No 2 in E-flat Major, Mussorgski's "Pictures at an Exhibition",
and Franz Schmidt's Piano Concerto in E flat major, as well as the "Konzertante
Variationen" on a Beethoven theme (Concertante Variations on a Theme of Beethoven
for piano-left hand and orchestra) of this remarkable composer.
did the papers say about her live performances?
The critic of "Neues Oesterreich" of May 27,
1950, wrote about the performance of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto:
touch is well graded and well controlled, and sufficient to master the double
octaves in the first movement as well as the warm cantilene of the Adagio where
she knows how to produce the rich tone needed to sustain the long, drawn out phrases.
(...) Her strong musical temperament is fanned into life by the uncanny Beethovenian
humor of the sparkling Rondo finale. Her technical perfection combined with true
feeling places her in the front rank of our young pianists"
performing in Brussels, "Le soir" wrote on May 11, 1953:
Pictures at an Exhibition her playing was brilliant, animated and suggestive."
composer, teacher and performer Joseph Marx wrote in "Wiener Zeitung"
of February 25, 1951:
"Felicitas Karrer, one of our most gifted pianists,
gave proof of her merits in the glittering figurative passages of Mozart's Piano
Concerto in F Major."
Wittgenstein (1887, Vienna - 1961, New York) who was severely wounded in the First
World War and had only command of his left hand, had asked Austrian Composer Franz
Schmidt (1874-1939) to write Concertos for the left hand for him to be performed.
These concertos were extremely difficult to play (as was the Concerto for the
Left Hand written for Wittgenstein by Maurice Ravel). It was Felicitas Karrer's
teacher, Friedrich Wührer, who rewrote the solo parts of the Concerto and
the Variations for the execution with two hands. Both were also on Felicitas Karrer's
style was often compared to that of Monique Haas.
She also loved to play
"Paganini Rhapsody", Rachmaninoff's Op. 43, of which she gave the première
performance in Austria. She played Aram Khatchaturian's Piano Concerto with the
composer conducting, a work she also liked very much. The Khatchaturian concerto
too asks for firm and decisive playing. Therefore she was also referred to as
"the female Gulda", putting her in the same class as Friedrich Gulda
because of the sensitivity and firm intention as well.
such a repertory and style -which matured even further during the years- one wonders
why the recordings of Felicitas Karrer are few. Under the title "Piano Encores"
(Remington R-149-4), various pianists play short compositions. She plays
"Valses nobles", Schubert's Opus 77. The other pianists on that ten
inch disc are Alexander Jenner (Chopin), Jörg Demus (Bach), and Alfred Kitchin
Apart from her Remington recordings which were listed in Schwann
Record Catalog until 1958, she also appeared on the Viennola label from
Vienna on which she plays compositions of Schubert, Brahms, Chopin, and Liszt,
reference number 1015.
decisive occurrence in her personal life and her professional career was that
she had a car accident in 1958 and suffered a severe concussion which forced her
to follow a less intensive program of studying and performing for some time. She
also performed with Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting, and at one time she
was a candidate to record with Willem van Otterloo and the Hague Philharmonic
(Residency) Orchestra instead of Clara Haskil, and she played for Herbert
von Karajan, met numerous musicians among which pianist Aldo Ciccolini,
conductor Zoltan Fekete, and she knew violinists Wolfgang Schneiderhan
and his brother
Schneiderhan (who was concert master of the Vienna Symphony). In fact
she knew many well known artists of the nineteen forties, fifties and sixties.
And there were many in Vienna. Each of them felt some competition at one time
or another when another artist was chosen to perform, like Edith Farnadi instead
of Felicitas Karrer.
so many artists she also has known the dilemma of following a career which asks
for complete dedication and which is often to the detriment of a full, personal
life. When she married she stopped altogether with a demanding concert schedule.
Felicitas Kodrnja Karrer: "It is either your marriage or your career that is going
to suffer." She chose for a rich personal life. Did she ever teach the piano to
the younger generation? Felicitas: "No", she said, "it is like Wilhelm
Backhaus said: I am my own best pupil."
Mrs. Karrer still follows the scene
from the sideline and mentions Martha Argerich and Yevgeny Kissin as outstanding.
She also finds that nowadays many pianists do play often too fast and do not create
the right atmosphere of the work. They often drop too many notes, enough to create
a second concerto.
Today Felicitas Karrer is still in charge of the 5 story
garage her father had finished building in 1939.
Remington recordings of Felicitas Karrer:
Ludwig van Beethoven: Emperor Concerto with
Wöss conducting the Austrian Symphony Orchestra.(Released in 1950)
(Plymouth P-12-11.) Billboard Magazine of October 14, 1950 reviewed Remington
at $1.99, this waxing of the "Emperor" is an excellent buy. The performance
is more than credible; soloist Felicitas Karrer delivers a penetrating, sympathetic
keyboard job; the ork is up to snuff. The recording too is alive, clear and excellently
balanced between piano and ork. On the minus side there's an inescapable surface
hiss on the review copy at hand. Whether this is a quality of "Websterlite",
the Remington plastic or only an accident is a question; other recordings in the
Remington low-priced LP series have considerably less hiss than the one under
second release of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto.
Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto in a minor
Op. 16, with Kurt Wöss (Released 1950.) The Masterseal release of the same
recording was pressed from Remington plates, first with the Masterseal label and
later with the Remington Musirama label, but without a reference number. (Plymouth
P-12-10). And the same recording appeared on Gabor's label Masque (ref. M 10005).
Recorded on Tuesday, June 27th, 1950 in the Wagner-Saal (
Franz Schubert: "Valses nobles". Op. 77 (coupled with Alexander
Jenner (Chopin), Jörg Demus (Bach), and Alfred Kitchin (Mozart). the Valses
nobles were later released on the Masque label, then coupled with Demus playing
'Moments musicaux' (M 10002).
Richard Wagner: Album Sonata in A Flat Major, Albumblatt in E Flat Major,
Sonata in B Flat Major. (Released 1951.) The Piano Sonata in B Flat Major can
also be found on the Music Plus MP-100-9 release together with Wagner Arias, with
an introduction by
Concerteum CR-212 release in France of the Rachmaninoff recording writes the name
of Kurt Wöss as Kurt Woos, so it will be pronounced more or less correct.|
Piano Concerto No. 2 in c minor with the Austrian Symphony Orchestra, Kurt Wöss
conducting, rfeleased in 1951. (Plymouth P-12-12.) The first movement can also
be found on Twilight Concert No. 2, catalog number R-199-115.
Text, original research, and concept (c) Rudolf A. Bruil. Page first published