Marta Eggerth (b. 1912) and Jan Kiepura (1902-1966) at the time when they triumphed
in New York - Picture taken from the EMI Odeon LP OPXH 1010.
Doktor Marcel F. Prawy at 31 in 1943.
conductor Fritz Busch in 1942, New York.
famous recordings of Béla Bartók playing his own work at the piano,
New York, 1942.
Wolf conducts Symphony in D by Cesar Franck.
few recordings produced by Marcel Prawy appeared on the Viennola label.
29, 1897 November 29, 1957
13 March 1890 -
14 September 1951
Sonatas Op. 109 and 110 by Jörg Demus on RLP-199-29.
of Marcel Prawy's Certificate of Nationalization and ID photograph, and the letter
of recommendation written by Don Gabor, courtesy of researcher Franz Krahberger
1937, twenty six year old Marcel Prawy became personal secretary to Polish singer/actor
Jan Kiepura and Hungarian operetta singer Martha Eggerth (also Marta Eggert, Martha
Eggerth, originally Márta Eggert).
In this function Prawy could combine
his knowledge and organizational talent with his love for music and drama. The
engagement was the beginning of a remarkable career.
Prawy - in full Marcel Horace Frydman, Ritter von Prawy - was born on
December 29, 1911, in Vienna. The title Ritter means Knight. And
Freiherr (the title which is also often mentioned) is the equivalent
of baron. He was born into a Jewish Austro-Hungarian noble family
which originated from Poland.
an early age on music, and especially opera, was Marcel's passion.
However, after passing his gymnasium exam, he did not study music
and musicology full time at the "Viennese State Academy for Music
and Dramatic Art" (Wiener Staatsakademie für Musik und dramatische
Kunst). No, he attended the university of Vienna instead to study
law. He became a Juris Doctor (Doctor of Law) in 1934 and practiced
in a law firm. Yet music was all the time on his mind. As a side line
Prawy studied music with famous musicologist and composer Egon Wellesz,
who himself had studied with Guido Adler and Arnold Schönberg.
In 1938 Wellesz left for Great Britain to take up a post at the University
of Oxford. Now Marcel Prawy had to decide what he was going to do
right the label of the 78 RPM shellac disc with Kiepura singing "Oh Madonna!"
accompanied by the Parlophon-Künstler-Orchester conducted by Dr. Weissmann.
The reference of the disc is 11 007. That was in 1934, well before Marcel Prawy
became personal secretary.
1938 Jan Kiepura made his debut at the Met in New York. Marcel
Prawy, now personal secretary to the famous couple, planned to join
him, but he did not have the appropriate documents for leaving Austria.
The political situation in Austria was getting grimmer and grimmer
and those who planned to leave the country should not hesitate.
As a young man conductor
Johnson studied in Europe. He stayed in Salzburg, Vienna,
and Leipzig, during the 1936-1937 season. In a letter to his parents
Johnson described the prewar situation:
"Austria is one of the poorest countries of Europe. The streets are filled
with cripples and beggars and Vienna is considerably run down. The war (WW I,
ed.) certainly took its toll. The only man who seems to have had any ability to
do anything for Austria was Dollfuss and the Nazis took his life because they
realized his importance." - Thor Johnson in Thor Johnson, American
Conductor, by Louis Nicholas, 1982.
In an attempt
to counteract the influence of the Nazis, Engelbert Dollfuss had instated his
dictatorship when banning the Nazi party and also excluding the social democrats
to take part in government. However, Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss was assassinated
on July 24, 1934. He was succeeded by Kurt von Schussnig who followed the same
policy, but to no avail. That was the situation in Austria.
was a very popular artist who starred in several movies. He was not too fluent
in English and he had a heavy Polish accent. So in the dialogues his voice was
dubbed with that of another actor. Naturally for later movies Kiepura's spoken
word had to be synchronised also with another voice and it was Marcel Prawy who
supervised the synchronisation sessions with actor Robert Valberg in Vienna.
As Jan Kiepura was engaged at the Metropolitan Opera, migration to the
US was the obvious move for Prawy to make. This became the more urgent when on
March 12, 1938, Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany. The new Nazi government meant
important changes and restrictions for all Austrian citizens. Also for performing
artists. On the day after the Anschluss it was announced that actor Robert
Valberg, with whom Prawy had worked while synchronizing and editing Kiepura's
latest movie, was appointed head of all the artists in the new constellation (Landesleiter
der Reichstheaterkammer and Kulturbeirat der Stadt Wien). This came as a shock.
Prawy had never suspected that the man, with whom he was on friendly terms, was
a Nazi. However, it was Robert Valberg, who arranged for the necessary official
documents and Prawy could quickly leave the country.
Together with Jan Kiepura and Marta Eggerth, he left for Italy.
From there they traveled by boat to the United States. Prawy was registered at
Ellis Island (New York).
enough Jan Kiepura and Marcel Prawy returned to Europe for a short while in 1939
in order to collect important private belongings and documents in Berlin, an undertaking
which was not without risk. In the end they decided not to continue the trip to
Berlin and to leave Europe as soon as possible. That was just in time and they
reached New York in 1939. Marcel Prawy got a permit to stay and he also obtained
an affidavit for his father, who came to America as well, but died there. Dr.
Richard Frydmann von Prawy, 1882-1942.
1933 dark clouds gathered over Europe. In the years before World War II broke
out, many scientists, musicians, composers, performers, and artists fled to America.
Many were well known or became famous after the war. They were of various nationalities.
Many names were linked in some way or other to the Austrian-Hungarian-German music
culture: Robert Stolz (conductor), Oscar Strauss (composer/conductor),
Paul Abraham (composer), Emmerich Kalman (composer), Erich Wolfgang
Korngold (composer/conductor), Béla Bartók (composer),
Andor Foldes (pianist), Fritz Busch (conductor), and many, many
more. Marcel Prawy got to know many and remained friends with Stolz, Korngold,
Kálmán, Strauss, and many more.
all were in a position to perform or have their works performed to earn some sort
of living. There were exceptions: Robert Stolz conducted in New York. Fritz
Busch led the New Opera Company, Hungarian born singer Martha Eggert and
her Polish husband Jan Kiepura sang at the Met, and Marta Eggerth made
movies in Hollywood. In 1940 she sang in the Broadway musical 'Higher and Higher'.
In the 1943-1944 season the couple played in the Broadway production of the operetta
'The Merry Widow' (Lehar). Many immigrants produced cultural gatherings for other
immigrants in New York, and with success. Donald Gabor knew Martha Eggert and
he asked her to make a few recordings for his Continental label which he later
released on Continental CLP 2012. Gabor also recorded pianist Andor
Foldes and, together with Laszlo Halasz, he made the now famous recordings
of Béla Bartók.
It was through Marta Eggert that Donald Gabor met Marcel Prawy, a meeting which
would have great consequencies several years later.
United States of America Certificate of Nationalization of Marcel Prawy (white,
male, ruddy complexion, 5 foot 11.5 inches tall) was issued on November 2, 1943
George Curtiss (later director of the Webster pressing plant in Massachusetts),
also Marcel Prawy enlisted in the US Army in 1943 and obtained US citizenship.
From then on Prawy was no longer secretary of the famous movie couple, but became
instructor. He taught languages, history, and customs of European countries to
recruits so they would be prepared when they came to Europe.
1944 Prawy was first sent to England were he entertained the American troops together
with cabarettist/pianist/composer Georg Kreisler (a sample of the latter's
art are the "Nichtarische Arien" -Not Arian Arias- recorded in 1966).
From England Prawy went to Paris. There too Prawy and Kreisler performed their
musical reviews they partly had written together.
When the Germans had finally
capitulated in May 1945, he was stationed in Germany and for a short while in
Bordeaux in France. In 1946 he returned to Vienna. From May 1946 to 1950 he was
a "Military Civilian" and as such became editor of "Welt im
Film" (The World in Pictures), the adaptation for Austrian cinema goers
of the American-British news reel, to which he added more items about music
than about politics, he later confessed in his book "Marcel Prawy erzählt
aus seinem Leben" (Marcel Prawy talks about his life).
Prawy in the nineteen seventies.
taken from Deutsche Grammophon Lp 2532 001 - Wagner: Tristan und Isolde.
credit: Will Appelt, Wien.
Prawy produced many recordings on his own account like 'RÍve
de valse' (Ein Walzertraum, Dreamwaltz) by Oscar Srauss, released in France on
Counterpoint CMC 120.001, the composer conducting the 'Tonkünstlerorchester',
listed in 1955.
conversations between Donald Gabor and Marcel Prawy in New York resonated at the
end of the nineteen forties when Gabor contacted Prawy and asked him to produce
recordings to be released on his newly founded Remington Records label. They made
From 1950 on Prawy produced numerous recordings with the Orchestra
of the Viennese Symphonic Society which is also called Austrian Symphony Orchestra,
Niederösterreichisches Sinfonieorchester (Symphony Orchestra of Lower Austria),
Tonkünstler Orchester. When Prawy mentioned in his correspondence the recordings
made with Gaspar Cassado, Kurt Wöss and George Singer, he calls the orchestra
"Vienna Pro Arte Orchestra". He had a two year contract with the orchestra.
Conductors were Fritz Busch, Kurt Wöss, Wilhelm Loibner, Gustav Koslik,
Felix Prohaska, Paul Walter, George Singer, Anton Paulik, Max Schönherr,
Wolf, to name a few. And he had a contract with the Orchestra of the
his productions, Prawy wrote in a letter dated July 31, 1950:
After three years of military duty with the U.S.Army (1943-1946) and three years
civilian duty with Military Government for Austria (1946-1949, Assistant Films
Officer for Austria) I am now executive employee with Continental Record Company
My weekly earnings since my separation from Military Government
have averaged ATS 100.-. They are bound to take a sharp increase as I am working
on salary plus commission and have produced in the last months approximately 80
records which will go on sale in August only with 10% for me in addition to my
first batch of recordings was released in the fall of 1950, and certainly not
all eighty productions. Prawy also made deals with performing artists and artists
of the younger generation, those who just had finished their studies in Vienna.
Prawy even asked conductor Paul Sacher to make recordings for the Remington
label and, in a letter, tried to convince him by mentioning that recordings had
been made with George Enesco; Bela Bartok interpreting his own compositions; Giuseppe
de Luca singing arias; Walter Schneiderhan playing Mendelssohn`s Violin Concerto
and Beethoven Senatas; Giovanni Martinelli and Karin Branzell singing arias and
songs; Andor Foldes with a special piano album; Robert Stolz conducting his own
works; Jan Kiepura in The Merry Widow (Lustige Witwe); Oscar Strauss conducting
Viennese music; and a series of "great symphonies conducted by "the
Arthur Brown had been completed. Prawy talked as if he was involved with
the Bartok, Enesco and Foldes recordings which were made by Don Gabor in America.
However, he could have been present when Bartok and Foldes made the recordings.
It is known that Prawy was an able negotiator and also someone who liked to give
importance to himself as well as the cause he was working for. In this case Continental
Prawy discovered and contracted pianist Jörg Demus for his first recordings
ever, with works of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Schubert. Prawy also approached
young pianist Alexander Jenner who, in 1949, had won the "Bösendorfer-Preisflügel"
(Bösendorfer Grand Piano Prize), which was awarded by the famous Viennese
piano manufacturer to the best student. It was the obvious recommendation to have
Alexander Jenner to make his debut recordings for Remington. Alexander
Jenner told me: "Mr. Prawy would ask you to study, say Beethoven's 'Diabelli
Variations', and to be ready in two weeks time for a recording session."
The sessions arranged by Prawy in Vienna produced material to be released
on the Remington label for which also pianists Frieda Valenzi, Hilde Somer,
and Felicitas Karrer performed. These recordings were often released
on Gabor's Plymouth and Merit labels as well. Prawy recorded cellists Gaspar
Cassado and Richard Matuschka, and violinists Michèle Auclair,
Eva Hitzker, Helen Airoff, Walter Schneiderhan, and Gérard Poulet.
He made recordings or obtained radio recordings of the many artists who can be
found on the Remington releases starting at R-199-1 with pianist Felicitas Karrer
performing Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, up to and about R-199-128 on which Michèle
Auclair plays 'Kreisler Favorites' and Gaspar Cassado plays 'Cello Encore's, and
R-199-130, the record of Gustav Koslik conducting the Austrian Symphony Orchestra
in 'Polovetsian Dances' from Prince Igor (Borodin) and 'Night on Bald Mountain'
first "Fritz Busch Album", a gatefold with the recordings of Beethoven's
Symphony No. 8 and Joseph Haydn's "The Clock" appeared in the luxurious
series with crocodile skin pattern. After Fritz Busch had died these recordings
were available as the "Fritz Busch Memorial Album" in a differently
styled cover. Both releases had the reference number MW 39. Another release was
with baritone Paul Schoeffler (who sang at the Wiener Staatsoper fromn
1937 till 1965) and cellist Gaspar Cassado.
unique recording of Volkmar Andreae at 70 years of age: Bruckner's Symphony
No. 1. MW-40
Gui conducts Mendelssohn Bartholdy's 'Reformation Symphony' and Hebrides Overture.MW-50
luxurious Masterseal bears the emblem "A Marcel Prawy Production".
issued VC 81040 with the tapes from which the original Masterseal MW 46 was cut.
It is likely that the recordings of the Masterseal LP were produced for the Austrian
Broadcasting Services by Marcel Prawy together with Erich Wolfgang von Korngold
himself. The luxurious Masterseal bears the emblem "A Marcel Prawy Production".
Srauss Dynasty - Music by the various members of the Strauss family conducted
by Oscar Strauss who also lived in New York during World War Two. Masterseal MW-48.
few of Prawy's productions were released on the Masterseal label in the
early years. These were special editions not styled by Alex Steinweiss or another
artist who would be in charge. The records were offered in luxurious gatefold
covers with a luxurious snake skin pattern and liner notes originally written
by Marcel Prawy himself. The most famous ones are the Busch Memorial Album,
the recording with cellist Gaspar Cassado playing gems and accompanying
baritone Paul Schoeffler (Masterseal MW-45). On Masterseal MW-49 it is
Vittorio Gui who conducts Mendelssohn Bartholdy's 'Reformation Symphony'
and Hebrides Overture, and on Masterseal MW-50 he conducts Great Overtures of
Rossini, Cherubini and Wolf-Ferrari. The pressings were done on quality vinyl,
not the cheap substitute used for the Remingtons. Therefor prices were high, $6.45
for a 12 inch LP record. Other Masterseal releases were Bruckner's Symphony No.
1 with conductor Volkmar Andreae (Masterseal MW-40); "Erich Wolfgang
Korngold plays Korngold", an LP on which the composer plays the piano,
and soprano Hilde Zadek and tenor Anton Dermota sing, while Wilhelm
Loibner conducts the "Austrian State Symphony" (Masterseal MW-46).
On MW-42 Vittorio Gui conducts "Great German Overtures". And there are
the recordings by Oscar Strauss on MW-47 and 48, and of course the
Fritz Busch Memorial Album (MW-39). All special
recordings were re-released on the Vibraton label in the nineteen sixties and
seventies. These records were pressed in Italy from new matrices on a better quality
special Masterseal series with noteworthy recordings produced by Marcel Prawy
all bore an emblem with his name instead of the name of Donald H. Gabor.
collaboration between Marcel Prawy and Don Gabor lasted until the beginning of
1953. It was then that Donald was offered to have Berlin as the main recording
venue and tape performances with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra.
writes in his biography:
between 1950 and 1955, I made many recordings, mostly for the American firm "Remington",
of which Donald and Wally Gabor from New York were the founders, who, for the
first time, wanted to release a budget series of the newly invented LP. I made
many records on my own account. There was a contract with the 'Niederösterreichisches
Tonkünstlerorchester'. (...) On my records conducted the great conductors
Fritz Busch and Vittorio Gui. Anton Dermota, Paul Schoeffler, Astrid Varnay were
the beginning several records were produced together with conductor Hans Wolf
who also had fled to America and had enlisted in the US Army. After World War
II Hans Wolf (1913-2005) had come back to Europe, but returned to the US
for good in 1950. Before he left, he recorded six works for Remington, among others
César Franck's Symphony in D, Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony,
Symphony No. 2 by Johannes Brahms, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Haffner"
Symphony, all with "The Austrian Symphony Orchestra". And he recorded
Haydn's Cello Concerto with Gaspar Cassado. Hans Wolf is better known as
a conductor of opera and of operetta.
truly was a budget series. The Remington recordings made in Austria give evidence
that Prawy was more concerned about recording an artist, an orchestra, the composition,
and adding another work to his and Gabor's catalog, than he cared about the quality
of the sound recording per se. Prawy tried to sell his recordings also to radio
stations in Sweden and Germany (RIAS), and to other recording companies in England
and the USA (Capitol) but to no avail.
the collaboration with Remington Records had ended,
Donald Gabor wrote a Letter of Recommendation
on the stationary of his the
Corporation of New England,
"This is to certify that
Mr. Marcel Prawy was employed as director and producer of musical recordings by
our division, Remington Records, Inc. Mr. Prawy started for us on January 17,
1950 and was employed until December 1953 and was paid on a weekly basis the sum
of $500. We were extremely satisfied with Mr. Prawy's unique talent and loyalty
and it is a pleasure to recommend him for any position which he would undertake."
- Signed: Donald H. Gabor, President.
conversion rate of the US$ to Austrian Schilling was 1 to 20 at the time. The
weekly payment of $500 was about 10.000 Austrian Schillings in 1951, and even
more on the black market. Prawy had to pay orchestras, conductors, musicians,
technicians, rent recording venues and pay for additional production costs. Nevertheless
one suspects that his business with Gabor made him a well-to-do man.
1953 is mentioned as the end of the contract, for the recordings of the Beethoven
and Brahms Violin Concertos performed by American violinist
Spalding, Laszlo Halasz traveled to Vienna to supervise the recordings
which were made using the new Musirama 4 microphone placement. It is plausible
that recording director Laszlo Halasz traveled to Vienna, together with violinist
Albert Spalding, and supervised these recordings, made in November 1952. Although
Marcel Prawy had tried to sell his "musical recordings" to radio stations
and other interested parties, it seems that Remington was the only record company
who released his recordings (apart from a few recordings issued in Germany on
the Opera label (Bertelsmann) and in France (Counterpoint).
early years of producing were significant for Prawy's later career and his experiences
paid off. In 1955 he became a member of the board of directors of the 'Volksoper'
and he dared to introduce 'the musical' to the conservative Viennese public by
staging Cole Porter's 'Kiss me Kate', followed by Leonard Bernstein's 'Wonderful
Town' (1956), Irving Berlin's 'Annie, Get your Gun' (1957), and Leonard Bernstein's
'West Side Story' (1968), and many more.
Price and William Warfield. Picture taken from
the RCA LP release with highlights from Porgy and Bess.
In 1952 the American
Opera Company toured Europe performing George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
and also visited Vienna. Prawy had first seen 'Porgy and Bess', the revival production,
in New York in 1942 and he could have seen the 1944 production at the New York
City Center before he, as an information officer, was sent back to Europe with
the US Army. In that 1952 production the role of Porgy was played and sung by
William Warfield whom Prawy had met in the army. Bess was the young and
newly discovered star, soprano Leontyne Price. It was the first Blevins
Davis/ Robert Breen production. (The second production of Porgy and Bess
toured Europe one year later, in 1956).
picture appeared in Etude Magazine of July, 1955. The caption reads, "Maestro
Ormandy and William Warfield, noted Negro baritone, with several orchestra members
about to board their plane."
The Philadelphia Orchestra flew to Europe
with KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines, as is indicated by the lettering "The Flying Dutchman"
above the windows.
it is likely that William
Warfield also came to Vienna in 1955 when the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor
Eugene Ormandy toured Europe and visited the Austrian capital. An
article in Etude Magazine of July, 1955, mentions: "William Warfield, baritone
and the only American soloist to accompany the orchestra, was the featured artist
in seven (...) programs."
years later, in 1965, Marcel Prawy himself produced 'Porgy and Bess' with the
Wiener Volksoper. It was the complete, original version and the first complete
version since the premiere in Boston. Therefor it is said that Marcel Prawy set
the trend to perform 'Porgy and Bess' as a full length opera and not as an abbreviated
musical, already many years before the Metropolitain Opera did. In that production
of 1965 Olive Moorefield was Bess. Porgy was again Prawy's army friend William
"I owe a deep insight into the creativity of George Gershwin to a wonderful
man with whom I became friends in New York. There his name was Albert Sirmai (opriginally
written as Szirmay, ed.) (...) managing director of the famous Chappell Publishing
Company and who earlier had been a close collaborator of George Gershwin. Nearly
all Gershwin's piano scores show his name as a publisher. Countless times I have
visited him after office hours at Chapell's and did not get tired to listen to
his stories about George Gershwin. Because of his inadequate classical music studies,
Gershwin suffered from poor selfesteem, and was a Wagnerian, and Sirmai had always
to explain the technique of the 'Leitmotiv' (leading motif) of his idol. He (Sirmai.
ed.) once showed me a 'Meistersinger' opera vocal score with Gershwin's written
remarks. "Porgy" is indeed the only opera which exists with the
most 'leading motifs' ever.
The premiere performance in the year 1935 in the Alvin Theatre was no good - except
for the leading performers Todd Duncan and Anne Brown. And when I came to America
in 1939 people still said to me (...) that Porgy, the last (composition) of Gershwin,
was nothing.(...) Than they remodeled "Porgy and Bess", inserted spoken
dialog (these are hardly present in the original), the heavy chorusses were abridged,
and changed it into a musical. That was an immense triumph in 1942. (...) I was
present. Suddenly there was a musical which had less similarity with Gershwin's
opera, but had started a triumphant tour.
was the first who said to director Moser of the "Volksoper":
"What in fact
about the original which was never performed? As an opera house we have all the
possibilities - Gershwin never did have these. Why don't we do that for the first
time in Vienna?"
Moser agreed. And in 1965 we did produce for the first time
the original score of "Porgy and Bess", as a large, heavy opera with
a large orchestra, big chorusses, with these difficult things to sing, for the
first time in the world on October 19, 1965, at the Volksoper. (Olive) Moorefield
was Bess, William Warfield Porgy, and I was very proud of the headline in an American
newspaper: "Vienna gave Gershwin what America did refuse him." - Marcel
career was gaining more and more in importance. He became a famous television
presenter and as such was called 'Mister Oper'. He supervised and compiled a series
of opera records for Deutsche Grammophon, engaged famous stars and discovered
new talents. He wrote many books and was dramaturg at the State Opera (Staatsoper).
He was one of Vienna's most remarkable figures who left an imprint on the cultural
life and on the lives of many artists, opera singers, conductors, musicians, stars,
and in the early nineteen fifties on Gabor's Remington Records.
Prawy, who, like writer Cornell Woolridge (The Window and Rear Window) and so
many others, considered living in a hotel the best way to be able to dedicate
himself fully to his work - he may have taken up the habit when changing from
one hotel to another during his stay in New York - passed away on February 23,
2003, at the age of 91, leaving numerous documents, books, photographs and objets,
all documenting the musical history of Vienna over many decades.
In the nineteen
thirties tenor Jan Kiepura predicted that Marcel Prawy was going to have
a great career. And indeed he was. Placido Domingo described Prawy as "an
authority for everything concerning music". And that was also very true.
written by Rudolf A. Bruil - Page first published in December 2006.
about Marcel Prawy's work for Jan Kiepura, his stay in the USA and a quotation,
were taken from the book "Marcel Prawy erzählt aus seinem Leben"
(Marcel Prawy talks about his life), Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna, 2001.