The concert performance on Sunday, November
25th, 1951, by pianist Hermann Schwertmann and conductor Alexander Paulmuller
with the Niederösterreichisches Tonkünstlerorchester of Tchaikovsky's
Piano Concerto in B Flat, Op. 23, prompted Marcel Prawy to arrange for
a recording session.
courtesy Ursula Erhart-Schwertmann, Vienna.
firtst label of Remington R-199-76 with Hermann Schwertmann's performance
of the Tchaikovsky Concerto.
second pressing of Remington R-199-76
label of Remington R-199-76 in the later MUSIRAMA disguise but was originally
not a MUSIRAMA recording.
Schwertmann in the mid nineteen fifties.
Image copyright Ursula Erhart-Schwertmann, Vienna.
same performance was released by Don Gabor on his Plymouth label (P-12-43).
But then on label and cover the name Hans
Kessler was printed, a pseudonym for Hermann Schwertmann.
pianist Hermann Schwertmann, conductor Alexander Paulmüller and
the 'Nieder-Österreichisches Tonkünstler Orchester' were
rehearsing Tchaikowsky's First Concerto Op. 23 and the actual concert
on the afternoon of Sunday, November 25, 1951, was a great succes,
Marcel Prawy had already planned to tape the performance the next
day in the Brahmssaal.
Tchaikovsky's popular Opus 23 was still missing in the growing Remington
catalog of classical music. This was an opportunity to fill the gap.
Prawy, the well known Viennese lawyer/ musicologist/ dramaturge was
producer for the recordings originating in Austria.
In the case of the Tchaikovsky concerto it was not the taping of the
live performance on November 25th 1951. The recording was made on
a separate day, because there are no noises of the public and there
is no applause. It was a so called studio recording done in
the Musikvereinssaal with its beautiful acoustics.
Despite all this, the performance of the popular B flat, Opus 23,
by these artists is not impeccable, nor is it a quality sound recording.
It is nevertheless a remarkable performance because it has many good
the difficult years after the Second World War, when producers of
American record companies were traveling from one European city to
another, instrumentalists, singers, orchestras and conductors were
all too eager to make recordings.
Doing several takes was simply not done as the costs had to be kept
low. If the sound quality may have been the primary objective of the
technician, it was not always an important issue for the producer,
nor for the artists. And certainly not in the case of those early
recordings for a budget label like Remington was. To everyone involved
it was more important to earn a living than to chisel and refine the
Chances are that a relatively good sounding pressing can be encountered.
The quality of a record also depends on the matrix production, the
quality of the vinyl and the pressing process.
der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien - Brahms: Piano Concerto
No. 1 - Strauss: Burleske for Piano and Orchestra - Tchaikovsky:
Piano Concerto No. 1. Performed in one evening's concert. A
tour de force for many a pianist. Not for Hermann Schwertmann.
courtesy Ursula Erhart-Schwertmann, Vienna.
in 1947 Hermann Schwertmann had performed Tchaikovsky's Piano
Concerto No. 1 Op.23 with that same orchestra, but then conducted
by Milo von Wawak. Especially for the pianist it was a demanding
enterprise because also the First Concerto of Johannes Brahms and
Richard Strauss's 'Burlesque for Piano and Orchestra' were on the
program that evening. And Schwertmann succeeded in rendering the full
content of the piano part of all three compositions. Over the years
critics were very positive about his performances. After the performance
of Brahms's No. 1 in Sarajevo, the 'Oslobodjenje' of April 12, 1957
'Schwertmann presented himself as a technical
master of his instrument and is an artist with a high intellect
and an excellent culture. It was very interesting to witness
him while sinking deep into the core of Brahms's work.' -
Oslobodjenje', April 12, 1957
hat sich als technischer Meister seines Instruments präsentiert
und ist ein Künstler hohen Intellekts und ausnehmender
Kultur. Es war sehr interessant, ihn bei der Versenkung in den
Kern des Brahmsschen Werkes zu beobachten.')
critic of 'Die Presse' reviewed in the edition of November 25th, 1952,
Schwertmann's performance of the Shostakovich Concerto:
'Hermann Schwertmann cleverly sensed the rhythmic
problems which Shostakovich's Piano Concerto presents'.
- Die Presse, November 25th, 1952,
Schwertmann hat sich mit viel Geschick in die rhythmischen Probleme
eingelebt, welche Schostakowitsch' Klavierkonzert aufgibt'.)
Tchaikovsky Concerto was certainly one of Schwertmann's favorites
on the long list of solo concertos which he had on his repertory,
ranging from the popular J.S. Bach to the modern, not well known composers
Karl Senn and Ernst Ludwig Uray, including Gershwin's Concerto in
F, Rachmaninoff's Second Concerto, and Beethoven's Emperor.
Sebastian Bach - Concerto in D
Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 2, Piano
Concerto No. 5
Johannes Brahms - Piano Concerto No. 1
Frédéric Chopin - Piano Concerto No.
Claude Debussy - Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra
George Gershwin - Piano Concerto in F
Edward Grieg - Piano Concerto
Joseph Haydn - Piano Concerto No. 7
Franz Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 2
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concertos KV271, KV
449 and KV 488
Sergei Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto No. 2
Dimitri Shostakovich - Piano Concerto
Karl Senn - Piano Concerto
Richard Strauss - Burlesque for piano and Orchestra
Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky - Concerto No. 1
Ernst Ludwig Uray - ' Konzertante Musik' for Viola,
Piano and Orchestra
was born on August 5th, 1919. His talent was soon discovered and already
at the age of 14 he started studying the piano at the 'Staatsakademie
für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Wien' (Viennese State Academy
for Music and Dramatic Art). At the same time he studied at the 'Bundesgymnasium'
and passed the final exams at the age of 18. From then on until the
outbreak of World War Two, he studied musicology and the English language
at the University of Vienna, while he continued to study the piano.
He passed his exam ('Reifeprüfung für Klavier') with Bertha
Jahn-Beer in 1938. He then studied for the next year with Emil
von Sauer, and with Friedrich Wührer the year after.
Again he passed his exam with high notes receiving the 'Diplom Konzertfach'
(Concert Pianist Certificate).
building a career was not on the program. On the 20th of December
1940, at the age of twenty one, he was drafted into the army and he
formally served until the end of the war, but gave concerts at several
occasions. After having been imprisoned by the Allied Forces, a fate
of numerous citizens from all walks of life, the young pianist was
released at the end of March 1946.
1947 at the time of the performance with the Tonkünstlerorchester
conducted by Milo Wawak.
copyright Ursula Erhart-Schwertmann, Vienna.
few days later, on April 1st, he took up the post of teacher at the
'State Academy for Music and Dramatic Arts' and was able to really
start a career as a performer when, in that same year, he joined the
'Collegium musicum Wien'. He was a member until 1953. He also
teamed up with harpsichordist/pianist Kurt Rapf to perform,
as duo pianists, works for four hands and for two pianos, written
in a variety of styles. Their repertory was quite extensive. And their
success is well documented. The 'Kleines Volksblatt'
from November 1st, 1950, wrote:
'The highlight of the evening brought the
exact and swingful execution of the Sonata for Two Pianos and
Percussion of Bartók (...) by Kurt Rapf and Hermann Schwertmann.'
Volksblatt, November 1st, 1950,
des Abends brachte die exakte und schwungvolle Aufführung
der Sonate für zwei Klaviere und Schlagzeug von Bartòk
(...) durch Kurt Rapf und Hermann Schwertmann.')
Schwertmann's list of works for two pianos:
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach -
Béla Bartòk - Sonata for 2 Pianos and
George Bizet - Jeux d'enfants
Johannes Brahms - Liebeslieder-Walzer and Variations
on a Theme by Haydn
Claude Debussy - Petite Suite, En blanc et noir, Six
Antonin Dvorak - 3 Slavonic Dances
Manuel de Falla - Nights in the Gardens of Spain
George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue
Anton Heiller - Toccata
Paul Hindemith - Sonate (1938)
Manuel Infante - Danses Andalouses
Franz Liszt - Concerto pathetique
Peter Mieg - Concerto for 2 Pianos.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Fantasy for an Organ KV 608,
Adagio und Fuge, Sonata KV 358, Sonate KV 448, Sonata for
4 Hands, Concerto for 2 Pianos K 365
Felix Petyrek - 4 Concert Studies, Toccata and Fugue
Sergej Rachmaninoff - Suite Nr. 2
Maurice Ravel - Ma Mère l'Oye
Max Reger - Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue Op.
96, Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Beethoven
Karl Schiske - Sonate Op. 29 - 1949
Franz Schubert - Marches from Op. 40, Fantasy Op. 103
Norbert Sprongl - Capriccio - First performance
Igor Strawinsky - Die Bauernhochzeit
Esther Williamson - Sonata
a career as a performing artists is not an easy task. Gradually the
emphasis was put on teaching and on other important activities at
the University where he helped reorganize the university's teaching
plans. He also was responsible for the organization of the various
competitions named after significant people: 'Bösendorfer
Wettbewerb', 'Heydner Wettbewerb' and 'Rombro-Stepanow Wettbewerb',
the contests for young students and upcoming artists. In 1960 he officially
became a professor and in 1967 he received the title of 'extraordinary
university professor' to be appointed 'university professor' only
three years later, in 1970.
Schwertmann in 1952 at the
the time when he was pursuing a career as a concert pianist.
Photo by Fayer, Vienna. Image
courtesy Ursula Erhart-Schwertmann, Vienna.
musicians do not restrict their repertory to the works solely written
for their specific instruments as a soloist in recitals and concertos.
Hermann Schwertmann too had a vast repertory of chamber music, he
was accompanying violinists and cellists, and other instrumentalists,
and he often appeared as a member of chamber music ensembles. It is
interesting to see what the repertory of an artist can look like,
in this case that of Hermann Schwertmann.
- Second Sonata for Violin and Piano
Charles-Auguste de Bériot - 'Scène de
ballet' for Violin and Piano
Ludwig van Beethoven - Sonatas for Violin and Piano
Nos. 1, 2, 5 (Spring), 7, 9 (Kreutzer), and 10; Sonata for
Violoncello and Piano No. 3; Trio No. 4 for Clarinet, Violoncello
Johannes Brahms - Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1,
Sonata for Violoncello and Piano No. 1, Trio for Piano, Violin
and Horn, Piano Quartet No. 2
Antonin Dvorak - Sonatine for Violin and Piano Op.
Walter Gieseking - Sonatine for Flute and Piano
Stephen Heller - Quintet for Clarinet, Violin, Violoncello
Kurt Hessenberg - Sonate F für Violine und Klavier
Paul Hindemith - Sonata for Flute and Piano, Sonata
for Oboe and Piano, Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Sonata
for Bass and Piano
Jenö Hubay - Csárdas for Violin and Piano
Augustin Kubizek - Trio for Clarinet, Violoncello and
Prinz Louis Ferdinand - Piano Quartet
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy - Sextet for Piano, Violin,
Two Altos, Cello and Bass Op. 110
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Sonata for Violin and Piano
Friedrich Neumann - Sonata for Clarinet and Piano
Thomas Pitfield - Sonatine for Flute and Piano (1948)
Reinhold Portisch - Trio for Violin, Clarinet und Piano
Kurt Rapf - Trio (1984) for Clarinet, Violoncello and
Max Reger - Sonata for Violin and Piano Op. 139, Sonata
for Clarinet and Piano, Piano Trio Op. 2
Karl Schiske - Sonata for Violin and Piano, Sextet
for Clarinet String Quartet and Piano
Franz Schubert - Sonatina for Violin and Piano Op.
137/3, Trout Quintet
Robert Schumann - Sonata for Violin and Piano Op. 121,
3 Fantasy Pieces Op. 73 for Cello and Piano, Piano Quintet
Friedrich (Bedrich) Smetana - Two Pieces from 'Aus
der Heimat' for Violin and Piano
Norbert Sprongl - Sonata for Flute and Piano Op. 70,
Third Violinsonata (World Première), Sonata for Bass
and Piano Op. 74 (World Première), Quintet Op. 67
Richard Strauss - Sonata Op. 6 for Violoncello and
Piano, Violin Sonata Op. 18
Erich Zeisl - Sonata for Cello and Piano
for a recital pianist there is also quite a number of pieces, mainstream
and some modern works. This shows that there would have been ample
opportunity to make more recordings of this pianist for whatever label.
Johann Sebastian Bach
- Toccata and Fugue in E
Ludwig van Beethoven - Sonatas (Pathétique,
Moonlight, Waldstein, Sonata Op. 78, Op. 111), Polonaise Op.
89, Rondo 'Die Wut über den verlorenen Groschen', Eroica
Johannes Brahms: Rhapsodie in E
Alfredo Casella - 11 Pezzi infantili (1920)
Frédéric Chopin - Ballades Nos. 1 and
3, Etüde Op. 10 Nos. 3, 4, 7 and 12, Mazurkas (Op. 6
No. 2, Op. 68 No. 2, Op. 68 No. 3, Op. 37 No. 2), Prelude
Op. 28 No. 2, Polonaise Op. 53, Polonaise Op. 21, Nocturne
in F, Introduction et Polonaise Op. 22, Scherzo Op. 39
Muzio Clementi - Sonata in G
Claude Debussy - Suite pour le piano
Georg Friedrich Händel - Partita A-Dur, Sonata
Karl Herrmann - Sonata
E. T. A. Hoffmann - Sonate
Franz Liszt - Sonata in B, Polonaise in E, Rigoletto-Paraphrase
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy - Lied ohne Worte (Song
Without Words) Op. 19 No. 9, Variations sérieuses Op.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Sonatas (in A, in B)
Max Reger - Intermezzi Op. 45, Humoreske Op. 20 Nos.
1 and 4
Erwin Christian Scholz - Third Piano Sonata Op. 52
Franz Schubert - Sonata D 485, Sonata in A, Impromptu
in B, Impromptu in E flat, Moment musical Op. 94 Nos. 1, 2
Robert Schumann - Carneval Op. 9, Toccata in C Op.
7, Sonate in F sharp, Scherzo in A Op. 99
Norbert Sprongl - Four Preludes for Piano, Four Dance
Pieces for Piano Op. 96
Carl Maria von Weber - Rondo brillant Op. 62
Schwertmann appeared regularly in the studios of the ORF and
there are certainly taped performances in the archives of the radio
station. However the only commercial recording he made is Remington
R-199-76, released in May 1952. There are several minor irregularities
in the playing as the performance was taped in a limited time frame
without the luxury of splicing. There are maybe two instances where
a possible splice can be heard. Despite the stress caused by the adage
"Nothing must go wrong", Schwertmann's approach is sensitive,
and at times his phrasing is very beautiful. Passion and meditative
intimacy alternate each other. The transition from cadenza to the
finale of the first movement is refined.
exceptional sense for rythm can also be heard in the second and third
movements. His performance comes right from the heart and has no pretence
which cannot be said of the later Conrad Hansen performance which
is the stylish high school of pianoplaying approach loosing some of
the emotional impact of this wonderful concerto. Hermann Schwertmann
gives a sensitive, very personal rendition which, in its quality,
is on par with for instance Alexander Uninsky's rendition on the Philips
label with Willem van Otterloo conducting the Hague Residency Orchestra,
also recorded in the early 1950s and first issued on A 00135 L.
The conductor of this performance, Alexander Paulmüller,
was born in Innsbruck (Tyrol, Austria). He conducted orchestras
at Breslau, Graz, Linz, and Vienna; at Kaiserslautern, Regensburg
and Frankfurt am Main. From 1964 till 1972 he was conductor
of the Würtemberg State Opera. Early in his career he was
a choral conductor at the Vienna State Opera with Bruno Walter.
Paulmüller in the nineteen sixties when he was conductor
of the Bruckner Orchestra (1958-1961) and of the Stuttgart
Philharmonic Orchestra (until 1972).
Paulmüller is the conductor of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's
Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (Meerestille und Glückliche
Fahrt) and of Schubert's Symphony No.5 which was released
on Remington R-199-86 about that recording Warren Demotte
simply commented in the Long Playing Record Guide that the issue
suffers "from poor recording".
Judging from the Tchaikovsky accompaniement it is clear that
Alexander Paulmüller is a very good conductor. Like Kurt
Wöss, he studied for a short time with legendary Felix
Weingartner in Vienna. Weingartner was conductor of the Vienna
State Opera from 1927-1935. Naturally many students tried to
get tuition from the esteemed conductor. - R.A.B.
Schwertmann gives a very personal account of Tchaikovsky's First.
There is an added sense of a live recording and there is no cold calculation
in the music making, there is no bravura for the sake of it, no virtuosity
In his assessment in the early nineteen fifties of 18 recordings of
the Tchaikovsky Concerto, critic Warren DeMotte wrote that
this Remington was not a bargain. The listener may agree with him
regarding the technical qualities of the recording and pressing, but
definitely will disagree when considering the performance, the atmosphere
and the concentration.
for a Sound Clip of Tchaikovsky's
Piano Concerto No, 1 Op. 23.
in his discography of 'Tchaikovsky Recordings on Microgroove' (High
Fidelity, August 1954), said about R-199-76:
"Schwertmann's piano has an unpleasantly
tinny sound, even though well removed from the mike and it is
hard to admire the brassiness of the string tone, or the breathy
woodwinds. As a performance it has its points being robust,
occasionally imperious and has a good deal of animated conviction."
- J.F. Indcox, 1954
reviewer used the word "imperious" and he may be convinced
that this is a just qualification. There is however no arrogance or
disdain, nor is Schwertmann's position a dominating and overbearing
one. The performance is integer and sincere. There is at times a very
sensitive flow in the pianist's playing. That was probably what Indcox
meant by writing "and has a good deal of animated conviction".
For a better listening experience he could have applied a specific
playback correction in order to attain a more or less correct frequency
characteristic. Remington Records were generally cut in such a way
that they would sound best on a simple gramophone player or portable
gramophone. See for the right correction of Remington and other 1950
The same recording
was issued on the Plymouth label, but then, as Don Gabor often
did, with a different (fantasy) name as soloist, in this case Hans
Kessler, maybe to avoid extra license payments to Marcel Prawy,
or just presenting a Tchaikovsky recording with a "different"
artist in a cheaper issue for record buyers in super markets, or just
to fool the record buying public.
may regret that no other commercial recordings of Schwertmann were
made and then with more recording time, so attention could have been
paid to quality. Maybe someday radio recordings, made by the Austrian
Broadcasting Corporation (OR, Österreichischer Rundfunk), will
be published and then the listener could be taken by surprise again.
The often cited phrase: 'It is a pity that not more recordings were
made of this artist', is fully justified in the case of Hermann Schwertmann.
R-199-76 from 1951 with Tchaikovsky's
Piano Concerto in B Flat, Op. 23, performed by pianist Hermann
Schwertmann, conductor Alexander Paulmuller and the Austrian
Symphony Orchestra (Niederösterreichisches Tonkünstlerorchester).
Covers of Curt John Witt.
is the case with Michèle Auclair's recording of the
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (R-199-20), here also the name
of the composer is spelled the German (Austrian) way and printed
on both cover and label. It shows that the spelling was copied
from Marcel Prawy's text which accompanied the tape reel.
many years in a row Hermann Schwertmann organized the Beethoven competitions
and was a juror for several other competitions. His dedication to
the cause of music resulted in receiving the 'Great Honor of Merit
of the Austrian Republic' (Großes Ehrenzeichen für
Verdienste um die Republik Österreich) awarded on September 25th,
1974, by the Ministry of Science and Research.
From 1978 till 1984 he also taught at the 'Japanese Summer Seminars'.
Numerous were his students. Many of these do play a role as a pedagogue,
an instrumentalist, or as a composer.
After 37 years of devoted teaching and managing, he retired in September
1984 at the age of 65.
Hermann Schwertmann lives in Vienna.
A. Bruil - February 12th, 2006
and images of Hermann Schwertmann, the poster and the program, were
submitted by his daughter, cellist player Ursula Erhart-Schwertmann,
July 22, 2007, I received the sad message from his daughter that after
a long and serious illness, pianist Hermann Schwertmann, aged 87,
had passed away in Vienna on July 13, 2007.