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Kurt Wöss (1914-1987)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachmaninoff's 2nd Concerto with Felicitas Karrer.

 

 

 

The cover of the reissue of the Grieg Concerto on the Masterseal label. The picture is not of pianist Felicitas Karrer. The picture was supplied by the Baldwin Piano Company.

 

A 10" Remington with Symphony No. 41 K551 of Mozart.

 

 

 

The original cover of Schubert's Tragic Symphony.

 

 

 

 


Beetoven's Seventh Symphony.

 

 

Tchaikovsky's 1812 Festival Overture (Ouverture solennelle).

 

 

Tchaikovsky's 1812 Festival Overture (Overture solennelle) was issued on 2 x 45 RPM 7" discs with Smetena's Moldau (reference RB-4-003).
By mistake the box mentions George Singer as the conductor for the Tchaikovsky piece, whereas the factual conductor was Kurt Wöss. Singer conducted The Moldau.

 

 

 

Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet from R-199-88 conducted by Kurt Wöss was later released on Palace M-601. But the conductor was then named Kurt Baumann.

 

 

 

 

 

Dvorak's Cello Concerto with Gaspar Cassado.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Austria, the Second World War ended on April 27, 1945. In the years to come an entire nation had to face what the Third Reich and its followers had done to Austria and Austrian culture. The atmosphere looked really grim and though many young Austrians had plans for a brighter future, many had to wait to do what they wanted. Also 30 year old Kurt Wöss. During the War he had been teaching at the Musik-Ademie and at the Musik-Schule in Vienna.

Now, after the war, he had to start all over again. He took up the idea of reassembling and training the Niederösterreichisches Tonkünstler Orchestra (Niederösterreichisches Sinfonieorchester - Symphony Orchestra of Lower Austria) of which he became principal conductor in 1948.

Kurt Wöss was born in Linz in Upper Austria on May 2nd, 1914. His formal musical education took place at the 'State Academy of Music and the Performing Arts' in Vienna were he studied under the university professors Egon Joseph Wellesz (Austrian-English musicologist and composer who himself had studied under Arnold Schönberg and Guido Adler), Robert Lach (musicologist-composer), Alfred Orel (who, like Wellesz, studied under Guido Adler), and he studied with musicologist Robert-Maria Haas (who is famous for the restoration of the Bruckner Symphonies). Robert-Maria Haas influenced Woss to a great extend.

The emphasis on musicology in Wöss's studies is not without significance. It heightened his desire in giving a performance true to the composer's intentions. This education laid the foundation that made him later into a prominent advocate of and a devoted performer of the works of Anton Bruckner. In 1975 he conducted the first performance of the complete Novak Edition of Symphony No. 4 with the Munich Philharmonic. This event took place in the Bruckner Haus in Linz (Austria).

Kurt Wöss at 36 (around 1950).
Picture taken from the cover of REMINGTON R-199-97, edited and restored by R.A.B.

In addition his studies as a private student of Felix Weingartner (his subjects were violin and composition) are most significant for the way Wöss developed his style of conducting. Woess was not only noted for his musical perception and exactness of interpretation, he also had a remarkable memory and it is said that he conducted most (if not all) classical works that were on his repertoire without a score. His repertory was extensive and ranged from J.S. Bach to the more contemporary Béla Bartók.

Among the many famous orchestras which have played under his baton are: Swedish Konsertforeningen, Augusteo Orchestra from Italy, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Zürich Tonhalle-Orchester, the Orchestra of the NHK (Japan; September 1951 – August 1954 Principal Conductor), the Melbourne Symphony, and the famous Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra

A 78 RPM recording of the Tonkuenstler Orchestra from before World War II: Polyphon Record 100030 with Fantasy from "Cavalleria Rusticana", Mascagni. It is not sure if this acoustical recording from around 1923 was of the factual Tonkünstler Orchestra.
(From the SoundFountain Archive)

From 1938 on Kurt Wöss was a professor at the Musik Akademie in Vienna. In order to have this post he had become a member of the National Socialist Party (NSDAP, Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei). Was this step taken out of a sincere conviction? Or did he join for "practical" reasons because as a 24 year old he did not want to jeopardize his career? In 1945 he was dismissed.

In the years after the war he got involved with the Tonkünstler Orchestra and by 1948 he became its principal conductor until 1951.

On recording covers and labels this same orchestra is sometimes referred to as 'Orchestra of the Viennese Symphonic Society', 'Tonkünstler Orchester' and 'Austrian Symphony Orchestra'. These names were probably used for publicity reasons. The original Tonkünstler-Orchester was founded in 1907 in Vienna, but soon after World War I had ended (1918) it had a difficult time and was forced to fuse with the Wiener Concertverein. After the Second World War the orchestra was newly organized. At the basis was the "Niederösterreichische Landesorchester" which was renamed Tonkuenstlerorchester. It was Kurt Wöss who reinstated the Sunday Afternoon Concerts (which had been an institution before the war).
Some well known and also famous names have swung the baton in front of the musicians of the Tonkünstler Orchestra during Wöss's reign and many after he had left for Japan. Among those were Gustav Koslik who also can be found on the Remington label, Heinz Wallberg, and Walter Weller (to name a few).

Kurt Wöss in his mid thirties conducting his Niederösterreiches Tonkünstler-Orchester with solo violinist Walter Schneiderhan in the Musikvereinssaal in Vienna in early 1950.
Picture courtesy Markus Hennerfeind, researcher of the Tonkünstler Orchester.

It was during 1950 and part of 1951, that the recordings with Kurt Wöss were made for release on the Remington label. They were produced by Marcel Prawy. In 1951, Kurt Wöss went to Japan to be principal conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of the Japanese National Broadcasting Corporation (NHK, Nippon Hoso Kyokai), which is the most important orchestra of Japan. It was Kurt Wöss who introduced the Japanese audience to Western (European) music, even before Herbert von Karajan did. In Japan and also later in Australia, he often conducted Bruckner Symphonies, he even performed twelve tone compositions in Tasmania!

After Kurt Wöss had left Vienna, recordings were now made with Gustav Koslik, Wilhelm Loibner, H. Arthur Brown, a.o. By the time Wöss left Tokyo in 1954 and returned to Vienna, Remington Records was no longer procuring recordings made in Austria. Don Gabor had signed a contract to make recordings in Berlin with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra.)

Following a period of about two years, during which Kurt Wöss conducted concerts in the USA as well, he took up the post of conductor of the Melbourne based Victorian Symphony Orchestra until 1960. From 1961 till 1968 he was director of the Opera of Linz, and he was principal conductor of the Linz Bruckner Orchestra from 1961 till 1974, while his wife, Dr. Margarethe Wöss, was music director in Linz from 1963 until 1987.

During his career Kurt Wöss also appeared as a guest conductor of orchestras in other countries: L'Orchestre du Conservatoire de Paris, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Bratislava Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Municipal Orchestra, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, and many more.
Kurt Wöss died in Dresden on December 4, 1987, when he was billed to conduct Bruckner's Fourth Symphony.


The Remington recordings of Kurt Wöss:

 
R-199-1 Beethoven: Emperor Concerto with pianist Felicitas Karrer (Released in 1950) (Plymouth P-12-11.)
R-199-2 Schubert: Symphony No. 1, Mozart: Fantasia

R-199-3 Grieg: Piano Concerto Op. 16 with Felicitas Karrer (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.)
R-199-7
Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 

R-199-8 Beethoven: Symphony No. 7
(Cover by Rudolph de Harak)

R-199-9 Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5

R-199-18 Richard Strauss: Don Juan, Tchaikovsky: Overture 1812
R-199-20 Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto with Michèle Auclair (reissued on Masterseal MSLP 5004)
R-199-25 Sibelius: Finlandia, Mozart: Overture to Thamos
R-199-32 Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 with Felicitas Karrer (Released 1951.) (Plymouth P-12-12.) The first movement can also be found on Twilight Concert No. 2, catalog number R-199-115.

R-199-37 Schubert: Symphony No. 4 "Tragic"

The second cover - by Alex Steinweiss - for the recording of Schubert's Tragic Symphony.

R-199-38 Dvorak: Cello Concerto with Gaspar Cassado
RLP-199-42 Brahms, Symphony No. 4
R-199-46
Mozart: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major with Helen Airoff

RLP-199-48 Schubert, Symphony No. 9,
RLP-199-54 Mozart, Sinfonia Concertante for oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and Orchestra. Coupled with two movements of incidental music to "Thamos, Koenig in Aegypten", conducted by Felix Guenther.
R-199-87 Tchaikovsky: Ouverture solennelle (re-release), Nutcracker Suite
R-199-88
Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet (Overture-Fantasia) and Ippolitov-Ivanov: Caucasian Sketches (Released November 1952)
R-199-97 Johann Strauss: Waltzes (4), coupled with Joseph Strauss "Dynamiden" conducted by Felix Günther.

 

R-149-16 Mozart: Jupiter Symphony
R-149-18 Rossini: William Tell and Barber Of Seville Overtures, Bizet: Carmen Prelude
RLP-149-20 Paganini: Violin Concerto Op. 6 with Ivry Gitlis plays Fritz Kreisler's completely reorchestrated first movement of Paganini's First Violin Concerto, which is rarely recorded; and it is only the one movement version spread over two sides of a 10" disc.

Ivry Gitlis plays Paganini Violin Concerto Op. 6 orchestrated by Fritz Kreisler  conducted by Kurt Wöss.

 

R-149-25 Sibelius: Finlandia, Mozart: Thamos König in Aegypten
R-149-27
Famous Polkas and Waltzes - Strauss (apparently also listed as Famous Operetta Marches)
R-149-28 Ippolitov-Ivanov: Caucasian Sketches
R-149-30 Schubert: Symphony No. 6
R-149-31 Tchaikovsky: Fantasy Overture 'Romeo and Juliet' (also appeared on R-199-88 coupled with Ippolotov-Ivanov's Caucasian Sketches that appeared on R149-28. Fantasy Overture 'Romeo & Juliet' was also released as Masque M0.017, but then coupled with Capriccio Italien by Rimsky-Korsakov and Procession of Bacchus by Delibes, both conducted by Ernst Mehlich)
R-149-49 Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite

RLP in the reference numbers of the early releases was later changed into R. So RLP-149-25 is the same as R-149-25.

On a Masterseal MSLP 5008 from around 1957, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and Schubert's Symphony No. 8 can be found, whereas there exists no Remington disc with this coupling conducted by Wöss.

Beethoven's Fifth was released on a 10" disc (R-149-9) with the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra conducted by Hans Wolf and Schubert's Eighth was originally a recording with conductor H. Arthur Brown (R-149-15). The name Wöss was probably a convenient substitute, especially when Brown had fallen from grace. 

As for so many artists and conductors who appear on the Remington label, also the performances of Kurt Wöss are "handicapped by a second rate orchestra and mostly a poor recording quality", as Warren DeMotte wrote in The Long Playing Record Guide.

There must be other performances of Wöss recorded in Austria, Sweden, Australia and Japan. In recent years more recordings of Kurt Wöss have been made available, mostly from broadcasts, and have probably been transferred to CD: Bruckner, Wagner, Mozart.

Kurt Wöss at 60.
(Image taken from the Dutch record review "Luister...", 1975.)

There is a technically well recorded Telefunken 'Royal Sound' Stereo LP from the early stereo days on which Wöss conducts the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in popular pieces by Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Bruch (with violinist Henri Lewkowitz), Glazunov, Weber and Grieg (Telefunken SLE 4 450-P).

The recording of Bruckner's Fourth Symphony by Woess and the Munich Philharmonic which can be found on Bruckner Haus Linz LP 2/12430-315. It is of the original version composed in 1874, edited by Leopold Nowak, published in 1975. Robert McColley wrote that this version is quite different from the later versions, and especially so in the case of the scherzo which is an entirely different movement. The 1874 version has now been recorded several times, but the recording by Woess was the first and is still regarded as one of the best.

There exists a private issue on CD, Lucky Ball LB 0010 S, of Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 with Kurt Wöss conducting the Vienna Tonkuenstler Symphony Orchestra.

On OPUS Stereo 9116 0693, (from Slovakia) Wöss conducts the Slovak Philharmonic in 'Operetta Overtures' - Fledermaus/ The Bat (Johann Srauss), Parisian Life/La vie parisienne (Offenbach), Beautiful Galathea/Die schöne Galathea (Von Suppé), The Land of Smiles/Das Lands des Lächelns (Lehar), Overture (Nedbal) and Czardas Princess/Czardasfürstin (Kálmán). It was recorded in the Slovak Philharmonic Concert Hall in Bratislava in February 1979.

Rudolf A. Bruil. Page created and first published in the fall of 2000


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