Alwin Schroeder: A Biographical Sketch
by Geoffrey Dean
Alwin Schroeder (June 15, 1855 in Neuhaldensleben, Germany – Oct. 17, 1928 in Boston, MA) was a German-American cellist, best known as a leading member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO first cellist 1891-1903, shared first desk 1910-1912 and 1918-1925) and cellist of the Kneisel Quartet (1891-1907). Schroeder appeared as soloist on at least ninety BSO concerts and gave the Boston premiere of Dvorak’s Concerto in B minor, Op. 104. He was a founding faculty member at the Institute of Musical Art (now the Juilliard School) in New York, and his collection of 170 Foundation Studies remains a staple of the pedagogical literature for aspiring cellists.
Alwin Schroeder was the son of Carl Schroeder (Karl Schröder I, 1816-1890), the music director at Neuhaldensleben. Three of his older brothers were also musicians: Hermann (1843-1909) became a composer and violin professor in Berlin; Carl (Karl Schröder II, 1848-1935) became a Leipzig Conservatory cello professor before being appointed court conductor to the Prince of Sondershausen in 1881; and Franz (1850 -?) would work as a conductor in St. Petersburg, Russia. Alwin was seven years old when he began music studies, receiving piano lessons from his father and violin lessons from Hermann. He later studied piano with J. B. Andre at Ballenstedt and attended the Berlin Hochschule fur Musik, studying violin with De Ahna and theory with Tappert.
It was as a violist that Schroeder first became known professionally. In 1866 he began taking over for his father in the family string quartet and continued as violist in the group, which performed widely until it disbanded in 1872. By this time he was also working as a violist in Berlin orchestras. Between 1872 and 1874, at about the time his cellist brother Carl relocated first to Berlin, then to Leipzig, Schroeder first turned his attention to the cello, an instrument on which he was apparently self-taught. As Wasielewski relates, "he conceived a great desire to take up the Violoncello, and practiced on his own account the Cello solo in the Introduction to Rossini’s “[William] Tell” Overture. He succeeded so well that his brother Karl, to whom he played it, urged him to occupy himself further with the Violoncello, which he did." Schroeder, then serving as first violist of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, is said to have refused to sign a new contract for the 1875-6 season unless he was allowed to move to the cello section. According to an anecdote published in the Boston Globe, "Not knowing of his recent devotion to the new instrument, the [orchestra] manager naturally thought him joking, but upon Alwin’s offering to play for him…his doubt was changed to joyous amazement, for Schroeder played a concerto by Rudini [sic] with such skill and expression that he was embraced on the spot and accorded the desired place of ’cellist."
In his new position as first cellist of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Schroeder made his solo debut in December 1875, performing the then-popular Lindner Concerto in E minor, Op. 34 with the orchestra. Between 1877 and 1880 he was a member of the new orchestra founded by Julius Laube in Hamburg before taking up residence in Leipzig, where Carl was first cellist of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. After a year as his brother’s understudy in the orchestra, Schroeder succeeded Carl as first cellist of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and as a cello faculty member at the Leipzig Conservatory. He shared these positions with his younger contemporary, Leipzig native Julius Klengel (1859-1933). At the same time he became a member of the quartet led by Gewandhaus concertmaster, Henry Wilhem Petri (1856-1914).
Tchaikovsky wrote of “that excellent ’cellist Alwin Schroeder,” who participated in a Leipzig performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio that the composer, in attendance, found “quite exemplary.” The quartet had a close working relationship with the young pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni; Tchaikovsky had also been impressed by the Petri Quartet’s premiere performance of Busoni’s second string quartet, dedicated to Petri. Schroeder himself was the dedicatee of Busoni’s Suite for cello and piano, which he and Busoni premiered in Leipzig in February 1885 and later performed together in the United States. On some of the quartet’s concerts Schroeder also appeared as a pianist. One of Schroeder’s last performances as a member of this quartet was in Bonn, at the first chamber music festival at Beethoven’s birth home, where the line-up of performers also included the Joachim Quartet.
Remaining in Leipzig until 1891, Schroeder was also active as a cello soloist both locally and on tour. His performance of the Molique D Major concerto on the Gewandhauskonsert of October 10, 1882 prompted the Leipziger Zeitung to write “the Leipzig cello virtuoso Mr. Alwin Schroeder was rewarded with thunderous applause…beautiful tone, brilliant technique and very tasteful playing…” Richard Strauss mentions a Schroeder performance of the Lalo D minor concerto. During his last season with the Gewandhaus orchestra, he played Saint-Saens’s Op. 33 in A minor (8th concert of 1890-1 season). Schroeder performed during the Leipzig years “with remarkable success” as a virtuoso soloist in Russia, Belgium, Holland, and Denmark. He may have been the inspiration for the Dutch composer and Amsterdam Concertgebouw founding conductor Willem Kes to write a cello concerto, which Schroeder performed in several European countries in the mid 1880s. Schroder was also the dedicatee, and likely gave the first performances, of the second cello concerto of fellow Leipzig Conservatory professor, violinist and violist Hans Sitt.
Since its founding by Mendelssohn in 1843, the Leipzig Conservatory had developed into a major center for musical study. While the students in Schroeder’s class at the conservatory were primarily aspiring cellists from around Germany, he also taught students who had come to Leipzig from Switzerland, Great Britain, Australia, and the United States. Born between 1860 and 1875, many of his Leipzig students went on to have fruitful musical careers. By his own account, it was during his tenure at the Leipzig Conservatory that he conceived the idea for a progressively ordered compilation of etudes by various cellists. He published it many years later in the U. S. as the three-volume 170 Foundation Studies for Violoncello. Among Schroeder’s publications during the Leipzig years were his Neue Tonleiter-Studien and Technische Uebungen for the development of left-hand technique and an edition of the six solo cello suites by J. S. Bach.
in photo published in 1912
(Franz Kneisel, Alwin Schroeder,
Louis Svećenski, Julius Theodorowicz),
"The Schroeder Etudes"
Cover of the original Carl Fischer edition, 1916
Hans Sitt Cello Concerto No. 2:
Dedicated in friendship to Alwin Schroeder
Kammervirtuos Alwin Schroeder listed among Leipzig Conservatory faculty in this ad (ca 1884)
Schroeder in the Boston Symphony Orchestra with conductor Nikisch (ca 1891)
Boston's Symphony Hall
36 pieces from Schroeder's repertoire, published in 1914 in three volumes.
Available on IMSLP along with volume 4 (1928).
Schroeder's debut concerto from 1875,
revisited fifty years later
On Sept 22, 1891, 36-year-old Alwin Schroeder, his wife Paula (born 1856), and their daughters Hedwig (10 years) and Elfriede (6 years) sailed for New York City on the Aller from Bremen and Southampton. The ship’s log also mentions an infant son, 7-month-old Alwin Jr, who apparently died during or soon after the voyage; the Schroeders' surviving son Rolf was born in Boston the following year. Schroeder came to the United States at the invitation of the Boston Symphony Orchestra music director from 1889 to 1893, Arthur Nikisch, who had engaged him to replace the Dutch cellist Anton Hekking as BSO first cellist and cellist of the Kneisel Quartet led by BSO concertmaster Franz Kneisel (1865-1926). Over the next 12 seasons Schroeder was a regular soloist with the orchestra, both in Boston and in many other American cities. He performed up to 100 concerts each season with the Kneisel Quartet, and also appeared as a recitalist and as an assisting artist on the programs of other musicians. His prodigious activity as a performing artist is borne out by the numerous concert announcements and reviews published in Boston and New York newspapers during these years, which, while unfailing in their recognition of Schroeder’s “supreme mastery” of his instrument, are also reflective of certain prejudices toward the cello as a solo instrument that would persist for several more decades, notwithstanding the presence of Pablo Casals on the American concert scene from the first years of the twentieth century on.
During his first season in Boston, it was “Mr Alwin Schroeder’s reputation as a ’cello artist [that] sufficed to attract a large audience” to his April 8, 1892 recital at Bumstead Hall. Performing pieces by his Leipzig colleagues Reinecke, Sitt, and Klengel with Nikisch at the piano, and Busoni’s Kulsatelle variations with the composer as pianist, Schroeder’s “tones were rich, even devoid of raspiness…and even in the most difficult runs and chord fingerings his notes were pure and distinct.” (Boston Globe) As soloist with the BSO during the 1891-2 season Schroeder performed the concertos – both in A minor, both Op. 33 – by Volkmann (in Boston and New York) and Saint-Saens (in Cambridge and Brooklyn). The following season he appeared in Davidoff’s Concerto No. 3 (Boston, New York, Cambridge) and again in the Saint-Saens Op. 33 (Salem and Chicago). (BSO soloist log)
Important solo performances during the 1893-4 season included his first collaborations with Franz Kneisel and the BSO in the Brahms Double Concerto (Boston and Providence). On February 2, 1894, Schroeder gave the world premiere of the Fantastic Concerto for cello and orchestra by BSO assistant concertmaster Charles Martin Loeffler. Loeffler (1861-1937) dedicated this work to Schroeder, who performed it about ten times between 1894 and 1908, in Boston (four times), Washington DC, Cambridge, Worchester, New York City, Baltimore, Brooklyn, and finally in Frankfurt. The unconventional form, musical language, and treatment of the cello in relation to the orchestra led Loeffler’s work to be described as
a rhapsody, an impromptu for orchestra with ’cello accompaniment, an instrumental
landscape with the figure…of a ’cello in the centre, or a color scheme with ’cello
priming; but it is not a concerto. It has no form. It has no thematic development. It is
an impressionist picture in tones. It is splendidly scored, and it has warmth, body,
élan, spirit. But it is inchoate… Anyhow, he gave Mr. Alwin Schroeder, the solo
’cellist of the orchestra, an opportunity to exhibit his beautiful tone and fine technic
(The New York Times, 02.08.1895)
In December 1896 Schroeder was the soloist for the Boston premiere of another new, ground-breaking cello concerto. This work, one of the last works composed by Antonin Dvorak before he left the United States, drew comparisons in Boston with the Loeffler work:
Except Mr. Loeffler’s admirable fantasia—played here by Mr. Schroeder some years
ago—we know nothing for ’cello and orchestra in which the solo instrument and
accompaniment are played off against each other with such perfect skill [as in
Dvorak’s concerto]. (Boston Transcript, 12.21.1896)
Dvorak’s orchestration of the concerto was singled out, as was Loeffler’s, as “its most interesting feature”, yet as one uncharacteristic of a successful concerto, because the “solo part is clouded by the instrumentation and kept in a secondary place.” (Boston Herald, 12.20.1896)
Schroeder’s association with new works from Dvorak’s “American period” (1892-5) included his participation in the Kneisel Quartet’s January 1894 premiere of Dvorak’s string quartet in F Major, Op. 96 (now known as the “American”); Dvorak himself writes of the many subsequent Kneisel performances of the quartet during the composer’s time in the U.S. The program note for the December 1896 BSO performances of Dvorak’s B minor cello concerto, now regarded as one of the pinnacles in the literature for cello and orchestra, credits Alwin Schroeder with assisting the composer “in much of the bravura passage-work for the solo instrument” and further asserts that Schroeder “indeed wrote many of the passages himself.” While several critics simply repeated the claim, another referred to it as “a rather amusing misunderstanding” and continued,
This is making a rather stupendous mountain out of a modest molehill. In seeking
Mr. Schroeder’s aid, Dr. Dvorak did only what every intelligent composer does,
when writing a concerto for an instrument on which he himself is not a virtuoso; he
got Mr. Schroeder to help him in the ornamental passage-work, to insure [sic] its
being technically well written for the instrument; just as Brahms got Joachim to
help him in his violin concerto. There is probably not an idea, a progression, a bit
of form, development, or coloring in the whole concerto that originated with Mr.
Schroeder—whose well-known modesty was probably shocked enough at finding
himself raised to the imposing level of collaborator and sharer in glory.
Whether or not Schroeder helped write the solo part of the Dvorak B minor concerto, his 1896 performances of it generated much diverse comment in the Boston newspapers. Even critics who found the concerto itself “scarcely a work that will add to its composer’s reputation”, “not one to grow enthusiastic over”, and even “undeniably dull” had no complaints about Schroeder’s performance of the work, and attributed any deficiencies in the effectiveness of the solo part to what they viewed as the composer’s inability to write “a characteristic piece for the instrument.”
Writings for [the cello], which is surely going out of fashion for solo performances,
must possess two properties at least—beauty and clearness. Neither of these has
Dvorak expressed in the present work. The few themes are commonplace and trivial,
and over the whole is a species of orchestration that blurs and conceals the tone of
the ’cello in a really remarkable way. When it appears with any distinctness, as in
rapid passages in the upper strings, it sounds thin and wiry. We scarcely think Mr.
Schroeder is to blame for this acidity of tone, for he has proven himself a ’cellist of
much ability. (Boston Traveler, 12.21.1896)
Other critics refuted the claim that balance between soloist and orchestra was a problem in these first BSO performances: “In spite of the fulness [sic] of the scoring, the ’cello part comes well to the surface when it has anything vital to say; and even in the virtuoso passage-work it is sufficiently audible for all truly musical purposes.” (Boston Transcript) Schroeder, who “played the concerto to perfection,” was clearly able to project the solo part:
His tone was ever beautiful, his sustained passages simple and deep, and his execution
wonderfully distinct and nice, fairly rivaling the delivery of a violin. We have never
heard him to finer advantage in any respect. (Boston Courier, 12.20.1896)
Schroeder’s performances of Dvorak's Op. 104 seem to have been the climax of his American career to this point, with significance both as a personal achievement and as evidence of his popularity in Boston. Discussing the concerto through the prism of Schroeder’s participation in its performance, one Boston critic offered a detailed account of the concert itself. Before assuming the role of concerto soloist, Schroeder played first cello in the orchestra for the opening overture.
The concerto was of course the second number, and as Mr Schroeder walked from
his accustomed place in the orchestra he was given a hearty round of applause. It
was in the first movement that the soloist seemed to make his greatest success. This
embraced a great deal of very difficult passage work, giving the player an opportunity
to show his marvelous control of the cello. But there was also in this movement, and
especially in the cantilena, much that was purely musical and well adapted to bring
out that characteristic of the cello that makes it most lovable, the singing quality, the
long-drawn, vibrant tones, so like the human voice. Mr Schroeder is a master of this
tone as well as of the technical difficulties of the instrument, and held the closest
attention of his hearers as only an artist can do. The notable feature of the second
movement was the playing of the melody by the solo instrument against
counterphrases in the wood winds [sic] and then the latter taking up the melody and
the cello furnishing the accompaniment. [Another reviewer reports that this movement
was “heartily applauded”.]
The third movement is a brilliant and elaborately developed rondo, in fact it
seems a trifle over-developed, …though this was less noticeable on account of the
superb playing of Mr Schroeder. At the close the soloist was rewarded with round
after round of applause, concertmaster Franz Kneisel leading in paying tribute to
his brother musician, and director Paur giving him his hand as he came forward for
the third or fourth time to bow his acknowledgments. It was no perfunctory applause
but a sincere and spontaneous expression of approval that must have been very
gratifying to the painstaking and ambitious musician.
In summing up “the worth of his rendering” of the Dvorak concerto, several critics offered valuable insights into Schroeder’s manner of playing. One wrote that while “the work taxes the technique of the performer severely, for it abounds in difficulties,” the challenges of the solo part “were fully met be Mr. Schroeder, whose performance was characterized throughout by that pure classic taste, refinement of style, beauty of phrasing, tunefulness and smoothness and ease in execution that are always delightful qualities of his playing.” (Boston Herald, 12.20.1896) “Nothing but praise is due to Mr. Schroeder; the concerto gave him ample opportunity to show his mastery of technique and to display his fine art taste”, wrote another. “He played honestly, simply and with dignity, absorbed in his work to the forgetfulness of self. The large, flowing, smooth style in which the slow movement was played was particularly praise-worthy, and nothing could have been more brilliant and satisfactory than his reading of the finale …he won a well deserved triumph.” (Boston Gazette, 12.20.1896)
Three seasons later Schroeder revisited the Dvorak concerto, performing it five more times with the BSO in December 1899-January 1900 (in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, New York (Carnegie Hall), and twice in Boston). To an orchestral accompaniment that was “far better played” than in 1896, he played the Dvorak “like a consummate master of every secret of his instrument, like a master with fire and poetry in his soul.”
In 1900 Schroeder also celebrated the 25th anniversary of his cellistic debut with a November recital in Boston on which he performed a Bach solo suite, virtuoso works by cellist-composers Romberg and Servais and a set of short solos with BSO music director Wilhelm Gericke on piano, and pieces for four cellos with BSO colleagues Joseph Heller, Joseph Adamowski and Carl Barth. Later in the same season, Schroeder performed the new cello concerto by Eugen d’Albert, presenting local premieres of the work in Boston, Cambridge, Baltimore, and Philadelphia as soloist with the BSO. In what may have been a planned “coincidence,” the initial Boston performances of the d’Albert concerto with Schroeder took place on the same dates (Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, 1901) that the work received its first New York hearing with its dedicatee Hugo Becker as soloist with the Philharmonic Society at Carnegie Hall. Thus both Becker and Schroeder can be credited with giving the U. S. premiere of the concerto.
Schroeder himself returned to Carnegie Hall in January 1903 as the soloist with the BSO in the Saint-Saens Concerto No. 1. The New York Times, while remaining characteristically unimpressed by the work, which, “[l]ike all of its class…makes the instrument do and say things that are foreign to its nature,” praised Schroeder’s “supreme mastery” in its interpretation. (NY Times, Jan. 16, 1903) This and subsequent New York Times reviews recognize Schroeder as “a player who represents the finest accomplishment in his art” and emphasize specific components of his playing style. To “the unctuous beauty and bigness of his tone” a 1905 review added “breadth of style, repose, clarity of expression and perfect command of all of the subtleties of the technique of the instrument”. In a rare comparison to other cellists of the time, it states that “[f]ew masters of the violoncello can make passages of agility seem so unobtrusive, so natural to the instrument, even musical in significance, as he.” (NY Times, March 1, 1905) These reviews also make specific references to Schroeder’s popularity with and impact on audiences that were “deeply stirred by his playing”; ascribing both to his status as “a great artist; as such he was greeted with an unwonted outburst of welcome, and as such he was acclaimed again and again at the close.”
In early March 1903 Schroeder and the other members of the Kneisel Quartet resigned from the BSO. In a letter to BSO founder Henry L. Higginson asking him “kindly to relieve us of our tasks in connection with the orchestra”, they expressed the “feeling of affectionate attachment to the orchestra” that made their “parting particularly painful”. They explained that their decision was motivated by the desire to “make trial of our skill as quartet players in the larger musical capitals of Europe”, a goal long postponed due to the impossibility of being absent from the orchestra. “We believe that we can measure ourselves with the best [string quartets], and therefore wish to devote ourselves wholly and singly to [this] work.” The reputation of Kneisel and Schroeder as soloists is also touched on:
…it is only by leaving the orchestra that we can reach the goal which we have set for our
artistic careers. We beg of you, dear Mr. Higginson, to remember that Mr. Kneisel has
done orchestra service for twenty years and Mr. Schroeder for more than thirty. If they are
to gratify their desire to recall themselves to the memory of the European public as solo
performers they must work to that end now, for the time does not seem distant when the
task will be physically impossible. (reprinted in NY Times, March 5, 1903)
Higginson’s response, also made public in The New York Times, was sympathic:
The members of the Kneisel Quartet have served me in every capacity long and faithfully
and intelligently, and deserve very well of the public. Their reasons for leaving us are good
and convincing, and while these gentlemen are a great loss to the orchestra and to me, I
see that they can labor more freely and to their own greater profit and renown by taking this
step, and they take it with my entire consent and good will.”
Ironically, the Kneisel Quartet’s main goal in leaving the BSO, to perform in the European music capitals, was never fulfilled. New York Times music critic Richard Aldrich elaborates: “The quartet went to Europe three times and each time played in England. But their ambitions to play on the Continent were not realized, either then or later. Arrangements had been made for it on their third trip, including performances in Paris, but they were suddenly recalled to this country by a sudden and lamentable personal bereavement.” (Aldrich, 1941: 538)
New York and Frankfurt, 1905-1908
The quartet continued to be based in Boston until 1905, when Franz Kneisel was selected to head the string instrument department at the newly-founded Institute of Musical Art (now the Juilliard School) in New York City, and the members of the Kneisel Quartet appointed to join him on the string faculty while maintaining their regular performance schedule. Schroeder accordingly relocated to New York City, giving up his “fine residence in Jamaica Plain”, although he was reportedly “loth to leave his adopted city [of Boston], and no other place has been as much a home to him.” (Boston Globe, May 12, 1907) Among the members of the first graduating class at the Institute was Schroeder’s cello student Wallingford Riegger, who studied both composition and cello there and went on to become a respected American composer.
In 1907 Schroeder accepted an “honorable and attractive offer” to succeed Hugo Becker as cello professor at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt and as cellist of the city’s string quartet. A lighter schedule of teaching and performance engagements, with less travel, more time for solo playing, long summer and winter vacations, and Schroeder’s own desire “to return to his native land to round out a career which has been one of the greatest distinction both in Europe and America” were cited as the reasons for Schroeder’s decision to leave the U. S. (NY Times, Feb. 3, 1907) His resignation from the Kneisel Quartet, possibly precipitated by personal differences with Franz Kneisel, (as suggested in The Boston Transcript, April 30, 1912) coincided with second violinist Julius [von] Theodorowicz’s departure from the ensemble and a proposal that Franz Kneisel become the new conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The ensuing “Kneisel Quartet crisis of 1907” was resolved and the quartet’s future secured when the Institute of Musical Art financed Kneisel’s successful summer 1907 trip to Europe to find suitable replacements for Schroeder and Theodorowicz. (Olmstead, 2002: 35-7)
The farewell tribute article in the May 12, 1907 issue of The Boston Globe offers a biographical sketch of Schroeder and a glowing assessment of his contributions to “raising the standard of chamber music playing to a place never approached before and never excelled in any other country.” It also reports on the intentions of Schroeder’s daughters, “both partaking of the family heritage of music,” to continue their musical studies in Europe, and concludes by sharing Schroeder’s “open confession” that “perhaps in three years’ time he may return at least for a concert tour; however, at what time he comes again among us he will be accorded the welcome which his waiting friends are keeping for him.” Schroeder and his family sailed for Germany on June 6, 1907. (Boston Globe, May 12, 1907)
Back in Boston, 1908-1928
As it happened, Schroeder’s many friends and admirers did not have long to wait. Just over a year later, the Globe announced his return, stating that “the former Symphony ’cellist will settle in Boston permanently.” (Boston Globe, July 5, 1908) Some months earlier, the stage had been set for his arrival with a special wire report to the New York Times from Germany revealing Schroeder’s plans to form a new string quartet with an as-yet unidentified “former leader of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.” In addition to “the greater financial reward which America holds out,” this report cites “the more congenial atmosphere for artists in the U. S. than amid the surfeited conditions of Europe, especially Germany” as Schroeder’s motivation for returning. A follow-up in June 1908 further gave another reason for Schroeder’s turn-around: “Schroeder Likes Us Best”, the Times headline declared. “He says that, like Mme Schumann-Heink, he is love with America and the American people.” Another source quipped that “probably…Herr Schroeder was in America just long enough to become an American.”
The mystery former BSO leader was violinist Willy Hess, who had served as the BSO’s concertmaster following Kneisel’s departure from the orchestra. Hess had resigned from the BSO in the spring of 1907, but returned to his BSO post in the fall of 1908, remaining until 1910. Together Hess and Schroeder founded the Boston-based Hess-Schroeder Quartet, and as an added attraction the distinguished English musician Lionel Tertis was announced as the ensemble’s founding violist. Tertis, who had played in a quartet with Hess when Hess was concertmaster of the Halle Orchestra in Manchester before 1904, did come to America as promised to join the new ensemble, but he quickly discovered that the financial conditions were not as originally discussed and returned to England. (White, 2006: 12) BSO principal violist Emil Ferrir, who had played with Hess in the Boston Symphony Quartet (Higginson’s answer to the departed Kneisels), took over for him as violist, and the quartet’s second violinist was former Kneisel Quartet member Theodorowicz.
The press hailed the appearance of this new “modern quartet” with enthusiasm and followed its progress carefully. The Times review of the quartet’s New York debut concert of January 1909 established Schroeder as the central figure and main musical attraction of the quartet, dwelling at length on the pleasure of again hearing this “chamber music player of the highest rank” in a quartet setting and referring to Hess’s “good fortune” in joining with him. Capitalizing on its “fire and feeling for its music and keen and insistent skill in the playing of it,” the Hess-Schroeder Quartet seems to have quickly won over audiences throughout the U. S. Ironically, its one major weakness was said to have been the too-clearly delineated musical personalities of its individual members. “The problem before it – and the problem which it had begun to solve toward the end of [its first] season – was the fusion of its component parts into a finely adjusted and harmoniously expressive ensemble.” (Boston Evening Transcript, Oct. 9, 1909)
During the 1908-9 and 1909-10 seasons Schroeder “generally led the life of a virtuoso”. In addition to his work with the Hess-Schroeder Quartet, he made solo appearances with the BSO, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and several New York orchestras. A review of his first New York performance following his return emphasizes the esteem in which Schroeder was held by New York audiences: “At the New York Symphony Orchestra’s concert yesterday afternoon in Carnegie Hall there was a warm welcome to Alwin Schroeder… The long continued applause given him as he appeared on the platform indicate the satisfaction felt by the musical public at the return of an artist so admirable…” In Schroeder’s playing was found the same “breadth, dignity and repose, the noble and beautiful tone and the unerring intonation, that we well remembered as the distinguishing characteristics of his art.” (NY Times, Nov. 23, 1908)
In October 1908 Schroeder was an assisting artist to his elder daughter Hedwig during her debut piano recital at the Brooklyn Institute. The following summer his younger daughter’s engagement was announced. In February 1910 Hess and Schroeder were the soloists with the BSO at Carnegie Hall in the Brahms Double Concerto. It was a “superb performance…of ripe and finished artists, thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the music they were playing, and thoroughly in accord with each other.” (NY Times, Feb. 25, 1910) At the end of the 1909-10 season, Hess left the U.S., giving up his BSO and Hess-Schroeder Quartet positions to become the head of the violin department at the Berlin Hochschule. With the disbanding of the quartet, Schroeder rejoined the BSO in the fall of 1910, sharing the position of first cellist with Heinrich Warnke.
After just two seasons, Schroeder’s second stint with the BSO ended after the 1911-12 season. Unspecified health problems were given as the reason for his retirement from the orchestra. He had remained active as a soloist and recitalist during this period, performing the Schumann cello concerto with the BSO during the Boston celebrations of the composer’s centennial at Symphony Hall in October 1910 and Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations in New York during February 1912. On a February 1912 recital before “a large and cordially disposed audience” at Boston’s Steinert Hall, Schroeder played the Rachmaninoff Sonata and a group of movements from Bach’s solo suites. The Boston Globe reviewer found Schroeder’s “accustomed breadth and dignity of tone and style in cantilena” unaltered, but added that in “figuration…and other rapid bowing his intonation was not always secure.” (Boston Globe, Feb. 16, 1912) This seems to have been the first – and perhaps only – time that a reviewer was openly critical of this aspect of Schroeder’s cello playing.
For the next five years, coinciding with World War I, Schroeder was involved in a number of chamber music ensembles. In September 1913 it was announced that London Royal College of Music graduate Ethel Gave Cole and second BSO concertmaster Sylvian Noack had joined with Schroeder to form the Schroeder Trio. Noack also performed with Schroeder as the first violinist of the Boston String Quartet, an organization of “present and past members” of the BSO that gave its first concert in March 1915. In November of the same year, Schroeder took over as cellist of the Margulies Trio, replacing New York Philharmonic first cellist Leo Schulz. None of these ensembles seems to have outlived the war, and significantly, it was also during this period that the Kneisel Quartet disbanded. Schroeder also performed in the Haven Trio (with Noack and pianist Raymond Haven) and the Ellery Quartet (with former Kneisel Quartet members and Bessie Bell Collier Ellery, who had been a violin student of Franz Kneisel).
Some sources erroneously state that Schroeder taught at the New England Conservatory during this period; although he was never on the NEC faculty, his elder daughter Hedwig did teach piano at this institution from 1912. He certainly did teach privately (see the “Students of Alwin Schroeder” section), and during the war years was especially active in preparing editions of short pieces for study and concert performance, including the cello-and-piano collections Solo Concert Repertoire (three volumes published in 1914) and Easy Violoncello Classics (published in 1919). He also compiled the three-volume 170 Foundation Studies for Violoncello (published in 1916, with many subsequent reprintings), a progressively-ordered selection of cello etudes that continues to be among the most widely-used cello etude collections to this day.
In the fall of 1918, the now 63-year-old Alwin Schroeder again rejoined the BSO, this time as a section cellist.[i] From this point he seems to have limited his concerts outside the orchestra to Boston, for no further notices of his solo and chamber music activities appear in The New York Times. In 1921 his performance of the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto No. 1 with the BSO received headline kudos in The Boston Globe: “Schroeder Hailed in ’Cello Concerto: Veteran of the Symphony is Soloist.” Recalling that Schroeder had first joined the BSO 30 years earlier, the review regards him as “an old and valued friend” of many of the listeners in attendance and states that “[h]is playing, as always, showed rare technical skill and soundly imaginative musicianship.”(Boston Globe, April 9, 1921) Other Schroeder solos with the BSO during his final tenure included the Boellmann Symphonic Variations (also in 1921) and the Molique Cello Concerto in D Major, Op. 45 (1923).
Following his final retirement from the BSO at the end of the 1924-1925 season, Schroeder continued to perform. In December 1925, he gave a recital at NEC’s Jordan Hall that included the once-popular concerto in E minor, Op. 34 by August Lindner, the same concerto that he had played at his cellistic debut in Berlin 50 years earlier. The program also featured a composite Bach unaccompanied suite comprised of the Prelude and Allemande from the G Major suite, the Sarabande and Bourrees from the C Major suite, and the Gigue from the D Major suite (no Courante is reported to have been included). (Boston Globe, Dec. 11, 1925) Among Schroeder’s last appearances as soloist with orchestra were his Jordan Hall concerts with the People’s Symphony. In November 1927 he performed Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations:
The soloist, Alwin Schroeder, now over 70, gave a performance…which
few living cellists could equal. He conquered the many difficulties of the
music with apparent ease, and no hint of age or weariness. Mr.
Schroeder’s fine musicianship and remarkable technique have been so
long familiar to Boston audiences that there is some danger of people
failing to realize how rare the excellence of his playing is. He was
deservedly recalled many times. (Boston Globe, Nov. 14, 1927)
Alwin Schroeder died at his home in Jamaica Plains on October 17, 1928.