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August Wenzinger (Conductor, Viola da gamba)

Born: November 14, 1905 - Basel, Switzerland
Died: December 25, 1996 - Basel, Switzerland

The prominent Swiss cellist, viola da gambist, conductor, teacher, and music editor, August Wenzinger, received his basic training at the Basel Conservatory. Then he studied cello with Paul Grümmer and theory with Jarnach at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne. He also took private cello lessons with Emanuel Feuermann in Berlin.

August Wenzinger subsequently served as 1st cellist in the Bremen City Orchestra (1929-1934) and the Basel Allgemeine Musikgesellschaft (1936-1970).

August Wenzinger became interested in reviving the classical Baroque repertoire on original instruments, By 1925 he had mastered the viola da gamba, an instrument then usually considered obsolete. He joined the Kabeler Kammermusik (Kabel Chamber Music), a circle of musicians interested in authentic Baroque performance, sponsored by paper manufacturer Hans Eberhard Hoesch in Hagen, Germany. In 1930 he and flautist Gustav Scheck also founded the Kammermusikkreis Scheck-Wenziger (Scheck-Wenzinger Chamber Music Circle), considered the leading early music ensemble until the 1950ís. In 1933 Wenzinger assumed the leadership of the Kabeler Kammermusik, but the group was soon phased out under political pressure. Wenzinger moved to Basel the same year to accept an appointment to teach cello and viola da gamba at the newly founded Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.

August Wenzinger was one of the first musicians to make recordings with the viola da gamba. In 1968 he founded the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis viola da gamba trio. He has taught many acclaimed violists, including Jordi Savall, who succeeded him in 1974 as professor of viola da gamba at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. Wenzinger also taught at Harvard and Brandeis universities in the USA. In 1960 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Basel.

August Wenzinger was also an acclaimed conductor, and in 1949 he led a recording of J.S. Bachís Brandenburg Concertos (BWV 1046-1051) performed on original instruments for the Archiv record label. From 1954 to 1958 he led the Cappella Coloniensis, the Baroque orchestra of West German Radio in Cologne. In 1955 he directed this orchestra in the first recording of the opera L'Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi. He led performances of Baroque operas at Herrenhausen in Hannover, Germany, from 1958 to 1966.

His publications include Gambenübung, a method book in two volumes for the viola da gamba (1935, 1938), and Gambenfibel, a primer for the viola da gamba (1943). He edited J.S. Bachís unaccompanied cello suites and several Baroque operas.

Source: Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Wikipedia Website (April 2010)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2002); Matthias Hansen (Photo 01 - May 2010)

August Wenzinger: Short Biography | Schola Cantorum Basiliensis | Recordings of Vocal Works

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Martin Flämig

Viola da gamba

BWV 244 [1st]

Fritz Lehmann


BWV 189

Hans Münch

Viola da gamba

BWV 245

Helmuth Rilling

Violoncello piccolo

Member of Bach-Collegium Stuttgart:
BWV 115, BWV 180, BWV 183

Fritz Werner

Viola da gamba

Member of Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra:
L-3 (1959):
BWV 76
L-19 (1964):
BWV 106

Fritz Werner

Violoncello piccolo

Member of Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra:
L-4 (1959):
BWV 85 [1st recording]
L-6 (1959):
L-23 (1970):
BWV 180
L-24 (1970):
BWV 85 [2nd recording]

Links to other Sites

Barocke Kostbarkeiten: Erstveröffentlichungen von Rundfunkaufnahmen 1936 - 1943. Liner notes to a record album (Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv)
August Wenzinger (Wikipedia) [English]
August Wenzinger (Wikipedia) [German]
5. August Wenzinger: "Über eine vergessene Gambenkunst" [German, N/A]
xrefer: Wenzinger, August (Basle, 1905) [N/A]


Siegfried Schibli: "Der Gambenpionier," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (January 13, 1997), Feuilleton p. 28.

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