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Felix Günther (Arranger)

Born: 1886 - Trautenau, Austria
Died: May 5, 1951 - New York City, New York, USA

The Austrian-born American pianist, arranger and conductor, Felix Günther [Guenther], studied in Vienna and Berlin and was later a professor at the Humboldt Hochschule in that city.

Felix Günther worked in the German film industry and conducted the film orchestra for several productions of the UFA (Universum-Film AG). He arranged and supervised the musical scores of specific music for films and songs. An example is Here Lies an Actor, on a text by Paul Dresser. Günther was also active as a free lancer in broadcasting, the modern medium of those days. These activities more or less stopped from 1933 on, the year the Nazis came to power. Before that he had conducted the Berliner Symphoniker when making recordings for the Polydor label (Deutsche Grammophon) and other labels like Parlophon and Homocord, already in the 1920s, well before the electrical recording process was introduced.

As a pianist and as a conductor Felix Günther accompanied various singers like Gitta Alpar (soprano), Ria Ginster (soprano), Friedrich Brodersen (baritone), Martin Abendroth (bass), Heinrich Schlusnus (baritone). He made a recording with violinist Grete Eweler for the Homocord label. He also was the pianist in the recording of Schubert's Forellen Quintet (Trout) with the Nikolas Lambinon Artist Quartet originally known as Nicolas Lambinon Künstler-Quartett. In that recording he played a grand piano of the German piano maker Schwechten. Günther is best known as the conductor who accompanied the popular, Jewish singer Joseph Schmidt. Schmidt performed in Carnegie Hall in 1937, but returned to Germany to join his relatives. Via Holland, where he was very popular and where he gave a last recital in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Schmidt fled to Switzerland where he was interned in a refugee camp. But fate was far from kind. Joseph became ill and died there in 1942.

Felix Günther however - already in his fifties - did not hesitate to flee from Germany. He went to the USA in 1937 and found refuge - as conductor Hans Wolf, producer Marcel Prawy, and also Don Gabor and Laszlo Halasz did before World War II broke out. Günther obtained US citizenship. His son enlisted in the US Army in 1942.

Right from the day he arrived in the USA, Felix Günther was active in the New York music scene. He wrote and compiled various publications. He was co-editor of Everybody's Favorite First Position Violin Pieces, which he prepared together with violin pedagogue Theodore Pashkus. The book was published by Amsco Music Publishing Co. Inc, 1600 Broadway, New York, 1939. He compiled and edited Anthems of the United Nations: the inspiring national songs the Allies are singing on the battlefields and at home, obviously inspired by the commitment of America and the many nationalities of the troops who went to England first in order to liberate Europe - New York, Edward B. Marks Music Corp., 1942. Published by the same company is Liebestraum by Liszt, piano solo edited by Felix Guenther, 1941. From his hand is Piano Concerto Highlights for Solo Piano (Dover Publications, New York); A Treasury of the Piano Sonata from Scarlatti to Shostakovitch; a transcription for piano of The Moldau by Smetena ( Francis Day & Hunter, 1950). Another title is Heart of the Waltz edited by Flix Guenther (Heritage Music Publications, 1943). Gühnter made the arrangement for orchestra of Igor Stravinsky's famous Tango originally written for piano.

After the war had ended Felix Günther only returned to Europe when he was requested by Donald Gabor. He died on May 5, 1951 at the age of 65 in New York.

 

Source: The Remington Site (Author: Rudolf A. Bruil, July 10, 2011)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (June 2013)

Felix Günther: Short Biography | Piano Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Felix Günther (1866-1951) (The Remington Site)

 

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Last update: June 30, 2013 09:43:11