2011. május 31., kedd

Aristid von Wurtzler

Aristid von Wurtzler (born as Würtzler Aristid) (September 20, 1925, Budapest - November 30, 1997, Debrecen) Hungarian-American harpist, composer, conductor, pedagogue, organizer of the first international harp competition in the USA, creator and leader of the New York Harp Ensemble.


Aristid von Wurtzler was born into a middle-class family. His father was a violinist, a music critic and composer, who had devoted much attention to his sons’ musical education. His older brother, Béla Würtzler also became a musician. Aristid received his education at the Lutheran High School in Aszód and at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest.

Initially Aristid studied piano and cello, and then switched to harp at the age of 12-13 years. His first teacher was Henrik Rohmann. At the Academy he studied harp with Miklós Rékai and composition with Zoltán Kodály. Wurtzler was expelled from the Academy once because he had not attended lectures on Marxism. But he was taken back by the intervention of Director Ede Zathureczky. Of his teachers he remembered Zoltán Kodály with pleasure. He considered him his mentor and invited him later to the USA.

Wurtzler’s last performance in Hungary took place on 22 November, 1956, in the Opera House when he was substituting for the bedridden Rékai.

When the revolution began he left Hungary with Béla. Although he did not take part in the events of the Hungarian revolution, nevertheless he was afraid of retribution. However he believed that a harpist’s career could reach its full potential only in a freer world. He went first to Vienna and then established his residence in the United States. Speaking no English he took a number of odd jobs; he even collected waste empty bottles. For a time he lived in a house occupied by prostitutes, who kindly loaned him the money to buy his first harp.

Zoltán Kodály and his wife with Aristid Wurtzler
in the USA

In 1958 Wurtzler began his new career as the first harpist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and then the New York Philharmonic. Leonard Bernstein (musical director) auditioned him; Aristid played, inter alia, Smetana's Vltava, Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, and Bartók’s Concerto for (Piano and) Orchestra. Béla remained in Detroit and only later joined the Boston Philharmonic.

The International Harp Contest, held in Israel, was the first harp competition in the world. It was launched in 1959 by A. Z. Propes. Three years later, in 1962, Pierre Jamet, the French virtuoso and professor of harp founded the International Association of Harpists and Friends of the Harp,

These events inspired Wurtzler to become an active member of the American harp community. From 1963 he served as a Professor of Harp at the University of Hartford where he established annual Harp Master Classes. He invited famous foreign musicians to join his master classes, eg. the above mentioned Pierre Jamet; Hans Joachim Zingel, the renowned expert of harp-literature from Cologne; the Belgian and Soviet harpists Mireille Flour and Vera Dulova; and Khachaturian, the Armenian composer.

In 1969, Wurtzler organized the first international harp competition ever held in the United States thought his primacy is contested by some. During this time he had had many confrontations with others, so, in 1970, he moved on. He served as a Professor at New York University, Hofstra University, Queens College of the City University of New York and Bridgeport University in Connecticut.

With Albert II of Belgium and Jimmy Carter
in the White House

Also in 1970, Wurtzler formed his own band, a group of four harps, internationally known as the New York Harp Ensemble (NYHE). As an established composer and an arranger he created for the group a repertoire of almost two hundred pieces. There were four women in the group; his wife, the Polish-born Barbara Pniewska was also a founding member.

With the ensemble and also as a soloist Wurtzler performed in over sixty countries, made numerous compact discs and had several invitations to play at the White House during the Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations. He was also invited to perform for His Holiness Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1985. The NYHE hit their prime in the 70's and 80's.

In his other pursuits, Wurtzler served as a member of the Jury at the Harp Contests in Israel, Switzerland and Italy. He also presided at Harp Master Classes in Germany.

In spite of his international acclaim, in his heart Wurtzler remained passionately devoted to his native Hungary and he returned regularly from the mid-seventies. Although he was embittered by the situation of music- and especially harp education, he devoted his energies to the musical life of his country. He established annual Harp Master Classes and gave several concerts in Budapest, in Szombathely and in the Helikon Castle in Keszthely. He performed with Éva Marton on several occasions and some of his (latest) records were issued by Hungaroton.

Besides his teaching he also found time to add to and extend harp-literature. He called upon famous composers (eg. Bernstein, György Ligeti, etc.) to write pieces for harp and he himself composed many original pieces, transcriptions and adaptations.

Pope John Paul II and
New York Harp Ensemble

Wurtzler died on November 30th, 1997, of a heart attack while touring in Hungary, where he was appearing as a conductor. He was cremated and his ashes were returned to his native Budapest. Carl Swanson harp-maker, his former Hartford pupil wrote an obituary for him. He noted in another of his writings that Wurtzler’s bisbigliando was magical; nobody else could do it better.


Hungarian State Orchestra (Hungary), 1951-56
Detroit Symphony Orchestra (USA), 1957-58
New York Philharmonic (USA), 1958-61


Hartt College of Music, University of Hartford (USA), 1963-70
New York University (USA), 1970-87
Hofstra University (USA), 1970-72
University of Bridgeport (USA), 1974-78
Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, City University (USA), 1982-1997

Harp competition and master courses

Hartt College of Music, University of Hartford (USA), 1963-1970
New College, Sarasota, Florida - Summer Festival (USA), 1970, 1971
State University of New York - Planting Fields (USA), 1970
Sion (Switzerland), Heimbach (Germany) and Gitta de Castello, (Italy) 1972-78
Shanghai, Beijing (China), 1982
Kairói Konzervatórium (Egypt), 1985
Franz Liszt Academy of Music (Hungary), 1987
Szombathely (Hungary), 1988
Keszthely (Hungary), from 1990


International Harp Competition (Switzerland), 1964, 1974
International Harp Competition (Israel), 1965 (honorary member)
International Harp Competition (USA), 1969
International Harp Competition (Italy), 1978, 1980

Works, compositions

Commissioned pieces

Concert Improvisation - Hartt College of Music (USA), 1969
Little Suite - Nimura Harp Ensemble (Japan), 1970
Modern Sketches - Rhine Chamber Orchestra (Germany), 1972

Harp solos

Bartók Vol. I. for Solo Harp (Lyra Music, International Music Service)
Brilliant Romantic Etude (General Music Publication)
Capriccio for Solo Harp. Memory of Salzedo (Lyra Music, International Music Service)
Concert Improvisation (Lyra Music, International Music Service)
Donizetti, Gaetano - von Wurtzler: Lucia di Lammermoori. Paraphrase (General Music Publication)
Händel, Georg Friedrich - von Wurtzler: Concerto in F Major with Cadenza by von Wurtzler (General Music Publication)
Lullaby (Lyra Music, International Music Service)
Menuet (Lyra Music, International Music Service)
Modern Sketches (Southern Music Publication)
Old Dance (Lyra Music, International Music Service)
Puppet Dance (Lyra Music, International Music Service)
Variations on a theme of Corelli (General Music Publication)
Vivaldi, Antonio - von Wurtzler: Concerto in D Major (General Music Publication)

Original works

Canto Amoroso (F. C. Publishing Co.)
Caprice de Concert (F. C. Publishing Co.)
Little Tale (F. C. Publishing Co.)
Meditation (Salvi International Corp.)
Paraphrase on a Theme from Rigoletto (F. C. Publishing Co.)
Tale for the Boys (Salvi International Corp.)
Three Miniatures for Violin and Harp (Salvi International Corp.)
Vivaldi, Antonio: Concerto (F. C. Publishing Co.)

Covers, transcripts

Bach, Christian: Concerto „God Save the King”. Cadenza: von Wurtzler (Salvi International Corp.)
Bartók, Béla: Rumanian Folk Dances for Solo Harp (Salvi International Corp.)
Bartók, Béla: Vol. II. for Solo Harp (Salvi International Corp.)
Chinese folk song: Amid Flowers Beside the River Under the Spring (Salvi International Corp.)
Franck, César: Agnus Dei for Solo Harp (F. C. Publishing Co.)
Kodály, Zoltán: Gyermektáncok (Salvi International Corp.)
Kodály, Zoltán: Intermezzo from Háry János (Salvi International Corp.)
Kodály, Zoltán: Székely nóta, Hungarian Songs (3) (Magyar parasztdalok)
Landscape in Sunset. Original work from China, edited by von Wurtzler. (Salvi International Corp.)
Marcello, Benedetto: Adagio for Solo Harp (F. C. Publishing Co.)
Noon. Edited by von Wurtzler (Salvi International Corp.)
The Cherry Blossoms. Original work from China, edited by von Wurtzler. (Salvi International Corp.)
The Voice of Youth. Original work from China, edited by von Wurtzler. (Salvi International Corp.)
Vivaldi, Antonio: D Major Concerto PVW 209 with Cadenza (F. C. Publishing Co.)
Vivaldi, Antonio: Largo from Concerto in D Major PVW 209 (F. C. Publishing Co.)
XVIII Century Hungarian Dances (Salvi International Corp.)


Bernstein, Leonard (USA): Chorale and Meditation
Chiti, Gianopaulo (Italy): Breakers
Creston, Paul (USA): Olympia Rhapsody for Harp
Damase, Jean Michel (France): Concertino
Dello Joio, Norman (USA): Bagatella
Durkó, Zsolt (Hungary): Serenata Per Quatro Arpas
Flagello, Nicolas (USA): Arismo II. for 4 Harps, Island of Mysterious Bells
Hanus, Jan (Czechoslovakia): Introduzione E Toccata
Hidas Frigyes (Hungary): Hungarian Melodies
Houhaness, Alari (USA) - Stuart Colidge: Spirituals in Sunshine and Shadow
Kasilag, Lucrecia R. (Philippines): Diversions II for 4 Harps
Ligeti, György (Hungary/Germany): Continuum
Maayani, Ami (Israel): Arabesque for 4 Harps
Mecsedelov, Mihail (Soviet Union): Song Procession for 4 Harps and Drum
Montori, Sergio (Italy): Iron Garden
Saygun, Ahmed Adnan (Turkey): Three Preludes for Four Harps, Three Melodies for Four Harps
Serly, Tibor (Hungary/USA): Canonic Prelude for 4 Harps
Takemitsu, Toru (Japan): Wavelength
Wha, Lin (China): Amid Flowers Beside the River
Wilkomirski, Josef (Poland): Concerto for Four Harps


Vivaldi: Concerto (with New York Philharmonic, conductor: Leonard Bernstein, Columbia)
New York Harps Ensemble/CRS 4130 Golden Crest Quadrophonic
New York Harp Ensemble/CRS 4121 Golden Crest Quadrophonic
18th Century Concerti and Strings, Musical Heritage Society 3320
18th Century Concerti Stereo Cassette MHC 5320
XVIII Century Music for Harp Ensemble MHS 3239
XVIII Century Stereo Cassette MHC 5239
Contemporary Music for Harp Ensemble MHS 1184
Contemporary Stereo Cassette MHC 2100
Contemporary Music for Harp and Strings MHS 3370 (Solo: von Wurtzler)
American Cavalcade MHS 3307
Romantic Music for Harp Ens. and Solo Harp MHS 3611 (Solo: von Wurtzler)
Romantic Music Stereo Cassette MHC 5611
Musical Memories, Vol. I. MHS 3670
Musical Memories, Vol. I. Stereo Cassette MHC 5670
Christmas with New York Harp Ensemble MHS 3483 (Solo: von Wurtzler)
Christmas with New York Harp Ensemble Stereo Cassette MHC 5483
An Evening with the New York Harp Ensemble MHS 3890 (Solo: von Wurtzler)
Musical Memories Vol. II. MHS 4259 (Solo: von Wurtzler)
Musical Memories, Vol. II. Stereo Cassette MHC 6259 (Solo: von Wurtzler)
Rhapsody for Harp and Orchestra, MHS 4387 (Solo: von Wurtzler)
Mostly Concertos, MHS 4260 (Solo: von Wurtzler)
The New York Harp Ensemble, Hungaroton SLPX 12726
The New York Harp Ensemble, Hungaroton, MK 12726
The New York Harp Ensemble, Hungaroton Stereo HCD 12726
A Pastorale Christmas, MusicMasters, MMD 20098A
A Pastorale Christmas, MusicMasters Stereo Cassette, MMC 40098Z
A Pastorale Christmas, MusicMasters Compact Disc. CD MMD 60098Y
A Pastorale Christmas with NYH Ensemble MHS 4610 Digital-Stereo
A Pastorale Christmas with NYH Ensemble Digital-Stereo Cassette 6611
Weinachtiiche Harfenmusik NYHE and Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, conductor: Aristid von Wurtzler, Orfeo, Stereo-Digital-S 122 841 B
Éva Marton with the New York Ensemble, Hungaroton SLPD 12939
Éva Marton with the New York Harp Ensemble, Hungaroton MK 12939
Éva Marton with the New York Harp Ensemble, Hungaroton HDC 12939
Hungaroton Highlights, 1987-88, Hungaroton, HCD 1661


London College of Applied Science (USA), honorary doctorate, 1968
The Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary

See also: