Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Witeks' Bach Double

Today I present an early recording of the Bach Double Concerto by a husband-and-wife team that I can find very little information about, Anton Witek and Alma Rosengren-Witek.  He was principal violinist of the Boston Symphony from 1910 to 1918, and most of what I can find out about him online is because of this, since http://www.stokowski.org/ has a page devoted to principal players of the Boston Symphony with a paragraph of information about him here (you'll need to scroll down the page to find it, and it's a big page!). From an article in the New York Times dated May 8, 1926, a preview of which is available here, we learn that Alma Rosengren of Lindsborg, Kansas, had been his pupil before marrying him.  If anyone out there has any further information about these two, I'd love to hear it!  Meanwhile, enjoy their forthright performance of the Bach Double Concerto, obviously made by Columbia to replace their 1924 acoustic recording by Arthur Catterall and John S. Bridge (with Hamilton Harty conducting) which was deleted at the same time this one was issued.  (This Catterall-Bridge recording can be heard at the CHARM website.)

Bach: Concerto in D minor, for two violins and strings, BWV 1043
Alma Rosengren-Witek and Anton Witek, violins
Members of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra conducted by Ernst Schmidt
Recorded in July, 1928
English Columbia 9681 and 9682, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 41.91 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 16.67 MB)

UPDATE (Nov. 20, 2016): Thanks to the recent online accessibility of the Phonograph Monthly Review magazine (1926-1932), I have been able to find out considerably more about this recording, for the July, 1929, issue of that magazine contains a full page about it; apparently Herr Witek himself was interviewed for the article. It was made in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus during the 1928 summer season there, and apparently was the first time a work not by Wagner was played on that stage! The orchestra was composed of members of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, of which Witek himself was concertmaster, and they were conducted by Ernst Schmidt, also a violinist at Bayreuth, whose principal claim to fame was that he replaced Karl Muck as the Boston Symphony's conductor, finishing out the 1917-18 season when Muck was arrested and interred as an enemy alien.


  1. Remarkable soloists, never heard of them before either. Beautiful transfer, thank you !

  2. This is a true historical artifact! Even to BSO fans like me, these names are new. Thanks so much for sharing and for educating me about them!
    Gonna go listen now....

  3. Dear Bryan

    I have collected the notices on Anton Witek from The Musical Times - these give a glimpse of his European activity and repertoire

    kind regards


    LONDON The Berlin Philliarmonic Trio—comprising Frau Vita Gerhardt (pianoforte), Herr Anton Witck (violin}, and Herr Joseph Malkin (violoncello), gave a chamber concert on November 7 [1905] at Bechstein Hall [todays Wigmore Hall], when these accomplished musicians played with enchanting finish Volkmann's Trio in B minor (Op. 5), Max Bruch's ' Scottish Fantasia,' and Mendelssohn's Trio in D minor.

    AMSTERDAM The Net Vaderland of August 22 [1908], in recording the performance of Sir Alexander Mackenzie's ' Pibroch' for violin and orchestra, performed by Herr Anton Witek at Scheveningen, refers to the work as the most interesting feature of the evening's music,' and the critic makes special mention of the brilliance of the orchestration.'

    BERLIN. A new Violin concerto in B minor, by a lady composer, Elisabeth Kuyper, was produced on November 10 [1908] at one of the Popular concerts of the Philharmonic Orchestra. The solo part was played by Konzertmeister Anton Witek. Without showing any marked originality, the work is so beautifully written and sounds so well throughout, that the audience were charmed with it.

    BERLIN. At a ' popular concert' of the Philharmonic Society [? May 1909], under Dr. Kunwald, the first (in C major) of the recently-discovered Violin concertos by Haydn was played for the tirst time since it found a resting- place in Messrs. Breitkopf's archives some 140 years ago. The charming work, beautifully played by Herr Anton Witek, greatly pleased the audience, the slow movement, a fascinating Arioso, having to be repeated. In all three movements the cembalo, played on this occasion by Dr. Kunwald, forms part of the orchestral accompaniment.

    SCHEVENINGEN. The musical summer season [?June/July 1909] at this Dutch seaside place is particularly distinguished by the yearly recurring engage- ment of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Dr. Kunwald. Amongst the works given this season have been one of the newly-found Violin concertos by Haydn, played by the well-known leader of the orchestra, Herr Anton Witek, and Handel's Concerto grosso in G minor, in addition to many other highly interesting classical and modern compositions.

    SCHEVENINGEN. At one of the subsequent concerts [between 16-29 June 1921] we had the pleasure of renewing acquaintance with an old favourite from the times when the members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra were regular guests at the Soheveningen Kurhaus, namely, their splendid leader, Anton Witek, whose finished playing of Brahms' Violin Concerto revealed him to he as fine a musician as of old. On June 29 we were startled with a sensation, inasmuch as a very youthful conductor, who enjoys the name of Polly Fistulari, appeared at the head of the orchestra.

    AMSTERDAM Dr. Karl Muck, whom wc arc glad again to have as conductor during Mengclberg's absence, conducted his first concert on February 2 [1922]—Beethoven's Fidelio Overture and the seventh and eighth Symphonies. Of his subsequent concerts one was devoted to Russian music, Anton Witek coming from Berlin to play Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. Subsequently we had a Strauss evening (with the Suite from Der Bürger als Edelmann and the Sinfonta Domestica), a classical concert (Handel, Bach, and Mozart), and Beethoven concert.

  4. Great collection of articles about Anton Witek! Did you come across a 1901(likely)student of his named Dorothy Lothian? She is my paternal grandmother. A paragraph in "The German Times" (probably in 1901 or 1902) mentions that she was an accomplished violinist and student of Prof. Witek.

  5. Dear Robin

    I have not been able to trace Dorothy Lothian in any of the sources I use I'm afraid.


  6. I am just looking out for a Violonist Anton Witek. He studied in Prague and ended an Concertmaster at the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra. I think it is the same