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About Hugo Kauder

Hugo Kauder devoted his life (1888-1972) to composing, teaching, playing, and writing about music. The following biography is an introduction to his life and work.

For more in-depth information about Kauder, you may visit The Hugo Kauder Papers at the University of Chicago Library. All of Kauder's original writings and manuscripts have also recently been accepted by the New York Public Library's Music Division. Also, additional documents may be found at the Houghton Library at Harvard University, and at the Austrian National Library (Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek).

Youth and education

Kauder was born June 9, 1888 in Tobitschau, Moravia, now Tovacov, Czech Republic. His father Ignaz Kauder was Oberlehrer (principal) of the local German language elementary school. As a boy, Hugo Kauder had violin lessons with the local teacher, who eventually dismissed him when he had taught him everything he knew. These lessons were his only formal training in music.

In 1905, Kauder moved to Vienna to study engineering but often skipped school with classmate Egon Lustgarten to study scores in the Imperial Court Library. Of particular interest to him were several volumes of Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich (Monuments of Music in Austria), mainly works of Flemish composers of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Developing a musical career

From 1911 to 1917, Kauder played violin in the Wiener Tonkuenstler Orchester under such conductors as Ferdinand Loewe, Franz Schalk, Arthur Nikisch, and Richard Strauss. There he began a lifelong friendship with Dutch horn player Willem Valkenier (1887-1986), inspiring his numerous horn compositions.

From 1917 to 1922, Kauder was the violist of the Gottesmann Quartet.

In 1919, he met poet and philosopher Rudolf Pannwitz (1886-1969). Though he could not play an instrument, Pannwitz composed settings of classic poems, following his idea "quite unconventional at the time" that composers should find and reveal the music latent in texts, rather than creating the musical setting at will. Kauder adopted and elaborated this approach to vocal music and regarded Pannwitz as a life-long mentor.

In 1923 Kauder married the linguist, archeologist, and bible scholar Helene Guttman (1898-1949), a cousin of his study companion Egon Lustgarten.

For the rest of his life, in Vienna and later in New York, Kauder was self-employed as a composer and teacher of violin, music theory, and composition. As part of his efforts to bring his music to life, he conducted a chorus and a chamber ensemble of students and friends (including his son Otto) who studied and performed the classics as well as his own compositions.

Notable musicians who appreciated and performed Kauder's music in Vienna before 1938 and to some extent after 1945 included the Gottesmann, Sedlak-Winkler, Rose, and Kolbe string quartets; the conductors Josef Mertin (1904-1998), Viktor Bermeiser, Siegmund Levarie, Karl Ristenpart, and Alexander Zemlinsky; pianist Adolf Baller, hornist Ernst Paul, and oboist Alexander Wunderer.


Next: Transition: from Vienna to New York