Louis Grimm - Franz Poenitz

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Louis Grimm

Harps and Harpists
by Roslyn Rensch
Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1989
ISBN 0-253-34903-6

p. 206f - The "Berlin School"

  Carl Constantine (Ludwig/Louis) Grimm (1820-1882), a pupil of Elias Parish Alvars, is known as the founder of the "Berlin School" of harp playing. Appointed Royal Chapel harpist in Berlin in 1844, extolled for his orchestral work by Franz Liszt and the Conductor Hans von Bülow, Grimm was also a fine teacher. In addition to Rosalie Spohr (to whom Franz Liszt, in his youth, was greatly attracted), Grimm's famous pupils included Albert Heinrich Zabel (1834-1910), Franz Poenitz (1850-1912), and Wilhelm Posse (1862-1926). Zabel, a scholarship student at the Berlin Institut für Kirchenmusik, toured in Europe and America for three years with an orchestra conducted by Joseph Gungl. In 1848 Zabel was appointed solo harpist with the Berlin Opera, then in 1854 he moved to St. Petersburg where he became harpist for the Imperial Russian Ballet. In 1862 he joined the faculty of the newly founded St Petersburg Conservatory of Music, rising to the rank of honorary distinguished professor by 1904. Credited with bringing to Russia the grat harp playing tradition of Berlin, Zabel also wrote a booklet on harp composition (Leipzig 1900), a Methode für Harfe, in three sections, published with French, German and English texts (Zimmermann, Leipzig, c. 1900), a very interesting Harp Concerto in C Minor, op. 35, and many solos. Now his best-known work is undoubtedly the harp solo, Der Springbrunnen/La source, op. 23, where the animated note pattern faithfuuly suggests the rise and fall of the sparkling waters of an artificial fountain. The Concerto, La Source, and several other Zabel pieces have been recorded.
 Grimm's pupil, Franz Poenitz (who was born Franz Von Burkowitz, but took the name of the relative who adopted him), was another musical prodigy. Taken to Sweden, he played harp concerts to ovations when only six. He played in Berlin the following year and later toured; by the

1860s he was a member of the Court Orchestra in Berlin, and Royal Chamber Musician from 1891. Poenitz published many instrumental works, including a fantasia Vineta for harp and orchestra, in addition to harp solos. Perhaps his best-known solo is the impressive (though now little heard) Nordische Ballade in E Minor, op. 33 (Carl Simon, 1892); the last movement was recorded at 78 rpm by Alberto Salvi, while Virginia Morgan (Robinson) included the entire piece in an album recorded at 33 1/3 rpm. As a companion publication for Holy's two volumes of harp parts of the orchestral works of Richard Strauss, Poenitz edited a volume of the composer's dramatic works, including Salome, Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier (Universal-Edition, Leipzig and Vienna, 1910).
  Poenitz's contemporary, Wilhelm Posse, received his earliest musical instruction from his father, then taught himself to play the harp - with such success that in 1860 he was able to accompany the famous singer Adelina Patti in concert at the Italian Opera in Berlin. Following a concert tour of southern Russia with his father, Posse in 1864 entered Berlin's Kullak Academy where he studied violin and piano in addition to his harp lessons with Grimm. In 1872 Posse joined the Berlin Royal Opera; he later became solo harpist with the Berlin Philharmonic. In addition, from 1890-1923 he taught at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, and was honoured there in 1910 with the title of professor. To Franz Liszt, Posse was "the greatest harpist since Parish Alvars". Posse made some notable harp transcriptions of the music of both Liszt and Chopin and he also revised Dizi's studies, which he greatly admired. Posse's own Acht grosse Konzert-Etüden soon became a major requirement for advanced harp studies. While his harp solos are now not often performed, Posse's brief but delightful Neckeri (Teasing) from Sechs kleine Stücke (Zimmerman, Leipzig, 1910) was a favourite encore piece in the early twentieth century, at the harp solo concerts of Alberto Salvi. As a teacher Posse is described as strict, but also kind and patient. His student, Alexei Slepushkin (1870-1918), taught Maria Korchinska (1895-1979), the great Russian-born harpist who, early in the 1920s, moved to London where her expertise as a concert harpist and later as a teacher became legendary.

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