Introduction to the Richard Stoelzer Collection

Portrait of Richard Stoelzer circa 1900 by Hollister



Biographical Sketch

Ernst Richard Stoelzer (1864-1947), musician and composer, was born in Germany , probably near Dresden , and grew up in Leipzig where he attended the Thomas Schule and sang in the Thomaskirche Choir. At the Leipzig Conservatory he studied viola, clarinet and composition. At the age of twenty he was engaged to play viola and clarinet with the Royal Saxon Orchestra at the Crystal Palace in Leipzig and on concert tours.

Following a German tour, the orchestra came to the United States in 1885. Lack of publicity and consequent lack of audience response prompted the tour director to cancel further engagements and offer the musicians return tickets to Germany or an equivalent amount of cash to remain in the U.S. Stoelzer chose to remain. For a time he supported himself by playing various hotel and beach resort engagements. He joined a short-lived opera orchestra at the Thalia Theater in New York, which was forced to close when union-hired thugs attacked the non-union musicians.


In 1888 Stoelzer joined the Boston Symphony Orchestral Club as a viola and viola d'amore soloist, a position he retained until 1891. In the fall of that year, he and Mario Blodeck, a cellist, formed their own chamber group - the Mozart Symphony Club of New York - which made annual tours of this country and Canada , playing almost nightly engagements until 1905.

It is Stoelzer's collection of music and instruments of these years which is of particular interest - a period which saw a revival of baroque instruments. Very little has been written on turn-of-the-century American chamber groups; thus the Stoelzer Collection is a valuable tool for both instrumentalists and musicologists.

In his later years, Stoelzer played with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and toured with popular musicals such as Lehar's The Merry Widow and Caryll's The Pink Lady . When failing eyesight forced him to give up performing, he devoted himself to teaching.


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