Cellists who not only have a full-time position in an orchestra and a chamber music group but are also ranking soloists are rare in spite of the fact that there are many capable cello players. Very few ensembles have a cello master who lives up to all demands. The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra can count itself doubly lucky, for in
Alwin Schröder and Julius Klengel it has two members who are equally accomplished cello artists. ...
Those who hear Alwin Schröder play without knowing about his studies will assume that he has been playing his instrument since early childhood. His great, fluid technique, his crystal-clear intonation, his steady bowing, warm and great tone, the nobility and strong emotion of his performance – in short, all the qualities that characterize the playing of a master, lead one to that conclusion. And yet that is not the case: Alwin Schröder did not discover his love for what is now his main instrument until very late in life, and the level he has reached at present is clear evidence of his great talent, since as a cellist he is completely self-taught, i.e., had no teacher.
Alwin Schröder is now 30 years old, and was born in Neuhaldensleben as the son of that town’s music director Carl Schröder. Starting at age seven, he was taught to play the piano by his father and his older brother Hermann. The latter later also taught him to play the violin. At the time his father and three older brothers comprised a string quartet; at age 11 he had to take over his father’s position, the viola, which did not prevent him from working hard on the violin, initially directed by his brother Hermann, later for a brief period at the Royal Academy in Berlin (with Prof. de Ahna). He also did not neglect the piano; in this he received much support from the late court pianist J.B. André in Ballenstedt, where the four brothers were appointed to be the chamber quartet of the Duchess of Anhalt-Bernburg. He was also the Schröder brothers’ pianist on brief concert tours (playing trios by Beethoven, Schubert, and others). In 1872 the chamber quartet took up residence in Berlin, where, however, the quartet soon disbanded when cellist Carl (now the court musical director in Sondershausen) left Berlin. Alwin was now appointed as first violist in various orchestras, and additionally continued, with W. Tappert, the theoretical studies he had begun with André.
During this period, as chance would have it, he found a cello left behind by his brother Carl at their parents’ house and felt the urge to learn the familiar solo from Rossini’s William Tell Overture. As a joke, the next time his brother Carl visited their parents, he played it for him, but Carl took the successful attempt very seriously, and told Alwin to continue his studies of the cello in earnest. Alwin took his brother’s advice and used the free time he had – he had meanwhile taken a post with the Fliege Orchestra as a violinist, which took him to St. Petersburg – to continue studying the cello. He worked so hard that only a few months later he was able to exchange the violin for a cello. In autumn 1875 he became the first cellist in the Liebig Concert Orchestra; he held the same position once again with Fliege, and later with Laube in Hamburg, from where he moved to Leipzig in 1880.
Here he at first worked as a substitute, but later definitively took the position of his brother Carl, who had been appointed court music director in Sondershausen. He is now the first cellist of the Theater Orchestra and Gewandhaus Orchestra, having developed full artistic mastery and become one of the foremost members of the Leipzig community of musicians. He became his brother’s successor at the Royal Conservatory of Music as well, and his teaching ability is generally praised. His skill as a chamber musician enhances the Petri Quartet. – Alwin Schröder has the title of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen Chamber Music Virtuoso.
from Musikalishes Wochenblatt, vol. XVI, no. 48 (Leipzig, Nov. 19, 1885)
p. 582-3 (text), p. 589 (image)
Translation from German: Dr. Ilze Mueller