Abraham Alexander Schneider
was a violinist, conductor and educator.
Born to a Lithuanian Jewish family in Vilnius, Lithuania - Russia, he later moved to the United States as a member of the Budapest String Quartet.
Alexander Schneider, the eminent violinist, conductor and teacher who was one of the last links with the Romantic tradition and a mentor to several generations of American musicians, died at his home in Manhattan.
Frank Salomon, Mr. Schneider's manager and a close friend for many years, said that the cause of death was heart failure.
Mr. Schneider, born in Lithuania - Russia, educated in Europe and an American citizen for nearly half a century, followed early success as the second violinist in the Budapest Quartet with a long and varied career as a performer and teacher. He advocated an expressive performance style that began to lose favor in the late 1960's as the early-music movement grew more popular. But his approach was increasingly appreciated in recent years, when listeners began to miss the warmth that his approach represented. Seemed to Be Everywhere
From the 1930's onward, Mr. Schneider was a ubiquitous figure in the music world. He played and taught at the Prades festival in Puerto Rico and the Marlboro festival in Vermont, led his own string quartet through the complete Haydn canon in a celebrated series of Haydn Society recordings, directed elaborate seminars for young students (many of them open to the public as midnight concerts in Carnegie Hall on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve), and conducted his own chamber group, the Brandenburg Ensemble.
For many years he was vice president of the Fromm Music Foundation, which he advised on potential commissions. And he directed, at the New School for Social Research, a series of concerts in which Peter Serkin, the Guarneri Quartet, the Cleveland Quartet and Tashi made their New York concert debuts.
Mr. Schneider, known as Sasha, was an enthusiastic man who threw himself into his myriad musical callings with great passion. His ability, commitment and links with the Romantic musical tradition were undeniable.
A member of the Budapest Quartet during its greatest years, a close friend and colleague of Pablo Casals, Rudolf Serkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski, he devoted the better part of his life to passing on his experience. The young musicians who came into contact with Mr. Schneider numbered in the tens of thousands. Concertmaster at 16
Abraham Alexander Schneider was born on Oct. 21, 1908, in Vilnius, Lithuania. At age 10 he entered the conservatory there and at 16 the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, where he quickly became concertmaster of the Frankfurt Museum Orchestra. For several years he worked in Saarbrucken, Hamburg and Frankfurt as a concertmaster, assistant conductor, soloist and leader of his own quartet.
He joined the Budapest Quartet in 1932, two years after his brother Mischa became the group's cellist. He toured extensively with the quartet, which settled in the United States in 1938. He left in 1944 and became one of New York's most active chamber-music players. He was a member of the Albeneri Trio; founded the New York Quartet with Mr. Horszowski, Milton Katims and Frank Miller, and played in duos with Ralph Kirkpatrick and Eugene Istomin.
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In 1950, he persuaded Casals to come out of retirement and lead a festival at Prades to observe the bicentenary of Bach's death. The festival continued annually for several years. Later Mr. Schneider performed with Casals at the Marlboro Festival, in Israel and Puerto Rico and, on one memorable occasion, at the White House before President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy. Recorded Haydn's Quartets
In 1952, he formed the Schneider Quartet, which gave what is believed to have been the first complete traversal of the Haydn String Quartets in the United States. The group's recordings of the cycle quickly achieved classic status. Three years later Mr. Schneider rejoined the Budapest Quartet and remained with the group until it disbanded in 1964.
Mr. Schneider recorded prolifically as a member of the Budapest Quartet, but he also made more than 100 recordings as a violin soloist and as a conductor, including several with Serkin, Casals and, more recently, the clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. In concerts, he collaborated with most of the great musicians of the century, among them Artur Schnabel, Isaac Stern, Artur Rubinstein, Dame Myra Hess, Joseph Szigeti, Nathan Milstein and Yehudi Menuhin.
Mr. Schneider was a regular guest conductor at the Mostly Mozart festival from its earliest years. He also conducted an annual series of concerts with the Brandenburg Ensemble, an orchestra of young musicians that he formed in 1972.
But it was from his work with the New York String Orchestra that Mr. Schneider was best known in recent years. He founded the orchestra and its concert seminars in 1968, and it soon became a local year-end institution. Students from throughout the United States attended intensive workshops led by Mr. Schneider and his associates, then demonstrated what they had learned in concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. 'Richness and Abandon'
Reviewing one of Mr. Schneider's last performances with the String Orchestra in December, James R. Oestreich noted in The New York Times that the conductor seemed frail and brittle and led the ensemble from a chair. But Mr. Oestreich praised the "richness and abandon" with which the young musicians played for Mr. Schneider, and added: "It is wonderful that year after year, young players, ages 15 to 22, gain firsthand exposure to the style that, although now thoroughly antiquated, ushered in the Baroque revival in the first place."
Among Mr. Schneider's many awards for his service to music were the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Medal, in 1945, and the Kennedy Center Honors, in 1988.
He was married and divorced three times (his third wife was the actress Geraldine Page, to whom he was married for a year around 1960), and leaves no survivors. In his later years, living alone, he enjoyed cooking for friends in his spacious loft in Manhattan. He also had a home in Paradou, France.
"For me, my purpose is to get young people to learn how to make music," Mr. Schneider once said. "When you make music, it has to come from your heart, from your soul, or it has no meaning. It's an extraordinary experience when I see the results. They produce a sound a professional orchestra couldn't: a love of music."
1924–1987 (m. 1960)
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