Story: Classical musicians

Page 8. New Zealand-based musicians

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From the 1930s refugees from Europe enriched New Zealand’s cultural life.

Émigré musicians

Georg Tintner

Georg Tintner (1917–99) fled the Nazi regime in Austria in 1938. A former member of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, he had studied conducting under Felix Weingartner and had been appointed as conductor at the Vienna Volksoper. He settled in New Zealand and took New Zealand citizenship. In the 1940s and 1950s he conducted in New Zealand and Australia, and, from the 1960s on, further afield (including engagements with the London Symphony Orchestra). From 1987 he lived in Canada, where he was principal conductor of Symphony Nova Scotia.

Memories of Lili Kraus

New Zealand audiences, yearning for live professional music after the lean years of the Second World War, were captivated by the charm and vitality of brilliant pianist Lili Kraus. Memories of her endure, as does her Steinway grand piano, which, richly carved and painted, became the centrepiece of sculptor Michael Parekowhai’s 2011 work ‘On first looking into Chapman’s Homer’.

Lili Kraus

Hungarian-born pianist Lili Kraus (1903–86) was another musician whose flight from the horrors of the Second World War enriched New Zealand’s musical life. She was imprisoned by Japanese forces in Indonesia in 1942. After the war she made New Zealand her home for some years and became a citizen. Kraus resumed her international touring career in 1948.

Paul and Diny Schramm

Austrian-born Paul Schramm (1892–1953) and his Dutch wife Diny (1900–87), who moved to New Zealand in 1938, formed a successful piano duo that played both classical and light works in concert and on radio from 1939. Paul also played solo, giving a series of successful recitals for schools. Paul left for Australia in 1946, frustrated at his treatment in New Zealand as an ‘enemy alien’ during the Second World War. Diny remained in New Zealand and continued to work as a music teacher.

Marie Vandewart

Jewish cellist Marie Vandewart (later Blaschke) (1911–2006) also sought refuge in New Zealand from persecution, arriving in 1939. Vandewart made a considerable impact as a concert artist and taught at the University of Auckland’s School of Music for 15 years from 1961.

New Zealand-born artists

In the post-war years some New Zealand-born musicians were able to pursue successful careers both at home and abroad.

Donald Munro

Baritone Donald Munro (1913–2012) returned to New Zealand in 1951 after study in Europe and established the New Zealand Opera Company in 1954.

Malvina Major

Soprano Malvina Major sang Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the 1968 and 1969 Salzburg Festivals in Austria and attracted the interest of Covent Garden and Glyndebourne in England. However, she chose to live in her home country, where she built up a large and devoted audience.

Margaret Medlyn

From the 1990s soprano Margaret Medlyn managed to fulfil engagements with such companies as Covent Garden, the English National Opera and the Vienna State Opera from her home base in New Zealand.

Michael Houstoun

Few instrumentalists have been able to sustain a concert-giving career without having to live overseas. From 1981 pianist Michael Houstoun, a prize winner in three major international competitions, based his career in New Zealand, where he consistently drew full houses and critical acclaim (notably for his two complete Beethoven sonata cycles, performed in 2002 and 2013).

How to cite this page:

Peter Walls, 'Classical musicians - New Zealand-based musicians', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 April 2024)

Story by Peter Walls, published 22 Oct 2014