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Composers and repertoire

Franz (Ferenc) Weisz

Franz Weisz

Ferenc Weisz was born on 2 August 1893 in Budapest. At the National Conservatory (Nemzeti Zenede) he studied piano under Istvan (Stephan) Tomka and composition under Karoly Agghazy, completing his studies in 1914 with distinction in both disciplines. In 1919 he obtained a teaching post at the Conservatory, but due to the uncomfortable political circumstances of the time and rising antisemitism under the dictatorship of Miklos Horthy, Weisz left in 1920 for Amsterdam, where relatives of his had lived for several decades.

From that time he called himself Franz Weisz and in 1932 he took Dutch nationality. Between 1925 and 1934 he was married to the artist Henriette Roos. Weisz settled down in Amsterdam as a freelance music teacher and composer. In January 1925 he became a registered member of the association of Dutch composers known as Geneco (Genootschap van Nederlandse Componisten). He gave music lessons at home and composed lavishly: former students recall that during their lessons he sat the whole time at his desk writing music!

Very quickly after arriving in Holland he formed a close working relationship with Dirk Schaefer, the internationally acclaimed pianist and composer, with whom he had many discussions at his home in Schoorl about piano playing and for whom he had great admiration, as Weisz himself wrote in his book Ter herinnering aan Dirk Schäfer (In Memory of Dirk Schaefer) 1873-1931. Weisz dedicated his Suite für Klavier (1922) to the pianist Schaefer.

How prolific a composer Weisz was we know from the following anecdote: In 1940 Karel Mengelberg, the secretary of Geneco, called all members of Geneco to put “2 or 3 compositions into safekeeping … given the threat of war”. Weisz replied that he had “80 to 100 piano compositions”. The musical works for which Weisz registered author's rights with Geneco between 1926 and 1940 consisted mainly of piano works (for piano solo, piano and chamber orchestra and piano with full orchestra) but there was also one symphony and several works for cello or violin and orchestra. In 1929 five of Weisz' compositions were published in Budapest (see ‘Selected works’ on the right). These works were brought to light in 2008 by Niek Verkruisen Azn, a former pupil of Weisz and son of the piano dealer on Stadhouderskade in Amsterdam, where Franz Weisz used to be a familiar figure.

Of Weisz' manuscripts only a small part has been recovered: some sixty pages, some in fair copy but most in note form. For the most part the works are fragmentary, sometimes just one line of a melody, but nevertheless all carefully numbered with opus numbers (op. 49 - 104), dated (1922-1931) and signed. Sadly, of the most complete work for piano solo, properly written out in fair copy and running to 30 pages, the first 9 pages are missing. The last two parts (pages 12 - 30, Scherzo and Carnaval) are intact. Henri Nijsten described Weisz' music in his article Alexander Borovsky and his assistant Franz Weisz’ (EPTA Piano Bulletin, September 2011) as “Capricious, inventive, richly ornamented, a mixture of late romantic and improvised chamber music with a touch of impressionism, very different from Bartok”. In the context of the Uilenburg Concert Series, works by Weisz have been performed by Marcel Worms (2009) and Marianne Boer (2010). Both these concerts were broadcast on Dutch Radio 4.

Franz Weisz frequently accompanied the violinists Alfred Indig and Alexander Moskowsky on the piano. He also enjoyed great success together with pianist Olga Moskowsky in their premiere performance of Scaramouche, a suite for two pianos by Darius Milhaud (1938). In 1938 Weisz was appointed assistant to Alexander Borovsky, the well-known Russian pianist, who gave a master class at the Muzieklyceum (music academy) in Amsterdam. When Borovsky fled to America at the start of the Second World War, Weisz remained and continued to teach, both at the Muzieklyceum and privately at home. He considered that since he had never meddled in politics, he had nothing to fear. He was baptised into the Dutch Reformed Church in 1942 and was issued with an identity card which stated ‘bis auf weiteres vom Arbeidseinsatz freigestellt - exempt from labour duties until further notice’. But this proved of no avail: in May 1943 he was arrested at No 74 Deurloostraat and transported to Westerbork. In January 1944 he arrived in Theresienstadt, and in May he accompanied the Czech violinist Karel Froehlich in a recital there (described in Muziek in Theresienstadt 1941-1945’, by Joza Karas, translated by Theodore van Houten, Panta Rhei, 1995). On 28 September 1944 Franz Weisz was transported to Auschwitz, where two days later he met his death.

Annette de Klerk

Selected works

Konzertetüde 1913 for piano
Suite für Klavier 1922 for piano
Nocturne 1924 for piano

Find out more about Franz Weisz, find sheet music and listen to sound samples on www.forbiddenmusicregained.org