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Peter Schidlof

Peter Schidlof 1952, Amadeus Quartet Archive at the RCM
Violinist and violist, born 9 July, 1922 near Vienna, died 16 August, 1987 in Cumbria, UK.

Biography

After Peter Schidlof's death in Cumbria, northern England in 1987 at the age of 65, Martin Lovett (the cellist in the Amadeus Quartet) was quoted as saying, 'Peter's death means the end of the Amadeus Quartet. He is simply irreplaceable.' For 39 years Schidlof played as violist for the Amadeus Quartet after perhaps being the one who was responsible for bringing the group together. Being Jewish he was forced to flee his native Austria following the Anchluss in 1938.

Following his journey to England on the Kindertransport he was forced to go to internment camps in Shropshire, where he met Norbert Brainin and later in the Isle of Man where he met Siegmund Nissel. As Schidlof was originally a violinist, when the quartet first started playing together it would be both Peter and Norbert Brainin switching between violin and viola, but after a while it became clear that for the group to really progress Peter would have to agree to play viola as his principal instrument. He was always commended for his hugely warm and rich tone and the ease at which it seemed he was playing, however when he took up the instrument he noted, 'When I first did so I couldn’t even read the clef. Then later we did the Schubert Octet and the Beethoven Septet and gradually I began to fall for the rich and sombre quality of the viola'. Schidlof played on the 1719 'MacDonald' Stradivarius viola, which in 2014 failed to reach its auction asking price of $45 million.

Links and sources

Peter Schidlof in the University of Hamburg online database of musicians persecuted during the Nazi Period

New York Times obituary

Elsewhere in this resource

Daniel Snowman interview

Martin Lovett interview 

Photo: Peter Schidlof 1952 Amadeus Quartet Archive, Royal College of Music