Alfred Csammer

1938 - 2009

Alfred Csammer, a violinist, was a highly regarded performer in Europe, where he frequently played as a recitalist, appeared in numerous concerts and radio productions, and participated in recording sessions. As a soloist, he shared in countless recitals with his wife, Sontraud Speidel, a pianist. A music teacher at a university in Germany, he was also a composer who enjoyed drawing.

Although Csammer was born in Budweis, Bohemia (known today as the Czech Republic), the son of Walpurga Klimt and Eugen Csammer, he spent most of his childhood in Karlsruhe, Germany. His father was a Seventh-day Adventist minister as well as a violin and viola player and teacher, and his mother was a trained singer. The home was filled with music, including frequent visits by musicians and constant chamber music activity.

Alfred started study on violin at age five under his father, who had been a student of Ottokar Sevick. Lessons continued throughout his grade school and gymnasium (high school) years, and at age seventeen he enrolled in the music university in Karlsruhe.

He studied with Heinz Stanske, Bronislaw Gimpel, and Henri Lewkowicz at Karlsruhe and then with Ricardo Odnoposoff at the music university in Stuttgart. For several years he traveled to Zurich, Switzerland, to attend master classes under internationally known Russian violinist Nathan Milstein.

As a first violinist in the famous Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra conducted by Karl Münchinger, Csammer toured widely in Europe, the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Far East. He also played as a member in the Brahms Quintet and served as concertmaster and artistic director of the Karlsruhe Chamber Orchestra, a group that provided opportunities for talented young players.

Csammer's playing elicited high praise from critics, who wrote about the vitality of his playing and his virtuosity and sensitivity as a performer. One critic referred to him as "a violinist of the elite of our day," following a performance of a Beethoven violin concerto in Romania.

An assistant professor at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz for many years, Csammer also gave master classes in Germany and the U.S. As a composer, he wrote scene music for Death and the Maiden (an early version of the Salzburg classic Jedermann by Hoffmannsthal) and The Creation, a work for violin soloist and speaker inspired by Genesis 1 (Die Erschaffung der Erde: Musikalische Impressionen für Violine Solo und Sprecher). The latter was performed widely in Germany and released as a CD with a booklet that included his drawings.

In the U.S., he was best known for his performances in recitals given jointly with his wife, Sontraud, at Adventist colleges and universities. In their many years of giving recitals, they played all of the Bach, Brahms, and Grieg sonatas for violin. Although she was not raised an Adventist, following their becoming acquainted when she was teenager, he introduced her to Adventism, a faith that she embraced.

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Sources: Information provided by Sontraud Speidel, April 2010; IAMA biography for Sontraud Speidel; and personal knowledge.