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Vienna Philharmonic mourn a principal flute

Wolfgang Schulz has died in a Vienna hospital, Austrian media have now confirmed. He was 67.

A long-term soloist of the Vienna Philharmonic, Schulz co-founded the Ensemble Wien-Berlin in 1983 and directed a festival in France. He was imbued with the entrepreneurial qualities of his alma mater, along with a sensational tone of exceptional clarity and vigour. Uncommonly, he was committed to contemporary music and capable of great kindness to young composers. His teaching skills were widely revered.

Born in Linz on Febrary 26, 1946, he passed an audition at the Vienna Volksoper in 1964 and, six years later, at the State Opera, from where he was elected to the membership of the Vienna Philharmonic.


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  1. Methuselah says:

    Very sad to hear of Prof. Schulz’s passing. He was a great artist and will be missed tremendously. With no disrespect intended, perhaps Prof. Schulz’s passing can serve as proof as to why the retirement age, especially of orch. Principal players, should NOT be raised to 67.

    Prof. Schulz was 67 when he passed away.

    This is an issue both in the US (SF Symph. I believe) and also in European orchestras which are government funded and must abide by govt. legislated retirement rules. The age is now being pushed up to 67 in many European orchestras.

    To add fuel to the fire, take the unprecedented death of SF Symph’s Principal Oboe William Bennett, merely in his mid-fifties when he was stricken by a cerebral hemmorhage on the job and died.

    I don’t think that the unique demands and extraordinary stress a Principal player endures are being properly taken into consideration by orchs. who insist that players continue until 67.

    Professor Schultz’s passing, as sad as it is, should serve as a reminder to legislators that the professional lifespan of an orchestral solo player is not indefinite. It takes a severe toll on mind, body and health in general. It’s illogical and inhumane to force Principal players to play until they are 67, which is what is now happening in many places.

    • I agree 100%. But not only for principal players, but for section players as well.

      • another orchestra musician says:

        Use it or lose it. I, personally, have observed far more colleagues crushed by inactivity in retirement than by the strain of performing.

        The real argument in favour of mandatory retirement at 65 or below is that it ensures orchestra positions won’t get sat on by a single occupant for longer than about 40 years. Some musicians are well able to perform at a high level in advanced age; others are not; but the possibility of clinging to one’s position indefinitely is, in all events, an unhealthy thing for our profession. However vital an orchestra’s institutional memory may be, rejuvenation of its work force is equally so. A tradition can remain living only when its exponents know to share custodianship of it.

    • harold braun says:

      With due respect,this comment is utter nonsense.There are many examples ,especially in the US,where principal players played fantastically well into their seveties and eighties,living happily even after they finally retired,fit as a fiddle and unaffected by decades of service.To name just a few :Stanley Drucker,Principal Clarinet NYPO,retired at the age of 80 after 60 years with the orchestra,still teaching.Bud Herseth,principal trumpet CSO for 53 years,stepped down at age eighty,continuing to play three years more with orchestra as principal emeritus,still teaching occasionally and giving masterclasses 91 years of age.Dale Clevenger,principal horn with CSO,retiring at 72 this summer,with a new teaching post in his bag,Jay Friedman,principal trombone CSO playing happily along at 72.Paul Renzi ,former SFSO principal flute,left the orchestra at age 74.Maurice Murphy,principal trumpet LSO retiring at age 74,would still be playing gig after gig in film studios had he not died because some incompetent doctor botching a routine procedure.And the list goes on and on….
      What i am saying is,that I do not believe that the deaths of Mr.Bennet and Mr.Schulz can be put down to their profession.We have to accept that people die for some reason,and that sometimes there is no rational explanation for that.My sister ,who was a professional violonist,died from brain cancer at the tender age of 42,and it certainly didn´t have anything to do with her fiddling.
      Quite the contrary.I’m not alone in the opinion that continuing a satisfying and intellectually and physically challenging activity actually may increase longevity,presumed of course you are still up to play at top level and in good health.And I think that age requirement that prevents such a person from doing what he or she loves best,is illogical and inhuman.and certainly counterproductive to good health.
      I think everybody should be allowed to retire when he or she feels it is time to.I really,really don´t think there should be any govt.legislated retirement rules.Everybody still up to the demands should be allowed to decide freely.

      • Methuselah says:

        Mr. Braun,

        Of course you make excellent arguments. But I’m afraid you’ve missed my point. Yes, by all means if a player is able & willing to play into his 80′s let that remain an option if it’s artistically viable. But on the other hand, many players understandably would like to retire at 65 or younger and they should be allowed to do so
        without forfeiting their hard-earned pensions which is what happens in govt. funded orchs. if you leave your job before the official retirement age.

        Playing in an orch. is physically hard work. Yes there are some hardy souls who can keep doing it into their 80′s, but you are battling nature. Clevenger himself will describe the meticulous measurements of his air capacity done in a hospital setting on a regular basis over time which confirmed what he suspected: you lose air capacity as you age. James Galway has also observed this.

        This is to say nothing of your eyesight, physical coordination, hearing and nearly every other physical aspect of playing an orchestral instrument which deteriorates with age. If certain players can work around these problems and keep playing, fine, but those who choose not to should not be forced by law to keep working.

        I mean no disprespect to the legendary players you’ve mentioned, but it’s pretty common knowledge that most were not playing their at the same level when they retired as when they were in their prime.I will not be specific, but everyone knows this is true and that it was generally a blessing when they retired.

        Some players do not want to set records for playing longevity. They want to retire at a reasonable age. Would you force a ballet dancer to dance to 67? A football player? Playing in an orch. is not that different. Those who want to retire at a reasonable age should be allowed to do so without forfeiting their pensions.

      • Nuno Ivo Cruz says:

        With few exceptions, conductors UNDER 65 are a waste of time. Of course this is a crass generalization, but: older Maestros are able to project their love of music, and not the ego-anxieties of less experienced conductors. Yes, it is a difficult job, very long learning curve

        • Richard Barker says:

          Personally I am no great friend of over-hyped young conductors, of which today we have far too many. But having said that, if conductors under 65 are a waste of time, what the hades are conductors supposed to do until their 65th birthday??? And when are they supposed to gain the experience that makes them so marvellous when they pass that age???

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            I think what he is trying to say is that most conductors are at their best in their sixties – more or less – and until then they are in it to get the experience. After that they start to lose it physically but often still have tremendous inspirational power.
            That is true for the particular combination of concert conductors and very good orchestras. For opera and also for less good orchestras there are also other qualities in a conductor – ability to beat precisely and with good pulse for instance – that are also often prevalent in good young conductors.
            For orchestra musicians, physiology is a much bigger determining factor when it comes to playing at old age.

      • I think the retirement age may not always be one of the orchestra’s choosing, but more a matter of government policy. In a number of European countries the retirement age is being raised from 65 where it had been for a long time. Whether a fixed retirement age is a good thing or not is another question. But keeping ‘doing something’ seems to be quite good for longevity. On the other hand, as someone says, there are a lot of very elderly conductors around…

      • Harold, half of those players who you list as being effective in their 80s were well past playing effectively in a first rate orchestra and were being buoyed up by colleagues, one of them infamously being disrespected by Chicago music critics. One thinks of elderly oboists in Cleveland a decade ago; the principal was buoyed for a few years by a very talented protege while his English horn colleague retired while still in full possession of all of his abilities.

        One often sees in European orchestras that oboe and other wind players enter as second, play a few years, play principal for a decade or two then move back over into the section. This model also worked for a legendary Cleveland horn player, Richard Solis, who just retired after almost 40 years, 17 as first and 20 as fourth. Thus the wisdom and experience that a player gains are maintained even as he gets old and becomes less effective in the hot seat.

    • Robbiemof39 says:

      I don’t agree about the age comment. James Galway
      Is over 70 and touring the world busier now than ever.
      Also many conductors continue well into there 80s.

  2. He was a phenomenal player. I have enjoyed his playing on many of my cherished recordings, and especially his Ensemble Wien-Berlin work. He will be missed.

  3. According to the WPhil website he was retired.

  4. Richard Yaklich says:

    Very sad news.
    On the subject of retirement — maybe we should have an age for conductors as well, we push musicians out at 65, but conductors can be 85 and senile and still get major posts.

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