Franz Streitwieser, trumpet master with a brass treasure, dies at 82


Franz Streitwieser, a German-born trumpeter who amassed a brass collection spanning centuries of musical history and attracted musicians from around the world to his home in a converted barn in Pennsylvania, died Nov. 8 in a hospice in Sebring, Florida He was 82 years old.

The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, his son Bernhard said.

While a professional performer – on one of the most outgoing orchestral instruments, nothing less – Mr. Streitwieser had the soul of an archivist.

He took a 19th-century yellow and white barn in bucolic Pennsylvania and converted it into a museum to house one of the world’s largest collections of brass and to serve as a concert space. The Streitwieser Foundation Trumpet Museum in Pottstown opened in 1980 and housed around 1,000 objects until 1995 when it found a new home in Europe.

Mr. Streitwieser (pronounced STRITE-vee-zer) sought to elevate the status of the trumpet.

“When someone finds an old violin in the attic, they think it’s a Stradivarius and that it’s valuable,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1983. “But when someone finds it old copper in the attic, he throws it away. We want to change that. “

In addition to its standard brass cuisine, including piston trumpets, French horns and trombones, the museum exhibited a variety of curiosities: shoulder-strap trumpets used during the Civil War, replica Viking trumpets from the Bronze Age , horns carved into elephant tusks. Visitors would have encountered a life-size cardboard cutout by composer John Philip Sousa and a 12-foot-long horn carved from pine wood, designed for Swiss shepherds.

Mr Streitwieser located the museum in Pottstown because he and his wife, Katherine, had moved there to be closer to his family. She was a descendant of the DuPont family, a renowned chemical company, which helped support the museum.

The museum stood on 17 acres of land called Fairway Farm (there was also a bed and breakfast), and it attracted copper enthusiasts from all over. The historian of music Herbert Heyde, who went on to curate the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Instrument Collection, spent six months cataloging the contents of the Pottstown Museum in the 1990s.

But Pottstown, which is about 40 miles from Philadelphia and closer to the state’s cultural center, lacked solid funding for arts programs and museum attendance was lagging behind. After Ms Streitwieser’s death in 1993, Mr Streitwieser could not afford to keep the museum running and was forced to find a new home for his treasure. Local universities expressed interest, but none had the space.

It was Austria to the rescue. Kremsegg Castle near Linz was in the process of establishing a government-funded musical instrument museum, and officials there knew Mr. Streitwieser as a prominent collector. They offered to take his possessions – and he too, as a consultant. The collection was packed and sent in 1995.

Franz Xaver Streitwieser was born on September 16, 1939 in Laufen, Germany, a Bavarian town just across the Austrian border. He was one of the five children of Simon and Cecilia (Auer) Streitwieser, who were farmers.

As a child, Franz once visited a music store with his mother and felt drawn to a sparkling brass trumpet. But the price was prohibitive, so the shopkeeper pointed to a tarnished, less expensive trumpet towards the back of the store. He bought it, and after one of his teachers gave him a box of polish, it glowed. It was the first of many instruments in his life.

Franz quickly joined the city orchestra and went to the Mozarteum University in Salzburg in Austria, where in 1961 he graduated in trumpet.

In college, he met Katherine Schutt, an oboe and piano student from Wilmington, Del. Their courtship took place during the filming of “The Sound of Music” in and around Salzburg, and the couple became extras in several scenes.

Mr. Streitwieser and Mrs. Schutt were married in 1963. They lived mainly in Freiburg, Germany, where Mr. Streitwieser was principal trumpet of the Freiburg Philharmonic from 1965 to 1972. Traveling regularly to the United States, he spent a year in New York. studying at Juilliard. The couple had five children, one of whom, Heinrich, died in infancy.

Mr Streitwieser started collecting brass very early in Freiburg – his son Bernhard said the family home sometimes looked like a trumpet repair shop.

In 1977, Mr. Streitwieser worked with German instrument maker Hans Gillhaus to design a modern version of the corno da caccia, a circular horn popular in the 18th century; they called it a clarinhorn.

The family moved to Pottstown in 1978. Mr. Streitwieser performed in local orchestras and in 1980 received a Masters of Music from the University of South Dakota. With Ralph T. Dudgeon he wrote “The Flügelhorn” (2004), a story of this member of the trumpet family.

After the death of his first wife, Mr. Streitwieser married Katharine Bright in 1994 and soon moved with her to Austria along with her brass collection. The couple spent half the year in an apartment in the 13th-century Kremsegg Castle, at home amid their horns. The rest of the time they lived in Florida, settling permanently in Lake Wales, in the central part of the state, in 2004. Mr. Streitwieser founded a brass quintet and continued to perform at local festivals. .

The Streitwieser collection remained in Kremsegg until the Musical Instrument Museum closed in 2018. Much of its content have been moved at the Linz Castle and Museum or at other museums in Upper Austria.

Besides his son Bernhard, Mr. Streitwieser is survived by his wife; his sons Erik and Charles; his daughter, Christiane Bunn; his daughter-in-law, Henrietta Trachsel; one sister, Anna Breitkreutz Neumann; and 13 grandchildren.

Dr Dudgeon, who also played music with Mr Streitwieser and helped catalog the brass collection, said he first heard of him in the 1970s. He had come to pick up a purchase at a store of music from Massachusetts and discovered that there was very little brass left in the store.

He knew he had to meet Mr Streitwieser, he said, when the shopkeeper told him that “a Bavarian guy came in and bought them all”.


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