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Ritter, Hermann

Ritter, Hermann

Ritter, Hermann , German violist, inventor, teacher, writer on music, and composer; b. Wismar, Sept. 16, 1849; d. Würzburg, Jan. 22, 1926. He studied at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, and attended courses at the Univ. of Heidelberg. Turning his attention to musical instruments, he began a series of experiments for the purpose of improving the muffled tone of the ordinary viola. Profiting by some practical hints in A. Bagatella’s book Regole per la costruzione di violini (Padua, 1786), he constructed a slightly larger model possessed of better resonance and a more brilliant tone. Exhibiting this new “viola alta” in 1876, he attracted the attention of Wagner, who invited his cooperation for the Bayreuth Festival. After that engagement he made successful tours of all Europe as a viola virtuoso, and from 1879 was a prof. of viola and music history at the Musikschule in Würzburg. In 1905 he founded the “Ritterquartett” (violin, W. Schulze-Prisca; viola alta, Ritter; viola tenore, E. Cahnbley; viola bassa, H. Knöchel). He publ. numerous compositions and transcriptions for viola and piano, and Elementartechnik der Viola alta.


Die Geschichte der Viola alta und die Grundsätze ihres Baues (Leipzig, 1876; 2nd ed., 1877; reprinted, Wiesbaden, 1969); Repetitorium der Musikgeschichte (1880); Aus der Harmonielehre meines Lebens (1883); Elementartheorie der Musik (1885); Ästhetik der Tonkunst (1886); Studien und Skizzen aus Musik- und Kulturgeschichte, sowie Musikästhetik (Dresden, 1892); Katechismus der Musikästhetik (2nd ed., 1894); Katechismus der Musikinstrumente (1894); Volksgesang in alter und neuer Zeit (1896); Schubert (1896); Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (1897); Die fünfsaitige Geige und die Weiterentwicklung der Streichinstrumente (1898); Allgemeine illustrierte Encyklopadie der Musikgeschichte (6 vols., 1901–02).


G. Adema, H. R. und seine Viola alta (Würzburg, 1881; 2nd ed., 1894).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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