Eta Harich-Schneider

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Eta (Margarete) Harich-Schneider (née Schneider; born November 16, 1894 in Oranienburg ; † January 10, 1986 in Vienna ) was a German harpsichordist , musicologist , Japanologist and writer.


Eta Harich-Schneider later gave her year of birth as 1897, on the tombstone in Vienna- Hietzing you can find “1894”.

Harich-Schneider graduated from high school in 1915 and in the same year married the writer Walther Harich (* 1888, † 1931), whom she left in 1922 (divorce). Eta Harich-Schneider raised the daughters Lili and Susanne alone. Since the early 1920s she was friends with Eva Rechel-Mertens (the Proust translator) and Klabund . She studied piano in Berlin with Conrad Ansorge (and took theory lessons with Wilhelm Klatte (1870–1930) when she was already an established pianist). In 1924 she made her debut at the first performance of Paul Hindemith's “Suite 1922” at the Singakademie . But it wasn't until 1927 that she finally moved from Frankfurt an der Oder to Berlin. From around 1929 she studied harpsichord with Günther Ramin in Leipzig and then until 1935 with Wanda Landowska in Paris (summer courses). In 1930 she first appeared publicly as a harpsichordist in Berlin.

In 1930 she founded a fortnightly concert college for early music and began studying sources in the Prussian State Library , which led to her later book The Art of Harpsichord Playing . From 1932 to 1940 she was professor and head of the harpsichord class at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, where she also taught stylistics and chamber music.

In 1940 she was dismissed there (as a Catholic anti-fascist) in connection with politically motivated conflicts. In order to evade the Nazi power, Harich-Schneider used an invitation in 1941 and went to Tokyo . There she gave concerts and taught. Some time later, she began studying the Japanese language, writing, and music. She had a love affair with the "master spy" Richard Sorge , whose work she was familiar with.

After the war she taught in Tokyo both at the US Army College and in the court music department of the Japanese imperial family (1947 to 1949). She published two standard works on Japanese music. In 1949 she went to New York, where she studied Japanese Studies at Columbia University and Sociology at the New School of Social Research . She received a prize for her master's thesis The relations of foreign and native elements in the development of Japanese music - a case study . 1955 - she became a Guggenheim Fellow that year - until 1972 she taught harpsichord at the University of Music in Vienna . In 1968 she also received the Austrian Cross of Merit for Science and Art. In Japan in 1977 she received the high Imperial Japanese House Order " Of the Holy Crown ".

Since 1941 Eta Harich-Schneider has also translated literary works from several languages ​​into German, especially from English ( Shakespeare's sonnets ).

Her harpsichord and clavichord students included Carla Henius , René Clemencic and Christiane Jaccottet .

In her autobiography Characters and Catastrophes , she reports on her efforts to use constitutional means to resist the increasing influence of Nazi-oriented officials and musicians on the Berlin University of Music until 1941. In addition, the book gives a nuanced account of the situation in the vicinity of the Germans in Japan from 1941 to after 1945, whereby human error, intrigue and tactical followers are not left out. The situation of the Japanese population under the war (air raids) is also reported.

But even at the university in Berlin she was only partially successful in the 1930s - ultimately, as an anti-fascist Catholic, she was pushed aside by intrigues, which she describes in detail in her autobiography. After the war she was one of the leading authorities on Japanese music, with close ties to the Japanese imperial family.

Her daughter Lili Harich (May 24, 1916-1960) was a soprano, her daughter Susanne Kerckhoff (February 5, 1918-1950) a writer.


Harich-Schneider wrote books on the technique of harpsichord playing and Japanese music. She made recordings of baroque music , such as the Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach BWV 988 in 1973 and the two- and three-part Inventions BWV 772–786 and 787–801. She also published recordings of Far Eastern music.

During her time in Berlin , she raised the game of early music to a new level: "One would have liked to have left the amateurs to enjoy the undemanding music-making of the rediscovered music of earlier centuries, but they forced their simplistic views on professional musicians with downright religious fanaticism."


  • The art of harpsichord playing, illustrated and explained according to the available sources , 4th edition, Bärenreiter Verlag, Kassel, 1979 (first 1939)
  • The harpsichord: an introduction to technique, style and the historical sources , 2nd edition, Kassel, Bärenreiter, 1973
  • Characters and disasters , Ullstein Verlag 1978 (memoirs)
  • History of Japanese Music , Oxford University Press 1973
  • Musical impressions from Japan 1941–1957 , Iudicium Verlag 2006
  • Tender world - François Couperin and his time , 1939
  • Translator and editor of Tomás de Santa Maria How to play the clavichord with all perfection and mastery (first 1565), Leipzig, Kistner and Siegel, 1937, 2nd edition 1986 ( Grace and art in playing the clavichord , also with translation by Fray)
  • Shakespeare sonnets in German by Eta Harich-Schneider, Peking Pappelinsel 1944
  • The Rhythmical Patterns in Gagaku and Bugaku (Leiden 1954, Brill) [1]
  • "Regional Folk Songs and Itinerant Minstrels in Japan", Journal of the American Musicological Society, No. 10, 1957, pp. 132 f.
  • "The Last Remnants of a Mendicant Musicians Guild: The Goze in Northern Honshu (Japan)." Journal of the International Folk Music Council, 1959/11, pp. 56-59.


  • Christa Jansohn (ed.): Eta Harich-Schneider: The sonnets of William Shakespeare and the poetry of the "recusants". Experiences and translations of a traveling musician: 1941–1982 , Berlin and Münster 2011, ISBN 978-3-643-10936-1
  • Martin Kubaczek : Avoid everything, make music and learn Japanese - Eta Harich-Schneider's years in exile in Tokyo. In: Escape and Rescue. Exile under Japanese rule 1933–1945, ed. by Thomas Pekar. Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3863310448
  • Eva Rieger : woman, music and male rule. To exclude women from German music education, musicology and music practice . Frankfurt am Main: Ullstein, 1981, pp. 207-209

Web links


  1. Karin Nusko: Harich-Schneider Eta (Margarete), music researcher and harpsichordist. In: Women's biographies, list of names letter H, University of Vienna, no year, accessed January 16, 2017.
  2. Judith Brandner : Radiocommunication - Eta Harich-Schneider - Grande Dame of the harpsichord and pioneer of Japanese music research (1). Ö1,, broadcast on January 16, 2017, 9.42–09.57 a.m. Text about the broadcast: "She later gave her date of birth as 1897." Broadcast at 9.44am: "1894 ... on the tombstone at Hietzinger Friedhof."
  3. after Karin Nusko: 1932
  4. z. B. Buddhist Music , Shinto Music , Bärenreiter, Unesco Collection 1966
  5. Harich-Schneider “Characters and Catastrophes”, p. 80. She also adds that, for example, Furtwängler was spoiled by this “immodest quarrel of styles” among laypeople, who liked early music.