Werner Lywen

violin virtuoso and concertmaster


This is a list of some newspaper reviews, articles and letters from significant concerts or moments throughout the lifetime of Werner Lywen.

Werner Lywen played the Mozart Violin Concerto in D Major with Leonard Bernstein and the New York City Symphony in April, 1946. Below are some reviews from the New York newspapers.

The New York Times

Tuesday, April 2, 1946
"...and was followed by the Mozart D major concerto played by Werner Lywen, concertmaster of the orchestra. Mr. Lywen was especially fortunate in spirit and style in the finale. He was repeatedly recalled."

The New York Herald Tribune

April 2, 1946
"...and with Werner Lywen, the concertmaster, as soloist, as sweet and sensible a performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto in D major (K. 218) as many of us are likely to hear in many a day."

The New York Sun

April 2, 1946
"...Werner Lywen, concertmaster of the orchestra, exhibited excellent command of his instrument and a sauve well-controlled tone in the D major (K.218) violin concerto of Mozart."

Knickerbocker Weekly

April 15, 1946
"...and Mozart's "Violin Concerto in D Major". Concertmaster Werner Lywen was the soloist and this gives me the opportunity to write that since the ideal interpretation of Mozart's violin concertos by Heinrich Fiedler, the once famous Viennese violinist who died young, I seldom heard a violinist who gave the solo part of Mozart's Concerto in D such a beautiful color and such a melodious lightness."


In November, 1946 Werner played the Britten violin concerto with Bernstein and the New York City Symphony.

The New York Times

Tuesday, November 12, 1946
"...Mr. Lywen played the difficult work extremely well and deserved the three-minute ovation he evoked."

The New York Herald Tribune

Tuesday, November 12, 1946
"...Mr. Lywen gave an admirable account of the exacting solo part, and Mr. Bernstein and his musicians did equally well with the accompaniment."

The New York Post

Tuesday, November 12, 1946
"...This was an evening for Werner Lywen, concertmaster of the orchestra, who was soloist in the Britten concerto. Mr. Lywen, playing a concerto that is extremely difficult, and one that puts a severe strain on the soloists grip of the overall plan, covered himself with glory. He played it with remarkable precision, with a fine, expressive tone, and he and Mr. Bernstein, I think, managed to make it seem a sturdier and more inspired work than it actually is."


In November, 1946 Werner played the Britten violin concerto with Bernstein and the New York City Symphony on tour in Boston.


Thursday, November 14, 1946
"...It is in fact, a sort of rhapsody or fantasia, with a difficult and even freakish solo violin part, which, incidentally, was exceedingly well played last night by Mr. Lywen. Mr. Lywen surmounted its difficulties without apparent effort, and Mr. Bernstein and the orchestra gave him able support."


Werner made his solo debut with the National Symphony in Washington D.C. in 1951.


Monday, February 26, 1951
Lywen Heard in Symphony Solo Debut
Werner Lywen, new concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra, made his solo debut with the orchestra in yesterday afternoon's Viennese program. With music by Schubert, and the two Strausses, Johann and Richard, making up the rest of the program, Lywen's concerto was the D Major of Mozart. This is one of five violin concertos Mozart wrote in the year 1775. Many violinists prefer first appearances before new audiences to be in other concertos than Mozart's. Lywen, though of Berlin origin, rather than Viennese needed no such preference. His style and technique are those of the finest kind of musician. His tone is remarkably pure, both in quality and intonation. Thus he can play the most patrician music with ease, having command over interpretation on one hand and technique on the other. Another reason many violinists would rather make a local debut in a more flamboyant concerto than any by Mozart is that the audience usually responds with greater enthusiasm to something from the19th century than to anything of the 18th. But again Lywen's playing was sufficiently elegant and brilliant to win him substantial applause from the listeners. By his generalship and personal gifts, Lywen has had much to do already this season with improvment in the playing and sound of the National Symphony violins. We have enjoyed his solo bits from concert to concert. It is therefore highly pleasing but no surprise to find his work as soloist in concertos thoroughtly rewarding.


Monday, February 26, 1951
Symphony's Concertmaster Excels as Soloist
In National Symphony Orchestra concerts earlier this year, its new concertmaster, Werner Lywen, has hinted at a fine talent in the brief solo passages some of the programs have afforded him. Yesterday, as soloist in one of the loveliest concertos in violin literature - the Mozart No. 4 in D major - that hint was transformed into a sure thing. There's no need to talk about Mr. Lywen's technical equipment. That could have been taken for granted when Howard Mitchell selected him for concertmaster. And in the first movement cadenza yesterday, he more than confirmed Mr. Mitchell's judgement. The Mozart gave symphony subscribers full realization that Mr. Lywen possesses not only a smooth, singing tone but all the intelligence and musical insight an aritst needs to bring this tender, somewhat delicate, concerto to life. Mr. Mitchell's reading was the sort of Mozart you expect to hear from Ormandy or Munch but almost never do.


When Werner Lywen decided to leave Washington D.C. many people were very sad because he had given them many wonderful musical memories.


Friday, May 30, 1969
Higest Tributes to Lywen
The Lywen String Quartet, which has been American University's resident quartet for some years, played it's valedictory concert last night. It's first violinist, Werner Lywen, from whom the ensemble took it's name, has resigned his post at the University and as concertmaster of the National Symphony. He will move this summer to take up full professorship at Fresno State University in California, where he will also serve as concertmaster of the Fresno Philharmonic. Lywen's choice for the final work of his career as a chamber musicaian was the C Major Quintet of Schubert, in which the quartet was joined by cellist Ervin Klinkon. To the reading of this matchless music, the quintet brought to bear every particle of devoted musicianship. Through accent and poetic phrasing and in tone that captured the essence of the music, they sought its great heights. Every string quartet, despite its existence as a meeting of equals, carriers a generous reflection of its first violin. Last night, as it always has, the Lywen Quartet mirrored the penetrating caliber of musical integrity that, like his personal integrity, has marked Werner Lywen's years in Washington. Few musicians in the history of this city have given it so much of lasting value. That there were moments of great beauty last night was due not only to the compelling qualities inherent in the two works played, but also to the obvious feeling of understanding and appreciation that exists between the musicians on the stage. There excellent performances were, in their way, the hightest tributes Lywen could recieve. To these the audience vociferously added its own.


Washington D.C., May 30, 1969
Lywen Group's Finale - A Work of Perfection
Last night's fine performance by the Lywen Quartet should nave been a cause for general rejoicing, as it played so extremely well; but the event was touched with sadness - it was the groups farewell concert. Werner Lywen is going to Fresno State University in California, and that's that. No Werner Lywen, no Quartet. It will certainly be missed, as it has been one of the quality groups of the Metropolitan area and a leading force on the general cultural scene. But, to the music heard last night, the quartet's final performance was certainly one of its very best. Two works were programmed, David Diamonds 1936 Concerto for String Quartet and Schubert's mammoth (and somewhat sprawling) Op. 163 Quintet. The Diamond piece is a good one and offers virtuoso passages for every player. The leading role in each movement is given over to one of the four instruments until all players have had a good healthy wack at projecting the composer's demanding ideas. Last night all members of the Lywen Quartet were razor sharp and produced a performance of absolute perfection. Cellist Ervin Klinkon joined the quartet for the Schubert and the five players took the overlong work and played it so well its 50-minute length was scarcely noticeable. In the recent past this critic raved over a Lywen-Schubert performance and can now only reaffirm that the group has an uncanny feeling that if the composer were alive he would be smiling enthusiastically. So, farewell to Werner Lywen and his quartet. This reviewer can only add many thanks for so many magnificent musical memories over the years.


The Chairman of the Department of Music of the American University in Washington D.C. wrote Werner Lywen a farewell letter letting him know how much he would be missed and how important he had been.

April 29, 1969
Dear Werner, I was quite shocked and seriously disappointed to receive your letter of April 21st in which you notified George Schuetze of your resignation. This is one bit of news I hoped that I would never receive. It is difficult to convey to you the respect and admiration I have always held for you both as an artist and as a man. It is even more difficult for me to comprehend at this early date the magnitude of the loss your departure will mean to the Department as a whole and to me personally. Your devotion to the highest standards of artistic excellence, your deep concern for the welfare of your students and their total educational experience, and your superb leadership of the Lywen Quartet which provided some of the richest musical experiences that our campus and Washington were priveledged to hear, collectively require an expression of apprecaition which reaches far beyond the capacity of words to convey. I find myself continuously repeating, "Muss es sein? Es muss sein!" ("Must it be? It must be!"), but sadly, not with the frivolity of Beethoven. On behalf of all members of the Department and with the deepest personal sentiments, I express our profoundest appreciation for your professional and personal association and friendship during these past years. We all join to wish you every success and happiness in your new position.
Sincerely, Lloyd Ultan Chairman, Department of Music, The American University


In the "Fresno Bee" a very long aritcle was written on Werners friendship with the musical genius Leonard Bernstein one week after his death, Sunday, Oct. 21, 1990.


Sunday, October 21, 1990
Remembering his friend, the genius
No one who ever saw Leonard Bernstein in action on the podium will ever forget him. With his animated style and his talent for personal projection, he was the very model of the symphony orchestra conductor - even to those who care little about music.
Werner Lywen, former concertmaster and soloist, has a more direct, personal image of Bernstein, who died last Sunday night in New York at age 72. He remembers him as a colleague of many years ago, and as a friend.
"He was the greatest musical genius America has ever produced," said Lywen, who lives in Fresno. "He also was a wonderful man and a great friend. Everybody who worked for him, loved him...I knew he was ill and I was making plans to go back to see him. I am still bewildered that so suddenly he is gone."
Bernstein was a key figure in Lywen's "first career", the years between 1939 and 1969, when Lywen was associated with various orchestras in New York and Washington D.C. Lywen's years in Fresno, which began in 1969, when he moved here to be concertmaster of the Fresno orchestra and a music professor at Fresno State University, constituted his "second" career.
In 1945, Bernstein, newly named conductor of the New York City Symphony, plucked Lywen as his concertmanster from the same position with the New York City Opera Orchestra and the Victor RCA Red Seal Orchestra.
"We already knew each other," Lywen said. "I met Lenny when I was on tour in Boston with the Ballet Theater Orchestra, with that wonderful Jerome Robbins ballet he wrote the music for, Fancy Free. He came there and conducted his own work one evening, without a rehearsal. I don't know how he did that."
Bernstein remained as conductor with the New York City Symphony, with Lywen as leader of the string section, for three years.
"First let me tell you about that picture of us you have," Lywen said. "That was taken on top of the New York City Center. It was not for publicity. We were in Lenny's office, talking about the next concert, bowings and so forth. But every five minutes the phone rang or people came in, so he said, `We can't work here; let's go up to the roof where nobody can bother us.´ But a photographer saw us and followed. He wanted to take pictures and finally Lenny said, `All right, take just one picture and then disappear.´ And that's what happened."
Ultimately Bernstein moved on to other projects and Lywen became concertmaster at Radio City Music Hall (where he met his wife-to-be, the late Jeri Nagle, as a ballerina.) Soon after the couple was in Washington D.C. where Lywen was again a concertmaster and soloist with the National Symphony, and a music professor at Catholic University. In ensuing years, Bernstein and Lywen worked together again when Bernstein guest conducted at the National Symphony.
"I want to tell you a story," Lywen said, "Everybody knows Lenny was a great conductor, composer, pianist and educator who also wrote books. But I want to point out that he was also a wonderful man. Usually conductors are very self-centered and conceited. It goes with the power of being a conductor, controlling everything 100 people do. But he was very special. Once when I was concertmaster in Washington, I broke my arm. The concertmaster does one solo every season and I was scheduled soon, but I couldn't. I always kept in touch with Lenny, so once when I talked to his assistant on the telephone, I told her about it. Weeks later when Lenny was coming to Washington, he called our music director and said he knew about me missing my solo and if it would be alright if he rearranged the program (an all orchestra one) so I could play. You show me another conductor who would do that! That was just magnificent. In just five weeks I was playing again. I played Mozart's A Major Concerto with Lenny conducting, and it was just beautiful. I never forgot what he did for me."
True to the popular image of Bernstein as a conductor who found a sort of manic joy in his work, Lywen remembers Bernstein especially for his all-comsuming energy. "I will never forget one morning, after a big concert and reception the night before, he came to rehearsal already exhausted," Lywen said. "I remember him saying to us, `Who do you think I am - everybody?´ That was Lenny."
Lywen was quick to emphasize that the animation for which Bernstein was so renowned when he was conducting a concert was more than showmanship designed to excite the audience and musicians. It also was true of Bernstein, the rehearsal conductor.
"The conductor must be the greatest musician on stage," said Lywen, who also knew such renowned conductors as Bruno Walter, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Antal Dorati and Erich Leinsdorf from the orchestra member's view. "There are conductors who talk a lot at rehearsals and orchestra members don't like that. He (Bernstein) was one who didn't need to talk much. With his movements, with his whole body - not just his arms - the orchestra knew what he wanted. People think he was putting on a big show, but it was because he felt the music; he felt the meaning and feeling behind the notes and brought it to life so that you feel it. Every great musician has that insight."