FACTORY OWNER AND COMPOSER OTTO ZWEIG
Unfortunately, there are many composers whose names and life fates have been almost forgotten up to now. One of them is Otto Zweig. There is one important fact to tell about him at the very beginning – he was a factory owner; composing was his hobby. He could have dreamt about a composer career once, but due to the family commitment, he never became one.
Despite that, his musical heritage is not tiny at all. Most of the compositions (14 printed editions and 52 manuscripts) are stored in the Moravian Library in Brno.
THE MALTHOUSE AND THE VILLA
Zweig was born on January 11th 1874 in the Moravian town Prostějov. However, his life was connected with nearby Olomouc. According to the historical sources, we know that he must have lived there at least from the 1890s. As a descendant of a significant malting family, Otto spent his whole life working in the family business. At that time, their family company called Marcus Zweig’s Söhne was one of the most considerable malt houses in Haná Region. Besides malt processing, it exported almost all over the world as well. Otto joined the company as an active partner in 1898. The malt house went fully into the hands of Otto and his brother Felix after the death of their father Sigmund (1910) and uncle Ignaz (1913). Sigmund and Ignaz had run the company until then (they were “the sons of Marcus Zweig”). Otto devoted most of his time to ensure the faultless running of the malt house. The factory survived the economic crisis, the First World War, as well as the Aryanization in September 1939. It was definitively erased from the Commercial Register in 1952 after a series of complicated negotiations and tense historical events.
In 1898, Otto Zweig married Anna Briess, also a descendant of an eminent Moravian malting family. In the 1920s, Mr and Mrs Zweig acquired a plot of land on a prominent address in Olomouc (today’s třída Spojenců 16). Initially, a functionalist villa was supposed to be built there. The plans changed though, and the architect Ernst Weisz built there a house in neoclassical style instead. The villa was spectacular not only outwardly. Besides other valuable items, Otto and Anna Zweig owned an extensive collection of paintings; some of them significantly expensive. However, in June 1942, the Nazis confiscated all the Zweig’s possessions. But fortunately, 27 paintings from this collection have been preserved, and they are now stored in the Moravian Gallery in Brno; two of them in the Governor’s Palace, the rest in the depository in Brno-Řečkovice.
The Zweig family tree provides us with a unique insight into family history. The family tree, published in 1932, was made with the help of the archivist Julius Röder. Besides Otto’s close relatives, the genealogy includes some famous names as well.
Otto Zweig had three half-siblings, Egon (famous for being a prominent figure of Zionism), Felix (Otto’s co-owner of the malt house), and the youngest Hilda. Otto’s mother Karoline, maiden name Doctor, died soon after Otto’s birth. Subsequently, Otto’s father Sigmund married Karoline’s sister Josefine, with whom he had the three mentioned children. Otto had a rather complicated relationship with his siblings. It could have been caused by several factors –being their half-sibling, having a peculiar character, the opinion differences (Otto, unlike Egon, wasn’t keen on the idea of Zionism in any way), etc. Otto Zweig only had a single son, Rudolf (born in 1900).
The most famous member of the Zweig family line is Stefan. Stefan Zweig was Otto’s distant relative; Otto’s grandmother was a sister of Stefan’s grandfather. We know from the preserved correspondence that Stefan maintained a friendly relationship with Otto’s brother Egon (at least). Another famous namesake, writer and playwright Max Zweig, was Otto’s cousin. The last representative of the “famous family branch” is musician Fritz Zweig. He was a famous conductor most of all, but he also a composed and played the piano. Fritz was nearly twenty years younger than Otto, so his possible influence on Otto’s composing seems improbable.
Apart from Fritz, none of Otto’s closest relatives was musically active (as far as we know). Nevertheless, Otto’s father Sigmund was a passionate music enthusiast; he participated in several councils of Olomouc musical societies. It was possibly him, who showed Otto the world of music. Sigmund sent Otto to study in Vienna in the 1890s. Otto apparently became a private student, Eusebius Mandyczewski taught him music theory and composition, his piano teacher was probably Anton Door. We can also assume that Otto was involved in some music lessons held by a composer Ignaz Brüll. Zweig dedicated some of his compositions to both Mandyczewski and Brüll.
ZWEIG AND MUSIC
Although composing played a secondary role in Otto Zweig’s life, quite a large number of his compositions have been preserved. The oldest extant manuscript was written in Vienna in 1891. It is a song called Du bist wie eine Blume (lyrics by Heinrich Heine). Today, the manuscript is stored in the Moravian Library in Brno under the signature RKPMus 0381.047.
Songs and the compositions for piano solo represent a substantial part of Zweig’s compositional work. The piano pieces are comprised of several dances, sonatas and various sketches. Monophonic songs are dominated by poets of more or less renowned names (for instance Heinrich Heine, Gottfried Keller, Rudolf Baumbach, Julius Wolff, Robert Prutz, Karl Stieler, Friedrich Bodenstedt ).
Six of the piano pieces (Capriccio in E-moll für Pianoforte, Skizzen – Zehn Clavierstücke, Suite in E-Dur für Pianoforte, Ein Walzercyklus für Pianoforte, Deutsche Tänze und Walzer für Klavier and Zehn Klavierstücke) and two song cycles (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Sieben Lieder für eine Singstimme) were printed and published by the Kistner publishing house. Zweig also wrote few pieces for chamber orchestra (sonatas, suites etc.) and choral works (one secular and several sacred pieces). Compositions for large orchestra represent a minority among his list of works; there are only two extant overtures.
Thanks to the contemporary press, we know that some of Zweig’s compositions were performed in his time. The concerts took place in Olomouc, mostly in the last decade of the 19th and first decade of the 20th century. Some of the performed compositions are extant pieces (e.g. Slavicher Tanz); unfortunately, some are not (e.g. Am Strande).
A distinctive feature of Zweig’s non-professional life was his affiliation with an uncanny Schlaraffia Society. The society was famous for its satirical features, exaggeration and buoyant meetings. During those meetings, musical production played an important role as well. Otto Zweig was a member of the Olomouc branch since 1897, and in 1900 he became so-called Zinkenmeister – a person who played the instrument during the ceremonial openings of Society meetings. He even held the role of the so-called Oberchlaraffe since 1913, which was one of the highest positions in the hierarchy. Zweig left the society in 1926, and he was listed among the retired dignitaries in the chronicle since then. He dedicated one of his compositions to the society – Schlaraffische Fest-Ouverture. The membership in Schlaraffia society was probably a good refreshment and a way of an artistic realization for Otto Zweig, a serious man managing an extensive family business.
NAZI OCCUPATION AND WORLD WAR II
The German occupation and World War II meant that the Jewish origin became fatal for Otto and part of his family. Very soon, the Gestapo arrested Otto’s son Rudolf and his brother Felix; already in 1939. Felix died during an interrogation and Rudolf was transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp. Otto’s second brother Egon, as well as his sister Hilda, luckily found refuge in today Israel. Thanks to this fact, many of the valuable materials considering Egon’s close family relatives have been preserved. Lots of the materials are now stored in The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. However, Otto and Anna did not manage to emigrate, so they were fully affected by the fate of the Olomouc protectorate. On July 8th 1942, both of them were transported by transport AAo from Olomouc to Terezín. From there they were soon (on October 15th) transported further East to the Treblinka extermination camp (Bv transport). They both probably died right after. Officially, Otto Zweig was declared dead by a document dated May 28th, 1947.