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Michel Schwalbe

Michel Schwalbe (or originally Mieczysław Michał Schwalbe) was born on 27 October 1919 in Radom (Poland). He received his first violin studies under Jerzy Zajderman and eminent violinist Moritz Frenkel at the conservatory in Warsaw, but continued his violin studies in Paris under George Enescu and Jules Boucherit. He additionally studied chamber music and conducting under Pierre Monteux and finished his time at the conservatory in 1938.

As a jew Michel Schwalbe had to flee from Paris after the outbreak of World War II and the invasion of the Nazis in early 1940. He first went to Lyon into Vichy France, where he found work in the position of the concertmaster of the Orchestre Symphonique de France. But in 1942 Michel Schwalbe had to flee again and now headed to Geneva in Switzerland. There he became concertmaster of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under its prinicipal conductor Ernest Ansermet. Michel Schwalbe stayed in this position and in Geneva until 1957 and beside his orchestral position he also founded the Geneva Trio and the Schwalbe Quartet during these times. Already in 1946 he was appointed violin professor at the Geneva Conservatory where he became successor of Joseph Szigeti.

During the times of the Lucerne Festival Michel Schwalbe was also the concertmaster of the corresponding festival orchestra and so performed under the most eminent composers of that time: for example Toscanini, Furtwängler or Herbert von Karajan. When Karajan became principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1956 one of his first tasks was to offer Michel Schwalbe the position of the concertmaster. Schwalbe had doubts due to the Nazi past of Berlin and Germany but finally agreed. So since 1957 until his retirement in 1986 Michel Schwalbe was the concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Since 1966 he performed on the Stradivari violin "King Maximilian".

From 1963 Michel Schwalbe taught at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin as well, and after his retirement from the Berlin Philharmonic he was much in demand as a jury member, teacher and adviser to young players.
Michel Schwalbe died on 8 October 2012 in Berlin (Germany).

I recently bought a large pile of sheet music which belonged to Michel Schwalbe. Among the scores I also found three handwritten manuscripts bearing the name of "M. Szwalbe" and dated 1932 and 1933. All three manuscripts are just the violin part of a (most likely) larger instrumentation. One of the manuscripts has the inscription "Dedicated to my dear uncle Tadek Schwalbe" and so its seems the works are not copies of works by other composers but original compositions by Michel Schwalbe. In 1933 he was 14 years old and moved from Warsaw to Paris. It is absolutely possible that the young violinist also tried to compose for his own instrument at that time although no published works are known by him. Unfortunately the manuscripts are incomplete and therefore I am looking for the other parts to make the compositions complete. If you have information about the whereabouts of the manuscripts of Michel Schwalbe, please let me know. For information purposes I present photos of the manuscripts here:

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