A native of Germany, Adolf Maurer was a significant representative of the zither here in the United States. After moving to the US, around 1880, he first served as a director for a zither orchestra in Washington, DC. Later on, he relocated to Chicago where he continued his work as a zither instructor and promoter. The following article, published in the November, 1902 issue of The Cadenza, recalls his life and work.
Adolf Maurer / Born Oct. 1852 - Died Sept. 1902 / From the "Centralblatt" of the Union of German Zither Societies.
A bried sketch of Adolf Maurer's life will doubtless interest zitherists in America because so few zither artists visit us from abroad. He lived in the United States and many have either known him or heard of him, particularly in the West. Death's messenger has again robbed the zither fraternity, on September 1, of one of its Spartan adherents; one who was of so much use to this branch of music and an aid to the zither's advancement in both Europe and America. Maurer was not only a virtuoso but his knowledge of music, acquired through his experience with various musical organizations, as will be shown, made him a celebrity in the United States and Germany. His esthetic and music-loving nature and his imposing personality, coupled with kindly disposition, influenced all who came in contact with him both professionally and socially during his comparatively short life of fifty years. Maurer's memory will be held sacred for many years because of his complete knowledge of the zither, by means of which it was possible for him to demonstrate its possibilities and thereby win many devotees. He was its champion and fought its battles bravely, unfolding to a seemingly unappreciative public his fine points of information; he defended the zither's purity and wealth in masterly arguments.
Adolf Maurer was born in Ulm, about eighty miles west of Munchen, in the kingdom of Württemberg, Germany. At an early age he studied the zither with his brother under his father's direction. In later years he completed his musical education at the Stuttgart Conservatory., where he also studied composition and violin. After the war of 1870 the family settled in Strassburg, Alsace and Lorraine offering many inducements in business to Germans anxious to fill the places of the migratory French people of the two lost provinces. Here the Maurers did much to encourage a love for the instrument by their devotion to a struggling society in Strassburg, Adolf playing at the time in a theatre as a violinist. His love for travel was realized when he joined the Lumbye Orchestra in Stockholm, with which he journeyed to the northern limits of Sweden, through Norway and Denmark. About 1880 Maurer sailed for the United States, to which good musicians were especially at that time encouraged. He resided first in Washington, D.C., where he was director of a zither orchestra, then in Chicago. After Maurer established himself in Chicago the zither began to play an important role there some little time after his arrival, under his guidance through pupils and followers. Robert Maurer , his brother, was then in the music publishing and manufacturing business in Chicago, which fact may have tempted Adolf to locate there. Robert was agent for the celebrated zither manufacturers, Anton Kiendl, of Vienna; Franz Halbmeyer, of Munchen, and Jacob Jobst, of Gratz, Styria. Robert Maurer's catalogue of zither music was for many years an exhaustive affair; it had become a vade mecum for players and publishers; each novelty faithfully appearing in a substantial supplement. It was a disappointment to many zither players when Robert Maurer for some reason quit business a year or two ago. His concern, in the stringed instrument line, had become a center in the West similar to the reliable reputation enjoyed by leading establishments in New York. Aided by his brother, Robert Maurer yielded his attention to advancing the normal system, to the extent of arranging the best music for zither (having accompaniment written in the bass clef) separately, which he gave a prominent place in his excellent list. Together the brothers Maurer deserve much credit for their devotion to the "good cause" of the instrument in the West.
Adolf Maurer was connected for many years with Thomas's Orchestra as violinist. Since his return to Strassburg in 1896 Maurer continued his professional work in conjunction with the Symphony Society and Court Theatre of Strassburg.
Maurer did not throw himself much into composing for the zither. Aside from some original compositions not yet published he arranged and had published by A. Kababek, Leipsic, "Home, Sweet Home," with variations. He understood arranging thoroughly, however, especially for the zither orchestra. His setting of Haydn's "Andante" from the sixth symphony is very popular and successful, as is also the "Lohengrin" wedding march. His selections of material, orchestral effects, correctness, and conception of the zither's possibilities remaining always within the bounds of the instrument, were the characteristics which pervaded his masterful arrangements for which he was much felicitated. In a similar manner he arranged for zither solo a potpourri of Weber's "Freischutz," Maurer's "Hours of Pastime" (Erholgungstunden), published by P. Ed. Hoenes, Trier, Bavaria, which are especially recommendable for instruction.
Death strikes men quickly, wrote Schiller in "Tell." Well is it for those that are stricken thus; but, unfortunately, not in Adolf Maurer's case. For years he suffered of a spinal ailment which medical men seemed unable to relieve. He visited the noted cures of Wiesbaden, Nauheim, Tolz and Wildbad; at the latter resort it was that this itinerant musician entered the road to the eternal home. Adolf Maurer was possessed of a noble soul; his life given up to the beautiful in life and music.