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Herman Rietzel

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Title: Herman Rietzel  
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Subject: Clara Louise Kellogg, List of classical pianists, Spofford Lake
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Herman Rietzel

Herman Rietzel was an American pianist, born in New York City, who died by drowning at age 19 on May 26, 1882. His father, Charles Rietzel, was Vice-President and first flute of the New York Philharmonic Society. After studies in Stuttgart, Germany with Wilhelm Speidel, Herman returned to the United States; he made his debut at Steinway Hall in New York on May 10, 1877, and, beginning two years before his death, he performed as soloist with the New York Philharmonic on several occasions; he enjoyed particular success in one of the piano concerti of Hermann Goetz during the season of 1881-1882. According to an official of Steinway and Sons, Rafael Joseffy spoke highly of Rietzel's promise, and in fact Reitzel was chosen to substitute for Joseffy, who had incurred a hand injury, in Beethoven's Fourth piano concerto with the Staten Island Philharmonic Society on January 24, 1880.

Following the 1881-1882 Philharmonic season, Rietzel signed with a touring company headed by Clara Louise Kellogg. During a break in that company's tour of New England, on May 26, 1882 Rietzel and bass singer George Conly took a pleasure outing in a rowboat on Lake Spofford near Chesterfield, New Hampshire; later that day, the boat was found overturned, but Rietzel's body was not recovered until the following June 7.

Memorial concert following death

A memorial concert for the two victims on June 10, 1882 at New York's Academy of Music lasted more than three hours and raised at least $4,000 for the benefit of Conly's wife and children. Among the participants was virtuoso pianist Teresa Carreño, who performed Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no. 6 and, as an encore, music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Also participating was a young Emma Juch, of the same age Reitzel had been at his death, who had made her US debut in the same house only eight months before.


  • Brown, T. Alston, A History of the New York Stage from the First Performance in 1732 to 1901, New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1903.
  • , January 23, 1880, accessed August 15, 2012.
  • "George Conly's Sad Fate: Drowned in a New Hampshire Lake with Young Herman Rietzel, the Pianist," The New York Times, May 28, 1882.[1]
  • "Herman Rietzel's Body Found," The New York Times, June 8, 1882.
  • "The Conly Benefit Concert," The New York Times, June 11, 1882.[2]
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