Franz Streitwieser, a German-born trumpet player who has amassed a collection of brass instruments spanning centuries of musical history and attracted musicians from all over the world to his home in a converted barn in Pennsylvania, died on November 8 at a hospice in Sebring, Florida. He was 82 years old.
According to his son Bernhard, Alzheimer’s disease was the cause.
As a performer by profession – on one of the most extroverted orchestral instruments, Mr. Streitwieser was the soul of an archivist.
He took a 19th-century yellow-and-white barn in rural Pennsylvania and turned it into a museum that houses one of the world’s largest collections of brass instruments, as well as a concert venue. The Streitweather Foundation’s Trumpet Museum in Pottstown opened in 1980 and was home to about 1,000 items until 1995, when it found a new home in Europe.
Mr. Streitweiser (pronounced STRITE-vee-zer) sought to raise the status of the trumpet.
“When someone finds an old violin in the attic, they think it’s a Stradivari, and it’s valuable,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1983. “But when someone finds an old brass instrument in the attic, they just throw it away. We want to change that. “
In addition to the standard copper meal, including valve trumpets, French horns and trombones, the museum showcased many curiosities: over-the-shoulder pipes used during the Civil War, copies of Bronze Age Viking trumpets, horns carved from elephant tusks. Visitors saw a life-size cut out of cardboard by composer John Philip Sousa and a 12-foot horn carved from pine wood for Swiss shepherds.
Mr. Streitweather housed the museum in Pottstown because he and his wife, Catherine, moved there to be closer to their relatives. She was a descendant of the DuPont family, a prominent chemical company that helped support the museum.
The museum was located on a 17-acre site called Fairway Farm (it also had a bed and breakfast inn) and attracted brass devotees from everywhere. Music historian Herbert Heide, who later curated the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s instrument collection, spent six months in the 1990s cataloging the contents of the Pottstown Museum.
But Pottstown, which is about 40 miles from Philadelphia and culturally closer to the rural heart of the state, lacked significant funding for art programs, and museum attendance was low. After the death of Ms Streitwieser in 1993, Mr Streitwieser could not afford to maintain a museum and was forced to find a new home for his treasury. Local universities showed interest, but none had a place.
Austria came to the rescue. A State-funded Musical Instrument Museum was opening at Kremssegg Castle, near Linz, and local officials knew of Mr. Streitwieser as an outstanding collector. They offered to take his holdings – and him, too, as a consultant. The collection was packed and shipped in 1995.
Franz Xaver Streitwieser was born on September 16, 1939 in Laufen, Germany, a Bavarian town on the border with Austria. He was one of five children of Simon and Cecilia (Auer) Streitwieser, who were farmers.
As a boy, Franz once visited a music store with his mother and felt drawn to a shiny copper pipe. But it was too expensive, so the store owner pointed him out to a tarnished, less expensive pipe at the back of the store. He bought it, and after his teacher gave him a can of polish, it sparkled. It was the first of many instruments in his life.
Franz soon joined the city orchestra and entered the Mozarteum University of Salzburg in Austria, from which he graduated in 1961 with a degree in trumpet player.
At university, he met Catherine Schutt, an oboe and piano student from Wilmington, Delaware. Their courtship played out during the filming of The Sound of Music in and around Salzburg, and the couple became extras in several scenes.
Mr. Streitwieser and Mrs. Schutt were married in 1963. They lived mainly in Freiburg, Germany, where Mr. Streitwieser was the main trumpet player of the Freiburg Philharmonic from 1965 to 1972. Traveling regularly to the United States, he spent a year in New York. studies at Juilliard. The couple had five children, one of whom, Heinrich, died in infancy.
Mr. Streitwieser started collecting brass instruments early in Freiburg – his son Bernhard said the family home sometimes resembled a pipe repair shop.
In 1977, Mr. Streitwieser, together with the German instrument maker Hans Gillhouse, developed a modern version of the corno da caccia, a round horn popular in the 18th century; they named it clarnorn.
The family moved to Pottstown in 1978. Mr. Streitweather played in local orchestras and received his Master of Music degree from the University of South Dakota in 1980. Together with Ralph T. Dudgeon, he wrote Flugelhorn (2004), the story of this member of the trumpet family.
After the death of his first wife, Mr. Streitwieser married Catherine Bright in 1994 and soon moved with her to Austria along with his copper collection. The couple spent six months in an apartment in the 13th century Kresegg castle, at home among their horns. The rest of the time they lived in Florida, and in 2004 they moved permanently to Lake Wales, in the central part of the state. Mr. Streitweather founded the brass quintet and continued to perform at local festivals.
The Streitweiser collection remained in Kremssegg until the Musical Instrument Museum closed in 2018. Much of its contents have been moved to the Linz Castle and Museum or other museums in Upper Austria.
Besides his son Bernhard, Mr. Streitwieser is survived by a wife; his sons Eric and Charles; his daughter Christiane Bunn; his stepdaughter Henrietta Trahsel; sister Anna Breitkreuz Neumann; and 13 grandchildren.
Dr. Dudgeon, who also played music with Mr. Streitwieser and helped catalog the brass collection, said he first heard of him in the 1970s. He went shopping at a Massachusetts record store and found that there were very few wind instruments left in the store.
He knew he had to meet with Mr. Streitwieser, he said when the store owner told him that “a Bavarian guy came and bought them all.”