The 20th century brought myriad fresh opportunities for the growth and development of the classical guitar, driven by the musicians and instrument makers who were attracted to it. Two important figures in the guitar world in Vienna during this period were Karl Scheit (1909–1993) and the child prodigy Luise Walker (1910–1998). Both Scheit and Walker taught at the Vienna Musikhochschule, which is today known as the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst (MdW). On a recent short visit to Vienna, I was pleased to meet with the widow of Karl Scheit, Luise Schreiber-Scheit—who was a voice teacher at the Vienna Musikhochschule—and with Austrian guitarist and teacher Stefan Hackl, to learn of the developments in the Karl Scheit Archive. Hackl was the first to access the archive and, since 2015, he has been working on cataloging it and making it available for research online.
Karl Scheit is a name that is familiar to many players through his editions of guitar music, including over 150 works in his Musik für Gitarre series for Universal Editions and his guitar chamber-music series for Doblinger. He was a guitarist, lutenist, arranger, and teacher. Initially studying violin at the Conservatorium of Linz, Austria, he then studied guitar with Jakob Ortner at the Musikakademie in Vienna, as did Luise Walker, and later they both taught for many years. One of Scheit’s most famous students was Konrad Ragossnig (1932–2018).
Listen to Scheit play Bach on a 1950s Hermann Hauser guitar:
During his life, Scheit collected everything he could related to the guitar. His widow, Luise Scheit, donated the main part of his collection to the MdW in 2005. The bequest contained a large amount
of music—such as early printed editions of unpublished manuscripts—along with specialist books and magazines, sound recordings, and documents. Today, the Karl Scheit Archive serves as a center of guitar research for students and teachers at the MdW, as well as for researchers from outside.
Stefan Hackl discovered and published some of the unknown works, such as Air varié de l’Opera de Bellini (Editions Orphee) and Solo on Don Giovanni (Doblinger) by Giulio Regondi; two concertinos by Ivan Padovec; and song arrangements by Fernando Sor (Editions Chanterelle), all of which have had great international resonance. Since 2015, Hackl has been responsible for the archive and is working on a new catalog of the literally thousands of items, and creating online access to that database and to searchable PDFs of early guitar magazines, documents, and more. Networking with related online platforms, such as the International Guitar Research Archives (IGRA) and the Digital Guitar Archive (DGA), the Karl Scheit Archive intends to make the data available to a broad number of scholars working on guitar history.
As a performer, Scheit made a number of recordings, both solo and with orchestra. In the performance of early music, he was one of the pioneers of historical performance practice. He and his wife performed with Eduard Melkus and Gustav Leonhardt in the early music ensemble Schola Antiqua. Scheit owned about 60 instruments, and not only guitars and lutes. Some of his collection of modern guitars—by Hauser, Fleta, Bouchet, Ramírez—were sold; the revenue from their sale was used to finance the Karl Scheit Competition, which was held just four times: in 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010. The most important historic instruments, such as the lutes by Tieffenbrucker and Alban, and the guitars by Panormo and Stoss, are in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
Hackl has been involved in research throughout his career, collaborating with Erik Pierre Hofmann and Pascal Mougin on Stauffer & Co.—The Viennese Guitar of the 19th Century; and more recently he published Guitaromanie—Kleines Panoptikum der Gitarre von Allix bis Zappa (Guitar Mania—A Small Panopticon of the Guitar from Allix to Zappa).