Documents associated with this person:

Composer, conductor, pianist; pupil of Hans Weisse, and subsequently of Schenker 1931‒34.

Career summary

Willfort was the son of Friedrich Willfort (1879‒1956), engineer, and Bertha Willfort (née Salzer) (1885‒1945), both close friends of the writer Fritz von Herzmanovsky-Orlando. He was born and educated in Vienna, studying in the conducting masterclass (Kapellmeisterstudium) at the Academy for Music and Performing Art under Oswald Kabasta 1932‒34 (his matriculation record survives). An advertisement in the Neue Freie Presse for September 9, 1934 (a clipping of which is preserved as OC 44/48) gives Willfort's credentials: "Conductor / Schenker pupil [‒] tuition in: / theory, composition, rehearsal accompanying / M. Willfort, [??], Jacquingasse 37, Door C, Tel. B-50-1-96." Willfort does not appear in the Vienna street directory until 1931, when he is listed as "composer, [Vienna] III, Jacquingasse 37." From 1932 to 1938 his address is given as Kölblgasse 2 (both addresses are very close to Schenker's in the Keilgasse), then no listing after 1938.

Between 1934 and 1938, Willfort conducted the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in concerts on Radio Wien (see Schenker's comment on one of these below). He had his first operatic engagement at the Nuremberg Opera House in 1935, followed by engagements at Allenstein and Königsberg in East Prussia. For two years, he served in the German army, then worked as first music director of the German Theatre in Lille, followed by two years at the Flemish Opera in Ghent. During these years, he conducted orchestral concerts in Lille, Ghent, Brussels, and Antwerp. (A photograph exists of him by invitation conducting an orchestra in Belgium in 1944.) Called back to military service in 1944 he spent several months in American captivity in France.

After the war, he was engaged at the Vienna State Opera in 1947/48, then at the Linz Regional Theater as director of opera for three years. He again conducted the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in Vienna and Linz, and in the early 1950s was a regular broadcaster from Vienna and Salzburg. He worked also as a pianist, chamber musician, and teacher.

From 1953 to 1956 he directed the Essen Opera House, working also with the city's Music Society. In October 1958 Willfort was appointed head of the music library at the City Library of Essen, in Germany. Simultaneously he was also editor of the periodical Essener Jugend and active in music performance. On January 29, 1969, he married Ute Bourgeois. He retired from his position at the library in 1974, and died in 1982.

Willfort and Schenker

Manfred Willfort was a student of Hans Weisse, perhaps from as early as 1927 (cf. OJ 15/22, [9]), and member of a seminar conducted by Weisse prior to the latter's emigration to New York in September 1931. At the start of the 1931/32 season, he became a member of Schenker's "Friday seminar" with Trude Kral, Greta Kraus, and Felix Salzer. He appears in Schenker's set of lesson notes for the seminar October 9, 1931 to May 23, 1932 (OC 16/39‒42). He left the seminar in June 1934.

A study of the third movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata in C# minor, Op. 27, No. 2 ("Moonlight") signed by Willfort and dated "May 1934," with corrections by Schenker, and a cover inscribed in Jeanette Schenker's hand "Op. 27 II, Willfort, Elias, 18. X. 35," survive in OJ 33/5. We know that graphs of the entire sonata were planned for inclusion in the second volume of Fünf Urlinie-Tafeln/Five Analyses in Sketchform , intended for publication by the David Mannes Music School, but never published (Salzer, p. 19; OJ 5/89, [49], Aug 2, 1934).

A booklet containing layered analytical sketches for the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata in A-flat major, Op. 26 in Willfort's hand, dated June 1932, is preserved in the New York Public Library among the Felix Salzer Papers, as Box 28, File 62; and notes on the theme of the same movement, labeled "Theme (Willfort), vol. 2 Urlinie-Tafeln" are preserved as Box 27, File 16; and a sketch of the theme of Brahms's Paganini Variations, Op. 35, in Willfort's hand in Box 28, Files 63‒64. Graphs of both of these works were also intended for inclusion in the second volume of Fünf Urlinie-Tafeln/Five Analyses in Sketchform (Salzer, pp. 18‒19).

It was Willfort who in 1933 brought Schenker's attention to an article about Schenker by Israel Citkowitz (OJ 5/18, 32, Dec 13, 1933), and made a German translation of it. In 1934, Oswald Jonas wrote to Schenker "Willfort is here [Berlin], as you know ‒ we are often together and diligently make music together" (OJ 12/6, [32], June 11, 1934).

Schenker listened to the radio concert on September 6, 1934, and judged it harshly in his diary (OJ 4/7, p. 3942): at 9 o'clock Willfort: an orchestra of modest ability, he conducts ineffectually, his intentions are physically too weakly conveyed and he has no power over the orchestra. No trace of animal feeling, of warmth, all delight in playing is absent. Worst of all the contradiction between that and the lofty aspirations: Brahms' "Tragic" Overture, Brahms' Fourth Symphony, Beethoven "Coriolan" Overture!! I fear that Kabasta is taken in by the "Schenker pupil"! ‒ I give up in the second movement.


Thirteen items of correspondence survive from Willfort to Schenker: twelve letters (OJ 15/22, 1931‒35; OC 44/42, 1934) and one note (OC 44/3, 1933). None are known to survive from Schenker to Willfort.


  • "Das Urbild des Andante aus Schuberts Klaviertrio Es-dur, D. 929," Österreichische Musikzeitschrift 33 (1978), 277‒83
  • Systematischer Katalog der Musikbibliothek [Essen]: Verzeichnis des Gesamtbestandes 1973 (Essen: Stadtbibliothek, 1974)
  • Citkowitz, Israel, "The Role of Heinrich Schenker," Modern Music 11/1 (1933): 18-23 [copies of a typescript German translation by Manfred Willfort as "Die Rolle Heinrich Schenkers" survive as OJ 58/2, OC 2/pp. 88‒89 and OC 30/10]


  • Marko Deisinger, "Willfort, Manfred Herrand Joseph," Oesterreichisches Musiklexikon [online] (2016)
  • R. B., "Künstlerporträt der Woche: Manfred Willfort," Essener Woche, 51/52 [1953], p. 25
  • H. S., "Manfred Willfort: Klingende Bücherei: Leitung der Stätdischen Musikbücherei übernommen," Neue Ruhr Zeitung October 25, 1958
  • Salzer, Felix, "Introduction," in Five Graphic Music Analyses (New York: Dover Publications, 1969), pp. 9‒21
  • Berry, David Carson, "The Role of Adele T. Katz in the Early Expansion of the New York 'Schenker School'," Current Musicology 74 (Fall 2002) 120‒21
  • Lehmann's Allgemeiner Wohnungs-Anzeiger [street directory of Vienna] (Vienna: A. Hölder, 1859‒1942) [accessible online]
  • Fritz von Herzmanovsky-Orlando. Sinfonietta canzonetta Austriaca: eine Dokumentation zu Leben und Werk, ed. S. Goldberg and M. Reinisch (Salzburg: Residenz, 1994), pp. 103‒04
  • Fritz von Herzmanovsky-Orlando, Ausgewählte Briefwechsel 1885 bis 1954, ed. Max Reinisch (Salzburg 1989), p. 424
  • websites:
  • rqdb=1&
  • [Lehmann]


  • Ian Bent, Hedi Siegel, Martin Eybl, and Marko Deisinger

Download all selected files as or or (check files to select/deselect)
Where appropriate save: English and German versions German version only English version only