The forgotten years …
Timeline of the Leipzig Radio Choir 1924-1933
by Rüdiger Koch
The evolution of MIRAG: from house ensemble to symphony orchestra 
Let’s go back to 1924. MIRAG’s first broadcast took place on March 1.
In February of that year Szendrei had been in Berlin studying the operating procedures of the radio station there. He drew on his experiences in Berlin to develop the new radio station in Leipzig and was careful to learn from the mistakes that had been made in Berlin.
Initially, MIRAG broadcast only rather small musical contributions, with the station’s house ensemble, made up of a first and second violin, cello and piano, playing short entertaining pieces.
Various established quartets took part in the broadcasts, including the Leipzig Vocal Quartet, the Leipzig Men’s Quartet and the Leipzig Siegenbach Vocal Quartet. The alto singer of the latter quartet is referred to by the name Annemarie Schöbel, who after 1946 became a member of the Radio Choir under the name Annemarie Claus-Schöbel. Szendrei himself was featured, accompanying his wife, the opera singer Eugenie Wilms.
It was not long before the first attempts were made with chamber orchestra and choir. The records list an evening of sacred music with the Leipzig Madrigal Choir on Good Friday, April 18, 1924.
The critic of Radio-Rundschau wrote the following about a broadcast featuring this choir in a “listener’s review”, a new journalistic genre:
“The Leipzig Madrigal Choir who sang on Thursday evening under the direction of choirmaster Albert Kranz made a mixed impression. In places the intonation left something to be desired and at times there was an imbalance between the voices.”
The orchestral ensembles kept growing in size as recording technology continued to develop. The orchestras had a variety of names, including the Radio Orchestra, the Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonic Radio Orchestra and the Augmented Radio Orchestra.
The Leipzig-based broadcaster needed to acquire an orchestra of its own at some point. All the music was broadcast live and had to be rehearsed beforehand. Under such circumstances it would have taken a virtually impossible amount of organisational effort to meet the need with freelance musicians. At the beginning of the 1924/25 concert season Alfred Szendrei tried to engage the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra for six major symphony concerts in Leipzig. Only one of these concerts took place, though. The appearance of the Dresden-based orchestra in Leipzig rekindled the old rivalry between the historic Saxon capital of Dresden and the industrial and commercial city of Leipzig. Szendrei successfully took advantage of this situation to establish the Leipzig Symphony Orchestra as MIRAG’s own resident orchestra. The name Leipzig Symphony Orchestra first appeared in the programme of Central German Radio on October 26, 1924.
More Chapters of the Choir Timline 1924-1933
→ 01 The secret of an old photograph
→ 02 Rundfunk – the new medium of the 1920s
→ 03 Alfred Szendrei: Radio music in theory and practice
• 04 The evolution of MIRAG: from house ensemble to symphony orchestra
→ 05 Singing on air: the Leipzig Oratorio Association – Szendrei’s radio choir
→ 06 Dr. Helmuth Weise: Rundfunkchorsänger der zwanziger und fünfziger Jahre
→ 07 Das Ende der Ära Szendrei und das Ende der Leipziger Oratorienvereinigung
→ 08 “An den Pranger mit Dr. Szendrei!”