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Heinz Munsonius (1910 – 1963) was a virtuoso accordionist, a composer and the leader of ensembles in a genre of dance music which was popular in his day. In the heyday of the harmonica, between 1935 until 1955, Heinz Munsonius, Will Glahé and Albert Vossen were considered to be “the big three” of accordion players in Germany.

BiographyHeinz Munsonius_b

Heinz Munsonius and his family were originally from Berlin. At his parents’ urging, he pursued an apprenticeship as a typesetter, but in his spare time he took piano lessons and studied music theory. He eventually saved enough money to buy a piano-accordion on which he demonstrated remarkable skills quite early. He often got together with his boyhood friend, Heinz Gerlach and others to make music, all of whom were inspired by the emerging swing/jazz era. When he became unemployed during the Great Depression of 1929, he managed to make his living among other things, by accompanying and playing for a clown in vaudeville shows.

The young Munsonius soon became quite an attraction during those dance-crazy days in Berlin for his riveting musical skills. He appeared on the radio shows and composed and arranged dance music (see photo). The music producer Kristall/Imperial (later known as EMI Electrola) signed him to a contract from 1936 (?) until 1943 and by the summer of 1937 they had already produced the first studio recordings. In September 1937, Heinz Munsonius married and moved into an apartment in Berlin-Schöneberg. During those happy years, he produced his most successful pieces of dance music in the form of polkas, waltzes, foxtrots and dance intermezzos. The best studio recordings with his ensembles originated from that era. This productive phase of his career came to an end in 1943, when he was drafted into the military and assigned to armed forces radio service in Crimea in support of the troops.

After returning home from the war, Munsonius moved to Berlin-Wilmersdorf, but his work all the time required him to commute between Berlin and Munich. As a prolific composer of dance music and an ensemble leader, he was able to build on his earlier successful work in radio and in producing studio recordings. Unfortunately, he was hampered by a case of hepatitis which he contracted during the war and from which he ultimately died in 1963. As a result of his childless marriage, the descendants of his sister-in-law inherited his estate.  The physical remains of his estate were disposed of so thoroughly that regrettably only a guest book and a few private photographs survived. However, Heinz Munsonius’ music lives on in his many lively compositions and delightful recordings.

Munsonius und seine SolistenHeinz had quite a diverse circle of friends. Those who knew him personally valued his friendly, modest demeanor and congenial manner. Time and again, Heinz Munsonius was able to recruit top musicians for his soloist ensembles. This included (but was not limited to) the following artists who appeared in various formations:

  • Freddie Brocksieper (Drums),
  • Fred Peltzer (Piano),
  • Willy Berendt, Mike Danzi, Jani Nemeth (Guitar),
  • Franz Teddy Kleindin (Saxophone),
  • Helmut Zacharias (Violin).

Munsonius did not only perform with his own soloists. He also played the accordion in several other ensembles, especially whenever the famous Michael-Jary Dance Orchestra took the stage. In a 1941 recording of the hit “Lili Marleen”, a “Heinz Munsonius Orchestra” played in accompaniment. Munsonius also cooperated with other accordionists such as Heinz Gerlach or Hans Jungherr and featured their work. He even played music from his famous competitors Glahé and Vossen, who in turn also performed Munsonius’ successful pieces.

Musical Works

18  Interpreted Dance Piece for Solo Accordion:Munsonius014

  • Mein Rhythmus – Foxtrot (1938)
  • Wir unter uns – Medium-Fox (1946)
  • Talisman – Valse musette (1943)
  • Fenstergucker – Foxtrot
  • Laufmaschen – Medium-Fox (1939)
  • Kurz und gut – Polka (1940)
  • Flatterie – Valse musette
  • Karo Sieben – Foxtrot
  • Im Fahrwasser – Foxtrot (1947)
  • Budenzauber – Polka (1943)
  • Katzensprünge – Fox-Intermezzo (1936)
  • Kleiner Mohr – Foxtrot (1939)
  • Montmartre – Valse musette (1940)
  • Finessen – Foxtrot (1946)
  • Tutti-Frutti – Foxtrot (1942)
  • Schnick-Schnack – Polka (<1947)
  • Kosaken-Patrouille – Foxtrot (1953)
  • Federfuchser – Foxtrot (1941)

To avoid infringing on copyright laws, I cannot publish my interpretations on the Internet yet. If you are interested, please contact me to obtain gratis MP3 copies for your private use or to gain access to my private accordion lounge.

The sheet music for these pieces, originally published by the Robert Rühle publishing house, is generally no longer available commercially, but it can usually be obtained from antiquarian or second-hand dealers.

References

  • Horst H. Lange in „Heinz Munsonius der Akkordeon-Virtuose“; Double LP, published by EMI Electrola
  • Heinz Munsonius, Short biography in Wikipedia
  • Jörg Martin Munsonius (Grandnephew), private communication
  • Hofmeisters musikalisch-literarische Monatsberichte from the years 1936 to 1947
  • Deutsche Nationalbibliothek,  Musical Archive