Marie von Bülow

Tchaikovsky Research
Marie von Bülow (1857-1941)

German actress (b. 1857; d. 30 August 1941 in Berlin), born Marie Schanzer.

The Schanzer family was from Krakow in Poland. Marie's father, Stanislaus Schanzer, rose to become Minister of Defence in Austria. After training as an actress, Marie secured her first engagement in Karlsruhe, where Hans von Bülow saw her for the first time in 1877, in the title-role of Lessing's comedy Minna von Barnhelm. She subsequently became an actress at the court theatre in Meiningen, where she played leading roles in plays by Schiller, Goethe, and Shakespeare. In July 1882 Marie became the second wife of Bülow, who was then also based in Meiningen, building the court orchestra into one of the finest ensembles in Germany. Bülow had hoped that after remarrying he would be invited to the second Bayreuth Festival that summer for the premiere of Parsifal (through several fund-raising recitals he had raised 50,000 francs for the festival). This did not work out, however, as Bülow was informed that his presence in Bayreuth would be unwelcome to his former wife Cosima and Wagner.

With Bülow's approval, Marie continued to appear on the stage after their marriage, but at the end of 1884 intrigues by the Duke of Meiningen's consort, who was envious of Marie's beauty and talent, led to her dismissal from the court theatre's company. Marie now dedicated herself fully to creating a home for her husband, whom she supported throughout all the conflicts that his outspoken character got him into. She also looked after him during his attacks of intense neuralgic pain. In the summer of 1887 they moved to Hamburg, from where Bülow would travel regularly to Berlin in order to attend to his duties as principal conductor of the newly-founded Philharmonic Orchestra.

Marie seems to have become first acquainted with Tchaikovsky when she accompanied her husband to Russia, where he had been invited by the Musical Society to appear in a number of concerts in the 1885-86 season. On 15/27 March 1886, Bülow conducted and was the soloist in Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 at a concert in Saint Petersburg which was attended by the composer. Later that evening, Tchaikovsky visited the Bülows at the apartment they were renting in the Imperial capital [1]. Tchaikovsky met Marie again during his first concert tour to Western Europe, where, after Leipzig, Hamburg was the second German city at which he conducted a concert of his works on 20 January 1888 [N.S.]. Four days later, Tchaikovsky wrote to her from Magdeburg in connection with a letter of recommendation addressed to Bülow which he had given to the young violinist Willy Burmester in Hamburg [2].

In January 1894, Marie accompanied her husband to Cairo, where he was hoping to receive treatment at a German-run sanatorium. The great musician died a few weeks later, though. After Bülow's death, Marie set about the task of collecting and publishing his letters and articles (a task which she completed in 1908). She also made a tentative return to acting and appeared in minor roles in some thirty silent movies, including Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's first film Der Knabe in Blau (1919). Marie founded a charitable salon in her Berlin home in 1914, with the proceeds from recitals going to the families of soldiers killed during World War I. On 8 January 1930, the 100th anniversary of Hans von Bülow's birth was commemorated with a number of concerts in Berlin. The next day, the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra broadcast a memorial concert, after which Marie herself delivered a radio address about her husband's life and work.

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

2 letters from Tchaikovsky to Marie von Bülow have survived, dating from 1888, both of which have been translated into English on this website:


Notes and References

  1. Diary entry for 15/27 March 1886. See The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1973), p. 57.
  2. See Letter 3469 to Marie von Bülow, 12/24 January 1888.