Helen Enser
1916 - 1983


Helen Enser was born on April 3, 1916 in the Bronx, New York to George and Aline Enser. She began playing the horn while a student in the Eastchester, New York schools. Her early musical training included violin, harp and piano. On June 19, 1930 at the age of 14 she was awarded the "Out of Town Gold Medal Award" by the New York Music Week Association:
The Association Will Distribute Medals and Cups Tomorrow at Carnegie Hall
Gold Medals, silver cups, certificates of merit and merit cards will be awarded to vocal and insrumental soloists, public and parochial school choruses, church choral societies and choirs, at ceremonies in Carnegie Hall, marking the close of the season's program of the New York Music Week Association...
...Out-of-Town Gold Medal - Awareded to the out-of-town studend having the highest rating to Helen M. Enser of Tuckahoe, N.Y., for her performance in the elementary French horn class.
Two years later the New York times reported that V.L.F Rebmann, director of the Junior Festival of Westchester County announced the awarding of three scholaships of $150 to W. Bergdon Albig, Helen M. Enser and William A. Hadley for the Eastern Music Camp. [Note this was probably the camp in Sydney, Maine. Mr. Bertram N. Haigh was the horn and ensemble coach in 1931 and perhaps the following year as well.]
Upon graduation from the public schools she entered the Juilliard School of Music where she was a scholarship student.
Miss Enser studied for five years with Josef Franzl who taught at the Juilliard Graduate School. As a post-graduate student she received the Diploma of the School from the Institute of Musical Art Orchestra Department on May 28, 1937. She also studied at the University of Miami, and Loyola University of The South, where she received a Bachelor of Music Education degree. In the photo a the right and another shown below she is holding a Lehman-Chemnitzer "Walzen" horn, an instrument used by both Franzl and his friend and colleague Josef Suttner, solo horn of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. (Note that Suttner's name was written at the top of her promotional brochure at right.) In the another below photo she is seen playing a single B-flat horn with stopping valve and F extension, similar to the one used by Eric Hauser. (Franzl also used single B-flat single but without the stopping valve and extension.)

In her early career she was principal horn with the New York Women's Symphony, and the Orchestrette Classique, conducted by Frederique Petrides. She was also a member of the Federal Chamber Orchestra, the Alornen Trio, the Gabrielle Horn Quartet and a woodwind quintet. She performed as a soloist with the Columbia University Band on November 18, 1939 at her high school alma mater at Eastchester. Previously on August 28, 1938 she performed the Mozart Horn Concerto K.V. 447 with the Knickerbocker Orchestra, Ole Windingstad (1886 - 1959), conductor, at the Saratoga Spa, Saratoga Springs. A local newspaper had this review:
The concert opened with the Beethoven overture Coriolan, performed with distinction and well received. This was followed by Mozart's Concerto No. 3 in E flat major in which Helen Enser, talented French Horn player, was featured. Real virtuosos of this instrument, often considered cumbersome, difficult and ungrateful to play, are exceedingly rare, and the choice of this horn by a woman musician is something of a sensation. Miss Enser is the only feminine member of the 45 piece orchestra. She handles her chosen instrument with great skill and confidence, and her performance in the concerto was distinguished by subtle expression and purity of tone. The dulcet tones of the horn were especially well brought out in the second movement, Romanze, larghetto. In the finale, allegro the original nature of the horn as a hunting instrument was made apparent.
In 1937 she performed Mozart's third horn concerto three times:
February 15, with Orchestrette Classique, Frederique Petrides, conductor; April 9, with the WPA Federal Music Project Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Albert Stoelssel (see display ad. at right and review below), and on August 26 with the Westchester Philharmonic Orchestra also under the auspices of the WPA.
Of special interest was a performance of Mozart's Third concerto in E-flat for horn and orchestra played by Helen Enser. Faulty attacks and unsure tone in the first movement may be attributed to preliminary nervousness; in the "Romanza" and final allegro Miss Enser gained lip-control and gave competent performances. She was recalled several times by the audience.
Miss Enser also performed on WNYC New York radio broadcasts for the Sigma Alpha Iota music sorority: On Saturday August 31, 1940 at 1:05 she gave a recital accompanied by pianist Alice Blengall. The program comprised Preludium by Ture Rangstrom; Norrland Scherzo by Smidt Gregor; Reverie, by Glazunov; Morceau de Concert and The Swan by Saint Saens; Improvista by Ture Rangstrom; Wedding Day at Troldhaugen by Grieg. The following year on, July 12, 1941 she was again the featured as soloist in a twenty-five minute recital accompanied by pianist Carol Finch, and on the following October 25, she appeared once again on WNYC this time accompanied by pianist Norman Cazden. On June 20, 1942 she shared the program with soprano Marjorie Hamill, and played the "Prize Song" from Die Meistersinger and Mozart's Concerto No. 1.

Click to see back of brochure.
Helen Enser's professional playing career included principal horn of the Knickerbocker Orchestra of Albany, New York and New York Women's Symphony, cited above. For eleven years she was principal horn the New Orleans Opera and third horn of the New Orleans Symphony, (with Louis Stout, Myron Bloom, Louis Piton, and Zoe Fisher). With the latter she performed as a soloist in the "Reverie" by Glazunov on February 18, 1945, and also the Mozart Third Horn Concerto. She also taught at Xavier University, Loyola University of the South, Educational Gateways, and privately. She married William C. Hall, a percussionist with the New Orleans Symphony. Helen Enser Hall died in Slidell, Saint Tammany Parish, Louisiana on January 2, 1983.


The photos on this page are from the collection of Josef Franzl. Special thanks to Howard Sanner for locating additional New York Times references and to Ellie Jenkins for several references in her files.


Cox, Philip W.L.; "Intricacies of the French Horn Simplified", The School Musician" May, 1948, p.38

Jan Bell Groh, Evening the Score / Women in Music and the Legacy of Frédérique Petrides, The University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, 1991

Hall, Helen Enser; Questionnaire by Norman C. Schweikert, Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, Michigan, December 10, 1967

"Music Week Honors Cover Wide Field", The New York Times, June 18, 1930

"Music Notes", The New York Times, June 22, 1932

"Programs of the Week", The New York Times, February 14, 1937

"Programs of the Week", The New York Times, April 4, 1937

Display ad., The New York Times, April 9, 1937

"Helen Enser in WPA Program", The New York Times, April 10, 1937

"Juilliard School to Give 64 Awards", The New York Times, May 28, 1937

"Music Notes", The New York Times, August 26, 1937

"Today on the Radio", The New York Times, March 6, 1940

"Concerts the Microphone will Present", The New York Times, August 25, 1940

"Radio Today", The New York Times, July 12, 1941

"Radio Today", The New York Times, October 25, 1941

"Music in the Air", The New York Times, June 14, 1942


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