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August Moritz Hermann Heinicke (1863–1949)

by Joyce Gibberd

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August Moritz Hermann Heinicke (1863-1949), musician, was born on 21 July 1863 at Dresden, Saxony, son of August Moritz Hermann Heinicke, brush manufacturer, and his wife, amateur musicians. From 10 Heinicke studied at the Royal Conservatorium of Music, Dresden; among his teachers was the violin virtuoso, Eduard Rappoldi. At 16 Heinicke was conducting three large male-voice choirs. A period of travelling with orchestras, mainly in Europe, followed; he was usually first violin or assistant conductor. In 1890 he was appointed violin teacher at the Adelaide College of Music; contracts had been signed in Berlin. He was met in Adelaide on 12 June by college founders Gotthold Reimann and Cecil Sharp who recognized him by his long hair, 'surely the best characteristic by which to recognise a German musician'. Soon he was acclaimed as Adelaide's premier violinist and violin teacher: Daisy Kennedy and William Cade were among his pupils.

When the Elder Conservatorium of Music opened at the University of Adelaide in 1898, the college closed and Heinicke became a senior teacher there. His other major impact in the 1890s was as a conductor. In 1893 Charles Cawthorne's Adelaide Orchestra had become Heinicke's Grand Orchestra, with forty-five players; it soon became the most popular of the local musical groups. Heinicke planned to provide popular programmes, then to cultivate the taste of players and audience for orchestral music. In 1898 his group was known as the Conservatorium Grand Orchestra, including students and amateurs, but university regulations prevented his continuing as conductor when it became the Adelaide Grand Orchestra. Heinicke continued to conduct a depleted conservatorium orchestra until 1910. Next year he reformed his Grand Orchestra which survived until 1914.

In December 1890 Heinicke had publicly proposed a United German Gentlemen's Singing Society; the thought obsessed him. 158 people responded, many from the Adelaide Liedertafel and other German choirs: sixty-four men formed the new Adelaide Liedertafel which Heinicke conducted successfully until World War I began. 1891 saw, for one year, the revival of the Adelaide String Quartet Club to which Heinicke belonged; he also played in several other ensembles.

On 12 September 1914, with strong anti-German feelings affecting Adelaide, nine university students, who felt that Heinicke 'had attempted to affront British sentiment at a public concert', assaulted him and painted the Union Jack on his bald head. Heinicke accepted their apology and declined to have them punished. He resigned from the conservatorium on 29 April 1916. He had married Minna Eugene Gebhardt, an amateur singer, at St Peter's Church, Glenelg, on 26 May 1908; they had two sons. Until the 1914 incident the family had enjoyed adulation and acceptance in Adelaide; now they left their grand Medindie home for a Plympton poultry farm. Heinicke taught privately until 1933.

In 1925-29 he had a city business—Heinicke's Pianos. In 1931 he formed his last orchestra, the Adelaide Philharmonic, arranging three concerts in the Exhibition Hall and mainly using unemployed musicians; but they failed financially.

Early pictures of Heinicke show him as debonair, confident, with a jauntily twisted moustache. Loved by his family and students, he was a perfectionist with his pupils and often impatient. He had a sense of humour, but 'professionally, took himself a bit seriously'. In 1897-98, 1910 and 1920 he had revisited Germany and Europe. When older he played chess at Kindermann's Café in Adelaide. He died intestate on 11 July 1949 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Music (Adelaide), 1898
  • M. J. Krips, ‘History of Music in South Australia Before 1900’, MS memoirs of Heinicke (B.A Hons thesis, University of Adelaide, 1973)
  • staff records (University of Adelaide)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Joyce Gibberd, 'Heinicke, August Moritz Hermann (1863–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


21 July, 1863
Dresden, Saxony, Germany


11 July, 1949 (aged 85)

Cultural Heritage

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