Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Albert Hubert Carl Kornweibel (1892–1980)

by Roger Simms

This article was published:

Albert Hubert Carl Kornweibel (1892-1980), journalist and music critic, was born on 22 December 1892 at Hornsey, London, eldest of three children of August Theodor Hubert Kornweibel, a commission merchant from Germany, and his English-born wife Gertrude Rose, née Leaver (d.1893), a music teacher. Educated in a convent school at Southampton, Hampshire, and at St George's College, Weybridge, Surrey, Albert worked as a clerk in his father's office. He suffered from a 'weak chest' and, at the age of 19, emigrated to Western Australia where he was employed as cadet reporter on the Western Mail. Transferring to the West Australian, he developed into an accomplished all-rounder, doing everything from court reporting to sub-editing.

An enthusiastic music lover and pianist who had attended concerts in London, Kornweibel became the West Australian's music critic in 1916. From the early 1920s he adopted the pen-name, 'Fidelio', because he 'revered' Beethoven's only opera. He studied music theory with Alexander Leckie and tried his hand at composing, albeit with little success. He also read widely, listened to his extensive record collection and played masses of sheet music. To improve his journalism, he visited the United States of America in 1921 and attended lectures at the University of Western Australia in 1926. At Mount Hawthorn, Perth, on 21 April 1923 he had married with Presbyterian forms Alma Woodhouse, née Lindner (d.1967), a former nurse and a divorcee with three children.

Kornweibel played a significant part in the development of music in Western Australia. His fifty years as a music critic (and as a reviewer of books, dance and drama) coincided with several key stages in that development: the influential years of the Metropolitan Orchestral Society (founded 1913); the time of strong community interest in choral groups, especially in the 1920s; the changes that flowed from the establishment (1928) of the Perth (later West Australian) Symphony Orchestra and from the advent (1932) of the Australian Broadcasting Commission; and the creation (1958) of a department of music at the university.

Increasing deafness obliged Kornweibel to stand aside as a music critic in the mid-1940s. The use of a large hearing-aid for concert work meant that after a twelve-month break 'Fidelio' was back in business. His small figure carrying a case containing valves and batteries for his hearing-aid was a familiar sight at concerts. Following his retirement in 1957, he continued reviewing until deafness and poor eyesight forced a halt. Despite these difficulties, he published Apollo and the Pioneers (1973), a history of one hundred years of music-making in Western Australia. In its foreword (Sir) Frank Callaway wrote that the author's knowledge of music and its allied arts had informed and enlightened the public. Although 'Korny' encouraged amateurs and professionals, he maintained unflinching standards. He died on 7 March 1980 at Claremont and was cremated; his daughter Donna Sadka (a drama critic) survived him, as did his stepdaughter and one of his stepsons. Jill Crommelin's obituary described Kornweibel as a gentleman, 'everything a man should be—kind, cultivated and wittily self-deprecating'.

Select Bibliography

  • National Theatre News (Perth), May 1958
  • Newspaper House News, June 1980
  • Music Maker, Nov-Dec 1989
  • West Australian, 4 May 1921, 23 Jan 1973, 8, 10 Mar 1980 and 30 June 1983 (Fremantle supplement)
  • J. Ambrose, taped interview with Albert Kornweibel (1977, National Library of Australia)
  • L. Fischer, taped interview with Enid Scott and Donna Sadka (1989, State Library of Western Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Roger Simms, 'Kornweibel, Albert Hubert Carl (1892–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Fidelio

22 December, 1892
London, Middlesex, England


7 March, 1980 (aged 87)
Claremont, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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