Category Archives: blog


Ehrbar Hall played host to Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner, Arnold Schoenberg and
Gustav Mahler. Originally built for a piano manufacturer, the building became home to a
music conservatory in 1911. It is exquisitely decorated in the Italian Renaissance style
and possesses a beautiful acoustic.

Richard’s Piano piece, The Jester’s Waltz, was awarded the Diploma in the Second Degree in National Professional Category in the Golden Key International Piano Composition Competition

From the Judges: “Dear Mr. Altenbach,

Please accept our sincere congratulations on your exceptional performance at the XVII Golden Key Piano Composition Competition. You have competed among 104 participants from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Poland, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, The Netherlands, The United States and awarded Second Degree Diploma in National Professional Category.”

The composition (The Jester’s Waltz) has been recommended for the program of the World Composers Recital at the Golden Key Music Festival in Vienna, on July 31, 2024, where the Diploma and Winner’s Medal will be awarded to Richard on the stage of Vienna’s historic Ehrbar Hall during the Award Ceremony. A professional pianist has been chosen to perform and video/audio record the piece at the concert!

Description of Piece:
Being of Viennese extraction, Richard
has always had a soft spot for the
beauty and elegance of the waltz. But this is not that!
Rather than a reverential bow to Johann Strauss, “the Jester’s Waltz” owes more to the influence of Erik Satie, Cirque du Soleil, and the court jester from Edgar Allan Poe’s story, “Hop-Frog”. Richard’s farcical parody of the once-venerable dance form has been called “playful, hilarious, manic, fiendishly fast”…all of which bodes well to be entrusted to the sleight of hand mastery of a willing virtuoso pianist!

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht – (ORIGINAL 1818 Melody!) – SHEET MUSIC $3.95


for Violin & Piano – SHEET MUSIC $3.95

comp. by Franz Xaver Gruber; arr. by Richard Altenbach, ASCAP

The story of the creation of the beloved Christmas song, “Stille Nacht” or “Silent Night” is well-known. In the postcard Alpine village of Oberndorf, Austria, Christmas Eve 1818, a Catholic priest named Father Josef Mohr had a dilemma: Mass was to be celebrated that evening, but the church organ was kaput, perhaps due to rats in the pipes! While gazing down at the village that day, the inspired Father Mohr jotted down the soon-to-be-famous lyrics to a new song. He then tasked his organist Franz Gruber to come up with a melody to be accompanied on guitar. After just a few hours, Gruber premiered the carol.

Weeks later, renowned organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived to repair the Oberndorf organ. When he finished, he asked Gruber to test the instrument. The church organist proceeded to play the tune that had so recently occupied his soul, “Stille Nacht”. Greatly impressed, Mauracher took the words and music to his home village where eventually, two well known families of singers, the Strassers and the Rainers, heard it. These “King Family” type ensembles loved the carol and spread it throughout Europe. The Strasser sisters ultimately performed it for King Frederick Wilhelm IV of Prussia in 1834. The king did much to boost the fame of the lovely tune. In 1838, The Rainers brought the song to the US, singing it in German at New York’s Trinity Church.

What is perhaps less well-known is that the original character and even the melody itself has changed significantly from the original! The 1818 version fits the mold of a gentle, waltz-like Laendler in 3/4 time, more akin to a moderately lilting folk dance rather than a sentimental, slow hymn. Speculation is that the more angelic, languid approach proved more effective and fitting for a large singing ensemble such as those described above. In our modern rendition of the carol, the contour of the penultimate phrase soars, chorus-like, lingering upon the satisfyingly highest pitches and harmonies. These notes actually differ from the original tune, which also carries on more quickly and modestly, and is marked by a persistent dotted rhythm throughout. In addition, immediately at the end of the verse, Gruber repeats the final two phrases. This does not comport with the modern form of the song.

In Richard’s arrangement, the piano part reflects the song as printed in 1818 by Gruber, while the violin is added to adorn the revered melody with slight ornamentation at a higher register.

NEW Christmas Music for Violin & Piano – SHEET MUSIC $6.95

for Violin & Piano – SHEET MUSIC $6.95


It’s that time of year! Bring on the figgy pudding, and crack open the violin case… Enjoy Richard‘s lively renditions of two Christmas carols for violin & piano, Joy to the World & Carol of the Bells.

CLICK HERE to hear a performance by Richard Altenbach, Violin & Nancy McCrae, Piano

CONTACT to purchase and download the sheet music for this piece – $6.95

You will receive instructions on payment method and subsequently be sent the PDF in an e-mail. THANK YOU!


Joy to the World – Often attributed to G. F. Handel, this venerable song is actually the result of the “Frankenstein-ing” of several musical phrases together over the years by a series of English Methodist ministers, the final form arising from America. The tune we know today is the 1848 version composed by Lowell Mason, who admittedly utilized musical fragments from Handel’s Messiah and other oratorios! Perhaps this patchwork compositional approach accounts for the unusual and cumbersome pause which occurs after the second phrase, “Let earth receive her King!” – usually resulting in a sudden metrical change from 4/4 to 2/4, and then back to 4/4 time.

The Carol of the Bells – This dynamic, compelling tune from Ukraine, originally a pagan folk chant, tells the tale of a swallow flying into a household to proclaim a plentiful New Year for the family. The title, Shchedryk refers to “bounty”. The carol was sung on the eve of January 3rd, heralding the New Year according to the Julian Calendar. Of course now it is a favorite worldwide, can to be heard all through the Christmas season.

Scarecrow! – an Eerie Waltz for Violin & Piano by Richard Altenbach


I composed this waltz, originally a much longer work for solo piano, when I was 14 years old. This theme was to accompany a Halloween story (audio tape) I made about an evil, marauding scarecrow that, well … suffice to say the thing just wanted every part of itself to become human in the worst way! “If I only had a brain…” comes to mind, with a twist. I know, I know – dark right? But this was a time in my life when I considered Edgar Allan Poe’s “Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” light reading.

This arrangement for Violin & Piano (preferably father & son!) features my son (13 years old) in his most recent live recital on piano accompanying the composer (dad, a few years older).


Heuriger – “Österreichische” Musik mit meinem Vati!

My dad Norbert was a very kind and goodhearted soul who loved his family. I cherish those times he took me on hikes as a boy and man; I owe, in part, my love for nature, and definitely for MUSIC to him. He was a talented singer and instrumentalist, and we enjoyed playing together.

Here is Heuriger, our rendition of Richard Rodgers‘ beautiful Edelweiss … performed in a “virtual” Austrian wine tavern .

Den Berg besteigen! “eine Alpensinfonie”…

Very proud of the performance of Richard Strauss‘ Epic ALPINE SYMPHONY at the Mondavi Center by the Auburn Symphony, Conductor Peter Jaffe (I am Concertmaster).

SELECTIONS FROM Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony) featuring violin solos from Concertmaster Richard Altenbach – FROM “Eintritt in den Wald” THRU “auf blumige Wiesen”:

Here are some YouTube videos of the concert performance (highlights):
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Wiederschauen !!!

“Paint Me in the Opera House” scored by Richard

Congratulations, Leaf!

Paint Me in the Opera House, a stylish, dark and atmospheric horror short, has received many accolades and has screened at the venerable Aero Theatre in Santa Monica!  Richard scored the film.

Written & Directed by Leaf Lieber.


Click here to hear cues scored by Richard for the film. Reminds me of Poe’s quietly shrieking horror story, the Oval Portrait. (Could be described as Black Swan meets Psycho!)

Richard Launches Online Teaching

Richard teaches violin to intermediate and advanced students, as well as offers coaching to chamber ensembles.  

Having experienced 6-hour studio sessions followed by evening rehearsals/performances daily for many years, Richard has had to manage practicing and playing efficiently, safely and effectively. He has great empathy for players who have suffered through physical issues such as tendonitis and stress due to their avid, passionate love of music and desire to strive towards technical and musical excellence (Been there!).

Richard believes in approaching the instrument in the most natural, comfortable and logically intelligent manner possible.  Physics & Psychology are the two “(silent) P” -word concepts at the key to good playing.  He likens his philosophy to the principles espoused in W. Timothy Gallwey’s great book, the Inner Game of Tennis, emphasizing preference of balance, leverage and gravity over the use of force and pressure.

Richard is known for imparting his ideas on “balance & leverage” vs. “force” in a calm and patient manner.  He is deeply passionate about music, and has a talent for conveying concepts and facts in a compelling, convincing way.  A good sense of humor is another main quality he has found invaluable to the task; stay tuned for “Hickey-free” Blogs

Richard’s Son Bren Sings “James & the Giant Peach”!

My son Bren, age 10, sings On Your Way Home in this studio recording of the most beautiful song in the musical. He is performing as “James”, the Lead in Sierra Stages production of “James & the Giant Peach” July – August 2018 at the venerable Nevada Theater in Nevada City, CA.

His mom, Dawn, sings the part of “Ladybug” and also has a heart-rending song. I am very proud of them…

I’m in the (peach) pit scraping away on the violin!