His grounding in music came from his father, a skilled amateur musician.
He became a chorister at Solothurn but made such astounding progress with
his piano studies that he switched from an ecclesiastical learning environment
to a secular college. From 1870 to 1874 he attended Leipzig Conservatory
studying with Reinecke. He then taught in the Alsace until, in 1877, he came
to Basel. Denied a place at the Basel Conservatory until 1889, once ensconced,
he soon made rapid progress as his works gained recognition. By 1896 he had
been appointed Director. He died in Locarno in 1921 in the same year as
He has eight symphonies to his name as well as a concerto apiece for violin,
cello and piano, nine violin sonatas and five cello sonatas. These are:-
No. 1 William Tell (1882)
No. 2 Böcklin (1900)
No. 3 Heroische (1902)
No. 5 Der Geiger von Gmünde (1906)
No. 6 (1911)
No. 8 Frühlings-Symphonie (1920)
These eight symphonies form the raison d'être of what will
eventually be a complete cycle from Sterling - A Swedish company recording
a cycle of Swiss symphonies. The usual tributes are due to the creativity,
and sheer grit of Sterling's proprietor, Bo Hyttner, whose energy would be
an example to the Hoover Dam hydro-electric turbines.
Der Simplicius (1898): There are five Huber operas (six if
you count the unfinished Der Gläserne Berg) of which Der
Simplicius is the third. The overture is Mephistophelian - buzzing with
whippy impetuosity. It will appeal to those who like Elgar's Froissart
Overture and Smetana's symphonic poems Haakon Jarl and Richard
Eine Lustspiel-Ouverture (1879) is very attractive: calming
but also with the slaloming vigour of Dvorak Symphonies 5 and 6 and Schumann's
The first and second movements of the Böcklin Symphony blaze
with activity inflamed by the same drive as those two Dvorák symphonies.
When the fires burn on a lower pressure a honeyed Brahmsian tone tempers
the Dvorakian element. The third movement adagio has a willowy fluency with
pointillistic effects from harp and solo violin ending in the autumnal sunshine
familiar from Brahms' Third Symphony. The finale is a free fantasy inspired
by a gallery of paintings by Arnold Böcklin (yes, the same Böcklin
whose Isle of the Dead inspired Rachmaninov and Max Reger's Four
Böcklin Tone Poems.). The movement is, by turns, jaunty, passionate
and butterfly textured. So airy is some of the orchestration that we are
almost into Berlioz at his most impressionistic as in Symphonie
Fantastique. Set off against this a Brahmsian gravitas. The performance
is excellent - infused with flammable temperament and an impressive unanimity
of attack. A welcome change from Dvorák 5 and 6. Do try it!
Two Huber symphonies on a most generously coupled disc.
Among the sea-sweep and flow of first movement of the Heroische Symphonie
you will find a Brahmsian approach (especially Brahms Symphony No. 1)
and touches of Elgar (Enigma) and Richard Strauss (solo violin). The
measured and ponderous tread of the Funeral March is punctuated by
tubular bells and given a somewhat ambivalent ghoulish air. The Totentanz
movement has a nicely alcoholic sway with horn and trumpet solos over
a pizzicato string pasture. You can now add this symphony to the long list
of Dies Irae appearances in classical music. The finale features a
concert organ and a soprano (Barbara Baier) singing the Sanctus.
The Sixth Symphony announces itself in raucous exuberance and as it progressed
reminded me of Siegfried Wagner's orchestral music (note the long-running
CPO series) especially in its naïve playfulness. In the second movement
the stahlspiel tinkles graciously but the movement is undermined by a rather
stop-start progress. The adagio (III) is romantically 'slippery' with
a strong Lisztian element. The effervescent spring of the woodwind writing
marks out the finale. There is yet more Lisztian influence in the wheedling
solo violin (6.28). The rhythms engagingly developed in this movement are
decidedly terpsichorean mating this movement with Smetana's Festive Symphony
and Bizet's Symphony in C. The warmth of the closing bars links the work
with Dvorák Symphony No. 8 and Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony.
Both symphonies have their weaknesses but the sheer pleasure returned each
time you listen to these works more than compensates.
(Sommernächte) (1885) Symphony No. 5 Romantische
- Der Geige von Gmünd. (1906) *
Schneeberger (violin) Stuttgarter Philharmoniker/Jörg-Peter Weigle
recordings STERLING CDS-1037-2 [77.31]
The notes mention Brahms two serenades but do so only to point up that the
Brahms works were warm-ups for a symphony. The Huber Serenade is a true serenade
in the spirit of tens (or was it hundreds) of Mozart's Cassations, Serenades
and Nocturnes. The first movement's sun-warmed uplands are of the same marque
as the Brahms Haydn Variations and Second Symphony. The second movement
- especially in its woodwind contributions - suggests a Czech heritage, some
of dash of Beethoven's Eroica and the wavering romance of Prokofiev's
Classical Symphony. 'The sleepy hill of summer' seems to be the alma
mater of the Nocturne and it is at this point that the identically
entitled serenade by Othmar Schoeck is closest. The finale is a furious dappled
rush of music.
The Fifth Symphony's programme is fully treated in the notes, and this is
as it should be, but I would suggest that you take no notice of the quaint
story. Just take this for what it is: as an unfamiliar symphony for orchestral
with violin solo. The mature solo violin part is Brahmsian (somehow emphasised
by woodland birdcalls) and recorded with definition but without undue prominence.
Several times Schneeberger's travel through this score made me think of the
middle movement of the Tchaikovsky concerto although the work is not a concerto.
The adagio (10) is a sort of fantasy-idyll for violin and orchestra
with a cousin in the shape of Josef Suk's 1903 Fantasy for violin
and orchestra. The allegro (II) is loyal to the sound of that sunniest
of lyrical violin concertos, the Dvorák, although, towards the close,
it becomes a slightly ghoulish nocturnal pilgrimage. The finale is regal
and plays out to some classically grand manner flourishes.
Only 1, 4, 7 and 8 to come now! Eagerly anticipated.