Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:


Huber was a Swiss composer whose music and life straddled the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The music itself remains resolutely a product of vintage nineteenth century romanticism. Nothing desperately original here but whoever said that music had to be original to be enjoyable. If you enjoy Brahms, Dvorák, Stanford, Smetana, Fibich or Suk delay no longer. These discs are for you.

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 Saint-Saëns.

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. 4
No. 5 Der Geiger von Gmünde (1906)
No. 6 (1911)
No. 7
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.

HANS HUBER (1852-1921) Symphonische Einleitung zur Oper 'Der Simplicius' (1898) [10.19] Eine Lustspiel Ouverture (1879) [8.40] Symphony No. 2 Böcklin Symphony (1900) [42.56]  Stuttgarter Philharmoniker/Jörg-Peter Weigle  world premiere recordings STERLING CDS-1022-2 [61.59]

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 III.

Eine Lustspiel-Ouverture (1879) is very attractive: calming but also with the slaloming vigour of Dvorak Symphonies 5 and 6 and Schumann's Rhenish Symphony.

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!


Rob Barnett


HANS HUBER (1852-1921) Symphony No. 3 Heroische (1902) [42.35] Symphony No. 6 (1911) [34.51]   Stuttgarter Philharmoniker/Jörg-Peter Weigle  world premiere recordings STERLING CDS-1037-2 [77.31]

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.


Rob Barnett

Erste Serenade (Sommernächte) (1885) Symphony No. 5 Romantische - Der Geige von Gmünd. (1906) *   Hansheinz Schneeberger (violin) Stuttgarter Philharmoniker/Jörg-Peter Weigle world premiere 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.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett 

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