These Swiss composers
were near-contemporaries, all born between
1906 and 1910; but their musical outlook
is quite varied.
probably the only name that may be familiar,
wrote in an accessible, if at times
stringent Neo-classical idiom clearly
to be heard in his Flute Concertino
Op.47 - on Guild GMCD 7250 -
and in his Musik für Streichquartett
Op.19. This piece is more a
suite in five movements than a closely
argued string quartet. The opening movement
actually functions as a short prelude.
The second movement in moderate tempo,
mostly gently flowing, is followed by
a brisk Scherzo abruptly cut short.
The fourth movement is the emotional
core and a beautiful song without words.
The final movement is an extended rondo
with a slower central section, a reprise
and is capped by a varied restatement
of the prelude, ending on a quiet note.
is a name new to me. He studied
in Zurich and later spent a year in
Rome where he got in touch with Dallapiccola
and twelve-tone music. Later still and
back in Switzerland, he studied with
Hindemith. Although he was active as
ballet répétiteur at the
Zurich Opera, he managed to compose
an extensive output in almost every
genre most of which is little known.
The String Quartet, completed
in 1990 and revised in 1996, is his
second and final work for the medium.
The piece is in four movements: a strongly
contrapuntal Andante made of short contrasting
fragments set out in a kaleidoscopic
manner. The ensuing Allegretto inhabits
a tenser harmonic world, again full
of abrupt contrasts. The short Mässig
bewegt that follows, functions as a
short, half-lit Scherzo, whereas the
final movement is similar in design
to the first movement. Actually, the
main impression derived from listening
to Schütter’s second string quartet
is that the music never seems sure as
to the direction it should take, and
often confronts disparate elements without
ever trying to reconcile them. Therefore,
it is not always easy to make out its
progress. For all its merits the music
fails to satisfy; but I would like to
hear more of it, were it only to confirm
– or not – my first impressions.
In about 1925, Erich
Schmid heard Hermann Suter conduct
Schönberg’s choral work Friede
auf Erden which made a strong
impression on the young man and which
eventually led him to study with Schönberg
in Berlin. Schmid was later much active
as a conductor. He left a limited output
of some sixteen works. His String
Quartet "in modo classico"
Op.4 was composed during
his studies with Schönberg. However,
the subtitle is misleading, for the
music is mostly chromatic, atonal in
a way reminiscent of Schönberg
and Berg. The central movement, a distorted
Waltz, brings Berg’s Lyric Suite
to mind. The music is clearly influenced
by Schönberg and the so-called
Second Viennese School, although obviously
not by Webern’s brevity and austerity.
I find it an impressive achievement
and a piece of considerable substance;
undoubtedly a much finer work than the
Schütter quartet. I do not know
any of Schmid’s other works; but I would
certainly like to, if any is as fine
as this string quartet.
Guild Music have already
devoted several releases to 20th
century Swiss music. These have shed
light on some little-known byways of
Swiss music. I sincerely hope that they
will continue exploring the works of
Swiss composers, who are still too little-known
outside their native country. Conrad
Beck, for example, badly deserves some
recognition. This release is well worth
exploring for the quality of the music
and for excellent readings by players,
who are new to me but who clearly believe
in the music.
And a further perspective from Rob Barnett
on this evidence a neo-classical lyricist;
definitely a 'wet'. He was born in Arosa
and grew up under the 'tuition' of the
Ansermet-OSR concert series. Formal
musical education came in Leipzig alongside
fellow students Fortner and Distler.
He spent many years in Berlin and they
coincided with the rise of National
Socialism. Even though he departed Berlin
in 1942 and returned to Switzerland
he remained an easy mark for criticism
on the grounds of Nazi sympathies. His
five movement quartet is properly titled
Music for String Quartet Op. 19.
While his later works, including the
1949 Piano Concerto, show the imprint
of the 12-tone series this work has
more in common with neo-classical Stravinsky
and Hindemith. Apposite balance of instrumental parts, great clarity and a predilection
for brief lyrical asides are mixed with
superbly original eerie writing in the
Schnell and baroque filigree
in the final two movements. The olden
times are dispelled in the last few
minutes of the finale and we return
to the earnest and almost regretful
mood of the Breit first movement.
was born in Chur. He studied at
various times with Dallapiccola, Burkhard
and Hindmith. The quartet is surprisingly
recent. His music-making is dense and
dissonant favouring juxtaposition of
fragments and proceeding through contrast
and intriguing timbre and tonality.
It is quite a short work and if overall
it is not ingratiating the final Andante
allegretto shows, if fleetingly,
a redemptive lyrical tendency.
Erich Schmid was
perhaps better known as a conductor.
His compositions extend to only sixteen
pieces mostly written in the 1930s.
He was very much a Schoenberg pupil
having studied with the Master in Berlin
in 1930 and 1931. He returned to Switzerland
in front of the malign bow-wave of the
Nazi ascent. He succeeded Volkmar Andreae
at the Tonhalle in 1949. He was chief
conductor at Beromunster (1957-1962)
and his radio broadcast of the Frankel
violin concerto with Max Rostal was
issued on Rococo. He was active with
the BBC house orchestras. I have a tape
of him conducting the BBC Northern in
Chausson's Poème de l’amour
at de la Mer with Norma Burrows.
Clearly he had an accommodatingly catholic
range as I also have a tape of his conducting
the Atterburg Violin Concerto. Nevertheless
Katharina Bruns in her extensive notes
points to his avant-garde advocacy in
the radio studio and concert hall. His
compositions are serial and extremely
polished. His string quartet is polished
but leaves little impression on the
Three quartets fascinating
in their variety though the Schmid and
Schutter are clearly the work of adherents
of the true Schoenbergian temple. Schaeuble
is the romantic in this company.