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Ritchie Symphony 4
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|Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling (1904-1985)
Introduction and Fugue (1932, orch. 1949) [11:34]
Symphony in C (1963) [27:01]
Sinfonia diatonica (1957) [27:05] (world premiere
rec. 26-28 February 2007, CCN Weimarhalle, Weimar. DDD
Notes by Christoph Schlüren and Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling
A few days before receiving this disc
I received an order from another source that included a
disk conducted by Jose Serebrier (reissued from the 1970s)
and another of music by Schwarz-Schilling’s teacher and
idol Heinrich Kaminski. These coincidences served to remind
me both of the varied career of Serebrier and the noteworthy
background of Schwarz-Schilling.
studied with several professors, including Walter Braunfels,
Schwarz-Schilling learned the most from Kaminski and remained
very close to him for the rest of the latter’s life. After
1933, both composers, along with Heinz Schubert, went into
internal exile in varying degrees and in spite of consistent
prodding Schwarz-Schilling resolutely refused to join the
Nazi party. Schubert disappeared in 1945, most likely killed
by the Gestapo. Kaminski died only a year after the end
of the war. This left Schwarz-Schilling the only member
of the little group alive, but fortunately he lived forty
more years to compose a number of works, especially religious
ones, all of which combine the back-to-Bach (and before)
elements of Kaminski with a high-minded striving towards
a simplicity all his own.
On this disc
we have three of the composer’s orchestral works or actually
two-and-a half since the Introduction and Fugue is
an arrangement for string orchestra of the first movement
of his 1932 Quartet in F-minor. While the influence of
both Bruckner and Kaminski is evident, another composer,
one known for his quartets, is also present: Beethoven.
Counterpoint is extremely important in this piece as the
composer uses it as a means to achieve harmonic richness.
The fugue subject is based on the theme of the Introduction
and is quite a contrast: light-hearted rather than severe.
This element and the imaginative handling of fugue procedure
make for an attractive work
Diatonica dates from 1957. The title indicates
that the composer uses the melodic (whole-step) degrees
of the scale, without much recourse to chromaticism.
He has said that the first movement is dramatic/tragic,
the second mystical and the third dance-like. The brass
introduction to the first movement is impressive. It
is followed by three thematic groups which are contrasted
and combined. But what really keeps the movement going
is the rhythmic energy. The largo middle movement
is sometimes played by itself and consists of a canonic
first section, quite inventive, followed by a mysterious
middle section. The final section has that Renaissance
feeling that also surfaced in the Introduction and
Fugue and combines elements of the first two sections.
The largo is definitely the highlight of the
work. The third movement I found disappointing after
the first two.
in C followed in 1964. Here everything revolves around
the central key of C. This produces a purity of harmonic
expression that is very serene and uplifting. The first
movement proper consists of the alternation of two thematic
complexes. Again, the rhythmic element is of the utmost
importance. In the following andante we have a
monothematic movement in which the counterpoint is the
driving force and in which deep emotion alternates with
agitation. I was reminded of the symphonies of Havergal
Brian in this regard. Also like Brian there is an underlying
frustration which is resolved though an increase of monumentality
followed by a dying away of intensity. The last movement
has three sections (the first two repeated) with the
first section continuing some of the violence of the
second movement and the second section varying the same
material in a number of ways. The abbreviated third section
takes this basic material even further before a sonorous
As to José Serebrier
I must confess that I was surprised to see him as the conductor
for this disk. Although he has recorded everything from
Menotti to Handel and Chadwick to Ravel, to the best of
my knowledge this CD constitutes new territory even for
Serebrier and he handles it just as well as the others.
His rhythms are exactly right and he gets the required
sound from the players. The orchestra plays very well,
especially in regard to the detail that is so important
in the music of the Kaminski school. One could have asked
for more from the recording however. The all-important
woodwinds sometimes sound shrill and the overall sound
is not as lifelike as one would like.
From the above
one can see that this music may not be for everyone. It
is severe and does not extend itself to meet the listener.
On the other hand, its sincerity cannot be doubted and
it fills a major gap in our knowledge of post-war German
music. For this reason alone it is worthy of note.
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