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Robert HERMANN (1869-1912)
Symphony No. 1 in C major op. 7 (1895) [36:09]
Symphony No. 2 in B minor op. 11 (1905) [38:29]
Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen/Christopher Fifield
rec. no location specified, 13-14 May 2008 (1); 16-17 February 2009 (2); DDD
STERLING CDS-1081-2 [74:42]
Experience Classicsonline

Hermann was born in Bern, studied medicine in Geneva and after encouragement from Grieg turned exclusively to music. He was a pupil of Humperdinck (1893-94) and settled in Marienhöhe, Leipzig-Stötteritz.

Hermann's sunny pastoral muse is instantly in evidence in these two captivating symphonies. This is in the cheery mode of the pastoral Bruckner or Beethoven. There's even a passing resemblance to Mendelssohn's Hebrides. The music is light of wing and has something of the nationalist flavour I associate with Swedish symphonies of that era. The First Symphony's sauntering eloquence and summery ease contrasts with shivering tensions, lovingly controlled murmurs, delicate bird song, cuckoo calls and rustic dignity. The central Grave is warm and dignified with its decorative harp in second episode of movement and a placid hiking lovely gait. Only the repeated cymbal clashes at 14:00 onwards are a miscalculation. It matters not at all that heaven-storming drama is completely absent. The Second Symphony is in four movements. It swings along with a surging brass urgency and with fanfares echoing deliciously. The music here is rather like Grieg in summery pastoral mood. Hermann is quite a striking talent who evidently could keep spinning gold from an idea without the idea or the listener tiring. The performances and recordings are wondrously intense and full of melodic reward. One must make a very light allowance for a certain deficiency of affluent gold in the violin tone but Christopher Fifield - now a Sterling stalwart - discovers fresh life in these hymns to the verdant outdoors.

This disc is the latest arrival in Sterling's Swiss Romantics line and has enjoyed funding from the Kanton of Bern and the Foundation that bears the name of a Swiss composer of a later generation Czesław Marek. Koch International issued an admirable series of recordings of Marek's music in the 1990s (see review).

This is very catchy innocent music. I have been fortunate recently in romantic symphonies having also discovered the different but equally memorable Symphony by Ignaz Brüll on Cameo Classics.

Rob Barnett



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