Reinhard SCHWARZ-SCHILLING (1904-1985)
Introduction and Fugue (1948) [11:34]
Symphony in C major (1963) [28:01]
Sinfonia diatonica (1957) [26:05]
Weimar Staatskapelle/Jose Serebrier
rec. CCN Weimarhalle, Weimar, Germany, 26-28 February 2007
world premiere recording of Diatonica
NAXOS 8.570435 [65:40]

Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling was born in Hanover and received piano lessons from a pupil of Franz Liszt. He began to compose at the age of fourteen. In Köln he studied composition with Walter Braunfels (1882-1954) and conducting with Carl Ehrenberg (1878- 1962). He furthered his studies with Heinrich Kaminski (1886-1946). He moved with his wife to Innsbruck where he took up work as an organist and choral conductor until 1935. It was in Innsbruck that he took seriously to composition and began to secure concert-based success. After a spell working in Feldafing on Lake Starnberg near Munich (1935-38) he was appointed to the staff of the Musikhochschule in Berlin. He lived in that city for the rest of his life. In 2004 his life and music was celebrated with a German postage stamp.

I had not heard his work before so was intrigued by the experience. The Introduction and Fugue for string orchestra is in two panels – as you would expect. The Introduction is a thing both strong and delicate – tonal, slender and deftly communicative. The Fugue cannot completely shake off the dead hand of academicism but Schwarz-Schilling has a good try and the dancing music-making is full of lively plunging touches. It is all lovingly shaped and if anything is more reminiscent of Vaughan Williams than of Reger or Pfitzner. It was premiered by Celibidache in Berlin in 1949. After a very well judged long silence we move to Schwarz-Schilling’s only two symphonies each of approaching half an hour’s duration. The Symphony in C major combines an athletic sensibility with a grand euphoric musculature. Unlike the 1956 Sinfonia diatonica this work is scored for a large orchestra including triple woodwind and brass. At times it recalled Tippett but denser and full of internal conflict though no real dissonance. The central Andante cantabile is a thoughtful piece of inward reflection – never omitting the grandeur. It is at times redolent of a sort of modernised Bruckner. The finale seems at times to pay tribute to Beethoven and there are links with the style of the fourth and fifth symphonies by Robert Simpson. The Sinfonia diatonica is for a smaller orchestra but it sounds no less awe-struck than the Symphony in C major. It is more of a romp than its successor. It smacks a little of Hindemith in playful mode though the middle movement has more gravitas than cheeriness. The latter quality returns – up to a point - for the finale with some seeming references to birdsong. Some of the jollity is of a piece with a similar mood in Alan Bush’s works of the 1950s – especially in the Nottingham Symphony. Grandeur verging on the reverential is a unifying feature across these three works. How can one tell – but the performances by the ever-alert and adventurous Serebrier seem adroit and confident.

The notes – essential with little known composers - are by Christoph Schlüren.

These are really attractive if not utterly compelling works. If my descriptions – ham-fisted as usual - suggest you might like this tonal music then do give this disc a try. You may well then be scouting out more Schwarz-Schilling CDs. There’s a 1953 Violin Concerto I would love to hear.

Rob Barnett