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Reinhard SCHWARZ-SCHILLING (1904-1985)
Orchestral Works 2
Polonaise for orchestra (1936) [5:30]
Partita (1934-35) [31:44]
Violin Concerto (1953) [26:13]
Kirill Troussov (violin)
Staatskapelle Weimar/José Serebrier
rec. Congress Centrum Neue Weimarhalle, Weimar, Germany, 27-29 May 2011.
NAXOS 8.572801 [63:28]

Schwarz-Schilling's 'Orchestral Works 1' (8.570435) came out back in 2008, although there was no '1' to indicate the first in a series - perhaps José Serebrier had a word with Klaus Heymann. Serebrier led the Staatskapelle Weimar back then in a programme of purely orchestral music, opening as here with a shorter item before two substantial works, in that instance both stirring symphonies.
 
Here they are joined for the Violin Concerto by Russian soloist Kirill Troussov, but their second virtual concert opens with the Polonaise for orchestra, a short and undemanding but sophisticated warm-up piece for the main fare. According to the notes, this recording represents its first performance since its premiere in 1936. Schwarz-Schilling had written on the manuscript: "Unrevised score, no definitive version! Not to be published!"
 
The previous year had seen the first performance of the four-movement Partita, a majestic contrapuntal masterwork, sometimes noir, sometimes dancy, that is at times reminiscent of a Stokowskian rescoring of Bach. Eugen Jochum's Berlin Philharmonic apparently performed it several times, thus affording the composer a deserved international recognition.
 
Astonishingly, Schwarz-Schilling, pictured on the cover looking like Sergiu Celibidache's younger brother, does not have an entry in Grove, a glaring omission for a reference work that describes itself as a "comprehensive compendium of music scholarship". In fact, there is surprisingly little information available on a composer of such self-evident talent. Whether or not this is due to the "ideological trench warfare" that Christoph Schlüren refers to in his notes, whereby post-war "dogmatic opinion-makers" despised and denigrated tonal music is debatable. Naxos's in-house reviewer describes Schwarz-Schilling's as "a totally personal style, both thematically and harmonically, and impossible to liken with any other composer of his generation." In fact, there have always been many more composers writing tonal music than following strict serialism or subsequent hardcore modernism. Schwarz-Schilling's music will appeal to anyone who admires his broadly contemporary compatriots Pfitzner, Furtwängler, Hindemith and the like. Naxos's own advert in the booklet for discs featuring the music of Aribert Reimann and especially Ulrich Leyendecker is an odd incongruence.
 
Twenty years further on from the first two works, Schwarz-Schilling and his Jewish-Polish wife having coolly survived Gestapo interrogations during the war, the Violin Concerto calls to mind Prokofiev or Shostakovich. With Kirill Troussov as virtuoso, it is at times almost like listening to David Oistrakh playing one of those great composers' works. Like the Partita, the Concerto frequently sounds strings-only, making relatively limited demands on woodwind, brass and percussion. This lends it an air of grandeur and solemnity, as for the Introduction and Fugue from the first volume, although the final movement is as high-spirited and punchy as any: a key work.
 
José Serebrier, apart from the obloquy of having his surname widely pronounced as if he were French, is still an under-appreciated conductor, despite his many successful recordings, not least for Naxos. He has an unerring ability to make 'fringe' orchestras sound 'core'. For their part, the Staatskapelle Weimar have an incredible history, going back over 500 years, yet often still stand in the shadow of bigger, more illustrious neighbours. They need have no fear, as their two compelling recordings of Schwarz-Schilling - not to mention the many others they have made for Naxos - show. Audio engineering is expertly done. Will Serebrier have a word about a third instalment?
 
Byzantion
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