About this Recording
8.570435 - SCHWARZ-SCHILLING, R.: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 - Sinfonia diatonica / Symphony in C Major / Introduction and Fugue (Serebrier)
English  German 

Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling (1904-1985)
Orchestral Works
Classicism and Transcendent Inner Vision

 

Born in Hanover on 9 May 1904, the son of manufacturer Carl Schwarz, Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling received piano lessons at an early age from a pupil of Franz Liszt and began to compose at the age of fourteen. After high school he took up the study of music, first in Munich and Florence, then in Cologne, where he studied composition with Walter Braunfels (1882-1954), conducting with Carl Ehrenberg (1878- 1962), and organ. Having reached a certain degree of proficiency, he was then sent by Braunfels in 1927 to Ried near Benediktbeuern in Upper Bavaria to complete his studies with Heinrich Kaminski (1886-1946), the eminent heir to the German contrapuntal legacy of Bach, Beethoven, and Bruckner. It was Kaminski who became the young man’s decisive influence. There he also met the Polish pianist Dusza von Hakrid, whom he married in 1929. In the same year the young couple settled in Innsbruck, where Schwarz-Schilling worked as an organist and choir conductor until 1935. In Innsbruck he composed his first two outstanding works, which were soon given a widespread hearing: the String Quartet in F minor (1932) and the Partita for Orchestra (1934-35). From 1935 to 1938 Schwarz-Schilling was a free-lance composer in Feldafing on Lake Starnberg near Munich. In 1938 he joined the staff of the Berlin Musikhochschule. He lived in Berlin until his death on 9 December 1985.

Heinrich Kaminski who, soon after Hitler’s rise to power, founded the secret “Order of Those who Love” as an act of inner emigration, was the young newlyweds’ godfather. In 1938 an anonymous and courageous official in Kochel, close to Kaminski’s home, falsified Dusza von Hakrid’s personal documents to conceal her Jewish ancestry and give her a new “Aryan” identity. Thereafter the family, now including children, had to endure regular interrogations from the Gestapo. They were under suspicion, but no proof was found against them. Being of Polish origin, Dusza von Hakrid fell under the prohibition against performing in public. Even in this threatening situation Schwarz-Schilling refused until the very end to follow the request to become a member of the National Socialist Party. It was not until half a century later, in 2003-04, that their son Christian Schwarz-Schilling (b. 1930), one of Germany’s most experienced politicians (federal minister, High Representative of the United Nations in Bosnia-Herzegovina), discovered the truth about his maternal descent.

Kaminski, a persona non grata in the Third Reich, died in 1946 soon after the cessation of hostilities. In the last months of the war his former pupil Heinz Schubert (1908-1945) had fallen in the conscripted national militia. Schwarz-Schilling was now the only surviving exponent of the Kaminski tradition. In 1955 he was appointed professor of theory and composition at the Berlin Musikhochschule, and in 1969 he became head of its composition department. From the 1960s on he travelled all over the world as an organist and conductor, to the United States, Canada, South Korea, Japan, and Israel.

Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling was a particularly prolific composer of sacred works, organ music, and songs. His piano and chamber music is also remarkable. His most important post-war compositions are the Violin Concerto (1953), Missa in terra pax for mixed a cappella chorus (1955), Sinfonia diatonica (1956), Laetare for mixed chorus, strings, and two trumpets (1958), Symphony in C (1963), the a cappella motet Über die Schwelle (Over the Threshold, 1975), and his confessional magnum opus, the large-scale cantata Die Botschaft (The Message, 1979-82) for mezzo-soprano, baritone, chorus, and orchestra.

As an artist, Schwarz-Schilling was sustained by a profound mastery of tradition and strove wholeheartedly for continuous ennoblement, refinement, and evolutionary innovation in his musical resources. He never yielded to the temptations of everyday sensationalism or aesthetic doctrines such as twelve tone ideology, but drew in a highly personal way on the clear forms and elaborate techniques of musical tradition – canon, fugue, chorale. At the same time, however, his controlled manner shows him to be a child of his restless age, and a subliminal, powerfully urgent expressivity constantly flares forth from his music. As a human being Schwarz-Schilling was more than a universally educated man who expressed himself through art: he was a man of action who lived what he recognized and discovered to be right and necessary.

In 1949 Schwarz-Schilling took the first movement of his marvellous String Quartet in F minor, completed in 1932, and rearranged it as Introduction and Fugue for String Orchestra. He wrote the following commentary:

“The String Quartet would not have taken shape if my early experience of Bach and a particular predilection for the classical string quartet literature — up to late Beethoven — had not guided me though my youth and years of study and inspired the development of my personal musical language and creative personality. Although the Introduction, with its fantasy-like improvisatory character, and the fugue, with its tight Allegro tempo, may seem antithetical, both movements have the same motivic kernel: the fugue subject is the inversion of the opening of the Introduction. When the climax of the fugue’s development is reached, the two elements — the theme and its inversion — are directly juxtaposed. At the same time the tempo broadens, imparting a sense of free declamation to the Coda’s development until an intensified Allegro concludes the movement with a short stretta.”

The première of Introduction and Fugue for String Orchestra was given in Berlin on 10 April 1949 by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996).

Schwarz-Schilling finished the Sinfonia diatonica, the first of his two symphonies, at the beginning of 1957. It was first performed by Rolf Agop (1908-1998) and the Dortmund Municipal Orchestra on 31 January 1957 in the Capitol Film Theater, Dortmund. The programme booklet of this première included the following comments by the composer:

“The name Sinfonia diatonica is intended to convey that the work’s musical language predominantly makes use of the unaltered melodic degrees of the scale in each key and largely forgoes chromatic sophistication. Furthermore, the compositional fabric always seeks to preserve the rhythmic impulse of the participating lines, and there is no padding for the sake of harmonic effect. The polyphony is frequently simplified by coupling the lines into larger complexes and by contrasts that often occur in exact contrary motion.

“Regarding the three movements individually: The four brass instruments begin the opening movement with a brief Andante in which the first trumpet, in its initial entry, states the melodic beginning of the following Quasi presto. Three thematic groups are developed in a manner approaching the exposition section of a sonata-allegro movement. The richly syncopated first thematic group begins pianissimo and grows to fortissimo. The second, contrasting in key and character, is introduced by the solo flute. It leads into the sharply rhythmic third movement, in which various instrumental groups alternate. The exposition is repeated. Instead of a development section in the Classical sense, new contrasts among the three thematic groups—at times abbreviated, at times expanded— impart a rising intensity as the movement progresses. The Coda recovers the parts eliminated from the first thematic group and fades away with the main idea in two pianissimo horns.

“The first movement is oriented toward the Aeolian and Phrygian modes, and only episodically toward major; the second movement, a Largo, begins by contrast in a pure D major. Three two-voice canons unfold in this movement: first and second violins, first and second trumpets, and violas and cellos, partly reinforced by double basses. The middle section forms a noticeable contrast: muted strings, percussion, and the distant effect of muted trumpet fanfares. The free repetition of the opening incorporates elements from the middle section.

“The third movement follows without pause, beginning with a rhythmically taut introduction. The dance-like character of the following Molto allegro section. The repeat of the exposition is followed at first by a fugato, to which a free, modulating reprise is added. After a short, distinct caesura the introduction reappears momentarily, serving as a transition to the concluding Presto. Now all of the movement’s themes and motivic elements briefly recur, often in new combinations. The movement proceeds with increasing groupings of instruments toward the fortissimo close, with all parts again interlocked in contrary motion in the tutti.

“These primarily formal notes should not distract the listener from directly responding to the music, whose expressive contents form an arch from movement to movement that can be roughly paraphrased with the words ‘dramatic-tragic’ (conclusion of I), ‘solemnly-mystically subdued’ (II), and ‘with dance-like animation’ (III). Moreover, the music receives its form—without any historicizing intention—from a belief in the inexhaustibility of primal musical forces.”

One year later Schwarz-Schilling led the Munich Philharmonic in a performance of his Sinfonia diatonica, but soon thereafter he lost interest in the work and sanctioned the separate performance of its Largo movement. We know that he wanted to revise the finale in particular, but it never happened. Whatever the case, these are marginal weaknesses, as anyone listening to this world première recording will perceive.

The Symphony in C, completed in December 1963, is Schwarz-Schilling’s main post-war orchestral composition. Its first performance took place on 10 January 1964 in Wuppertal with Hanns-Martin Schneidt (b. 1930) conducting the Wuppertal Municipal Orchestra. Schneidt also introduced the work to the Berlin Philharmonic in the same year. Schwarz-Schilling himself conducted two radio recordings of the Symphony in C in 1964 (NDR) and 1965 (RIAS Berlin). The composer’s own commentary on the work reads as follows:

“The work’s title may be related in a narrower sense to its two outer movements. Here a central function is assigned to the pitch C and its gravitational attraction within the extended tonal surroundings. The following may be said of the form of the three movements: Movement I first of all sets up a contrast between a moderate introductory tempo and an agitated main section, which essentially reveals two clearly distinct thematic shapes. This approach to sonata form is followed by a divergent continuation: instead of a ‘development’ and ‘recapitulation’ there is one large complex woven together from new connections and compressions in the thematic material. The return to the introduction passes over into a Quasi presto centered on the pitch C in every bar. In contrast, Movement II is exclusively defined by a single theme whose several properties harbor opposing elements. Formally, this slow cantabile movement may be characterized as a wide-ranging invention. Movement III begins with a reminiscence of the introduction stated from a different level with muted timbres. A forte interjection leads to the main Presto movement, subdivided into three larger sections. The first two sections are repeated whereas the third, a Presto possibile with a truncated bar structure, compresses the material in the manner of a stretta. Unlike my earlier works for smaller orchestral forces, the symphony is scored for triple woodwind and brass, including three trombones.”

Schwarz-Schilling’s late style left all romantic extravagance and expressionist overstatement behind in favor of an immediate, austere purity of expression. The Sinfonia diatonica is characterized by filigree craftsmanship and a lithe classicism that is very refreshing in the context of the German post-war symphony. Entirely metaphysical in character, the Symphony in C abstains from instrumental brilliance and explores the glowing spheres of a transcendent inner vision. Its centripetal harmonic gravitation, continually orbiting the central C, bears a kinship to Jean Sibelius, particularly to the Seventh Symphony. With his two remarkable contributions to the genre, Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling ranks among the most singular and eminent German symphonists in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Christoph Schlüren
English version by C.S. and Stephen Luttmann


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