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David Hurwitz, December 2011

The Introduction and Fugue, arranged for string orchestra from an earlier string quartet, is an extremely beautiful piece that deserves to enter the repertoire of chamber orchestras worldwide. These are very enjoyable, distinctive works, and José Serebrier, as so often, proves the most dependable possible guide to this offbeat repertoire. Both the playing and the sonics are very fine. Definitely worth hearing. © Read complete review

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, March 2010

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…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.

…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.

Robert R. Reilly, October 2009

It would be a crime if I did not call to your attention, even this belatedly, the Naxos release from more than a year ago of Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling’s Introduction and Fugue, Sinfonia Diatonica, and the Symphony in C. One wonders how music this beautiful could have been written in Germany before and after World War II—simply because it was the heyday of the avant-garde and the apex of Arnold Schoenberg’s influence. Part of the answer came when I learned that he was a student of Walter Braunfels, who composed such gorgeous opera and chamber music and who suffered for having refused to write the Nazi anthem or to join the Nazi party.

Schwarz-Schilling likewise refused to join the party and had to disguise his wife’s Jewish ancestry. His approach to music was traditional in the sense of the credo he expressed in 1938: “For me, music is the audible product of spiritual energy organized according to unalterable laws. In my opinion the primary mission of the creative musician is to strive for pure, living music.” The result of his conviction and inspiration is tonal music of deep integrity, beauty, and contrapuntal mastery.

A critic suggested that some may find the music “severe.” Well, yes, but only in the sense that Bach and Beethoven are severe. That speaks more to the music’s purity. José Serebrier is the perfect conductor to capture this severe beauty, and he does so sublimely with the Staatskapelle Weimar. I am very touched and moved by this music. It shows that all was not lost—that the “spiritual energy” was still there, not only organized by but expressing “unalterable laws.” Please buy this disc (I did) so that Naxos or another company will be motivated to record Schwarz-Schilling’s Missa in Terra Pax, the Laetare cantata, the Violin Concerto, and the Partita for Orchestra.

William Kreindler
MusicWeb International, November 2008

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.

The Sinfonia 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.

The Symphony 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 finale.

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.

Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, November 2008

The music proceeds by contrasts, lines and harmonies moving up; and then their direction and color move down. The music, with its shifting horn and tympani parts, likes to gravitate to the modal (Aeolian) form of A Minor and then to the modal (Phrygian) form of E Minor/Major, procedures we find in the D Major Symphony of Sibelius and in some Brahms. The kernel-like riffs proceed with an economy of motion Stravinsky would admirs…The flute solo often reminds us that Nature need not be a punisher. The end of the movement suggests a détente in an uneasy world. The Largo provides a D Major song, a paean that will likely provide a movie soundtrack eventually; maybe it is the love-music if someone remakes On the Waterfront. A series of instrumental canons ensues, and they sound like sweet canzoni by Gabrieli. After a “medieval” opening, the Ben marcato assai molto proceeds rather diaphanously, a series of pointillist, staccato dabs and jabs into space in mixed colors. Woodwinds dominate, and the sound, once more, has an American, dance timbre, maybe Rieti or the contrapuntal side of Randall Thompson. The happy conclusion testifies to a healthy, animated musical spirit, a tonic force in direct opposition to the minimalist or disruptive, disturbed visions in music that occupied much space and time contemporaneous with Schwarz-Schilling.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2008

Though having held the influential position as head of composition at the Berlin Musikhochschule following the Second World War, Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling is largely a forgotten name. Fearing that his wife’s Jewish origin should be revealed, he kept a low profile through the war at a time when he should have been enjoying the peak of his compositional career. He had studied as an organist, conductor, composer, the latter part with Heinrich Kaminski who instilled into the young man that tonality was not dead. It was as an extension to the late Romantic period that we find Schwarz-Schilling’s music, though his rejection of serialism and twelve tone ideology flew in the face of all that was happening around him. Though in his later years he left lush romanticism for a more austere style, none of his music has found a place in the major Germanic repertoire. It is such a personal voice that likening it to any other is difficult, though if you get along with Hindemith you will warm to this disc. It contains three post war compositions, the opening Introduction and Fugue taking its inspiration from Bach and makes a pleasing introduction to his style. Nine years later, in 1957, came the Sinfonia diatonica in which we can see the composer’s religious spirituality in the muted colours of the central Largo. It is surrounded by music of abstract vivacity, some crunchy harmonies giving it a mainstream modernity. In 1963 he completed the Symphony in C, generally regarded as his major post-war score. The unusual rhythmic patterns of the outer movements reflecting music that had come from French composers of the previous generation. Again it is in the central movement that we find the most profound utterances, at times with an agonised content. The Staatskapelle Weimar, under the direction of Jose Serebrier, again show they are in the European premiere league, the playing having that feeling of familiarity which brings such a certainty to the playing. Sound quality is first class.

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