Hermann Scherchen

Last updated

Hermann Scherchen. SCHERCHEN.jpg
Hermann Scherchen.

Hermann Scherchen (21 June 1891 – 12 June 1966) was a German conductor.

Contents

Life

Scherchen was born in Berlin. Originally a violist, he played among the violas of the Bluthner Orchestra of Berlin while still in his teens. He conducted in Riga from 1914 to 1916 and in Königsberg from 1928 to 1933, after which he left Germany in protest of the new Nazi regime and worked in Switzerland. Along with the philanthropist Werner Reinhart, Scherchen played a leading role in shaping the musical life of Winterthur for many years, with numerous premiere performances, the emphasis being placed on contemporary music. From 1922 to 1950, he was the principal conductor of the city orchestra of Winterthur (today known as Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur). [1]

Making his debut with Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire , he was a champion of 20th-century composers such as Richard Strauss, Anton Webern, Alban Berg and Edgard Varèse, and actively promoted the work of younger contemporary composers including Iannis Xenakis, Luigi Nono and Leon Schidlowsky. [2]

He was the teacher of Karel Ančerl, Egisto Macchi, Marc Bélanger, Françoys Bernier, Anna Renfer, Frieda Belinfante and Karl Amadeus Hartmann, and contributed to the libretto of Hartmann's opera Simplicius Simplicissimus . He also premiered Hartmann's early work Miserae . Conductor Francis Travis was a pupil, then conducting assistant, for five years.

He is probably best known for his orchestral arrangement (and recording) of Bach's The Art of Fugue . His 1953 "Lehrbuch des Dirigierens" (Treatise on Conducting, ISBN   3-7957-2780-4) is a standard textbook. His recorded repertoire was extremely wide, ranging from Vivaldi to Reinhold Glière.

Like Vasily Safonov and (in later life) Leopold Stokowski, Scherchen commonly avoided the use of a baton. [3] His technique when in this mode sometimes caused problems for players; an unidentified BBC Symphony Orchestra bassoonist told the singer Ian Wallace that interpreting Scherchen's minuscule hand movements was like trying to milk a flying gnat. [4] According to Fritz Spiegl, [5] Scherchen worked largely through verbal instructions to his players and his scores were peppered with reminders of what he needed to say at each critical point in the music.

However, Scherchen did not always dispense with the baton. The film of his rehearsal of his edition of Bach's The Art of Fugue with the CBC Toronto Chamber Orchestra shows him using a baton throughout.

Family

His first wife – who was also his third wife – was Auguste Marie (Gustl) Jansen, whom he married on 17 June 1921. After a brief marriage to actress Gerda Müller from 1927 to 1929, he was again together with Gustl Jansen. In 1936, Scherchen married the Chinese composer Xiao Shuxian in Peking (Beijing). A daughter, Tona Scherchen, was born to them in 1938. She has also made a name for herself as a composer. The last of his five wives was the Zurich-based Romanian mathematics teacher Pia Andronescu, [6] [7] with whom he had five children: Myriam, David, Esther, Nathan and Alexandra.

He died in Florence, survived by a number of children from five wives and other women. [8]

One of his sons was Karl Hermann "Wulff" Scherchen. Wulff met Benjamin Britten when they were thirteen (nearly fourteen) and twenty, respectively. Their romantic relationship did not begin until four years later. John Bridcut describes the passionate exchanges of letters between the increasingly-famous composer and the teenager in Britten's Children . Wulff's relationship with Britten is also the subject of Serenade for Tenor, Saxophone and Orchestra, a song cycle by Lyle Chan based on the romantic letters exchanged by the pair.

Until 2014, his daughter, Myriam Scherchen, co-ran the music label Tahra, which released officially authorized historical recordings of conductors such as Scherchen, Furtwängler, Mengelberg and others, generally drawn from primary recorded sources. Tahra ceased business after the death of the co-principal of the label, René Trémine.

The sister of Auguste Maria Jansen, Helen (Lene) Jansen, was married to the Hungarian cartographer Alexander Radó, who, under the alias 'Dora', was a member of the European-wide resistance organization known as the "Rote Kapelle". When Radó was threatened in Switzerland by German security agents and faced eviction, Hermann Scherchen hid him in his apartment in Geneva.[ citation needed ]

Quote

Recordings

Scherchen recorded an unusually wide range of repertoire, from the baroque to the contemporary. His Mahler recordings, made before Mahler became a part of the standard repertoire, were especially influential; so too were his recordings of Bach and Handel, which helped pave the way for the period-performance practice movement. Included as well were significant recordings of music by Haydn, Beethoven, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Glière, Bartók, Schoenberg and many others.

In 1959, Hermann Scherchen recorded Handel's Messiah , with Pierrette Alarie, soprano, Nan Merriman, contralto, Leopold Simoneau, tenor and Richard Standen, bass. (Westminster XWL 3306, WST 306)

In 1959, Hermann Scherchen recorded Bach's Mass in B minor, with Pierrette Alarie, soprano, Nan Merriman, contralto, Leopold Simoneau, tenor and Gustav Neidlinger, bass. (Westminster WST 304)

In 1960, Hermann Scherchen recorded works by Max Reger with alto Margarethe Bence and the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, including Eine Lustspielouvertüre (A Comedy Overture), Serenade for orchestra, Romantic Suite for orchestra, "An die Hoffnung", Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Beethoven and Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart . [10]

In 1996, Tahra published the only commercially released recording of Malipiero's complete L'Orfeide . It was a remastered live recording of the 7 June 1966 performance at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence, conducted by Scherchen only five days before his death. The cast included Magda Olivero and Renato Capecchi (Tah 190/191). [11]

Notes

  1. "koelnkonzert.de". www.koelnkonzert.de. Archived from the original on 29 May 2007.
  2. "Leon Schidlowsky". schidlowsky.com.
  3. Boulez, Pierre; John Cage (1995). Jean-Jacques Nattiez (ed.). The Boulez-Cage Correspondence. Translated by Robert Samuels. Cambridge University Press. p. 162. ISBN   0-521-48558-4.
  4. Story told by Wallace during the BBC radio panel game My Music, 1993
  5. Spiegl, Fritz: Music Through the Looking Glass (London, 1984)
  6. Pauli, Hansjörg (21 May 1993). Hermann Scherchen, 1891-1966. Kommissionsverlag Hug. ISBN   978-3-906415-83-3 via Google Books.
  7. Lucchesi, Joachim (1993). Das Verhör in der Oper – Google Books. ISBN   978-3-86163-052-4 . Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  8. Professor, Department of History York University Michael Kater Distinguished Research (19 December 1996). The Twisted Muse : Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN   978-0-19-977451-7 via Google Books.
  9. "Produktfamilie - BEETHOVEN Symphonies 1". www.deutschegrammophon.com (in German). 1 May 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  10. "Scherchen conducts Reger". classical.net. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  11. Manfriani, Franco, Mito e contemporaneità, Edizioni Pendragon, 2007, pp. 35–36. ISBN   88-8342-547-2

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Karl Amadeus Hartmann</span> German composer

Karl Amadeus Hartmann was a German composer. Sometimes described as the greatest German symphonist of the 20th century, he is now largely overlooked, particularly in English-speaking countries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wilhelm Furtwängler</span> German conductor and composer (1886–1954)

Gustav Heinrich Ernst Martin Wilhelm Furtwängler was a German conductor and composer. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest symphonic and operatic conductors of the 20th century. He was a major influence for many later conductors, and his name is often mentioned when discussing their interpretative styles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vladimir Ashkenazy</span> Icelandic pianist and conductor from Russia

Vladimir Davidovich Ashkenazy is an internationally recognized solo pianist, chamber music performer, and conductor. He is originally from Russia and has held Icelandic citizenship since 1972. He has lived in Switzerland since 1978. Ashkenazy has collaborated with well-known orchestras and soloists. In addition, he has recorded a large repertoire of classical and romantic works. His recordings have earned him five Grammy awards and Iceland's Order of the Falcon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Willem Mengelberg</span> Dutch conductor

Joseph Wilhelm Mengelberg was a Dutch conductor, famous for his performances of Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler and Strauss with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest symphonic conductors of the 20th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Karel Ančerl</span> Czechoslovak conductor and composer (1908–1973)

Karel Ančerl was a Czechoslovak conductor and composer, renowned especially for his performances of contemporary music and for his interpretations of music by Czech composers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sergiu Celibidache</span> Romanian conductor (1912–1996)

Sergiu Celibidache was a Romanian conductor, composer, musical theorist, and teacher. Educated in his native Romania, and later in Paris and Berlin, Celibidache's career in music spanned over five decades, including tenures as principal conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Sicilian Symphony Orchestra and several other European orchestras. Later in life, he taught at Mainz University in Germany and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eugen Jochum</span> German conductor (1902–1987)

Eugen Jochum (German: [ˈɔʏ̯ɡeːn ˈjɔxʊm] 1 November 1902 – 26 March 1987 was a German conductor, best known for his interpretations of the music of Anton Bruckner, Carl Orff, and Johannes Brahms, among others.

Karl Ristenpart was a German conductor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Janine Jansen</span> Dutch violinist (born 1978)

Janine Jansen is a Dutch violinist and violist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Igor Markevitch</span> Russian-born Franco-Italian conductor and composer (1912–1983)

Igor Borisovich Markevitch was a Russian-born composer and conductor who studied and worked in Paris and became a naturalized Italian and French citizen in 1947 and 1982 respectively. He was commissioned in 1929 for a piano concerto by impresario Serge Diaghilev of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

<i>Brittens Children</i>

Britten's Children is a scholarly 2006 book by John Bridcut that describes the English composer Benjamin Britten's relationship with several adolescent boys. Bridcut has been praised for treating such a sensitive subject in "an impeccably unsensational tone". The Britten-Pears Foundation described the book as having been "enthusiastically received as shedding new light on one of the most interesting aspects of Britten's life and career, in a study that is thoroughly researched, wonderfully readable and thought-provoking". Bridcut's book followed his television documentary Britten's Children shown on BBC2 in June 2004.

Olli Mustonen is a Finnish pianist, conductor, and composer.

Nino Sanzogno was an Italian conductor and composer.

The Philharmonia Chorus is an independent self-governing symphony chorus based in London, UK. Since its foundation in 1957 the Chorus has given over 900 concerts and made over 100 recordings. The Chorus Master is Gavin Carr.

Jorge León Schidlowsky Gaete was a Chilean-Israeli composer and painter. He wrote music for orchestra, chamber ensemble, choir, and instruments including the piano, violin, cello, flute, mandolin, guitar, harp, organ. About 65 pieces were written in graphic notation. His compositions have been performed in numerous countries, with orchestra conductors including Aldo Ceccato, Clytus Gottwald, Erhard Karkoschka, Herbert Kegel, Lukas Foss, Zubin Mehta and Hermann Scherchen. The scores of his graphic music have been shown in exhibitions such as Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum in Ludwigshafen. Schidlowsky worked as a professor of composition both in Chile and Israel, influencing many students.

Concerto funebre is a musical composition for violin soloist and string orchestra by the German composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann. Written in 1939 and substantially revised in 1959, it is by far Hartmann's best known work, especially noted for its lyrical final movement. The title is Italian.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie</span> German orchestra

The Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie is a German symphony orchestra based in Herford. It was founded in 1950 and, along with Philharmonie Südwestfalen and Landesjugendorchester NRW, is one of the 'official' orchestras (Landesorchester) of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The orchestra has been shaped by conductors such as Wilhelm Schüchter, Hermann Scherchen and Andris Nelsons. They have regularly served several cities in northwest Germany, and toured internationally to halls such as Berliner Philharmonie, Tonhalle Zürich and Großes Festspielhaus in Salzburg, also to the U.S. and Japan.

John Woolford was the muse, confidant and the first romantic interest of the composer Benjamin Britten.

Serenade for Tenor, Saxophone and Orchestra is a musical composition by Lyle Chan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Helmut Koch (conductor)</span> German conductor and choir leader

Helmut Koch was a German conductor, choir leader, composer, and academic teacher. He was recording manager for the Berliner Rundfunk from 1945, where he founded the Solistenvereinigung Berlin, the Kammerorchester Berlin and the Großer Chor des Berliner Rundfunks. He conducted a recording of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo in 1949, and later also contemporary music by composers including Hanns Eisler, Fritz Geißler, Ernst Hermann Meyer and Ruth Zechlin. He was professor at the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" from its beginning. After working as a regular guest conductor at the Staatsoper Berlin, he became Generalmusikdirektor. He was the first conductor of the Berliner Singakademie in East Berlin, and held the position until his death.