José Serebrier

Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling: Sinfonia diatonica; Symphony in C; Introduction and Fugue

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Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling was an odd duck among mid-twentieth century composers, which was not wholly his fault. He was the longest-lived and most ardent disciple of pedagogue and composer Heinrich Kaminski, who had developed what he felt was a perfect stylistic synthesis of Germanic polyphony stemming from Bach to Bruckner. Kaminski was so concerned with the integrity of his circle that he founded a secret society, the "Order of Those who Love," as a means to protect them during the period of National Socialism. On the contrary, all suffered, and Kaminski's favorite student, Heinz Schubert, died on the field of battle. When Kaminski died in 1946, Schwarz-Schilling was left behind as the sole living representative of the school, and he spent the rest of his life remaining true to it, despite the fact that no one around him really cared. Along the way, Schwarz-Schilling composed two symphonies, the Sinfonia diatonica (1957) and the Symphony in C (1963), both heard here on this Naxos recording featuring the Weimar Staatskapelle under José Serebrier.

The Sinfonia diatonica is exactly that, a "white key" symphony that makes use of mixed modes, occasionally resulting in a mild shock of dissonance, but fashioned in an idiom that is mostly rather plain and straightforward. It is not dull and has the virtue of being unpredictable, as well; superficially, it's rather like Stravinsky meets Orff. The Symphony in C is more obviously neo-classical, gracious, and rigorously scored; it's a little more reminiscent of Hindemith meets Karl Amadeus Hartmann, except that the symphony has a decidedly defective formal structure, with each movement beginning with an Andante. The jewel in the crown, however, is the filler, the outstanding Introduction and Fugue for String Orchestra, revised in 1948 after a string quartet movement from 1932. It is genuinely brilliant and easily falls into post-post romantic synthesist idiom espoused by Kaminski. The opening "Introduction: Andante" section is worthy of late Mahler, and the fugue to follow is well realized and highly engaging. Serebrier's performance with the Weimar Staatskapelle is not one of his better outings; the music is unfamiliar and the orchestra seems not wholly alert to it; the sound of the band is rather blocky and seems to be lagging somewhat behind the tempo. A crisp, well-balanced performance, such one might hear from a leader well-versed in the music of Hindemith, would be preferred; Otto Klemperer certainly would've worked wonders with the Introduction and Fugue, and indeed, its original premiere was given in 1949 under Sergiu Celibidache. However, at its release the Sinfonia diatonica is unique to this recording, and but for the lack of alternatives will serve the purpose of spreading the word about Schwarz-Schilling, a conservative German twentieth century composer not as interesting as Hindemith, but more interesting than, say, Harald Genzmer.

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