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Martin Scherber Orchestral Works & Songs

CDS1113
£14.99

Details

Martin Scherber was born in 1907 in Nuremberg. He was a confirmed loner and little is known about his career. At the age of just five he played the violin and started to imitate things he had heard on the piano. He showed great reluctance to learn to read music, but soon acquired remarkable skill at piano improvisation. At the age of thirteen he started to compose. He appeared in public for the first time as a pianist in Nuremberg in 1922, and first presented compositions of his own the following year. During the Second World War he served as a soldier, and following the war he devoted himself to teaching and composition.

Martin Scherber’s oeuvre is modest in size. He worked for years on each of his symphonies. In addition, between 1930 and 1937 he composed several song cycles (including 27 children’s songs) and individual songs to texts by Goethe, Morgenstern, Novalis and himself.

Observations by Scherber himself about his music are very rare, and no comments about the First Symphony have survived from the period during which it was being written. The only remarks that we have come from the time of the work’s revision after the first performance in March 1952. On 1 August 1953, for example, Scherber tells us: ‘The world of the First Symphony is close to my heart. In fact I am more at one with these worlds than with everything in this world. It was my wish that we should both hear it the way it was intended.’

Martin Scherber Orchestral Works & Songs

Reviews

I put this CD on my player before reading the booklet, intending it to play in the background whilst I did some work on my computer. The “background music” lasted about 20 seconds before, in astonishment, I gave it my full attention.

Martin Scherber was of Nürnberg stock, born in January 1907, the son of the local orchestra’s double-bass player, Bernhard Scherber. He had a varied musical education and employment, reaching the post of conductor and musical director of the Aussig choir. His contract expired in 1933 and he returned to Nürnberg where he spent the rest of his life (except for war service) as a self-employed teacher and composer. Incidentally, this CD has been rated as no.8 in the top ten classical CD’s of 2017 in the Sunday 17th December Edition of the major independent Swiss Newspaper Tages-Anzeiger (Daily Gazette). All-in-all, this is a very interesting and worthwhile recording. Jim Westhead, Musicweb-international

Scherber was fascinated by and studied Philosophy, and his writings tend to be rather mystical in expression. He is quoted as saying" … this 2nd symphony is not a composition but a Mysterium - also for me! ... Like a prospective mother I experienced the process of bringing it forth, only not so unconsciously; experienced how those world powers which create mankind wanted to reveal themselves in an audible way." He described his symphonies as ‘Metamorphosis-Symphonies’, suggesting an organic development.

If we cut through the mystical language and listen, what we hear is a musical language indebted to Bruckner with occasional touches of the Mahler of the first Four Symphonies. One finds nothing of the Twentieth Century here. The First Symphony begins with a Brucknerian tremolo; the pulse, too, is very Brucknerian in tread and colouring throughout (and this music treads rather than rushes ahead). In some ways, this is best characterised as Bruckner in lesser hands – but worth hearing for all that.

The songs are similarly undatable in character, but charming. None is very long. The Goethe settings are subtle and alert to the sense of the words. Best of all are the two cycles of songs for children. The larger cycle, from 1930, dispatches 18 songs in under eleven minutes. The craftsmanship is exquisite. It suggests that Scherber misunderstood his own gifts. Imitative as a symphonist, he was clearly an exquisite miniaturist, and these songs are a gift to the recitalist. Absolutely lovely is the second of the two Two Lieder, the anonymous Frühauch (Early Morning’s Air), with accompaniment for violin and piano. Thomas Heyer is a fine lyric tenor, sensitive in expression and interpretation, ideal for this repertoire. Praise is due also to his two accompanists – the poetry is there throughout.

Overall, then, this is an interesting release – and rather more than that for such lovely but unknown songs. Michael Wilkinson, MusicWeb-International