GHCD 2332 – Paul Burkhard dirigiert Hans Schaeuble (1906-1988)

Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Hans Rosbaud – Conductor, Carl Seemann – Piano; Radio-Orchester Beromünster, Paul Burkhard – Conductor

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Musik & Theater 03.09

Unter Dauerspannen

Inhaltlich ist diese CD ein Porträt des kaum noch bekannten Schweizer Komponisten Hans Schäuble (1906-1988). Der Aufhänger ist je­doch, zumindest wenn man nach der Gestaltung des Covers urteilt, sein wesentlich berühmterer Lands­mann Paul Burkhard. Der heute vor allem als Komponist von Musicals und des Krippenspiels «Zäller Wiehnacht» in Erinnerung gebliebe­ne Burkhard war auch Kapellmeis­ter, und in dieser Funktion wirkte er als Zweiter Dirigent des Studio­orchesters am Landessender Bernmünster. Mit diesem Klang­körper spielte er in den Fünfziger­jahren die drei Orchesterwerke Schäubles ein, die auf dieser CD versammelt sind; die Aufnahmen stammen aus der Sammlung der Zentralbibliothek Zürich. Schäuble erscheint hier als gemässigter Mo­derner in der Nachfolge von Hinde­mith oder Honegger, der aber gleichzeitig die spätromantische Geste nicht verschmäht. Unter Dau­erspannung in der Art des Wagnerschen Satzes steht diese Musik, die auch in ruhigen Partien von grosser Intensität ist und dem Hörenden nur selten Entspannung gönnt. Im ab­schliessenden Klavierkonzert tritt dem eine treibende Motorik und ei­ne beinahe verspielte Virtuosität des Klavierparts entgegen.
Stephan Thomas

By Bob Briggs

Here’s a curiosity. An historical re-issue of the work of a musician is usually of the Heifetz plays Bach, or Furtwängler conducts (yet another performance of) Beethoven Choral Symphony variety. This disk contains performances by a conductor few will have heard of, conducting music by a composer even fewer music-lovers will have heard of.

So what is of the most importance here? The composer of the conductor? I think we start with the composer, for without him there would be no conductor.

Hans Schaeuble was born in 1906 in Arosa. He attended school in Lausanne where performances of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Ernest Ansermet gave him the urge to devote himself entirely to music. He studied in Leipzig, moving to Berlin in 1931 where he achieved his earliest successes as a composer and gained a publishing contract. In 1939 he returned to his native Switzerland, but when the danger of a German invasion of his homeland receded, he returned to Berlin, 1941-1942. Schaeuble later suffered repeated reproaches for having been supposedly too well-disposed towards the Third Reich – which he never was. Schaeuble’s pre-war successes were not repeated post-war. He became increasingly hostile towards the music of his younger contemporaries, composed less and less, and at the end of his life spent his time making repeated revisions of his earlier works.

There’s some fine music on this disk. Hymnus is a very strong piece – written in a very short time on his return to Zürich from Berlin. It is a closely argued symphonic movement – I don’t see the two movement structure the notes refer to – preceded by a short prayer derived from one of his own songs. It is terse and argumentative, always moving forwards, striving for fuller and further explanation of its material. The music rests at its conclusion, ending in repose. It needs it.

Ombra adorata – Kleine Sinfonie für orchester is a four movement work, again starting with a short, broad, opening section of some 90 seconds duration before plunging into a fierce allegro utilizing a twelve note row – but that shouldn’t worry anyone. This work deals with the “shadow” of previous epochs: “… the inheritance we admire, but in whose shadow we stand, is meant” wrote the composer. The slow movement is a real song-like piece, chromatic in language, intense and thickly textured. The finale is playful and diatonic. Now there’s a rush through many of the compositional trends of the first 50 years of the 20th century.

Neither of these works fell foul of Schaeuble’s revisions in later life so these are his first and only thoughts. And most interesting thoughts they are, too.

Aspects and Perspectives – Divertimento für orchester – which exists in three versions, the original 1958 score, heard here, and revisions from 1959 and 1978 – was intended to be “a more or less abstract ballet of a symphonic and dance-like content” (Schaeuble’s diary 30 May 1954). In 1957 he noted that the piece, originally titled Jeux, was “neither Jeux, Divertimento nor a ballet” and he described it as “peculiar” and an “isolated case”. This is another tersely argued symphonic movement, though without the bite or fire of Hymnus. It ever so slightly outstays its welcome.

The Piano Concerto, which exists in three versions, of which we hear the first, is in one movement within which are four clearly defined sections, with a cadenza – not a cadence as the notes claim – this is simply a mistranslation from the German language notes – near the end. This music is more austere than the other works, with a sparer, less colourful, orchestration. The construction, however, is stronger, more classical, less abstract, and thus it is easier to follow the musical argument.

Paul Burkhard was born in 1911 and commenced studies at the Zürich Conservatory at the age of 7! As a composer he became known for his operettas, but also wrote chamber works, incidental and ballet music, orchestral pieces and children’s operas. His most famous composition was the song Oh mein Papa, written in 1939, and recorded by, amongst others, Alan Breeze, Billy Cotton, Connie Francis, Eddie Calvert and his Golden Trumpet, Eddie Fisher, The Everly Brothers, Harry James, Ray Anthony & his Orchestra, Russ Morgan & his Orchestra and The Beverley Sisters. He started his conducting career at the Berner Stadttheater in 1942, moving to the Radio-Orchester, Beromünster two years later. He died in 1977.

The recordings all derive from Swiss Radio and the sound has been expertly remastered by Peter Reynolds; it is clear and places orchestra and soloist is a realistic sound-space with little reverberation. There’s a very strange edit at 05:15 of the first movement of the Symphony but this was probably on the original material. The performances are, I am sure, very committed – as they all derive from during the composer’s lifetime we may assume that he was in attendance at the rehearsals.

An unusual disk to be sure, but one from which I derived a lot of pleasure. Well worth investigating.