Author Topic: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century  (Read 18078 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« on: December 06, 2007, 04:05:22 PM »
Ok, here we go again with my obsession with seeking out obscure 20th Century composers! This time its Switzerland.

I know and love the music of composers like Ernest Bloch, Arthur Honegger and Frank Martin and I am aware that many others on this site are also fans of these composers. Bloch however spent much of his adult life in the USA and Honegger in France while even Martin emigrated to Holland in 1946. I also know and admire most of the music composed by Othmar Scoeck which I have been able to hear.
I have managed to acquire a couple of quite interesting late romantic symphonies by Fritz Brun(1878-1959)-he wrote ten in total.

There are however a number of other names who are just that-names-to me. Composers like Willy Burkhard(1900-55), Conrad Beck(1901-89), Heinrich Sutermeister(1919-95). Beck wrote seven symphonies while Burkhard and Sutermeister composed several big choral works. I have recently ordered a couple of CDs which I found via Amazon-Burkhard's Oratorio "Des Gesicht Jesajas"(1935) and Sutermeister's Requiem and Te Deum without really having the slightest idea what to expect. I do know that Sutermesier is reputed to have composed an extremely successful Opera "Romeo and Juliet", several other operas, three or four piano concerti and two cello concerti.

Once again, I wonder whether there are buried treasures here? Good, solid compositions which date from the 1930s onwards but which, partly as a result of Switzerland's isolation during World War Two and partly as a result of the avant-garde fashions which swept Central Europe from the 1950s, have been unjustly ignored.

Any Swiss members of this site? Anybody else?

Offline Brewski

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2007, 05:08:46 PM »
Looking at this Wiki page of Swiss composers, I realize I haven't heard much by any of them.  :o

Earlier this year, I did hear a short piece called Lied for violin and piano by Beat Furrer (b. 1954), that sort of sounded like Morton Feldman (but much shorter than most of his works).  I liked it, but have no idea whether it's representative of his overall output or not. 

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Offline edward

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2007, 06:53:45 PM »
Looking at this Wiki page of Swiss composers, I realize I haven't heard much by any of them.  :o

Earlier this year, I did hear a short piece called Lied for violin and piano by Beat Furrer (b. 1954), that sort of sounded like Morton Feldman (but much shorter than most of his works).  I liked it, but have no idea whether it's representative of his overall output or not. 

--Bruce
Not really: I'd say Furrer is more influenced by late Nono than anything, though often his music can be extremely frantic as opposed to Nono's stillness. For further exploration, I recommend this superb Kairos disc (which I think Al Moritz also thinks very highly of):



I've been a little less impressed with more recent Furrer, but it may not have had time to settle with me.

Of other Swiss composers, I think Rolf Liebermann's worth a look as a good mid-20th-century neo-classically-influenced tonalist (there's a good collection of his music on Naxos, including the once-popular Furioso, as championed by Ferenc Fricsay), while Heinz Holliger's an underrated composer who has followed much the same track as many other post-war avant-gardists, moving from an extremely abrasive style to one with more retrospective elements (see the violin concerto for his recent style, the mammoth Scardanelli-Zyklus for an exhaustive compendium of his middle period and the string quartet for his most radical period).
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
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Offline some guy

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2007, 06:57:38 PM »
bhodges, I wouldn't have thought "Feldman" about any of Furrer's music, so perhaps that's not representative. Of course, Feldman wrote a lot of different stuff. I don't think "Feldman" even about some of Morton's own output! Well, not without some serious pondering, anyway.

Dundonnell, I'm not sure I can help you in your quest. I know and like the people you've mentioned, but probably the other ones I know and like are going to be along the lines of those "avant-garde fashions" you alluded to. But on the Wikipedia list, I know the music of Paul Giger, some of which I like very much, some not so, so I'm probably not a good guide for that. Heinz Holliger and Klaus Huber have written some very substantial music, good and solid I would say, though those two, especially Huber, are very definitely European avant-garde. At least so I would guess. I'm afraid I don't pay much attention to "fashions" as such. I just like listening to good music. And Huber has written some very good music indeed. Not all that easy to get a hold of. I have two cds of only Huber, and a handful of Huber pieces scattered about on other CDs, mostly on those Donaueschingen collections. The Furrer I have on right now (Nuun, on Kairos--the other Kairos disc) is starting to sound more and more like Huber! (Started out vaguely reminiscent of some New York folk--the Bang on a Can folk, but only vaguely.) I'd say edward's reference to Nono is probably spot on.

One of my favorite Swiss composers, though, as far as I know (as I don't pay much attention to nationalities, either, I'm afraid), is Rainer Boesch, who's also a very nice person, too. Not that composers need to do anything beyond writing good music..., but still. Boesch isn't on the Wiki list. Wikipedia lists often side-step the electroacoustic crowd entirely. I guess their compilers are still of the "music is what you make with violins and pianos not tape recorders and laptops" school of thought. Pity. Means their lists never include some of the more interesting and provocative composers of the past sixty years. (1947 is the first "tape" piece, by Pierre Schaeffer. Not the first electronic music by any means. Some electronic instruments date from the 19th century already.)

So this would be my Swiss short list:

Rainer Boesch
Klaus Huber
Beat Furrer
Heinz Holliger
Paul Giger
Voice Crack (a turntable, live electronics group)

Harry

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2007, 11:00:21 PM »
Hans Huber his Symphonies.....

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2007, 03:33:09 AM »
Honegger and Bloch are two of my favourite composers. Honegger's "Liturgique" and Bloch's Piano Quintet No 1 and String Quartet No 1 are, I believe, masterpieces of 20th Century music.
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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2007, 03:40:38 AM »
My favorite Swiss composer by the fair distance over #2 is Othmar Schoeck. Of course, if you are no fan of vocal music, especially lieder (with piano, orchestral, and even string quartet accompaniment), then he won't be under your consideration. He is probably the greatest lied composer in the 20th century, or at least one of the top ones. He also composed a few operas. One critic's assessment that "His music hovers at the edge of atonality" is apt. He also composed some orchestral music as well as chamber music. They are uniformly excellent, though not necessarily masterpieces.

Give him a try.

Offline The new erato

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2007, 06:52:41 AM »
Honegger and Bloch are two of my favourite composers. Honegger's "Liturgique" and Bloch's Piano Quintet No 1 and String Quartet No 1 are, I believe, masterpieces of 20th Century music.
'
If it weren't for Frank Martin, I would agree. And of course Othmar Schoeck gives them a decent run for their money. But there are lots og names mentioned in this thread I would love to explore.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2007, 08:17:01 AM »
I am grateful for the various comments and completely agree with those praising the works of Bloch, Honegger, Martin and Schoeck. These composers have enjoyed considerable exposure on disc-Schoeck, admittedly, less than the first three.

I am not a fan of 'avant-garde' music although I am aware of composers like Klaus Huber and Heinz Holliger. I also did consider mentioning Rolf Liebermann. There is indeed a Naxos CD devoted to Liebermann and I might give it a go although the idea of a Concerto for Jazz Band and Symphony Orchestra doesn't much appeal to me, to be honest.

There is also the music of Vladimir Vogel, the Russian-born composer who settled in Switzerland. His huge oratorio 'Thyl Claes' was recently issued by CPO. Anyone heard it?

Hans Huber? Well, he is a little earlier than I was thinking of..1852-1921...and I did dutifully buy all of his symphonies on the Sterling label but was a tad underwhelmed.

One of my standbys over the years has been the Penguin Guide to European Music in the Twentieth Century(ed. by Howard Hartog) and published as long ago as 1961! This has an excellent chapter on Swiss Music by the composer Iain Hamilton and he wrote most persuasively and enthusiastically about the composers I mentioned, like Beck, Burkhard and Sutermeister.

Should get the CDs of Burkhard and Sutermeister's chorasl works soon and will certainly report back!

springrite

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2007, 08:23:44 AM »
I am grateful for the various comments and completely agree with those praising the works of Bloch, Honegger, Martin and Schoeck. These composers have enjoyed considerable exposure on disc-Schoeck, admittedly, less than the first three.

CPO, Novalis etc. released quite a bit of Schoeck a few years back. I picked them up at the time. I see many of them are OOP at this moment. A few are still lying around. The few Novalis are mostly instrumental works that are NOT modern at all by any stretch of the imagination.

Yes, do report back on your latest adventures and explorations!

Offline some guy

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2007, 12:01:20 AM »
edward, thanks for the tip about the other Furrer album on Kairos. I just got that today. It's very nice.

And thanks for the tip about Holliger's string quartet, too. I don't have that piece for some reason. Not yet, anyway.

pjme

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2007, 03:20:57 PM »
The CD series " Musikszene Schweiz" offers many interesting and good recordings -famous names ( Honegger and Martin) and plenty of lesser known names.

I recommend Hermann ( yes, 2 "n") Suter's "Le laudi" (1923), a 70 mins. oratorio/cantata on Saint Francis " Cantico delle creature" . It was composed in 1923 and is considered to be Suter's magnum opus. (Suter was born 1870 and died in 1926)
Scored for very large forces : 4 soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, bass),mixed choir,children's choir,organ ( piano, celesta,bells) and orchestra .
Inspired by the grandiose natural setting of Sils (Engadin), Suter turns the poem into 9 autonomous musical pictures, each with its own character. Suter's mastery lies in his fusion of a late Romantic idiom and impressionistic influences with archaic sounding techniques ( psalmody, a cappella sections, modal effects, Gregorian motifs ...)

The recording ( (CD 6105) is very good : Andras Ligeti conducts the Budapest PO,Alida Ferrarini,sop;,Vesselina Kasarova,alto, Eduardo Vila,ten.,Marcel Rosca, bass. Hungarian radio chorus and Children's chorus.Andras Viragh, organ.

I find it an impressive and beautiful work -where German and Gallic influences combine in a lofty and lyrical result.



Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2007, 04:48:14 PM »
The CD series " Musikszene Schweiz" offers many interesting and good recordings -famous names ( Honegger and Martin) and plenty of lesser known names.

I recommend Hermann ( yes, 2 "n") Suter's "Le laudi" (1923), a 70 mins. oratorio/cantata on Saint Francis " Cantico delle creature" . It was composed in 1923 and is considered to be Suter's magnum opus. (Suter was born 1870 and died in 1926)
Scored for very large forces : 4 soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, bass),mixed choir,children's choir,organ ( piano, celesta,bells) and orchestra .
Inspired by the grandiose natural setting of Sils (Engadin), Suter turns the poem into 9 autonomous musical pictures, each with its own character. Suter's mastery lies in his fusion of a late Romantic idiom and impressionistic influences with archaic sounding techniques ( psalmody, a cappella sections, modal effects, Gregorian motifs ...)

The recording ( (CD 6105) is very good : Andras Ligeti conducts the Budapest PO,Alida Ferrarini,sop;,Vesselina Kasarova,alto, Eduardo Vila,ten.,Marcel Rosca, bass. Hungarian radio chorus and Children's chorus.Andras Viragh, organ.

I find it an impressive and beautiful work -where German and Gallic influences combine in a lofty and lyrical result.




Thanks, pjme, for reminding me about Hermann Suter. I had completely forgotten that I have Suter's Symphony in D minor(Sterling CD) in my collection!
Must go back now and listen to it again!!

The Suter oratorio "Le Laudi" to which you refer(and which sounds just up my street!) appears to be unavailable unfortunately :(

Offline Al Moritz

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2007, 05:27:29 PM »
Don't forget this outstanding Kyburz dysc:

http://www.amazon.com/Hanspeter-Kyburz-Malstrom-Voynich-Manuscript/dp/B00004TSZM

(Edward reviewed the disc there.)

Offline Al Moritz

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2007, 05:31:30 PM »
« Last Edit: December 09, 2007, 05:33:46 PM by Al Moritz »

Offline Guido

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2007, 06:26:16 PM »
I stopped exploring Schoeck's music after hearing the cello concerto which is quite bad... I will need to listen to his vocal works then.

Sutermeister is a new name to me - will have to check out his cello concertos

Apart from the three biggies that everyone keeps mentioning (Bloch, Honegger, Martin), I also very much admire Willy Burkard's music - refined and polished neoclassical music that is at the same time emotional and very engaging. Somewhat like early Shostakovich in sound (Cello Sonata, Piano quintet). Like all three aforementioned greats, he produced a brilliant work for cello and orchestra - a concertino that holds considerable interest despite its diminuative name (and length). The cello sonata is less interesting (as is Honegger's cello sonata, though the concerto is an absolute gem).
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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2007, 10:29:56 AM »


This Cantata for Christmas time is a world premiere. It was never performed during Martin's life.
FRom the Musiques suisses website : http://www.musiques-suisses.ch/home.asp?home=yes

Cantate pour le temps de Noël (1929/30); Trois Chants de Noël (1947)
 
Mitwirkende: 
Simone Stock, Sopran; Karola Hausburg, Alt; Severin Lohri, Knabensolist der Luzerner Kantorei; Atrium-Ensemble Berlin; Mozart-Ensemble Luzern; Luzerner Kantorei-Knabenchor; Festival Strings Lucerne; Brigitte Gasser, Brian Franklin: Gamben; Hans Adolfsen, Cembalo; Mutsumi Ueno, Orgel; Klaus Durrer, Flöte; Alois Koch, Leitung.
Eine Koproduktion mit Schweizer Radio DRS 2 und der Hochschule Luzern

The 3 Christmassongs are real gems: simple , touching , joyful.... As far as I know, this only the third recording : the classic one with Elly Ameling, Pieter Odé flute and the composer at the piano, the other one on DGG with Anne Sofie Von Otter "and friends".

The website is unfortunately only in French and German....but one can discover Rudolf Kelterborn, Norbert Moret, paul Juon, Jost Meier, Hans Schaeuble, Jean Paul Schlaepfer and many others.
 
« Last Edit: December 10, 2007, 10:37:07 AM by pjme »

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2007, 03:29:57 PM »
The Sutermeister CD I ordered arrived today and mightily impressed with it I am!

It is  Wergo WER 6294-2 and contains the Missa da Requiem(1952/53) and the Te Deum 1975(1974 sic) with Luba Orgonasova(soprano), Roman Trekel(baritone), the Rundfunkchor, Berlin and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester, Berlin conducted by the late Heinz Rogner. The recordings were made in 1992 and 1993.

The intention had been for the Requiem (which is 43 minutes long) to be premiered by Sutermeister's friend, the Russian conductor Issai Dobrowen but he died before the intention could be realised so the first performance was given on Italian radio in Milan conducted by no less than Herbert von Karajan! I found the Requiem moving and profound. Certainly anyone who admires the fine choral compositions of Frank Martin should be equally impressed by the Sutermeister. The Te Deum(25 minutes) is, perhaps, even more impressive: slow moving and in no way celebratory it is certainly a Te Deum written in and for the uncertain 1970s. It is also, however, a most beautiful work.

This is exactly what someone like myself is looking for in seeking out compositions by composers working in traditional forms using a tonal framework(albeit extended tonality) which have been ignored for too long outside the borders of their countries of origin. There are such fine works around but many are denied to us. I would not want to claim-on such brief acquaintance-that Sutermeister is the equal of Frank Martin but he is certainly a composer who can be put into the same bracket.

Highly recommended!

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #18 on: December 13, 2007, 08:45:38 AM »
From my collection I enjoy most the violin concertos by Willy Burkhard, Frank Martin, Ernest Bloch and Jacques Valmond. Also very fine violin concertos are by Othmar Schoeck, Daniel Schnyder, Esther Roth, Paul Huber, Raffaele d'Alessandro and Jean Balissat.

The about 40 other Swiss composers can be found at www.violinconcerto.de




Offline some guy

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Re: Swiss Composers in the 20th Century
« Reply #19 on: December 13, 2007, 06:20:22 PM »
So I got the Kyburz disc out, which I hadn't listened to in a while.

It's pretty good stuff, to be sure!

And Kyburz is all Swiss, not just sort of. That is, in link, it says his parents were both Swiss. They weren't IN Switzerland on the day Hanspeter was born, true, but that kind of thing doesn't affect one's blood in any way.