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Hans HUBER (1852-1921)
Symphony No. 1 Tellsinfonie (1882) [31.05]
Symphony No. 7 Schweizerische (1917) [39.34]
Stuttgarter Philharmoniker/Jörg-Peter Weigle
Rec Philharmonie, Gustav Siegle Haus, Stuttgart, Germany, 19-20 March 2001 (No. 1); 9-11 July 2001
world premiere recordings
STERLING CDS-1042-2 [70.57]


The heritage and activities of the Swiss composer Hans Huber straddled the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His music is resoundingly nineteenth century and positively romantic. This comes as no surprise as his teacher was Carl Reinecke at Leipzig.

This of course is what you would expect of the First Symphony which was written in 1882. Its four movements bounce and lilt their way through a mixture of the dramatic and the bucolic. As a rule of thumb think in terms of early Mahler and the Schumann of the Fourth Symphony and the Overture, Scherzo and Finale. Add in festive elements from Dvorak and Smetana and an infusion from Brahms' Third Symphony (the latter a work yet to be written at the time Huber finished this symphony). In the last movement the sense of direction is only fitfully sustained but this is surely down to the composer rather than conductor, Weigle. I did not find anything specifically Tell-like about the music except that the dramatic episodes might well reflect Tell's nationalist struggle against the Austrian invaders.

The Seventh Symphony was written during days of high tragedy and political uncertainty. As the Great War moved crushingly forward the Russian Revolution opened up new and threatening possibilities. Like many works of that era the music seems oblivious or deliberately opposed to the spirit of the times. Rather like the Tellsinfonie this work, subtitled The Swiss, claims a nationalist theme. According to Dominick Sackmann's outstandingly useful notes the programmatic inspiration of the four movements is concerned with the mountains. Certainly the 14 minute first movement Auf den Bergen has some tempestuous moments (e.g. 11.43) which are tougher than anything to be found in the Tellsinfonie. There is also a swirling grandeur which again might suggest the alpine peaks. The gruff and brusque close to the first moment is quite masterly. The second movement, a Ländlischer Hochzeitszug, is bright and spirited. The music is celebratory with some whooping work for the horns - a touch of Mahler and Goldmark here and even Ludolf Nielsen in his orchestral suites. This is not the mountain music of say Delius or even Richard Strauss but it has about it far more of the atmosphere of the high places than either Hakon Børresen's Second Symphony or Rubinstein's Ocean has of the sea. The third movement runs the risk of sinking into a turgidly dense mellow string and brass texture but overall it works well. The sunset fade of the third movement ties in, most aptly, with the movement's title Abendstimmung in den bergen. The finale shows that Huber had absorbed the language of Schumann and Mahler into his blood stream. Huber ends the symphony well and freshly. No standard farewell gestures for him!

Both works are most affectionately pointed and spun by Weigle and the Stuttgarters who must know more about Huber and his style than any other orchestra. This is after all their fourth Huber disc for Bo Hyttner's Sterling company. Let us salute not only the valiant and insightful Mr Hyttner but also the boardroom and cheque book support of the lottery fund of Kantons Solothurn, the Czeslaw Marek Foundation (a tactful supporter of many projects) and the Friends of the Stuttgart Philharmonic. Without them this disc would not have existed.

Only two more symphonies (4 and 8) to come now. After that perhaps we will get to hear Huber's concertos for piano, violin and cello.

Huber does not have the impressionistic freshness of two young victims of the Great War: George Butterworth (in his Shropshire Lad) or Rudi Stephan (in his Music for Orchestra). That said, a real creative imagination is at work but within the palette boundaries of Raff, Schumann, Brahms and earlyish Mahler.

Rob Barnett

No. 1 William Tell (1882)
No. 2 Böcklin (1900)
No. 3 Heroische (1902)
No. 4
No. 5 Der Geiger von Gmünde (1906)
No. 6 (1911)
No. 7 Schweizerisch (1917)
No. 8 Frühlings-Symphonie (1920)


See also review of other symphonies by Rob Barnett

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