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This is a blast! Another of Edition RZ’s great early issues comes up again, presenting pioneering early 20th century conductor and modernist champion Herman Scherchen leading rehearsals for performances of Beethoven’s 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th symphonies in Lugano, Switzerland, 1965.
As fate would have it, these recordings of Scherchen sniping orders at the RTSI Orchestra (Radiotelevisione della Svizzera italian) during rehearsals were spontaneously recorded by sound engineer Dr. Ermanno Briner-Aimo, who was understandably fascinated by the man’s methods, would become Scherchen’s last work as he died in 1966 aged 75.
What remains, aside from his some 140 + recordings, is perhaps one of the most enduring testaments to his technique, which would not have been so startlingly apparent during the final performance as he reserved himself to the more usual baton gestures of a conductor, or as was said in Harry Goldschmidt’s obituary for the great man; “if Scherchen succeeded in getting the best possible performances out of such diverse and qualitatively different orchestras after surprisingly few rehearsals, it was due in no small part to the unsurpassed precision of his musical terminology/ He was capable of conveying the most subtle intentions to members of the orchestra… This might have been the reason why Scherchen was oftentimes more “interesting” during rehearsals than at actual performances.”