Hermann Scherchen

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Scherchen, Hermann

Scherchen, Hermann, eminent German conductor, father of Tona Scherchen ; b. Berlin, June 21, 1891; d. Florence, June 12, 1966. He was mainly self-taught in music. He learned to play the viola and joined the Blüthner Orch. in Berlin at age 16, then was a member of the Berlin Phil. (1907–10). He worked with Schoenberg (1910–12), and toured as a conductor (1911–12); became conductor of the Riga Sym. Orch. in 1914, but with the outbreak of World War I that same year, he was interned in Russia. After the Armistice, he returned to Berlin and founded the Neue Musikgesellschaft in 1918; also ed. the periodical Melos (1920–21). He was conductor of the Frankfurt am Main Museumgesellschaft concerts (1922–28) and Generalmusikdirektor in Königsberg (1928–33); also conducted at many contemporary-music festivals. With the advent of the Nazi regime in 1933, he settled in Switzerland, where he had conducted the concerts of the Winterthur Musikkollegium from 1922; continued in this capacity until 1947. He also conducted the Zürich Radio Orch. (from 1933), serving as its director (1944–50). He was ed. of the Brussels periodical Musica Viva (1933–36). Scherchen founded the Ars Viva Orch. (1939) and that same year an annual summer school for conductors. After World War II, he resumed his extensive European guest conducting engagements. On Oct. 30, 1964, he made his long-awaited U.S. debut, as a guest conductor with the Philadelphia Orch. He distinguished himself as a scholarly exponent of modern music; conducted many premieres of ultramodern works; publ. a valuable manual, Lehrbuch des Dirigierens (Leipzig, 1929; Eng. tr., 1933, as Handbook of Conducting; 6th ed., 1949); also publ. Vom Wesen der Musik (Zürich, 1946; Eng. tr., 1947, as The Nature of Music); Musik für Jedermann (Winterthur, 1950). J. Lucchesi ed. his Werke und Briefe (Berlin, 1991 et seq.).


M. Kreikle, H. S. 1891–1966: Phonographie: Deutsche Rundfunkproduktionen, Industrietonträger, Eigenaufnahmen (Frankfurt am Main, 1992).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Scherchen, Hermann (b Berlin, 1891; d Florence, 1966). Ger. conductor and violist. Violist in Berlin PO 1907–10. Worked with Schoenberg 1910–12 helping to prepare f.p. of Pierrot Lunaire, making début as cond. 1911. Cond. Riga SO 1914. Founded Berlin soc. for new mus., 1918. Cond. Frankfurt Museum concerts 1922–4. Dir., Musikkollegium, Winterthur, 1922–47. Mus. dir. at Königsberg 1928–33. Left Ger. 1933, making Switzerland his base. Ardent champion of 20th-cent. mus., especially that of Schoenberg and Webern. Cond., Zurich Radio Orch. 1944–50. Opened EMS at Gravesano, 1954. Amer. début, Philadelphia 1964. Cond. f.ps. of operas by Dallapiccola, Henze, and Dessau, and f.ps. of Berg's Three Fragments from Wozzeck (1924), Chamber Concerto (1927), Der Wein (1930), and vn. conc. (1936). Wrote Handbook of Conducting (1929) and The Nature of Music (1946).