Hermann Scherchen / Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra - Mozart - Symphonies Nos. 29 in A major, KV 201 and 35 in D major, KV 504 "Haffner"
(Hermann Scherchen - Part I)
An artist from the past who I greatly admire (whose ideas remain, though, more current than ever) is the German conductor Hermann Scherchen (1899-1966). Scherchen was perhaps the greatest pioneer and interpreter of New Music of the 20th century. But due to an uncommon artistic vision coupled with an equally uncommon set of social ideals, Scherchen was a lot more as well.
The son of a restaurant proprietor in Berlin, Scherchen was basically self-taught as a musician. From 1907-1910 he played the viola in the Berlin Bluehtner Orchestra in addition to temporary jobs with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Having become acquainted with the composer Arnold Schoenberg, Scherchen's conducting debut came in 1912 when he directed the former's chamber symphony "Pierrot Lunaire." His first regular tenure as conductor - an entirely successful one - was with the Riga Symphony Orchestra from 1912 through 1914. During the First World War Scherchen was interned in Russia and became profoundly impressed with the ideas informing the October Revolution. These impressions remained with Scherchen following his return to Germany in 1920, and he launched himself into a single-minded and courageous effort to translate them into concrete artistic practices. The magazine "Melos" was founded in 1920; other conducting engagements followed; and in 1933 Scherchen left Germany, continuing to devote himself to the cause of New Music by means of conducting as well as publishing projects throughout Europe. The high-point of Scherchen's efforts, however, came following the Second World War with the founding of the Gravesano experimental music studio, in addition to his extensive editing activities.
Probably no conductor of the last century directed more first performances: works by Schoenberg, Berg, Haba, Hartmann, Roussel, Webern, R. Strauss, Dallapicolla, Dessau, Stockhausen, Varese, Henze, Blacher, Xenakis and Ballif. Scherchen's entire repertoire, on the other hand, was extremely wide and diverse, ranging from Geminiani to Reger. In addition, Scherchen's interpretations of 19th century music - and particularly of Mozart's music - remain without equal. Scherchen's "Handbook of Conducting" can still be considered a standard work on the subject.
Scherchen was one of the few conductors to conduct without a baton; and it was often his habit, following a performance, to hold the music score up to the public in order to divert attention away from himself, and back to what the audience had just heard.
Finally, it was Hermann Scherchen's belief that "music does not have to be understood. It has to be listened to."
Scherchen's Mozart recordings seem to be difficult to come by (at least for me - but then, I've always had difficulty being everywhere at once ... unlike some collectors I've known).
In any event, here are two outstanding 1950 Mozart performances of Hermann Scherchen. I hope they fill some gaps in a few libraries (as they certainly did in mine).