Saturday evening and Sunday morning chorus and orchestra rehearsals make you penetrate into an atmosphere of intense work, however freed from any feeling of oppression. Efforts are raised to maximum. But in joy, a kind of happy confidence. Victory is near after the hard work of numerous rehearsals. Everybody, instrumentalists and chorists, gives oneself up entirely and Carl Schuricht, his brow flooded with sweat, but calm, stimulates, spiritualizes energies. There is heroism in that, one must say why. Paris National Orchestra disposed of no breathing-space after the heavy days of Edinburgh and Besançon festivals. In Montreux, rehearsals would follow one another, day and Sunday, without respite, without rousing any recrimination, like it is normal. Musicians live with the hope in a week's vacation which would be granted when they are back in Paris.
You surprise these Parisian musicians in the skimpy rooms of the back-stage, littered with cases destined for the transport of musical instruments. In concert dress, wearing a white tie, they warm their fingers up, give the finishing touch to a difficult piece, much less worried about matters of comfort than penetrated with the feeling of responsibility arising from the servitudes of the honour bound to the position they are commissioned to defend.
Ah ! good people ! is what you think too when you see at work the army of chorists from Chailly sur Clarens and from La Tour-de-Peilz. United in the sacred coude à coude, without any social or professional discrimination, vine-growers, farmers, craftsmen, school-masters, school-mistresses from the village, from the small town, all burning with the same enthusiasm, indifferent to long standing positions, they have, on this Sunday morning, for three hours, far beyond noon, perfected the magnificent work of rehearsal, untiringly taught during weeks by Carl Schuricht and Robert Mermoud.
But regarding endurance, spiritual vitality - the one that overcomes any obstacle - unanimity is done around Carl Schuricht, around the exacting and full of goodness conductor, admired by all musicians. To him the crown.
About symphonic concerts he conducted in Berlin at the beginning of the century, Weingartner used to say that because of the exceptional fatigues caused by rehearsals of the IXe Symphony, he had obtained that the dress rehearsal takes place two days before the concert.
Try and place such conditions nowadays ! Rythm of concerts has quickened. One must wolf one's food. In Montreux, orchestra reading, chorus, soloists, orchestra rehearsals, and concert, all has to be done within two days because of financial motives. Imagine the stress, especially for the conductor.
Now, Carl Schuricht, 74 years old, glorious and smiling victor, gets out of the adventure that frightened the young Weingartner from fifty years ago. The IXe, in spite of the Salle du Pavillon that extinguishes sonorities, interrupts their flight, dooms any expression to ground level, will remain written among the feats of the musical annals of Montreux.
Wagner, the first, pointed out the necessary retouches to be brought to the instrumentation of the Old Deaf Man, confined in loneliness and whose giant and brilliant work has looked like a wild and barbaric lucubration for a long time. Wagner, first again, did the spade-work on the piece that was declared incomprehensible and disclosed it to audiences from now on bowed down to the ground in admiration. However the Nineth Symphony remains a masterpiece that is difficult to approach and one attacks it all of a flutter. Woe unto the conductor whose experience, talent, is not hardened enough. He would collide against the unusual dimensions and would make the audience to yawn in boredom. There is nothing similar to be feared with Carl Schuricht whose prophetic vision hangs over immensities, penetrating, illuminating every recess. Uniting sovereign placidity to dramatic force, he presides over the tragically painful development of the first movement which has the demoniac powers of a scherzo emphasized by kettledrum strokes, suddenly interrupted by a ronde, both pastoral and fevered with passion ; over the sublime effusions of an adagio vast and traitorous like sea ; over heart-rending recitatives leading up to the finale with chorus, the whirl of which goes up and grows in the exaltation of a joy beyond measure. All converges to this famous final point. There the chorus works are redoubtable and have been declared unrealizable for a long time. The upper compass of the soprano remains in regions of little access. But all is possible to those inhabited by a wild will, a faith that can not be weakened. The text by Schiller possesses them. Nothing left of the hard and sharp hammering in the Hymn to Joy. Our valiant Vaudois sing in German with a supple, easy, coloured declamation. That is the triumph of a pure and delectable vocal style even in the most feared pieces. All sounds magnificently ; especially men voices work wonders.
The whole performance of this historical Nineth is to scale with the magnificently prepared chorus that makes the admiration of the famous Parisian instrumentalists. For a long time, likely, one would not hear by our region, in the Nineth, these instrumental sonorities the memory of which makes tears to well up in one's eyes : expressive and supplicating cantilenas from oboes, from bassoons, and above all by violoncellos the pianissimo performance, fed by the infinitely sweet harmony of the strings, of the theme of the joy, top of the score.
Let's display, for an end, the transcendent merits of the soloist quatuor, wonderfully trained by Carl Schuricht whose intervention everywhere seizes you like a blessing, and composed of Maria Stader, soprano, Katharina Marti, alto, Waldemar Kmentt, tenor, Heinz Rehfuss, bass.
(Nouvelle Revue de Lausanne, September 14th, 1954)
(Translated by Dr Rouillé, May 29th, 1997)
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