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Hermann Scherchen.
Hermann Scherchen (21 June 1891 in Berlinmarker – 12 June 1966 in Florencemarker) was a Germanmarker conductor.


Scherchen was originally a violist and played among the violas of the Bluthner Orchestra of Berlin while still in his teens. He conducted in Rigamarker from 1914 to 1916 and in Königsbergmarker from 1928 to 1933, after which he left Germany in protest at the Nazi regime and worked in Switzerlandmarker. Along with the philanthropist Werner Reinhart, Scherchen played a leading role in shaping the musical life of Winterthurmarker for many years, with numerous premiere performances, the emphasis being placed on contemporary music.

Making his debut with Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, he was a champion of 20th century composers such as Richard Strauss, Webern, Berg and Varèse, and actively promoted the work of younger contemporary composers including Iannis Xenakis and Luigi Nono.

He was the teacher of Karl Amadeus Hartmann, and contributed to the libretto of Hartmann's opera Simplicius Simplicissimus. He also premiered Hartmann's early work Miserae. The conductor Francis Travis was a pupil, then conducting assistant, for five years.

He is probably best known for his orchestral arrangement (and recording) of Johann Sebastian Bach's The Art of Fugue. Another notable achievement is his 1958 recording of Beethoven's Eroica symphony for the Westminster label (subsequently reissued on compact disc), containing what is still (as of 2006) the fastest first movement ever recorded and the closest to Beethoven's own, problematic, metronome mark. [71807] [71808] His 1953 "Lehrbuch des Dirigierens" ("Treatise on Conducting" ISBN 3-7957-2780-4) is a standard textbook. His recorded repertoire was extremely wide, ranging from Vivaldi to Reinhold Glière.

Like Vasily Safonov and (in later life) Leopold Stokowski, Scherchen commonly avoided the use of a baton. His technique when in this mode sometimes caused problems for players; an unidentified BBC Symphony Orchestra bassoonist told the singer Ian Wallace that interpreting Scherchen's minuscule hand movements was like trying to milk a flying gnat. According to Fritz Spiegl, Scherchen worked largely through verbal instructions to his players and his scores were peppered with reminders of what he needed to say at each critical point in the music.

However, Scherchen did not always dispense with the baton. The film of his rehearsal of his edition of Bach's 'Art of Fugue' with the CBC Toronto Chamber Orchestra shows him using a baton throughout, and very effectively.


After a brief marriage to actress Gerda Müller, Scherchen married Chinese composer Xiao Shuxian. A daughter, Tona Scherchen, was born to them in 1938. She has also made a name for herself as a composer. His last wife was Pia Andronescu from whom he had 5 children.

He was survived by a number of children, from five wives and other women.

One his sons was Wolfgang "Wulff" Scherchen. Wulff's six-year relationship with Benjamin Britten started when he was aged thirteen. John Bridcut describes the passionate exchanges of letters between the famous composer and the young boy in Britten's Children.

His daughter, Myriam Scherchen, runs a record label Tahra which produces historic recordings on CD devoted to famous conductors, including Scherchen himself.

His sister Helen was married to Hungarian cartographer Sándor Radó.


  • "Music does not have to be understood. It has to be listened to."


In 1996 Tahra published the only commercially released recording of Malipiero's complete L'Orfeide. It was a remastered live recording of the 7 June 1966 performance at the Teatro della Pergolamarker in Florence, conducted by Scherchen only five days before his death. The cast included Magda Olivero and Renato Capecchi (Tah 190/191).


  1. The Musikkollegium Winterthur Orchestra
  2. Story told by Wallace during the BBC radio panel game My Music, 1993
  3. Spiegl, Fritz: Music Through the Looking Glass (London, 1984)
  4. Michael H. Kater, The Twisted Muse
  5. Manfriani, Franco, Mito e contemporaneità, Edizioni Pendragon, 2007, pp. 35-36. ISBN 8883425472

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