Hermann Schroeder: Early Life & Organ Works
Biography: Early Caree
Schroeder grew up in a Catholic household with musical parents. When he was eleven he began receiving piano and organ lessons. For what we might today consider his undergraduate studies, Schroeder studied theology at the seminary of the Jesuits Canisianum in Innsbruck from 1923 to 1926, earning a degree in philosophy and musicology. From 1926 to 1930 he studied sacred music at the Cologne Musikhochschule. During this time, he was heavily influenced by his composition teachers, Heinrich Lemacher and Walter Braunfels. (Lück, n.pag.) After completing his studies in 1930, Schroeder took the state examination for art teachers in composition and organ and passed with distinction.
During the 1930s, Schroeder began to make a name for himself as an organist, musicologist, and composer. His first widely publicized premier was in 1930 with the Frankfurt International Society for the renewal of Catholic church music. Alongside his premier were premiers of other composers of future notoriety – Joseph Ahrens, Johann Nepomuk David, Ernst Pepping, and Flor Peeters – giving Schroeder’s works the attention of his contemporaries (Mohr n.pag.)
This week, I want to feature Schroeder’s organ works, as his organ repertoire represents the entire span of his compositional career from his first opus in 1930 to last in 1984. Being a concert organist and prolific composer for the organ, Schroeder’s music containing the organ is probably that which possess the greatest artistry in his oeuvre. For listening, I have provided samples from various times in his life, covering over 50 years. I have not included those works mentioned previously that are popular in the United States as there are plenty of YouTube recordings of these pieces and they have received enough attention as it is. Through this, I hope to broaden the American organist’s familiarity with this great composer’s other numerous (and perhaps more interesting) works for the organ. Furthermore, I hope to inform listeners and musicians in general about the music of the mostly neglected Hermann Schroeder.
Before listening, a warning and a plea. Once during a correspondence interview with organist John Campbell, Schroeder once said, “For those non specialists in the field [of the organ], the organ tone easily fatigues.” (Campbell 10). I have found this to be true for many. The organ is an instrument not regularly listened to, particularly in the context of virtuoso performances of virtuosic works. The sound of the organ can be harsh for some and can be difficult to aurally understand. Being an organist myself, I am not sure I can appreciate this sentiment, but nevertheless it exists. I ask the listener to find patience and an open ear to appreciate the quality of this music and the majesty of one of the oldest and longest continually performed “classical” musical instruments of Western Civilization.
Schroeder - Recommended Compositions: (click on underlined/highlighted titles to be linked to posted recordings)
Allegro con spirito
Concerto da Chiesa (1984)
What follows in my third post are excerpted score examples of Schroeder’s style as demonstrated on the organ. This discussion is necessarily musical and somewhat technical. The enjoyment of the above music is not contingent on reading these notes, but for the curious musician they might be of interest.
Campbell, John Coleman. Musical Style in the Three Organ Sonatas of
Hermann Schroeder. Rochester: Eastman School of Music, 1975.
Lück, Rudolf, and Erik Levi. 2001. "Schroeder, Hermann". The New
Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited
by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
Mohr, Rainer. Hermann Schroeder Gesellschaft: Biografie. Accessed
February 19, 2016. http://www.hermann-schroeder.de/.