Hans Huber

(b. Eppenberg-Wöschnau, 28.6.1852; d. Locarno, 25.12.1921)

Sommernächte, Op. 86

Eine Serenade


During the second half of the nineteenth century, many composers revived the serenade of a century before. It ceased to be music to accompany a social occasion and became instead an outlet for ‘lighter’ music in an age when opera and the symphony had become vehicles for man’s deepest emotions. Many ‘serenades’ appeared for piano or organ (Mendelssohn, Edward MacDowell), voice or instrument and piano (Schubert, Fauré, Massenet, Saint-Saëns), chamber group (Hugo Wolf, Richard Strauss), string orchestra (Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Suk) and for full orchestra (Brahms, Stenhammar). Later still, composers such as Stravinsky and Britten would add to the list.

Hans Huber wrote this serenade in 1884, and gave it the title Sommernächte. The Swiss composer had studied at Leipzig, a pupil of Oscar Paul, but was living in Basel, where he was trying to find permanent employment (he was later to do so, teaching at Basel Conservatory; he would eventually become its director). His output was quite large - eight symphonies, five operas and concertos for piano, violin and cello.

His one symphonic essay so far had been the 1882 Tellsymphonie, OP. 65, and still to come were symphonies that bore subtitles such as Heroic and Academic, so the Sommernächte serenade allowed a clear lightening of atmosphere. He also seems to have been having difficulty working on a second symphony, which he later abandoned (his true second did not appear until 1900), and it is possible that the serenade was an attempt to revive his inspiration. Brahms’s two serenades had performed a similar role for another hesitant symphonist.

The Sommernächte serenade has four movements, clearly following a symphonic model, with the scherzo second. The spirit of Mendelssohn is never far away (as befits music from a Leipzig-trained composer) and is very evident in the Scherzo.

The work was first performed in Basel, on 15 March 1884.

Nachdruck eines Exemplars aus der Sammlung Phillip Brookes, Roxas City.