Werner Herbers, solo oboist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for 35 years and
founder/conductor of the Ebony Band, passed away on June 5, 2023. He spent his life discovering,
performing, promoting and recording works of ‘forgotten’ composers from the interwar period, many
of whom had to flee from the Nazis or were killed in concentration camps. “Achtung, Aufnahme!!” is the
last album on which the Ebony Band will be heard.
Over a period of 32 years, Werner Herbers and the Ebony Band have given over 200 concerts around the
world, promoting the compositions of that time: often absurdist, dadaistic, jazz-infused – styles and
influences that the Nazis labelled as ‘perverse’. The resulting archive of the Ebony Band’s information and
music is transferred to the Netherlands Music Institute in The Hague, where Werner Herbers’ life’s work
will remain accessible for musicians, musicologists and programmers for generations to come.
Werner Herbers hopes that the music of “Grosz, Goehr and Seiber will be rediscovered, recorded,
performed and enjoyed. Just like the other 125 composers from the interwar period whose ‘lost’ works I have
dug up and archived over the past 50 years. Now that I won’t be here for much longer, I am truly grateful to
the Netherlands Music Institute in The Hague that they have taken on the responsibility to preserve my
enormous archive, and keep it accessible to all.”
All the pieces on this new album were written around 1930, have rarely been heard live and are World
Premiere recordings: Achtung, Aufnahme!! by Wilhelm Grosz, Komödien in Europa by Walter Goehr, and
Die vertauschten Manuskripte by Mátyás Seiber.
The CDs arrived at Werner’s home in Amsterdam on May 11, 2023. After three weeks of hoping this
moment would come, it meant the world to him to be able to hold copies of the CD “Achtung,
Aufnahme!!” in his hands.
It is a privilege for all associated with this project to honour Werner’s wishes and an extra delight to be
able to present this new recording to Werner himself which is testament to the exceptional, hardworking
diligent team who managed to turn around the project in a matter of a few weeks. Extensive, in-depth
interviews with Werner about his life’s work were published in Dutch national newspapers De Volkskrant
on May 5 and NRC on May 31s, after which Werner said that his “telephone and email completely exploded,
I have received hundreds of messages from musicians, composers, friends and people I have worked with
over the past decades, it is so much fun and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
About Werner Herbers
Werner Herbers was solo oboist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for 35 years. From 1962 to 1988,
Herbers was oboist and co-artistic director of the Netherlands Wind Ensemble (NBE). In 1990 he founded
the Ebony Band, a group dedicated to rediscovering and performing unknown, forgotten or lost music
from the first half of the 20th century. For his achievements as a musician and music researcher, he was
awarded the Haarlem Hogenbijl Prize in 1997. As a conductor, Werner Herbers performed with his own
Ebony Band, the ASKO Ensemble, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and more.
Beyond classical music of the 20th century, jazz music also played a major role in Herbers’ musical life.
He performed as oboe soloist with the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw and the Jazz Orchestra of
Lincoln Center (Wynton Marsalis) and played double bass with Nico Bunink (who recorded with Charles
Mingus). Besides a more limited research on 3d Stream Music, a genre explored by Gunther Schuller that
pushed the boundaries of avant-garde and jazz music (1940-1960) and produced some very remarkable
compositions (Graettinger), Herbers also conducted the Metropole Orchestra.
For many years, Werner Herbers has been professor at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague and worked
as a coach at the Canton International Music Academy (Guangzhou/China), the Pacific Music Festival
(Sapporo/Japan), the Lindenbaum Festival (Seoul/South Korea) and the Banff Centre (Canada).
About the Ebony Band
From 1990-2022, the Ebony Band championed composers whose careers began in the interwar period
and who, at that time, achieved fame and popularity within a short time. These composers were
innovative, astounding and gave a feeling of broadening, of moving with the times. People expressed
unequivocally in the arts what was going on in society. So the values of nineteenth century art: ‘classical’,
‘loftiness’ and ‘beauty’ were not the starting point, but ‘creativity’, ‘fantasy’ and ‘innovation’ were. Subjects
from everyday life such as crime, adultery, poverty and anything the Nazis labelled as ‘perverse’ was
important material. They did not avoid modern music, dance music, jazz or sounds from the modern
industrial era in their art. In this genre, operas like Jonny spielt auf (Ernst Krenek), Dreigroschenoper
(Kurt Weill) and Maschinist Hopkins (Max Brand) became resounding blockbusters in the years
The Ebony Band devoted many programs to German and Czech music at the time of the Weimar
Republic, which the Nazis called ‘degenerated music’. Other programs focused on composers involved in
the Spanish Civil War, Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas and unknown Russians from the twenties.
Several concerts have been given in collaboration with actors, dancers and writers, or with the addition
of slide or film projection. The Ebony Band has also performed short operas, semi-staged (Wolpe,
Gronostay, Grosz) and radio plays (Seiber, Gronostay, Kahn, Goehr). Many of the ensemble’s recordings
have been awarded prizes: Edison, Gramophone Editor’s Choice, and Diapason d’Or.