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Thread: Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951)

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    Well, wanted to say thanks, AGAIN, to flamenco, starthrower, Blancrocher, million and others for keeping this thread ALIVE, and active. To be honest, it's sometimes a bit difficult to "warm-up", so to speak, to Schoenberg ... or even Berg ... and of course, Mr. von Webern (and his aphorisms). ... The Berg Violin Concerto MAINTAINS it's strength and appeal, to me ... and Schoenberg has many examples .... Moses und Aron, some/many of the chamber works, Gurrelieder, and those FIVE PIECES FOR ORCHESTRA, that keep his legacy alive. I still think (and am sure that others have expressed this opinion, before) that Arnold and the Viennese 3 were trying, somehow, to construct a music that could ESCAPE could be different from Wagner, or maybe Debussy/Ravel, or others of a certain transitional period. We're still assessing the potential success/failure of that attempt, in the light of retrospect ... or our 20/20 vision, maybe, in hindsight. Anyway, thanks for the many, succinct posts on the subject!

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    I have no problem listening to the music of the Second Viennese School. Some listeners may fail to enjoy much of it but I don't think that's a legitimate reason for considering that the music is a failure in its compositional framework. To my ears the music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern is highly expressive and it communicates to this listener. There's plenty of tonal music that doesn't speak to me as a listener but that says nothing about the compositions, but only my particular taste or ability to enjoy it.
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    ...and even if Schoenberg hadn't used the 12-tone system, I'm sure that he, Berg, and Webern would be remembered for their contributions to the Late-Romantic music tradition. Also, Schoenberg's textbook on harmony, the Harmonielehre, would establish him as a major music theorist.

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    (also partially reproduced in Current Listening)

    String Trios: Goeyvaerts String Trio (Challenge Classics 2010). I recommend this. I've always had a difficulty with Schoenberg's String Trio Op. 45, and now I know why, or at least I think I do. It's half noise/sound and half music, in contrasting sections.


    Somehow, the Goeyvaerts String Trio makes this clear, and the programming of the CD helps, too: Hearing Schnittke's String Trio (1985), it sounds absolutely tonal next to Schoenberg. Somehow the contrast clarifies it, so kudos for intelligent programming. The Webern String Trio Op. 20 is played very nicely, too. The recording is excellent.

    But this represents for me a new breakthrough, a new understanding of the String Trio Op. 45; that Schoenberg was, by this time (post-war 1945) concerned with more than the usual musical elements of pitch, rhythm, and phrasing; he was starting to use music as a descriptive element of pure sound, divorced from syntax.

    From WIK, we read:

    During the 1920s and 1930s, electronic instruments were introduced and the first compositions for electronic instruments were made. By the 1940s, magnetic audio tape allowed musicians to tape sounds and then modify them by changing the tape speed or direction, leading to the development of electroacoustic tape music in the 1940s, in Egypt and France. Musique concrète, created in Paris in 1948, was based on editing together recorded fragments of natural and industrial sounds. Music produced solely from electronic generators was first produced in Germany in 1953.

    Schoenberg didn't pass until 1951, and it's very possible that he was very aware of what was going on in the areas of cinema and electronics, and sound in general.

    Schoenberg himself said that his String Trio Op. 45 was based on his experiences in hospital, and teased us with the statement that it is indeed descriptive of this experience, right down to the injection that he received.

    Knowing this, it's now easier for me to approach this formerly "difficult" and confounding work. In fact, it may become one of my favorites, now that I know that there is no exclusive syntax of pitch, theme, rhythm, or "theme" to decipher; I can largely listen to it now as "just sound," as Morton Feldman said about his own music.





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    ^I can't say that I'm following everything you just said, but I would agree that Schoenberg's String Trio is one of his most revolutionary works, and probably one of his best chamber works. I have the LaSalle paired with Verklarte Nacht and it's a great pairing, the first of his chamber masterpieces and the last. The CD you mention sounds great! I will have to get my hands on it.

    I have not been really listening to Schoenberg lately. I got this CD a few weeks ago but haven't spent much time with it yet...:



    The Bach stuff is awesome. Proof that Bach was a hot-blooded Romantic like the rest of us. The Variations are very good too. The liner notes suggests that it's his largest scale orchestral work. (I'm assuming they are speaking strictly of the 12-tone period.) Again I have not spent as much time with this CD as I'd like to. I haven't heard the Serenade here yet at all. For that work, I really like the Rosbaud SWF recording from 1958. (Pretty daring programming for a radio orchestra of the time, no?)

    Anyway, I'll have to make it a point to listen to a bit of Schoenberg today. Maybe that Serenade.

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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    I have not been really listening to Schoenberg lately. I got this CD a few weeks ago but haven't spent much time with it yet...:
    The Orchestral Variations Op. 31 has grown to be one of my favorite Schoenberg works. It's very abstract, and to me it seems to be exploring the harmonic/vertical aspects of the 12-tone method. Since it's not so much counterpoint, it makes it seem like some ultra-modern version of harmony. Also, there must be somewhat of a "chance" element to using 12-tone this way, since it seems to be a linear process; even if that's wrong, how much could you plan-out a tone row to yield harmonic results to give enough variety? Maybe the secret lies in all those row transpositions and permutations. Maybe harmony is simpler than we realize. But I ramble...
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Nov-15-2019 at 22:26.

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    I'm listening to more of the Gielen set. An exciting performance of the Five Pieces For Orchestra recorded live. The string quartet no.2, and Variations for Orchestra are also live.
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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    I'm listening to more of the Gielen set. An exciting performance of the Five Pieces For Orchestra recorded live. The string quartet no.2, and Variations for Orchestra are also live.
    String Quartet No.2? Is it a string orchestra arrangement?

    I listened to and really enjoyed the Variations earlier, Craft/Philharmonia. It's very sumptuous for what it is. I often hear atonal, highly chromatic, and 12-tone music as being an explosion of color; this is not that, exactly, but more of a subtle and tasteful swirl of impressions. It really may be more about harmony than counterpoint, as Million suggests, which I suppose would make it somewhat unique among Schoenberg's works.

    Excuse my theoretical illiteracy. This brings up a further question: Does one need to understand the intricate workings of the 12-tone technique (inversions, retrogrades, retrograde-inversions and all that jazz) to really appreciate Schoenberg's music? How much of the music exists solely on an intellectual level, and how much is just "there in the air" to be heard and enjoyed...? If the ratio weighs more heavily toward the former, this might explain why I find Schoenberg so much more challenging than some of the other 12-tone composers like Webern, Berg, and Boulez, all of which are more immediate to me than Schoenberg.

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    Yeah, a string orchestra arrangement and the soprano vocalist is fantastic! Her name is Slavka Tashkova. Recorded in 1975. She's also on that Nono DG album with Pollini. I don't need to understand how this music was constructed on a theoretical level. Music is about feelings, emotion, and imagination. I love the highly expressive bursts of energy and dynamics in this kind of music.
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    Does one need to understand the intricate workings of the 12-tone technique (inversions, retrogrades, retrograde-inversions and all that jazz) to really appreciate Schoenberg's music?
    It's really not all that complicated, but it does require that you think. We all learned arithmetic in school, didn't we? I can count to 12; does that make me a genius?

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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    I don't need to understand how this music was constructed on a theoretical level. Music is about feelings, emotion, and imagination. I love the highly expressive bursts of energy and dynamics in this kind of music.
    But what if you are confronted with music that is not concerned with those things? What do you do then?

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    I just listen to it. Even if I were to study the compositional techniques of musical construction it will not unlock the mystery of imagination. Only logical choices for developing germs of ideas that composers brew up in their brains.

    Does a patient need to understand what the surgeon knows in order to benefit from surgery? The answer is no. If I study creative writing will I understand the genius of Dostoevsky or the mystery of Kafka? I can read their works without taking graduate literary courses.
    Last edited by starthrower; Nov-16-2019 at 16:25.
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    If music is about feelings, emotion, and imagination, then what if you are confronted with music that is not concerned with those things? What do you do then?

    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    I just listen to it. Even if I were to study the compositional techniques of musical construction it will not unlock the mystery of imagination. Only logical choices for developing germs of ideas that composers brew up in their brains...Does a patient need to understand what the surgeon knows in order to benefit from surgery? The answer is no. If I study creative writing will I understand the genius of Dostoevsky or the mystery of Kafka? I can read their works without taking graduate literary courses.
    Excellent! It sounds like you are ready for the music of John Cage!
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Nov-16-2019 at 17:27.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    It sounds like you are ready for the music of John Cage!
    I find Cage kinda boring.
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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    I find Cage kinda boring.
    So you admit it; you do have a brain!

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