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Thread: Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951)

  1. #961
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    So you admit it; you do have a brain!
    Everything is in flux so you gotta hit it at the right time.
    “Music makes you feel feelings. Words make you think thoughts. But a song can make you feel a thought.”

    - Yip Harburg

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  3. #962
    Senior Member Dirge's Avatar
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    I’ve been revisiting my favorite (and borderline favorite) works and recordings of Arnold Schoenberg …

    Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 (1906)
    :: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra [DG ’89]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnIw..._Dj0wCxrCLTJ3t
    The performance is a wee bit fast and neutral/generalized in character (in that conductorless way that orchestras without conductors are wont to be), but it’s so damn well played that it still strikes me as the most compelling account of the Chamber Symphony that I’ve heard on record, one that embraces the work’s busy/hyperactive nature (sounding like Richard Strauss on an acid bender) rather than trying to temper it.

    Friede auf Erden, Op. 13 (1907)
    :: Ericson/Rundfunkchor Stockholm [EMI ’71]
    This strong, resolute, ever-advancing performance has a compelling sense of inevitability about it, and Ericson builds climaxes with great dramatic instincts and a Greek sculptor’s sense of proportion. There are more detailed/analytical/fussy accounts of the work to be had, but they lack the cumulative impact and sense of communion and common purpose of this one—Peace on Earth, indeed.

    String Quartet No. 2 in F-sharp minor, Op. 10 (1907/08)
    :: Price, LaSalle Quartet [DG ’69]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1Bl...ZqOFKAcyDSSIFP
    Margaret Price is far and away my favorite vocalist in this work, getting its Late Romantic-Early Modern Expressionist balance just right to my ears. The LaSalle Quartet is perhaps a bit too streamlined and modern by comparison, but singer and quartet are quite complementary in their modestly contrasting ways. The group takes the first movement too quickly, but that’s the only aspect of the performance that I can’t quite get used to.

    Three Piano Pieces, Op. 11 (1909)
    :: Arrau [BBC, live ’59] ica/BBC Legends
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irIA42YTnX0
    Claudio Arrau and Arnold Schoenberg—I’m pretty damn sure that I’ve never put them together in the same thought before, but clearly I should have, as this is the most compelling account that I’ve heard of any of Schoenberg’s piano music. Like Pollini [DG ’74], Arrau takes the music at a fairly good clip, but Arrau’s playing has a certain gravitas, majesty even, that Pollini’s and others’ doesn’t, and he conveys the music with an uncommonly strong sense of dramatic narrative, generating much tension, suspense, and drama while craftily building climaxes. Pollini does well in those respects given his more pointillistic approach, but the music still has an avant-garde air about it in his hands, whereas it comes across as established/standard repertoire in Arrau’s hands—no atonal experimentation, just music-making. Arrau has the great advantage of being recording live in recital—which always brings out the best in him—during his absolute prime (from the early/mid 1950s to the early 1960s in my estimation).

    Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16 (1909)
    :: Kubelik, CSO [Mercury ’53]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otKv...81q8QZ8fkLu-IF
    This performance combines tremendous orchestral power with tremendous orchestral control in a beautifully coordinated contrapuntal choreography that’s finely detailed without a hint of fussiness or analytical highlighting (of the kind often associated with Boulez). As I hear it, Kubelik/CSO does for Five Pieces for Orchestra what Arrau does for Three Piano Pieces.

    Erwartung, Op. 17 (1909)
    :: Silja, Craft/Philharmonia [Koch ’00] Naxos
    If Silja is moderately hysterical in her earlier recording with Dohnányi and the VPO [Decca ’79], she’s severely hysterical 21 years on with Craft and the Philharmonia, adopting a more hyper-active and -volatile (and correspondingly less smooth and lyrical) manner that leaves not even the tiniest Expressionist stone unturned. For their part, Craft and the Philharmonia provide a vivid, scrupulously detailed orchestral setting for Silja to act out her hysteria, and all is captured in clean, clear, detailed sound that is, for better or worse, a touch cool and analytical.

    Pierrot lunaire, Op. 21 (1912)
    :: DeGaetani, Weisberg/Contemporary Chamber Ensemble [Nonesuch ’70]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uerr...wn98dGH3YEC_VA
    I flirt with new recordings of Pierrot lunaire from time to time, but I always end up returning home to this one at the end of the listening day. DeGaetani’s portrayal is more multifaceted, intricately wrought, subtly shaded, and just plain sophisticated than anyone else’s, generating melodrama and a quirkily tense and moonstruck atmosphere with great expressive economy and efficiency. Her sprechstimme is lyrical without devolving into singing, and she always sounds as if she’s telling a story to you the listener (rather than simply emoting), which I think is the great underlying strength of her performance—think of her as an atonal Expressionist Scheherazade. Weisberg and company are well-matched partners, deftly setting the scene and establishing the atmosphere while still complementing DeGaetani. It’s not an especially bold, dynamic, and volatile performance, but it’s shrewdly pointed and contrasted and makes a strong impact in its more insidious and cumulative way.

    Wind Quintet, Op. 26 (1924)
    :: Phoenix Ensemble [Albany ’12]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPNE...cJiuDZRzhQK6dZ
    The Wind Quintet is not really a favorite of mine, and at 36 minutes it certainly outstays its welcome, but I listen to it more than I like it for some reason. This brisk, invigorating, colorful performance is rather aggressively recorded, with tight miking and little acoustic blending. The Phoenix Ensemble stands up well to the close scrutiny, but the listening experience is more bracing than comfortable.

    Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31 (1926–28)
    :: Scherchen/BRSO [live ’53] Tahra
    Scherchen leads a gritty, intense, unflaggingly focused and concentrated performance that manages, despite the dearth of tonal beauty (you’ll not mistake this for Mehta/LAPO [Decca ’68] or Karajan/BPO [DG ’74]) and the early mono sound, to be not only the most compelling but the most atmospheric that I know.

    Moses und Aron ~ Act II, scene 3: “Der Tanz um das goldenen Kalb” (1930/32)
    :: Scherchen/Chor and Orchester des Landestheaters Darmstadt [Darmstadt, live ’51] Tahra
    Scherchen here conducts the world premiere of the most famous and substantial scene (plus a bit more) from the opera, and the performance is as highly charged and frisson-filled as it could possibly be despite some unstable, even wobbly, execution—there’s a palpable sense of occasion and going for the gusto that simply isn’t found in any other recorded account. For a recording of the “complete” incomplete opera, I turn to Kegel/RSO Leipzig [Eterna ’78], but Scherchen’s “Golden Calf” premiere is the ultimate one-off Moses und Aron listening experience.

    String Trio, Op. 45 (1946)
    :: members of the Juilliard Quartet [Columbia ’66]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Gd9Zt3JMq8
    Even by the Juilliard’s severe, intensely wrought standards of the 1960s, this is an uncommonly severe, intensely wrought performance, sounding as if it were etched in stone rather than tape-recorded. It’s slow, but Mann and his two cohorts don’t blink once the whole damn time, as the playing could hardly be more focused and concentrated. On the downside, they steamroll the lilt out of the lilting Viennese passages and otherwise force the music to comply to their collective will. Still, the performance is so single-minded and uncompromising that it demands to be heard. For a more flexible and well-rounded alternative featuring actual chamber music-like give-and-take, I favor the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival [Nonesuch ’81], but it’s still trapped on LP and cassette tape (along with an equally outstanding account of Verkärte Nacht), having yet to be released in digital format. Trio Zimmermann [BIS ’16] play the bejesus out of the trio, and its account ought to be my favorite, but for reasons that even Sigmund Freud on a good day couldn’t explain, I prefer the Juilliard and Santa Fe accounts.

    A Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46 (1947)
    :: Reich, Boulez/BBC SO & Chorus [CBS/Sony ’76]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wbcuMkkuNQ
    Günter Reich gives a painfully and powerfully direct narration of gut-wrenching intensity, and Boulez and the BBC forces match him. It’s tough to beat A Survivor from Warsaw for raw emotional impact, especially via such a great performance.
    Last edited by Dirge; Mar-01-2020 at 05:14.

  4. #963
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Excellent post, Dirge!
    “Music makes you feel feelings. Words make you think thoughts. But a song can make you feel a thought.”

    - Yip Harburg

  5. #964
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirge View Post
    I’ve been revisiting my favorite (and borderline favorite) works and recordings of Arnold Schoenberg …

    Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 (1906)
    :: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra [DG ’89]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnIw..._Dj0wCxrCLTJ3t
    The performance is a wee bit fast and neutral/generalized in character (in that conductorless way that orchestras without conductors are wont to be), but it’s so damn well played that it still strikes me as the most compelling account of the Chamber Symphony that I’ve heard on record, one that embraces the work’s busy/hyperactive nature (sounding like Richard Strauss on an acid bender) rather than trying to temper it.

    Friede auf Erden, Op. 13 (1907)
    :: Ericson/Rundfunkchor Stockholm [EMI ’71]
    This strong, resolute, ever-advancing performance has a compelling sense of inevitability about it, and Ericson builds climaxes with great dramatic instincts and a Greek sculptor’s sense of proportion. There are more detailed/analytical/fussy accounts of the work to be had, but they lack the cumulative impact and sense of communion and common purpose of this one—Peace on Earth, indeed.

    String Quartet No. 2 in F-sharp minor, Op. 10 (1907/08)
    :: Price, LaSalle Quartet [DG ’69]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1Bl...ZqOFKAcyDSSIFP
    Margaret Price is far and away my favorite vocalist in this work, getting its Late Romantic-Early Modern Expressionist balance just right to my ears. The LaSalle Quartet is perhaps a bit too streamlined and modern by comparison, but singer and quartet are quite complementary in their modestly contrasting ways. The group takes the first movement too quickly, but that’s the only aspect of the performance that I can’t quite get used to.

    Three Piano Pieces, Op. 11 (1909)
    :: Arrau [BBC, live ’59] ica/BBC Legends
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irIA42YTnX0
    Claudio Arrau and Arnold Schoenberg—I’m pretty damn sure that I’ve never put them together in the same thought before, but clearly I should have, as this is the most compelling account that I’ve heard of any of Schoenberg’s piano music. Like Pollini [DG ’74], Arrau takes the music at a fairly good clip, but Arrau’s playing has a certain gravitas, majesty even, that Pollini’s and others’ doesn’t, and he conveys the music with an uncommonly strong sense of dramatic narrative, generating much tension, suspense, and drama while craftily building climaxes. Pollini does well in those respects given his more pointillistic approach, but the music still has an avant-garde air about it in his hands, whereas it comes across as established/standard repertoire in Arrau’s hands—no atonal experimentation, just music-making. Arrau has the great advantage of being recording live in recital—which always brings out the best in him—during his absolute prime (from the early/mid 1950s to the early 1960s in my estimation).

    Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16 (1909)
    :: Kubelik, CSO [Mercury ’53]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otKv...81q8QZ8fkLu-IF
    This performance combines tremendous orchestral power with tremendous orchestral control in a beautifully coordinated contrapuntal choreography that’s finely detailed without a hint of fussiness or analytical highlighting (of the kind often associated with Boulez). As I hear it, Kubelik/CSO does for Five Pieces for Orchestra what Arrau does for Three Piano Pieces.

    Erwartung, Op. 17 (1909)
    :: Silja, Craft/Philharmonia [Koch ’00] Naxos
    If Silja is moderately hysterical in her earlier recording with Dohnányi and the VPO [Decca ’79], she’s severely hysterical 21 years on with Craft and the Philharmonia, adopting a more hyper-active and -volatile (and correspondingly less smooth and lyrical) manner that leaves not even the tiniest Expressionist stone unturned. For their part, Craft and the Philharmonia provide a vivid, scrupulously detailed orchestral setting for Silja to act out her hysteria, and all is captured in clean, clear, detailed sound that is, for better or worse, a touch cool and analytical.

    Pierrot lunaire, Op. 21 (1912)
    :: DeGaetani, Weisberg/Contemporary Chamber Ensemble [Nonesuch ’70]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uerr...wn98dGH3YEC_VA
    I flirt with new recordings of Pierrot lunaire from time to time, but I always end up returning home to this one at the end of the listening day. DeGaetani’s portrayal is more multifaceted, intricately wrought, subtly shaded, and just plain sophisticated than anyone else’s, generating melodrama and a quirkily tense and moonstruck atmosphere with great expressive economy and efficiency. Her sprechstimme is lyrical without devolving into singing, and she always sounds as if she’s telling a story to you the listener (rather than simply emoting), which I think is the great underlying strength of her performance—think of her as an atonal Expressionist Scheherazade. Weisberg and company are well-matched partners, deftly setting the scene and establishing the atmosphere while still complementing DeGaetani. It’s not an especially bold, dynamic, and volatile performance, but it’s shrewdly pointed and contrasted and makes a strong impact in its more insidious and cumulative way.

    Wind Quintet, Op. 26 (1924)
    :: Phoenix Ensemble [Albany ’12]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPNE...cJiuDZRzhQK6dZ
    The Wind Quintet is not really a favorite of mine, and at 36 minutes it certainly outstays its welcome, but I listen to it more than I like it for some reason. This brisk, invigorating, colorful performance is rather aggressively recorded, with tight miking and little acoustic blending. The Phoenix Ensemble stands up well to the close scrutiny, but the listening experience is more bracing than comfortable.

    Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31 (1926–28)
    :: Scherchen/BRSO [live ’53] Tahra
    Scherchen leads a gritty, intense, unflaggingly focused and concentrated performance that manages, despite the dearth of tonal beauty (you’ll not mistake this for Mehta/LAPO [Decca ’68] or Karajan/BPO [DG ’74]) and the early mono sound, to be not only the most compelling but the most atmospheric that I know.

    Moses und Aron ~ Act II, scene 3: “Der Tanz um das goldenen Kalb” (1930/32)
    :: Scherchen/Chor and Orchester des Landestheaters Darmstadt [Darmstadt, live ’51] Tahra
    Scherchen here conducts the world premiere of the most famous and substantial scene (plus a bit more) from the opera, and the performance is as highly charged and frisson-filled as it could possibly be despite some unstable, even wobbly, execution—there’s a palpable sense of occasion and going for the gusto that simply isn’t found in any other recorded account. For a recording of the “complete” incomplete opera, I turn to Kegel/RSO Leipzig [Eterna ’78], but Scherchen’s “Golden Calf” premiere is the ultimate one-off Moses und Aron listening experience.

    String Trio, Op. 45 (1946)
    :: members of the Juilliard Quartet [Columbia ’66]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Gd9Zt3JMq8
    Even by the Juilliard’s severe, intensely wrought standards of the 1960s, this is an uncommonly severe, intensely wrought performance, sounding as if it were etched in stone rather than tape-recorded. It’s slow, but Mann and his two cohorts don’t blink once the whole damn time, as the playing could hardly be more focused and concentrated. On the downside, they steamroll the lilt out of the lilting Viennese passages and otherwise force the music to comply to their collective will. Still, the performance is so single-minded and uncompromising that it demands to be heard. For a more flexible and well-rounded alternative featuring actual chamber music-like give-and-take, I favor the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival [Nonesuch ’81], but it’s still trapped on LP and cassette tape (along with an equally outstanding account of Verkärte Nacht), having yet to be released in digital format. Trio Zimmermann [BIS ’16] play the bejesus out of the trio, and its account ought to be my favorite, but for reasons that even Sigmund Freud on a good day couldn’t explain, I prefer the Juilliard and Santa Fe accounts.

    A Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46 (1947)
    :: Reich, Boulez/BBC SO & Chorus [CBS/Sony ’76]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wbcuMkkuNQ
    Günter Reich gives a painfully and powerfully direct narration of gut-wrenching intensity, and Boulez and the BBC forces match him. It’s tough to beat A Survivor from Warsaw for raw emotional impact, especially via such a great performance.
    I shall have to try to hear The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival recording of op 45.

    It would be nice to know what prompted Arrau to play op 11 -- especially given that he didn't record late Brahms.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Mar-01-2020 at 11:42.

  6. #965
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    I've now heard The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival recording of op 45 -- it is indeed excellent (an not surprising given the quality if the performers!) Thanks for pointing it out.

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    Senior Member Janspe's Avatar
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    Haven't posted anything in a while because of my incredibly busy early 2020, but here's something for any Schoenberg fan to consider:

    Faust.jpg

    I've been waiting for Faust's recording of the Schoenberg concerto to appear for years, ever since I fell in love with her amazingly raw account of the Berg concerto with Abbado. I was expecting her reading to reveal new sides of this enigmatic work and I wasn't disappointed. It's very different in comparison to the (arguably) most famous interpretation of the work by Hilary Hahn - which was done with the same orchestra! Really happy to see this piece getting more and more recognition in the Schoenberg discography.

    The coupling is a completetly satisfying Verklärte Nacht in its original sextet version, but I already know dozens of good versions of the piece so it wasn't as essential a discovery this time. The concerto is a total winner though. Let's give it a lot of love!

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  9. #967
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    I think what is most upsetting about the atonal Schoenberg is that he changed "musical meaning." Up until this time, musical ideas emerged from a shared "paradigm" of musical meaning which had developed over a few centuries. Good or bad, music had to share this common syntactical "idea" of what music was supposed to mean.

    When Schoenberg exchanged tonality's 'syntax of meaning' into his serial method, listeners were suddenly confronted with music which no longer fit into their paradigm of music.

    Thus, we see that much music is driven by a 'gestalt idea' of what music is supposed to mean.

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