Classical The best music site on the web there is where you can read about and listen to blues, jazz, classical music and much more. This is your ultimate music resource. Tons of albums can be found within. Fri, 21 Jun 2024 00:32:40 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Arnold Schoenberg - Verklärte Nacht, Pelleas und Melisande (1998) Arnold Schoenberg - Verklärte Nacht, Pelleas und Melisande (1998)

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1. Verklärte Nacht, Op.4 - Arr. String Orch. (second vers. 1943) - 1. Grave 6:38
2. Verklärte Nacht, Op.4 - Arr. String Orch. (second vers. 1943) - 2. Molto rallentando 5:51
3. Verklärte Nacht, Op.4 - Arr. String Orch. (second vers. 1943) - 3. Pesante - Grave 2:24 4. Verklärte Nacht, Op.4 - Arr. String Orch. (second vers. 1943) - 4. Adagio 10:25
5. Verklärte Nacht, Op.4 - Arr. String Orch. (second vers. 1943) - 5. Adagio 4:37
6. Pelleas und Melisande op.5 - Die Achtel ein wenig bewegt - zögernd 4:30
7. Pelleas und Melisande op.5 - Heftig 3:07
8. Pelleas und Melisande op.5 - Ciff. 9: Lebhaft 4:00
9. Pelleas und Melisande op.5 - Ciff. 16: Sehr rasch 7:13
10. Pelleas und Melisande op.5 - Ciff. 33: Ein wenig bewegt 1:21
11. Pelleas und Melisande op.5 - Ciff. 36: Langsam 3:23
12. Pelleas und Melisande op.5 - Ciff. 43: Ein wenig bewegter 4:09
13. Pelleas und Melisande op.5 - Ciff. 50: Sehr langsam 4:44
14. Pelleas und Melisande op.5 - Ciff. 55: Etwas bewegt 2:22
15. Pelleas und Melisande op.5 - Ciff. 59: In gehender Bewegung 2:28
16. Pelleas und Melisande op.5 - Ciff. 62: Breit 6:14

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan – conductor


Two completely approachable early pieces by music’s bogeyman. Verklärte Nacht is certainly gorgeous in Karajan’s hands, with the Berlin strings unanimously piling layer upon layer of velvet sound. The resonant recording makes it sound as if the Philharmonie were crammed to bursting point with players, but, if you prefer the string orchestra version to the original sextet, why not go the whole hog? The sound is also rich in Pelleas and Melisande, though the performance itself is slightly cautious. ---Martin Cotton, BBC Music Magazine


This is probably the definitive interpretation of these two early Schoenberg works, which along with his Gurrelieder, form a sort of triumvirate of pre-atonal and pre-serialist Schoenberg. As far as Verklärte Nacht, it has never seemed (to me) to be Schoenberg at his best. It has undeniable power, but I've never thought it measured up to the next work on the disc. Pelleas und Melisande--now this is an amazing work. Composer Jonathan Harvey summed it up perfectly: "tonal music at the peak of its expressive intensity." This, along with Webern's Passacaglia has always seemed to be a sort of "last will and testament" of romanticism and expressionism. After this what more is there to say about or in that great tonal tradition? Evidently very little according to Schoenberg--his first total break with tonality, Erwartung, came just six years later . Pelleas is quite breathtaking, even harrowing, and the finale is wonderfully serene and undeniably quite haunting. Karajan brings an appropriate restraint to the drama--which can go too far if left unchecked and there are some wonderful details I hadn't heard in other performances of this work. This is definitely a virtuoso work, but Karajan and Berlin handle it marvelously. Verklärte Nacht, originally written for string sextet and revised for string orchestra in 1943 is handled well throughout, although I can't help feeling as though everything gets a bit mushy at times. I had the opportunity to listen to the LP from 1974 and was able to compare it side by side with this CD transfer. The results are good and the CD suffers little or no loss in quality. Great recording of a superb work. ---James Stevenson,

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]]> (bluesever) Schoenberg Arnold Sun, 11 Apr 2010 15:09:36 +0000
Arnold Schoenberg – Gurrelieder (Ozawa) [2006] Arnold Schoenberg – Gurrelieder (Ozawa) [2006]

Disc: 1
01. Vorspiel
02. Nun Dampft Die Damm'rung
03. O, Wenn Des Mondes Strahlen
04. Ross! Mein Ross!
05. Sterne Jubeln
06. So Tanzen Die Engel Vor Gottes Thron Nicht
07. Nun Sag Ich Dir Zum Ersten Mal
08. Es Ist Mitternachtszeit
09. Du Sendest Mir Einen Liebesblick
10. Du Wunderliche Tove!
11. Tauben Von Gurre!
Disc: 2
01. Hergott, Weisst Du, Was Du Tatest
02. Erwacht, Konig Waldemars Mannen Wert!
03. Deckel Des Sarges Klappert Und Klappt
04. Gegrusst, O Konig
05. Mit Toves Stimme Flustert Der Wald
06. 'Ein Seltsamer Vogel Ist So'n Aal'
07. Du Strenger Richter Droben
08. Der Hahn Erhebt Den Kopf Zur Kraht
09. Vorspiel
10. Herr Gansefuss, Frau Gansekraut
11. Seht Die Sonne

David Arnold (Baritone - Bauer)
Jessye Norman (Soprano - Tove)
Tatiana Troyanos (Mezzo Soprano - Waldtaube)
James McCracken (Tenor - Waldemar)
Kim Scown (Tenor - Klaus)
Werner Klemperer (Spoken Vocals - Narrator)

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Tanglewood Festival Chorus
Seiji Ozawa


Without losing any of the plum-cake richness of the score, Ozawa and company have found a remarkable range of texture, delicate as well as massive, translucent as well as opaque, in this bewilderingly diverse yet fascinating work.

Seiji Ozawa's warmly eloquent account, with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder wins the award in the choral category. It is a work that until quite recently was something of a by-word for post-Romantic megalomania, decadent over-expressiveness and a clogged density of sound that seemed virtually unrecordable. Without losing any of the plum-cake richness of the score's more grandiose pages, Ozawa, his orchestra (playing quite magnificently) and the Philips engineers have found a remarkable range of texture, delicate as well as massive, translucent as well as opaque, in this bewilderingly diverse yet fascinating work. It is a fine achievement, and Jessye Norman's glorious singing in the role of Tove makes it a memorable one. May it lead—as it surely must, if it is as widely heard as it deserves—to a more general recognition of the stature of this monstrous but moving and compelling masterpiece. I have to confess (there is no point in denying it: it was only a couple of months ago and memories aren't that short) that in my original review I did not choose this recording as the best available Gurrelieder; I found it, in a word, insufficiently Schoenbergian. It is good for a reviewer to have the rug pulled from under his feet once in a while, and I am delighted that the great virtues of Ozawa's performance have been so enthusiastically recognized and signalled by a well-merited award. -–-Gramophone,

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]]> (bluesever) Schoenberg Arnold Sun, 25 Oct 2009 21:04:39 +0000
Arnold Schönberg - Streichquartette I-IV (Complete String Quartets) [2000] Arnold Schönberg - Streichquartette I-IV (Complete String Quartets) [2000]

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Quartett d moll, Op. 7
[01] - I. Nicht zu rasch
[02] - II. Kraftig
[03] - III. Massig
[04] - IV. Massig

Streichquartett II fis-moll, op.10
[05] - I. Massig play
[06] - II. Sehr rasch
[07] - III. 'Litanei' langsam
[08] - IV. 'Entruckung' sehr langsam

Streichquartett III, op.30
[01] - I. Moderato
[02] - II. Adagio
[03] - III. Intermezzo, allegro moderato play
[04] - IV. Rondo, molto moderato

Streichquartett IV, op.37
[05] I. Allegro molto, energico
[06] II. Scherzo (comodo)
[07] III. Largo
[08] IV. Allegro

New Vienna String Quartet: Zlatko Topolski, Tomislav Sestak, Fritz Handschke, Wolfgang Herzer Evelyn Lear - soprano


The Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg published four string quartets, distributed over his lifetime. These were the String Quartet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 7 (1905), String Quartet No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op. 10 (1908), String Quartet No. 3, Op. 30 (1927), and the String Quartet No. 4, Op. 37 (1936).

String Quartet No. 1

A large work consisting of one movement which lasts longer than 45 minutes, Schoenberg's first string quartet was his first assured masterpiece, and it was the real beginning of his reputation as a composer. Begun in the summer of 1904 and completed in September 1905, this string quartet is remarkable for its density and intensity of orchestration with only four instruments. Unlike his later works, this work is tonal, bearing the key of D minor, though it stretches this to its limit with the thoroughly extended tonality of late Romantic music, such as the quartal harmony pictured at right. It also carries a small collection of themes which appear again and again in many different guises. Besides his extension of tonality and tight motivic structure, Schoenberg makes use of another innovation, which he called "musical prose."

According to Schoenberg, when he showed the score to Gustav Mahler, the composer exclaimed: "I have conducted the most difficult scores of Wagner; I have written complicated music myself in scores of up to thirty staves and more; yet here is a score of not more than four staves, and I am unable to read them."

String Quartet No. 2

This work in four movements was written during a very emotional time in Schoenberg's life. Though it bears the dedication "to my wife", it was written during Mathilde Schoenberg's affair with their friend and neighbour, artist Richard Gerstl, in 1908. Previous dedicatees are guessed at to have been either Arnold Rosé, the founder of the Rosé quartet (who performed Schoenberg's string quartets) or Gustav Mahler, a good friend of Schoenberg.

The third and fourth movements are quite unusual for a string quartet, as they also include a soprano singer, Marie Gutheil - Schoder, using poetry written by Stefan George. "I was inspired by poems of Stefan George, the German poet, to compose music to some of his poems and, surprisingly, without any expectation on my part, these songs showed a style quite different from everything I had written before." - Arnold Schoenberg (1937)

String Quartet No. 3

Arnold Schoenberg's third string quartet dates from 1927, after he had worked out the basic principles of his twelve-tone technique. Though the work is serial, he discouraged attempts to follow the transformations of the pitch series aurally. The themes of this work seem to consist mainly of rhythmic patterns rather than pitch, which are reused in variation just as in Classical music.[citation needed] Indeed, Schoenberg had followed the "fundamental classicistic procedure" by modeling this work on Schubert's String Quartet in A minor, op. 29, without intending in any way to recall Schubert's composition. There is evidence that Schoenberg regarded his 12-tone sets—independent of rhythm and register—as motivic in the commonly understood sense, and this has been demonstrated with particular reference to the second movement of this quartet.

The piece was commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge on March 2, 1927, though the work had already been completed by this time, and its première was given in Vienna later that year on September 19 by the Kolisch Quartet.

String Quartet No. 4

The fourth string quartet of 1936 is very much representative of Schoenberg's late style. The work is dodecaphonic like the third string quartet, though in this quartet the focus is much more melodic rather than rhythmic. The first movement is in an adapted sonata form. J. Peter Burkholder has suggested that in this movement Schoenberg's choice of the different forms of the 12-note row function in a manner analogous to the different tonal areas explored in a sonata form that is written in traditional tonality. The slow movement opens with a long unison recitative in all four instruments while the finale has the character of a march, similar to the last movement of Schoenberg's Violin Concerto written about the same time.

This work, like the third quartet, was commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, and was completed on July 26, 1936. Its first performance was given January 8, 1937 in Los Angeles by the Kolisch Quartet.

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]]> (bluesever) Schoenberg Arnold Wed, 13 Apr 2011 08:56:54 +0000
Glenn Gould - The Music of Arnold Schoenberg (2007) Glenn Gould - The Music of Arnold Schoenberg (2007)

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	Zwei Gesänge Op. 1
1-1 	I. Dank 	5:55
1-2 	II. Abschied 	8:45
	Vier Lieder Op. 2
1-3 	I. Erwartung 	4:13
1-4 	II. Schenk Mir Deinen Goldenen Kamm 	3:43
1-5 	III. Erhebung 	1:08
1-6 	IV. Waldsonne 	2:50
	Das Buch Der Hängenden Gärten Op. 15
1-7 	I. Unterm Schutz Von Dichten Blättergründen 	2:37
1-8 	II. Hain In Diesen Paradiesen 	1:18
1-9 	III. Als Neuling Trat Ich Ein In Dein Gehege 	1:41
1-10 	IV. Da Meine Lippen Reglos Sind Und Brennen 	1:28
1-11 	V. Saget Mir Auf Welchem Pfade 	1:12
1-12 	VI. Jedem Werke Bin Ich Fürder Tot 	0:59
1-13 	VII. Angst Und Hoffen Wechselnd Mich Beklemmen 	1:09
1-14 	VIII. Wenn Ich Heut Nicht Deinen Leib Berühre 	0:57
1-15 	IX. Streng Ist Uns Das Gkück Und Spröde 	1:23
1-16 	X. Das Schöne Beet Betrachte Ich Mir Im Harren 	2:16
1-17 	XI. Als Wir Hinter Dem Beblümten Tore 	3:24
1-18 	XII. Wenn Sich Bei Heilger Ruh In Tiefen Matten 	1:59
1-19 	XIII. Du Lehntest Wider Einer Silberweide 	1:33
1-20 	XIV. Sprich Nicht Mehr Von Dem Laub 	0:40
1-21 	XV. Wir Bevölkerten Die Abend-Düsteren Lauben 	6:11

	Drei Klavierstücke Op. 11
2-1 	I. Mäßige Achtel 	4:11
2-2 	II. Mäßige Achtel 	8:24
2-3 	III. Bewegte Achtel 	2:37
	Fünf Klavierstücke Op. 23
2-4 	I. Sehr Langsam 	2:38
2-5 	II. Sehr Rasch 	2:01
2-6 	III. Langsam 	4:31
2-7 	IV. Schwungvoll. Mäßige Viertel 	2:49
2-8 	V. Walzer 	2:49
	Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke Op. 19
2-9 	I. Leicht, Zart 	1:26
2-10 	II. Langsam 	1:03
2-11 	III. Sehr Langsam 	0:51
2-12 	IV. Rasch, Aber Leicht 	0:21
2-13 	V. Etwas Rasch 	0:30
2-14 	VI. Sehr Langsam 	1:20
	Suite Für Klavier Op. 25
2-15 	Präludium. Rasch 	0:54
2-16 	Gavotte. Etws Langsam Nicht Hastig - Musette. Rasche - Gavotte Da Capo 	8:07
2-17 	Intermezzo 	2:12
2-18 	Menuett. Moderato - Trio - Menuett Da Capo 	3:52
2-19 	Gigue. Rasch 	2:31
	Zwei Klavierstücke Op. 33A & B
2-20 	A) Mäßig Viertel 	2:41
2-21 	B) Mäßig Langsam 	4:23

Glenn Gould – piano
Ellen Faull – soprano
Helen Vanni – mezzo-soprano
Donald Gramm – bass baritone


If the songs and piano pieces of Arnold Schoenberg were cool, calm, and completely objective, Glenn Gould's recordings of them would be ideal. In the songs -- the Zwei Gesänge, Op. 1; the Vier Lieder, Op. 2; and the 15 songs of Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten, Op. 15 -- Gould's detached touch, precise articulation, and very discrete use of the sustain pedal reveals every note of the accompaniment with astounding clarity. In the piano pieces -- the Drei Klavierstücke, Op. 11; the Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, Op. 19; the Fünf Klavierstücke, Op. 23; the Suite for Klavier, Op. 25; and the Zwei Klavierstücke, Op. 33 A & B -- Gould's dry tone, restrained dynamics, and disinclination to apply the sustain pedal creates virtual x-rays of the score with astonishing lucidity. And for those who prize clarity and lucidity above all else in Schoenberg, Gould's performances will be perfect.

But for those who prize emotion and expression above all else in Schoenberg, Gould's performances will be acutely disappointing. To them, the brutal dissonances, harsh harmonies, jagged textures, abrupt transitions, and violent rhythms of Schoenberg's music demand anguish and expressivity from the performers, and this Gould resolutely refuses to provide. Some might argue that hearing all the notes is the paramount criteria for any performance, and that one can indubitably hear everything in Gould's performances. But others might reply that it's possible to have both lucidity and expressivity and point to Maurizio Pollini's recordings of Schoenberg's piano pieces as proof. And still others might point out that one can hear too much in Gould's performances, to wit, Gould's own moaning vocalizations behind and beneath the music he's playing. Though his fans have learned to tolerate this eccentricity, many others have not, and listeners fresh to Gould should be warned of it beforehand.

As for the singers, bass-baritone Donald Gramm's tired tone makes it hard to listen to the Zwei Gesänge, soprano Ellen Faull's wobbly intonation makes it difficult to listen to the Vier Lieder, and mezzo-soprano Helen Vanni's screechy attack makes it almost impossible to listen to Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten. Recorded between 1959 and 1965, Columbia's stereo sound here is as cool and objective as Gould's performances. ---James Leonard, Rovi

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]]> (bluesever) Schoenberg Arnold Fri, 29 Apr 2011 18:59:13 +0000
Schoenberg - Violin Concerto (Hilary Hahn) [2008] Schoenberg - Violin Concerto (Hilary Hahn) [2008]

Violin Concerto, Op.36
1) 1. Poco Allegro [11:36]
2) 2. Andante grazioso [7:30]
3) 3. Finale. Allegro [10:38]

Hilary Hahn - violin
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen - conductor


The Violin Concerto (Op. 36) by Arnold Schoenberg dates from Schoenberg's time in the United States, where he had moved in 1933 to escape the Nazis. The piece was written in 1936, the same year as the String Quartet No. 4.

Schoenberg had made a return to tonal writing upon his move to America and, though the Violin Concerto uses twelve-tone technique, its neoclassical form demanded a mimesis of tonal melody, and hence a renunciation of the motivic technique used in his earlier work in favour of a thematic structure (Rosen 1996, 101).

It is in a three movement quick-slow-quick form, traditional for concertos:

Poco allegro—Vivace. Opinion is divided about the form of the first movement. According to one authority, it is in sonata form (Keller 1961, 157), while another asserts it is a large ternary form, concluding with a cadenza and a coda (Mean 1985, 140). It employs a wide variety of row forms, often in families associated by hexachordal content (Mead 1985, 141).

Andante grazioso

Finale: Allegro. The last movement is a rondo with an unusually dynamic development. It only gradually becomes clear that the underlying character is that of a march. There is a second cadenza just before the end, which rounds off the whole work in cyclic fashion (Keller 1961, 157).

The concerto was premiered on December 6, 1940, by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski with Louis Krasner as the soloist (Krasner had previously given the premiere of the Violin Concerto by Schoenberg's pupil, Alban Berg). ---wikipedia

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]]> (bluesever) Schoenberg Arnold Sun, 25 Oct 2009 21:06:03 +0000
Schoenberg: Erwartung - Brettl-Lieder (Cabaret Songs) [1993] Schoenberg - Erwartung - Brettl-Lieder (Cabaret Songs) [1993]

1. Erwartung: Hier himein? (1. Szene)
2. Erwartung: Ist das noch der Weg? (2. Szene)
3. Erwartung: Da kommt ien Licht! (3. Szene)
4. Er ist auch nicht da (4. Szene)
5. Erwartung: Das Mondlicht
6. Erwartung: Aber so seltsam ist dein Auge
7. Erwartung: Du siehst wieder dort hin!
8. Erwartung: Fur mich ist kein Platz da
9. Erwartung: Liebster, Liebster, der Morgen Kommt
10. Cabaret Songs: Galathea
11. Cabaret Songs: Gigerlette
12. Cabaret Songs: Der genügsame Liebhaber
13. Cabaret Songs: Einfältiges Lied
14. Mahnung
15. Cabaret Songs: Jedem das Seine
16. Cabaret Songs: Arie aus dem Spiegel von Arcadien
17. Cabaret Songs: Nachtwandler

Jessye Norman – soprano
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
James Levine – conductor, piano


The luxurious depth of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Jessye Norman's sumptuous voice meet Schoenberg's traumatic masterpiece of expressionism. The composer wrote the work feverishly in just over two weeks, and the music's vacillating, unstable material is a naked transcription of his psychological state of mind. James Levine's generous baton succeeds in drawing forth the score's many transient images of melting beauty, as well as the cunningly judged explosions of violence. --Joshua Cody,

These are not art songs but rather Schoenberg's attempt to make some extra money while composing for the Überbrettl, the cabaret where he conducted the house band in 1901. Though they do not feature the hearty blast or seamy sensuality of the genre's traditional manifestations, they do hover between the lively arts and Lieder in a way that makes them a fascinating symptom of compromise. Jessye Norman wonderfully fleshes this odd aesthetic nether region out in this recording; her rich tone is sexy, fleshy, and always tendered with the highest respect for the composer. James Levine's piano accompaniment is naturally up to par, and the final song, Nachtwandler (the only one Schoenberg orchestrated) is performed with equally creditable professionalism. Brettl-Lieder provides insights into musical issues of the day while being entertaining in their own right, and this recording features excellent sound engineering. This 1990 is a delightful American rendition that is certainly worth hearing and will be indispensable for those interested in the history of cabaret. ---John Keillor, Rovi

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]]> (bluesever) Schoenberg Arnold Sun, 25 Oct 2009 21:02:15 +0000
Schönberg - Pierrot Lunaire (Boulez) [1998] Schönberg - Pierrot Lunaire (Boulez) [1998]

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1. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 1 - 1. Mondestrunken	1:39	
2. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 1 - 2. Colombine	1:38	
3. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 1 - 3. Der Dandy	1:11	
4. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 1 - 4. Eine blasse Wäscherin	1:24
5. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 1 - 5. Valse de Chopin	1:17	
6. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 1 - 6. Madonna	1:53
7. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 1 - 7. Der kranke Mond	2:12	
8. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 2 - 8. Die Nacht	2:09	
9. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 2 - 9. Gebet an Pierrot	0:51	
10. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 2 - 10. Raub	1:07
11. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 2 - 11. Rote Messe	1:46
12. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 2 - 12. Galgenlied	0:17	
13. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 2 - 13. Enthauptung	2:09
14. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 2 - 14. Die Kreuze	2:12
15. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 3 - 15. Heimweh	2:07	
16. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 3 - 16. Gemeinheit!	1:06
17. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 3 - 17. Parodie	1:20	
18. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 3 - 18. Der Monfleck	0:54	
19. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 3 - 19. Serenade	2:23	
20. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 3 - 20. Heimfahrt	1:40	
21. Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912) / Part 3 - 21. O alter Duft	1:32
22. Herzgewachse Opus 20	3:19
23. Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte Opus 41	16:21

Christine Schäfer – soprano, spoken word
David Pittman-Jennings - baritone
Ensemble Intercontemporain
Pierre Boulez - conductor


Arnold Schoenberg claimed he had never set out to be a revolutionary. Yet the song cycle he wrote in 1912 based on proto- expressionist poems and featuring a grotesque harlequin figure, Pierrot Lunaire, still reverberates with its haunting, startling originality. This work introduced the world to a hitherto unthought-of musical landscape; to call it innovative would be an absurd understatement. What's particularly exciting about the undertaking here (Boulez's third recorded take on this music) is how utterly fresh the music sounds, its novelty unblunted and yet strangely beautiful--a far cry from the forbidding Schoenberg of stereotype. Soprano Christine Schäfer negotiates the no-man's land between spoken word and sung pitch--the technique known as Sprechstimme which Schoenberg introduced here--with fascinating nuance. She brings a cabaret-savvy sensibility to bear, along with a gripping sense of pathos, alternately sweet and acrid. Boulez treats the songs as miniatures, offering coloristic and multiperspectival--almost Cubistic--portrayals of Pierrot. For all the score's nebulous atmospherics, Boulez distills a keen, sharp clarity of line and timbre. Also included is the extraordinary song "Herzgewächse" (scored for harmonium, celesta, and harp), in which Schäfer matches her voice like a "crystal sigh" to the instrumentation. The album is filled out with Schoenberg's setting, during his exile from the Nazi horror, of Byron's bitterly ironic "Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte" for a baritone reciter. ---Thomas May,


After the wrenching revolution Schoenberg brought to his music during the final years of the twentieth century's first decade (crystallized in such works as the Three Pieces for piano, Op. 11 and the Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16) the composer quickly drew back from the anguished Expressionism of these years to produce the much lighter Dreimal sieben Gedichte aus Albert Girauds Pierrot Lunaire (Three-times-seven Songs from Albert Giraud's Pierrot Lunaire, or, as it is known the world 'round, simply Pierrot Lunaire), Op. 21, of 1912 -- a cycle of 21 songs for voice and chamber group that, in the composer's own words, voices sentiments that are "Light, ironic, [and] satirical."

Pierrot Lunaire takes the shape of a single large melodrama in which the female voice gives the text a treatment that is midway between speech and song (the technique, called Sprechstimme, goes all the way back to Humperdinck, though it found its best use at the pens of the Second Viennese School composers). Three sections, comprised of seven songs each, showcase the five instrumentalists in all sorts of wonderfully colorful combinations as the narrator tells of the wandering Pierrot's experiences -- indeed, the contrasts offered by just the piano, violin, cello, flute, and clarinet are not enough for Schoenberg, who makes the violinist, flutist, and clarinetist double on viola, piccolo, and bass clarinet, respectively. Each of the 13-line poems is a rondel, the opening lines being repeated during the middle of the poem as a kind of refrain.

Structural and motivic connections abound throughout the work, and we find such devices as the recurrence of the queasy solo flute melody of No. 7, "The Sick Moon," in the 13th song, "Decapitation" (part of Pierrot Lunaire's admittedly darker second section, in which the demons of Expressionism come out to play once more), and the use of a passacaglia form in "Night," the first song of Part 2. By the time of "The Moonspot" in Part 3, Schoenberg has worked up to the level of a full double-canon (for the pair of woodwinds and the pair of strings). No. 19, "Serenade," is almost a virtuoso piece for cello and piano, while the final song of the melodrama, "O Ancient Charm of Fairy Days," is of the tender, epilogue variety. --- Blair Johnston, Rovi

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]]> (bluesever) Schoenberg Arnold Tue, 29 Apr 2014 15:46:13 +0000