SCHOENBERG: 5 Orchestral Pieces / Cello Concerto / BRAHMS: Piano Quartet No. 1

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Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)

Five Pieces for Orchestra

Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (after Monn)

Piano Quartet in G minor (Brahms/Schoenberg )


The Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16, and Erwartung, written immediately after, embody Schoenberg's artistic credo:

Art belongs to the unconscious. One must express oneself directly. Not one's taste, or one's upbringing, or one's intelligence, knowledge, or skill. Not all these acquired characteristics, but that which is inborn, instinctive.

Composed in 1909, the Five Orchestral Pieces, untitled originally, were performed for the first time by Sir Henry Wood and the Queen's Hall Orchestra, 3 September 1912, in the Royal Albert Hall, London. Schoenberg's diary for 27 January 1912, tells us that the publisher:

wants titles for the orchestral pieces, for publisher's reasons. Maybe I'll give in, since I've found titles that are at least possible. On the whole, unsympathetic to the idea. For the wonderful thing about music is that one can say everything in it, so that he who knows understands everything; and yet one hasn't given away one's secrets, the things one doesn't admit even to oneself. But titles give you away. Besides, whatever has to be said has been said by the music. Why, then, words as well? If words were necessary, they would be there in the first place. But music says more than words. Now, the titles which I may provide give nothing away, because some of them are very obscure and others highly technical. To wit:

Premonitions (everyone has those)

The Past (everyone has that, too)

Chord-Colours (technical)

Peripeteia (general enough, I think)

The Obbligato (perhaps better the "fully-developed" or the "endless") Recitative.

There should be a note that these titles were added for technical reasons of publication and not to give a "poetic" content.

In Premonitions the basic melodic-intervallic, harmonic, and rhythmic materials are exposed in the first three bars. The three-note motive of the upper line (cellos), with its repetition in sequence (cellos and oboe), describes an augmented triad on the longer, emphasized notes F, A, C sharp. The "pedal" harmony that underlies the music from bar 23 to the end. The last three notes of the piece become a principal motive in the Obbligato Recitative, and hence help to interconnect the Five Pieces. Still another motive, in faster note values, becomes a bridge from the start-and-stop introduction to the continuous main section of the piece. The three-note motive returns prominently near the end of Premonitions. A steady tempo is established in the next passage, which exposes the principal motive at the climax of the piece.

The second piece, The Past, in contrasting slow tempi to the first, exposes the fundamental materials at the beginning and makes extensive use of ostinati. True to the title, the first melody is "old-fashioned" in sentiment, as well as in its surprisingly literal returns. The transfixingly beautiful final cadence begins with an upward D minor arpeggio in the celesta that connects with the piccolo, which then repeats the first melodic interval of the piece above three final notes in the clarinets, recognized by every musical ear, consciously or otherwise—Brentano's distinction between sensory and noetic perception—as the first three notes of Premonitions in reverse order.

Schoenberg, Harmonielehre. 1911: "I cannot unreservedly agree with the distinction between colour and pitch. I find that a note is perceived by its colour, one of whose dimensions is pitch. Colour, then, is the great realm, pitch one of its provinces… If the ear could discriminate between differences of colour, it might be feasible to invent melodies that are built of colours (klangfarbenmelodien). But who dares to develop such theories?"

In Chord-Colours rhythmic and motivic activity, dynamic and harmonic change, increase and quicken, until boiling point, two-thirds of the way through, then abruptly deconnect and return to the near stasis at the beginning. Colours is a crescendo-diminuendo of movement, as distinguished from the melodic-harmonic returns in The Past, and the alternation of instrumental colors is the means by which the "changing chord" is kept in motion. The five-note chord is stationary at the beginning. A repeated, gradually changing chord (Note 1) overlaps and blends with itself in different orchestral combinations, thereby creating an antiphonal effect of canonic movement, at the distance of two beats in the upper parts and of one beat in the bass, the note C played by viola sola on the strong beats and by bass on the weak. Schoenberg's performance directions serve notice that Colours is "without motives to be brought out", or thematic development. All the same, the melodic structure shapes the piece. In the first section, this reduces to A natural, B flat, and A flat, repeated several times. In the second section (bars 12–19), the pitch range, edging upward, is marked by harmonic relocation and a new application of the changing-colours principle: a different instrument, or combination of instruments, plays each different note of a chord, spreading the chord out, so to speak, and sustaining it. The third section (bars 20–30) joins more events in more movement, and at the zenith, with the beat subdivided into units of three and four, the flux of overlapping and dovetailing color particles challenges the analytical powers of even the keenest ear. The "leaping-fish" (Note 2) motive, introduced in the second section, is heard eight times from there to the end, its six upward-directed forms at the same pitches, and its two downward-directed ones at their same pitches, an indication of Schoenberg's need at this stage to establish tonal identities.

Peripeteia is defined by Rudolf Kassner as "a sudden change of fortune, a sudden change of direction". As in Premonitions, the thematic materials are set forth in the first part of the piece, but their development here is successive rather than superimposed. The prominence of the augmented triad is another link with Premonitions: the trumpet "smear" that follows the chord in bar 2 and returns at the end of the piece consists of seven parallel augmented triads. The ever-changing tempo, as the title allows, and the rubato character, are in extreme contrast to the quasi-motionless Colours and the even-keeled, one-tempo Obbligato Recitative that follows. The highlights of Peripeteia are the rich thematic intrigue, toward the middle of the piece, of as many as six voices, and the ending. The latter begins with three canonic pairs twirled in motion like a juggling act over three other polyphonic parts, followed by the swarming of the whole orchestra to a tremendous crash, which includes a whistling noise produced by drawing a cello bow along the rim of a cymbal (following the principle of rubbing the rim of a drinking glass with a humected finger). The crash is followed by the coup de grâce gurgle in the clarinets, and a dust-settling tremolo in
Catalogue number 8557524
Barcode 0747313252428
Release date 09/01/2006
Label Naxos
Format CD
Number of discs 1
Artists Sherry, Fred
Sherry, Fred
Composers Schoenberg, Arnold
Brahms, Johannes
Schoenberg, Arnold
Brahms, Johannes
Conductors Craft, Robert
Craft, Robert
Orchestras London Symphony Orchestra
Philharmonia Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
Philharmonia Orchestra
Producers Squires, Gregory K.
Fine, Michael
Squires, Gregory K.
Fine, Michael
Disc: 1
Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25 (orch. Scho
1 I. (Premonitions)
2 II. (The Past)
3 III. (Chord-Colours)
4 IV. (Peripeteia)
5 V. (The Obbligato Recitative)
6 I. Allegro moderato
7 II. Andante, alla Marcia
8 III. Tempo di Minuetto
9 I. Allegro
10 II. Intermezzo: Allegro ma non troppo
11 III. Andante con moto
12 IV. Rondo alla zingarese: Presto
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