Jan. 8th, 2017

sawyl: (A self portrait)
I've very much enjoyed this week's Breaking Free mini-season on the Second Viennese School on R3. As Schoenberg's daughter said on Music Matters, the music is actually far more accessable than people thing but most of the time it's played so badly that people think they don't like it.

The two biggest highlights were the performances of Berg's operas Wozzeck and Lulu — the latter in an English transation from ENO, but Essential Classics also featured some of Webern's pieces and whole a series of Schoenberg's string quartets.

But Breaking Free wasn't all serialism all the time and both Webern's and Schoenberg's delightful arrangements of pieces by JS Bach put in an appearance. First, then, is Anton Webern's precise orchestration of the Ricecar a Six from the Musical Offering, where the line is passed from one instrument to another to emphasize the tone colours:

Similarly successful are Arnold Schoenberg's orchestral versions of some of Bach's keyboard works. Eschewing the bombastic and overly Romantic approaches of the majority of arrangers, Schoenberg instead uses his orchestral forces to emphasize Bach's different contrapuntal lines. The arrangement of the Prelude and Fugue in E-flat major BWV552 is an absolute masterpiece — it wasn't until I heard Schoenberg's version that I began to understand the complexities of Bach's original — but instead of that I've gone for the orchestral version of Schm├╝cke dich, o liebe Seele BWV564 from the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes.


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