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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't ask for better, 28 April 2008
This review is from: Schoenberg, Berg, Webern: Piano Music (Audio CD)
This CD is ridiculously good value.

Hill plays these works with supreme sensitivity and fluidity. In particular, his reading of the Berg sonata is glorious, as is his take on the Webern Variations; Hill's performance of the latter captures the magic of the piece so well that Webern's fractured melodic lines seem entirely natural and lyrical. I've played (and occasionally performed) the Variations on and off for years, and familiarity has never bred contempt - but this recording has shone some new light into a few uninvestigated corners.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all about consciousness, 14 April 2011
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Schoenberg, Berg, Webern: Piano Music (Audio CD)
Profligate that I am, this disc has sat on my shelves for the last three years, since my last big Schoenberg binge, before finally giving it the attention it deserves. The warmly lyrical Sonata by Berg, Op.1, which opens the disc is not remotely difficult and, as another reviewer has suggested, is not a million miles in feel and texture from the kind of thing that might be offered up by today's more innovative jazz players. Although there are a few virtuosic twists and turns that I can't imagine being taken by any of the jazz pianists I am aware of. As such, this lovely, small-r, romantic piece represents the more accessible side of atonality that has found acceptability within modern sophisticated audiences.

However, the Schoenberg offerings, which form the bulk of this disc, are a somewhat tougher proposition. They are predominantly `low-key' affairs, excuse the expression, with little drama or narrative flow to sync on to, and have clearly demanded great emotional sensitivity and interpretative subtlety on the part of pianist Peter Hill, in order to bring them to life. Works of this kind, coming from the less compromising side of atonality, demand a great deal from the listener, when all musical signposts, such as cadences, formulaic key transitions and units of repetition, have been stripped out. With such music a concentration akin to that approached through meditation is required from the listener, who must become an active creative collaborator, willing and able to consciously project form and meaning into the flow of notes on a real-time basis. For all their difficulty though there is some tremendous poetry to be found in these works, and some exquisitely refined states of consciousness to be had by those willing to make the necessary effort.

The Three Pieces, Op.11 are predominantly restrained and contemplative, with a brief but decisive raising of the temperature in the finale. The Six Little Pieces, Op.19, are tantalising fragments, sparse and epigrammatic. Whatever principle unified them remains abstruse. With the Five Piano Pieces, Op.23 we start to see abrupt attempts to break out from the disembodied world of Schoenberg's initial idiom into more agitated and virtuosic episodes. The Op.25 Suite for Piano, is the most advanced and possibly most interesting work of the set, showing expanding rhythmic diversity and music of great ingenuity. All of this music has a profoundly subjective quality, as though some na´ve individuality were exploring a a museum all alone after dark, encountering various objects of temporary interest, but nothing which attracts a permanent attachment. It is music of many beautiful things but rather devoid of people. What this might say about the mind of its creator, who can say? The Suite concludes with a startling virtuoso tour-de-force. The two pieces Op.33A and B, are the consummation of all the preceding tendencies, with music that manages to compress a startling variety of moods and domains into three minutes or less.

The Variations Op.29 of Schoenberg's other pupil, Webern, seem to follow the path set down by his master, and are, if anything, even more sparse and rigorous. These brief pieces are extremely enigmatic, being almost ciphers representing music than music itself.

I give this disc five stars not for any passively received pleasures they are guaranteed to bring, but for the spiritual focus and clarity of consciousness thar Peter Hill's performance might engender in the suitably engaged mind.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good performance of some hard music..., 11 Feb 2004
Mark Grindell "Mark Grindell" (Driffield, East Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Schoenberg, Berg, Webern: Piano Music (Audio CD)
I think that the word hard could only be applied to the technique and skill required to play the pieces.
I had a recording of the Schoenberg by Maurizio Pollini, and although it was good, this recording by Peter Hill is very clear and was done with a great deal of care. There is no distortion and no over loading at all, which is a hazard for these pieces.
I have been aware of all of these compositions by reputation for years, but only started playing them recently. This material is for many people too hard, but this complexity has almost certainly percolated into the conciousness of most people watching films of any sort - I would be prepared to stick my neck out, and say that there is a strong overlap between the intentions of say, Carla Bley and Dave Brubeck as regards the suspension of tonality, or at least, it's possible abolition.
In particular, Dave Brubeck's publishers issued a collection of Nocturns a while ago. It took me a couple of years picking a few of these and trying to get a feel for what they were really supposed to sound like. In the end, I had to cheat, and resort to a few rather obscure recordings of the pieces played in a quartet setting, quite a different context from solo piano, to get a feel for them at all. I suspect that Op11 is a lot less ambiguous than that, and as I've been slowly trying to get a grip on some of this, it's been very rewarding and become very clear.
I do wonder now what we all mean when we say the word "atonal". I suspect that there's precious little chance of perceiving any such thing, as our apparatus for picking up relationships, harmonic and structural, are so powerful that in fact all we can do is to play games with these kinds of pieces, avoiding settling down like a bird fluttering around a while before finally settling down on a branch.
Some folks would say that this is all tosh and what you think was intention was accident. That may posibly be the case with Xenakis and Babbit, where at least Xenakis is practically using the laws of chance to construct everything. But if you were really honest, that has nothing to do with this material, and is a much later development.
Ignore the Berg at your peril, it's brilliant, and incisive and the fact that it is theoretically atonal is irrelevant, it's just marvellous. Op11 and especially Op33 is just whistful jazz, the sort of thing that you would hear mid way in a Barbara Thompson concert...
I'm still learning about this. This is definitely music from the heart, and excellent. Anyone who can play this stuff, please get in touch!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a fine introduction to iconic 20th C piano music, 1 Feb 2009
This review is from: Schoenberg, Berg, Webern: Piano Music (Audio CD)
yes - this is a fine cd : very well played by peter hill (of Messiaen piano recordings acclaim) , very well recorded and inexpensive, of initially pretty demanding austere key early 20th C piano works by the second Vienesse school of composers, Arnold Schoenberg,Alban Berg + Anton Webern. not easy music but very rewarding in the long term like true art should be, and a fine antidote to the overblown late Romantic piano excesses of Chopin and Rachmaninov. here, Hill's playing of - Schoenberg + co, as with Messiaen + Debussy :less notes means more.

what i admire about the 2nd Viennese school of composers here- is the sense of the centuries old rule book being ripped up into many pieces + carefully put back together in an entirely new , abstract + revolutionary new way and STILL producing very worthwhile "new" piano music that redirected much music in the 20th Century + into the 21st. Glenn Gould and Claude Heffler's also recorded very good and more concentrated, spikier readings by the way for fans wishing to compare slightly more volatile versions to Hill.

definitely recommended for open minded classical or fans of "difficult" music in general. now i want to hear Pollini's Schoenberg set on DG next...
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