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Do you normally believe commentators who talk as if Schoenberg comes as naturally to them as Schubert? If the commentator is, say, Sir Simon Rattle then obviously I do but otherwise I suspend judgment or worse. I have built up a small collection of Schoenberg over the last few years, and I have yet to achieve an easy relationship with the piano and violin concertos or the variations for orchestra. But no lover of Schoenberg's own idol Brahms should have much problem with Verklaerte Nacht or the Pelleas et Melisande music, and it is an easy step from there to the chamber symphonies.
I recalled the remark by Rudolf Serkin (in case that reassures you) that Schoenberg had the best musical mind he ever met (the second best being Donald Francis Tovey, in case that also reassures you). The music on this record is music with a strong intellect behind it, something you can say of any of the major classics. It is also -- trust me -- very attractive and listenable music. The first chamber symphony starts with some 'so there!' squawking harmonies. This is obviously not Brahms, but you are not far into the piece before his influence on the sound is becoming apparent. The second of them has a much higher opus-# so I braced myself for anything, but in the event it is similar in idiom to the first. I am now playing the pieces as background and for pleasure. The recorded sound is very good, the impact on the ear is very pleasant, the price is very low. Give it a try.
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