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Schoenberg, Berg, Webern: Piano Music CD

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Composer: Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Arnold Schoenberg
  • Audio CD (1 Oct. 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00000JYTV
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,953 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.

Dazzling.
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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".
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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.
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Format: 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x88e9fba0) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x88f1446c) out of 5 stars In Its Way, a Kind of Nostalgia for Post-Romanticism 27 Sept. 2001
By Karl Henning - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
My five-star rating is partly to balance the three-star review, wherein the reviewer's only grievance was a technical problem on his copy. My copy suffers no such high-pitch difficulty.
But the recording itself deserves five stars. Peter Hill gives great performances of this collection of short piano pieces which, for all their brevity, make inordinate demands of the pianist ... they are infrequently performed, largely (if not solely) because of the outsized "effort-to-musical-reward" ratio. It is a lot of effort to put in, for a few minutes of such seemingly wild pianism, that it is far more likely to puzzle an audience, than to please them.
Frank Behrens is a little misleading here: less than half the music on this disc is twelve-tone music, strictly speaking. The Berg Sonata, and the Schoenberg Opp. 11 & 19 were composed before Schoenberg developed his twelve-tone thinking; and Schoenberg worked out the 'system' while he was composing the Opp. 23 & 25. And, even after twelve-tone was "set" (as it were) in Schoenberg's mind, he did not absolutely always write within the system.
Most of the music on this disc is, contrary to expectation, very Romantic -- especially compared to the pianism of post-Schoenberg composers in the 1950s. Not the large-scale, effusive Romanticism of (say) Wagner and Mahler, but a fusion of the brief aphoristic pianism of Schumann and Brahms, with a post-Romantic tonal restlessness which Schoenberg regarded as simply taking Wagner and Mahler to "their logical conclusion."
Frank is right, in that the music is not exactly "tuneful"; but then, a good deal of Wagner's sound-world is not all that tuneful. It is peculiar to describe this music as "daring," when almost all of it was written well before the second World War; almost anything written by the admirers of Schoenberg and Webern during the decade following the end of the war, makes these piano morceaux seem tame. Tame in an entirely welcome manner.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x88f144c0) out of 5 stars I've owned Pollini and Uchida 11 Feb. 2006
By paul best - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
in the Schoenberg, both are good.
But I much prefer this Peter Hill. I rarely use the word definitive, but in this case that descriptive applies. Everything about this guy's balance of tech and poetic understanding is alive here. One thing I like especially well is that Hill's ability to make this music more refined classical sound and much less of a jazzy image.
For a jazzy approach try Pollini.
PLUS YOU get the incredible Berg sonata and Webern's enchanting variations. BIG bonus'. 79 minutes of delightful music.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x892a8060) out of 5 stars Hard pieces played well... 11 Feb. 2004
By Mark Grindell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: 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 bits of them recently. This material are 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!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x88f14748) out of 5 stars The Solo Piano Music of the Second Viennese School 31 Aug. 2006
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The music of Arnold Schoenberg (1885 -- 1935) and his students Alban Berg (1885-- 1935) and Anton Webern (1883 -- 1945) brought something creative, revolutionary, and controversial to music. The change they effected in compositional style was so marked that Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern are frequently referred to as the "Second Vienese School." This CD includes virtually all the solo piano music composed by the Second Viennese School. The works are short and in a variety of styles. Pianist Peter Hill, a specialist in the performance of 20th century music, including works by Stravinsky and Messiaen, gives a deeply informed and probing reading of these difficult works.

Alban Berg's piano sonata, opus 1 (1908) is the earliest of the works on this CD, composed after Berg had completed four years of study with Schoenberg. Berg's only work for solo piano, the sonata is lyrical, reflective and accessible. It is a late romantic masterpiece, full of changes in harmonies, tempo, and dynamics. The work develops from a quiet, meditative theme, stated at the outset, and rises develops to moments of great force and passion. It comes, at last, to a quiet, serene close in which the tonal character of the piece is confirmed.

Arnold Schoenberg was the creator of "atonal" or fully chromatic music. (As it developed, it uses all the black and white keys on the piano without establishing a key center.) Schoenberg's output for piano solo is small, but Schoenberg used his writing for the instrument to develop his musical ideas. There is a tendency to over-intellectualize Schoenberg's work and that of his student Webern, (Berg's music, even at its most atonal, is overtly romantic and tugs at the heart.) but the music is full of passion when given a chance.

Schoenberg's Three Piano Pieces, op. 11 and his Six Little Piano Pieces, op, 19 date from 1909 and 1911. The pieces of 1909 are sometimes dubbed as "Brahms with dissonances" as Schoenber composed music in a romantic mood while venturing into the musical language of atonality. The initial two pieces are recognizably romantic, in themes and structure, while the brief third piece moves into a language much more impressionistic, fragmentary and difficult. The set of six little piano pieces are short and intense, following the third piece of op. 11. The final piece of the set, with its bell-like conclusion was written for the funeral of Gustav Mahler.

Following WW I, Schoenberg developed his music by using the twelve-tone scale for which he is best remembered. The five piano pieces, opus 23 consists, again of very short works, which take small clusters of notes and explore them intensely. The final work of the set, a waltz, is the only work of this set in a 12-tone idiom. The suite for piano opus 25, written at the same time as the opus 23, is 12-tone throughout. But the feel of the music shifts from romanticism to a throwback to the baroque suite, as Schoenberg's movements each bear the name of, and a distant resemblance to, a dance movement from an early harpsichord suite, such as "prelude", "musette" "gavotte", and "gigue". Schoenberg's final piano works, op. 33A and op. 33b, combine, in short compass the romantic and the baroque elements of op. 23 and op. 25.

Anton Webern wrote only one short piece for solo piano, the Variations, op 27, but it exerted great influence on many subsequent 20th century composers. It is a three-movement work, in which only the third movement consists of variations. For many years, Webern's music was thought, even by his admirers and imitators, to be formal and cold with little room for feeling. But this view seems to be a misapprehension of the music's nature and purpose, as Webern, following his teacher, tried to write tersely and to pack emotion and feeling into very short, succinct phrases. I found that approaching the music in this way helped me to respond to it.

Berg's sonata has become established, and rightly so, in the piano literature, but Schoenberg and Webern still remain more respected than heard. For those possessing good familiarity with music and patience for repeated hearings, this music will be deeply rewarding. This budget priced CD is an excellent way to get to know the music of Berg, Schoenberg, and Webern.

Robin Friedman
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x88f148f8) out of 5 stars Demands careful listening 7 Sept. 1999
By F. Behrens - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
For those of you with a taste for "modern" piano literature--that is, music written in this departing century--and who do not demand memorable melodies and appreciate essays in (at least what was at the time of composition)the new and daring, Naxos has a collection of <Piano Music> (8.553870) of the so called "Second Viennese School." Offering several examples of twelve-tone compositions, this CD give us Berg's "Sonata, Op. 1," Webern's "Variations, Op. 27," and six pieces by Schoenberg: "Three Piano Pieces, Op. 11," "Six Little Piano Pieces, Op. 19, " "Five Piano Pieces, Op 23," "Piano Piece, Op. 33A/B," and "Suite for Piano, Op. 25." Pianist Peter Hill makes a convincing case for these pieces, which are a far cry from your Chopin and Schubert in that they demand close listening. In a way, you might consider many of the pieces here as a new way of looking at traditional material. Indeed Schoenberg is quoted as saying that his music is not modern, merely badly played. You be the judge.
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