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Schoenberg - Violin Concerto / A Survivor from Warsaw

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Product details

  • Performer: Rolf Schulte, David Wilson-Johnson, Simon Joly Chorale
  • Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Conductor: Robert Craft
  • Composer: Arnold Schoenberg
  • Audio CD (29 Sept. 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B001F1YBRG
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 103,943 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. A Survivor from Warsaw for Narrator, Men's Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 46
  2. Prelude to Genesis for Mixed Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 44
  3. Dreimal Tausend Jahre for Mixed Chorus a cappella, Op. 50A
  4. Psalm 130, De Profundis, for Mixed Chorus a cappella, Op. 50B
  5. Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte for String Quartet, Piano and Reciter, Op. 41
  6. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 36

Product Description

This volume of Robert Craft's acclaimed Schoenberg series presents the composer's favourite of his own orchestral works, the Violin Concerto. Conceived in grand style and dedicated to his 'dear friend and fellow warrior' Webern, it draws on the techniques of melodic variation and development that Schoenberg so admired in Brahms' music to reach a majestic conclusion. In the other shorter works, written during or after World War II, Schoenberg uses striking vocal and instrumental combinations to create intensely moving and dramatic music. De Profundis was Schoenberg's last completed composition.

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Format: Audio CD
In his invaluable guide "Schoenberg" in the Master Musicians series, Malcolm Macdonald writes (Preface, vii): "Everyone seems to have problems with Schoenberg. .... [A]s with all music that has something important to say, there is really no substitute for familiarity born of repeated listening to sympathetic performances." Robert Craft has recorded an extensive series of recordings of the works of this difficult composer which should be invaluable to listeners willing to hear Schoenberg in breadth and depth. The CD I am reviewing here includes a selection of Schoenberg's latter works, including the Concerto for violin and orchestra, opus 36, and a group of five late choral pieces composed during or after WW II. The CD has received strong critical reviews. It is available individually or as part of a 5-CD set on Naxos. The Works of Arnold Schoenberg, Vol. 1

MacDonald describes the opening work on the CD, "A Survivor from Warsaw for Narrator, Men's Chorus and Orchestra", opus 46, as "an overwhelming demonstration of twelve-tone music's fitness for communicating passionate human emotion." ("Schoenberg" at 108) The work opens with a blaring twelve-tone phrase in the trumpet. The narrator, David Wilson-Johnson, describes an unspecified incident of the murder of Jews by the Nazis accompanied by chilling music. At the end of the work, a male chorus sound a note of hope in chanting, also in twelve tones, perhaps the most hallowed prayer of Judaism, the "Shema Yisroel."

Three of the remaining four choral pieces also illustrate Schoenberg's commitment in later life to Judaism and to religious themes.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very engaging program 7 Sept. 2010
By Ray Barnes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
All of the 6 works on this CD are well recorded. As usual with this excellent Naxos series, the documentation (provided by the conductor Robert Craft) is invaluable. A Survivor From Warsaw, narrated in English, German, and Hebrew at the end, is dramatic and expressive. The orchestral score depicts Nazi atrocities against the Jews during WWII. Suffice to say, it is not comfortable listening, but effective. I am reserving judgment about the Prelude to Genesis for orchestra and wordless chorus, but the performance is fine. The choral Dreimal Tausend Jahre and De Profundis (Psalm 130), in German and Hebrew sung a cappella, are quite beautiful. The Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte for reciter, piano and string quartet, in English, is very fine too, although the rhythm of the recitation takes some getting used to. The 12 tone scoring is surprisingly warm and expressive, although it too is also targeted at the Nazis indirectly.

The Violin Concerto has what I would call a bittersweet quality which upon repeated hearing becomes very palatable. The somewhat (not severely) angular 12 tone writing is offset by the solo instrument's warmth of tone, although it requires great virtuosity to bring this off. In its lyrical sharpness, the work has something in common with the Sibelius concerto (hence the Hilary Hahn CD). The final movement here has a passage which resembles the rhythm of the opening of the final movement of the Brahms concerto, perhaps not coincidentally. It is not hard to see why Schoenberg had great affection for this work, where he has reconciled the new world of sound with the old - although this is not readily apparent upon first hearing. Compared to the award winning Hahn release (which I also admire), this performance is in my view of equal quality in every way, perhaps a little less lyrical and sharper, and the music can take either approach with equal success.

Overall, another great release in this series, with fine cover art too.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Powerful (Mostly) Late Schoenberg 14 Oct. 2011
By Trent P. McDonald - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is currently my favorite Schoenberg CD. I've listened to it almost constantly for quite a few months.

I had originally bought this CD because I didn't have a copy of "A Survivor from Warsaw". All I can say is "Wow!", this is definitely worth the price of admission even if the rest of the CD were blank. The music is very powerful and fits perfectly with the words - listening you can tell why Schoenberg is called an expressionist....

The three middle pieces were also new to my collection with this CD. Although they do not plumb the emotional depths in quite the same way as "Survivor" they still retain their own powerful beauty - a stark, thorny beauty to be sure, but beautiful. The 2 Op. 50 pieces are often chilling...

I like "Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte", which I have other copies with the same narrator, but it can't compare to "Survivor". One problem personally - if I lose the thread of this I have a hard time getting back into it - this can be said about other meaningful "art music", but I seem to lose my way on this piece more than any others on the CD which might seem strange since it is usually regarded as the most accessible...

The title piece is, of course, the violin concerto. I can't say enough about Hillary Hahn's version, but I like this one almost as much. In fact, in many ways I find it easier to "get" in the context of other late Schoenberg pieces than with Sibelius. The violin concerto is another very powerful piece and explores vast emotion territory.

Overall I find this CD very powerful. It may not be for every taste, but I highly recommend it to those who are willing to try late Schoenberg.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring Schoenberg with Robert Craft 4 Jan. 2010
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
In his invaluable guide "Schoenberg" in the Master Musicians series, Malcolm Macdonald writes (Preface, vii): "Everyone seems to have problems with Schoenberg. .... [A]s with all music that has something important to say, there is really no substitute for familiarity born of repeated listening to sympathetic performances." Robert Craft has recorded an extensive series of recordings of the works of this difficult composer which should be invaluable to listeners willing to hear Schoenberg in breadth and depth. The CD I am reviewing here includes a selection of Schoenberg's latter works, including the Concerto for violin and orchestra, opus 36, and a group of five late choral pieces composed during or after WW II. The CD has received strong critical reviews. It is available individually or as part of a 5-CD set on Naxos. The Works of Arnold Schoenberg, Vol. 1

MacDonald describes the opening work on the CD, "A Survivor from Warsaw for Narrator, Men's Chorus and Orchestra", opus 46, as "an overwhelming demonstration of twelve-tone music's fitness for communicating passionate human emotion." ("Schoenberg" at 108) The work opens with a blaring twelve-tone phrase in the trumpet. The narrator, David Wilson-Johnson, describes an unspecified incident of the murder of Jews by the Nazis accompanied by chilling music. At the end of the work, a male chorus sound a note of hope in chanting, also in twelve tones, perhaps the most hallowed prayer of Judaism, the "Shema Yisroel."

Three of the remaining four choral pieces also illustrate Schoenberg's commitment in later life to Judaism and to religious themes. The Prelude to Genesis, opus 44 (1944) was written as an introduction to a suite on religious themes that had been commissioned by a radio concert series from a number of American immigrant composers. Only Stravinsky's contribution and Schoenberg's Prelude remain performed. (The two composers disliked each other.) Schoenberg's Prelude opens with an eerie, twelve-tone theme meant to suggest the creation of the world, as did the opening of Haydn's oratorio, "The Creation." A wordless chorus comes in late in the work to suggest the human place in the creation.

The two choral pieces "Dreimal Tausend Jahre, opus 50A (1949) and "Psalm 130, De Profundis for Mixed Chorus a capella opus 50B (1950) are among Schoenberg's last compositions. Both works are highly mystical in character. Schoenberg uses a flexible method of 12 tone composition interspersed with tonal music. These difficult pieces express the deep feelings of a highly religious composer.

Schoenberg's sardonic "Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte for String Quartet, Piano, and Reciter, opus 41 (1942) sets a text by Lord Byron, but Schoenberg's contempt is meant for Hitler. Schoenberg wrote that "it was the moral duty of intelligentsia to stand against tyranny." The work is declaimed by David Wilson-Johnson over a sharp rugged accompaniment featuring the piano. The work concludes with a paean to George Washington and to the promise of the United States as a beacon to the cause of human liberty.

The sole instrumental work on this CD is Schoenberg's violin concerto, opus 36 (1934), which the composer dedicated to Anton Webern. The recording dates from 2000 with soloist Rolf Schulte and Craft conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. The violin concerto is a difficult work in its twelve tone idiom to hear and to perform. It is written in a concertante style with solo passages alternating with the orchestra, and the violinist is almost always at the center of attention. The work is full of double and triple stops, long passages in harmonics at the highest range of the violin's register, and large skips between registers. There are lengthy cadenzas in the first and third movements. The themes are knotty, extended, and difficult. The work opens with a passionately dramatic sonata-type movement. It is followed by a singing andante and a brilliantly difficult conclusion. Some readings of the violin concerto properly emphasize Schoenberg's romantic character, as a successor to Brahms. Other readings, including Schulte's and Craft's here, equally legitimately focus more on the outwardly forbidding and severe character of the work. This version of the concerto has been perhaps overshadowed by Hilary Hahn's widely-acclaimed recent recording of the work together with the Sibelius concerto. Schoenberg Violin Concerto Op.36/Sibelius Violin Concerto Op.47 But Schulte and Craft, if less heralded, offer a compelling account in their own right.

I am finding Craft's recordings of great value in learning to better appreciate the music of Schoenberg.

Robin Friedman
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Plangent Potpourri of Late Schönberg... 11 Jan. 2009
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
.
This disc represents a grab bag of late Schönberg (with the exception of the Third Period Violin Concerto) featuring politically and religiously motivated works.

The Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte (for reciter and piano quintet) is one of Schönberg's finest and most inspired pieces.
It is of course an anti-authoritarian poem.

(Perhaps it should be added here that Schönberg nearly always worked with great inspiration, and most of his works are of a very high quality with only a couple of pieces in his complete oeuvre falling somewhat below the bar.)

The remarkable work of A Survivor from Warsaw is utterly unique in art-music, and no one but Schönberg could have written it (in terms of ethos, technique, and space-time).

The hideous subject of genocide would in lesser hands result in a catastrophe of art; but in the hands of a genius who was a consummate technical master of an art-form (this being a very rare thing), the result in this case is a shocking and stunning tour de force of an aesthetic frisson.
The orchestration of this piece is inconceivably superb.

Crystalline orchestral technique is also a prime feature of Schönberg's rarely heard Genesis Prelude wherein he attempts to express the week of Creation.

The short choral works Op. 50a-b were written during Schönberg's terminal illness.
Their dissonances are difficult to endure, their form of vocalisation is painful to hear, and their appeal is not universal.
.
Schoenberg Violin Concerto Op.36/Sibelius Violin Concerto Op.47
Berg: Violin Concerto; Schoenberg: Piano Concerto; Violin Concerto

Schoenberg: Ein Uberlebender Aus Warschau; Webern: Orchesterwerke - Claudio Abbado
Schoenberg: Five Orchestra Pieces, Survivor from Warsaw

Schoenberg - Pierrot lunaire ~ Herzgewächse ~ Ode to Napoleon / Schäfer, Pittman-Jennings, Ensemble InterContempolain, Boulez
Schoenberg: Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte/Webern: String Trio/Quartet Rondo/Piano Quintet

The Genesis Suite
Genesis Suite

Schoenberg (Master Musicians Series)
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