This has become one of my favorite CDs of symphonic music (after I checked it out a second time, having accidentally returned it once before, before listening to it). Mr. Rattle confidently leads the orchestra through what must be difficult music to conduct, producing a kaleidoscope of musical color. The three pieces are selected to “go together”; they work as if they were a single large-scale composition. Schoenberg’s orchestration of the Brahms Piano Quartet no. 1 seems to owe more to Dvorak, Smetana, and Liszt than to either Brahms or Schoenberg; though there is a Mahleresque marching band in the third movement and several passages that recall Richard Strauss, thus bringing the music a little closer geographically to the Germany of Brahms and Schoenberg. The remaining two works are by Schoenberg alone. “Accompanying Music to a Film Scene” (1930) is a relatively short piece for a small orchestra; no particular film was specified and the music was never used, but it is nonetheless a piece that deserves to be heard. Scored for a scene of dread and possible violence, it is a stark and atonal interlude in this otherwise lush CD. The “Chamber Symphony no. 1”, though written for a small orchestra, sounds as big as the orchestrated piano quartet. Though more stylistically “modern” than the music of Brahms, it is similar in some ways: themes appear and begin to “develop” (morph, grow into other themes) even before they are finished; it is something of a music stream 0f consciousness. It’s highly complex, dramatic music. It, and the rest of this CD, deserves far more than one listen.
Simon Rattle's long-term commitment to Schönberg's music is well-known; and, given that Rattle has also recorded Brahms' 4 symphonies and Ein Deutsches Requiem (the same orchestra and the same label), as well as the concertos (on DVDs), it is natural that he would do something like this. He infused great passion in the precedings. Though this is not an outright audiophile recording per se, the dynamic range is impressive, as well as its sonic substance.
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