Webern: Symphony, Six Pieces, Concerto for 9 Instruments

Webern: Symphony, Six Pieces, Concerto for 9 Instruments

by Robert Craft
     
 

At first hearing, Anton Webern's music seems among the most mystifying in the modernist canon. Utterly abstract, often pointillistic, and very short in duration, Webern's works demand a listener who is open-minded about the boundaries of musical possibility. He also occupies an absolutely essential place in 20th-century music, bridging the gap between his teacher… See more details below

Overview

At first hearing, Anton Webern's music seems among the most mystifying in the modernist canon. Utterly abstract, often pointillistic, and very short in duration, Webern's works demand a listener who is open-minded about the boundaries of musical possibility. He also occupies an absolutely essential place in 20th-century music, bridging the gap between his teacher Arnold Schoenberg, pioneer of the 12-tone method, and the avant-garde composers for whom Webern's music was an inspirational revelation in the years after World War II. It's instructive to compare recordings from across the years: Early performances tended to be dryly inexpressive, while more recent ones have often found both a poetic depth and an otherworldly beauty. Without a doubt, the present disc is the best introduction to Webern currently available; at budget price, it trumps the excellent complete edition that Pierre Boulez completed in 2000, and it gives a superb cross-section of the composer's works in many genres. Conductor Robert Craft is best known for his long association with Igor Stravinsky, but he has also done much for Webern, Schoenberg, and others over the years. He includes 11 works here -- more than a third of Webern's published output -- and the highlights include the early Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6, which use a Mahler-sized orchestra with incredible delicacy and concentration; the Concerto for Nine Instruments, Op. 24, full of wry acrostic games; and the Symphony, Op. 21, sublimely beautiful in Craft's performance. Soprano Jennifer Welch-Babidge, violinist Ani Kavafian, cellist Fred Sherry, clarinetist Charles Neidich, and pianist Christopher Oldfather are among the prominent musicians contributing their considerable talents to this disc. It's the first volume of a Webern series on Naxos, but the majority of his essential works are right here, making this the perfect opportunity to come to terms with this challenging but indispensable figure of modern music.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Leonard
A few aging listeners will recall a time when the only way to hear most of the music of Anton Webern was through the recordings of Robert Craft. Few of those listeners will recall those performances with pleasure. Webern's music was new then, so most of it had never been recorded before, so no one really knew how it went. That Craft had his musicians do as well as they did is to be commended. That they didn't do it better is to be regretted. But that they set back the cause of Webern's music two decades is incontrovertible because in Craft's recordings, Webern's music sounds more like random bleeps, blips, and bloops than music. That was then and this is now. Craft has had 50 years to live with Webern's music and two generations of musicians have grown up in the meantime. The first disc in Craft's second Webern series benefits immeasurably from both. Although Craft's Webern still sounds a bit angular, that may be an interpretative inclination rather than a technical flaw. More importantly, these performances are tremendously musical. For once, Webern's music sounds light, lyrical, witty, expressive, and tender. While some of the music on this disc is still a stiff dose of unreconstructed dodecaphonic serialism, most of it is passionately controlled, deeply emotional, and profoundly spiritual. Naxos' sound is clear and vivid.
New York Times - David Schiff
The first movement of Webern's Symphony (Op. 21) has never sounded so radiantly and seductively normal.... Craft's interpretation glories in the spacious, resonating calm. He nails the music's elusive rhythmic groove, and the players find the equally elusive tonal groove, placing the sparse notes in a secure harmonic relationship that has previously been more apparent to the analytic eye than to the ear. Atonal music sounds completely different, perhaps not even atonal, when played in tune.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/18/2005
Label:
Naxos
UPC:
0747313253029
catalogNumber:
8557530
Rank:
218346

Tracks

  1. Symphony, Op. 21  - Anton Webern  - Robert Craft  - August Macke  -  Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble
  2. Canons (5) on Latin Texts for voice, clarinet & bass clarinet, Op. 16  - Anton Webern  - Michael Lowenstern  - August Macke  - Charles Neidich  - Jennifer Welch-Babidge
  3. Traditional Rhymes (3) for soprano & ensemble, Op. 17  - Anton Webern  - Michael Lowenstern  - August Macke  - Charles Neidich  - Jennifer Welch-Babidge  - Jesse Mills  - Jesse Mills
  4. Songs (3) for soprano, E flat clarinet & guitar, Op. 18  - Anton Webern  - Scott Kuney  - August Macke  - Charles Neidich  - Jennifer Welch-Babidge  - Peter Rosegger
  5. String Trio, Op. 20  - Anton Webern  - Ani Kavafian  - August Macke  - Fred Sherry  - Richard O'Neill
  6. Quartet for clarinet, saxophone, piano & violin, Op. 22  - Anton Webern  - Michael Lowenstern  - August Macke  - Christopher Oldfather  - Jennifer Frautschi  - Daniel Goble
  7. Variations for piano, Op. 27  - Anton Webern  - August Macke  - Christopher Oldfather
  8. Pieces (6) for orchestra, Op. 6  - Anton Webern  - Robert Craft  - August Macke  -  New Philharmonia Orchestra
  9. Pieces (4) for violin & piano, Op. 7  - Anton Webern  - August Macke  - Christopher Oldfather  - Jesse Mills
  10. Little Pieces (3) for cello & piano, Op. 11  - Anton Webern  - August Macke  - Christopher Oldfather  - Fred Sherry
  11. Concerto for 9 instruments, Op. 24  - Anton Webern  - David Fedele  - Christopher Gekker  - Stephen Gosling  - Sunghae Anna Lim  - August Macke  - Charles Neidich  - Jim Pugh  - William Purvis  - Stephen Taylor  - Richard O'Neill
  12. German Dances (6) for orchestra (arr. from Schubert)  - Anton Webern  - Robert Craft  - August Macke  -  New Philharmonia Orchestra

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