Concerto for string quartet & orchestra (after Handel's Concerto Grosso, Op.6/7)
Suite for Piano, Op. 25
Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra: Lied der Waldtaube
- Lied der Waldtaube (12:55)
The Book of the Hanging Gardens, cycle of songs (15) for voice & piano, Op. 15
- A Conversation with Arnold Schoenberg (06:27)
In a program that emphasizes the diversity of Arnold Schoenberg's music, the biggest surprise for many listeners will come at the outset, with his Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra. This uncharacteristically high-spirited piece is among Schoenberg's least-known works, making this fine recording all the more valuable; it's largely a transcription of a Concerto Grosso by Handel, but Schoenberg also put a lot of himself into the final product. Even if the melodies sound Baroque, the orchestration is kaleidoscopically modern, and every now and again the quartet of soloists broaches some harmonies that would have had Handel scratching his head. The Fred Sherry String Quartet manages to conquer the incredible difficulty of the solo parts while still sounding like they're truly enjoying themselves. The other works featured here -- the second volume of Robert Craft's Schoenberg collection for Naxos -- represent key moments of the composer's earlier career. From the Romantic, panoramic Gurre-Lieder, the rapturous "Song of the Wood Dove" (in a chamber ensemble version arranged in 1923) is sung by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane, who also solos in Schoenberg's Book of the Hanging Gardens, a song cycle that finds the composer reveling in the expressive freedom of his increasingly atonal style. Lane, too, revels in this music's expressivity; rarely have the Hanging Gardens sounded so transfixingly beautiful. Most familiar here is the Suite for Piano (1921-23), one of Schoenberg's first and most gratifying essays using the 12-tone method. The Baroque dance forms that structure this Suite provide a link forward to the Concerto, one of the many connections this program forges despite the apparent variety of its contents. As a final bonus, you can listen to Schoenberg's own heavily accented English in a radio broadcast interview from 1949.