Webern: Symphony, Six Pieces, Concerto for 9 Instruments

Webern: Symphony, Six Pieces, Concerto for 9 Instruments

by Robert Craft


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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.

Product Details

Release Date: 01/18/2005
Label: Naxos
UPC: 0747313253029
catalogNumber: 8557530
Rank: 201929


  1. Symphony, Op. 21
  2. Canons (5) on Latin Texts for voice, clarinet & bass clarinet, Op. 16
  3. Traditional Rhymes (3) for soprano & ensemble, Op. 17
  4. Songs (3) for soprano, E flat clarinet & guitar, Op. 18
  5. String Trio, Op. 20
  6. Quartet for clarinet, saxophone, piano & violin, Op. 22
  7. Variations for piano, Op. 27
  8. Pieces (6) for orchestra, Op. 6
  9. Pieces (4) for violin & piano, Op. 7
  10. Little Pieces (3) for cello & piano, Op. 11
  11. Concerto for 9 instruments, Op. 24
  12. German Dances (6) for orchestra (arr. from Schubert)

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