Paterson’s Whimsical String Quartets

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PATERSON: String Quartets Nos. 1-3 / The Indianapolis Qrt / American Modern Recordings AMR1054

It’s difficult to pinpoint just what it is about Robert Paterson’s music that makes it interesting, modern and audience-friendly all at the same time. The first thing that leaps out at you, aside from his tongue-in-cheek handling of themes and fast-paced energy, is his rhythmic vitality, and I can tell you from very long experience in reviewing modern music that, except for those few composers who combined jazz elements with their music, such as Daniel Schnyder, Laurie Altman and the late Nikolai Kapustin, emphasizing rhythms that average audiences can follow is a rare commodity.

Robert Paterson

But here they are, all on display as you go from movement to movement. The first quartet, for instance, opens up with a briskly paced first movement (titled, appropriately enough, “Fast and Sprightly”), while the second movement with its humorous handling of a very drunk-sounding waltz that also has, to my ears, country & western overtones, is titled “Logy.” Paterson clearly tips his hand by giving his movements titles that let you know what you’re in for; the third movement is a “Luscious Legato,” although here his use of bitonal harmonies somewhat undercut what an average listener today would think is luscious (think of all the drippy slow music out there that is passed off nowadays as “classical”), and the last is titled “Energetic Polka.” You can’t get more obvious than that—but even this movement had more than a touch of a hoedown in it, not to mention some contrapuntal figures in bitonal harmony. Some polka!

And yet, as I say, his music is good. Beneath the harmonic devices and the entertaining aspects, much of it has real substance. Since I don’t know much about Paterson, I can’t say what his musical influences, other than classical, are, but whatever the case he seems to have a wellspring of interesting ideas and devices which he uses. In short, he’s the kind of composer I wish I were if I had a single composing bone in my body.

The second quartet, which dates from 19 years later, has similar traits of urgent rhythmic drive, bitonal harmonies and a very original way of developing his themes, yet the music is not that much like the first despite following a similar pattern. This is evident in the humorous title he gave to its second movement, “Rigor Mortis.” Apparently, Paterson enjoys giving his scherzos truly funny titles, which is apropos since scherzo essentially means “joke.” True to its title, “Rigor Mortis” has an obstinately stiff rhythm played at a fast tempo as well as his trademark humorous asides. There’s also an unexpected lyrical interlude in the middle…and, yes, another suggestion of a hoedown. This time, however, the music comes crashing to a halt before the slow movement, here tiled “Dolente.” Interestingly. this movement is almost a mirror image of “Rigor Mortis,” starting and ending slowly with a fast episode in the middle, but this time the rhythms are slower and more insistent. Paterson also fractures the music much more in this movement; it almost sounds more “Schizophrenic” than “Dolente.” Whether purposely or not, much of this movement sounds scattered, as if the themes can’t quite decide which direction they want to take.

But Paterson doesn’t stop there. The fourth movement, titled “Scherzando,” channels some of the drunken feeling of “Logy” from the first quartet, but here, too the music stops and restarts several times. Perhaps Paterson should have called this is “Indecisive Quartet.” In this movement, there’s also skewed quotes from “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” A truly strange work! In the finale, appropriately titled “Collage,” Paterson uses similar devices. Here he generally manages to pick up his musical train of thought in essentially the same vein after each short pause, but not always.

The first movement of the third quartet is titled “Twist and Shout” though it is not related to the Isley Brothers’ tune of the same name, although twist it does. Here, thankfully, Paterson reverts to the tighter form of his first quartet, using less pauses and writing more continuous music. The rhythms are really twisted, however, thus it isn’t the kind of piece that audiences are going to get up and dance to. The second movement, “Poet Voice,” is set to a medium tempo; after a somewhat edgy opening, Paterson employs a somewhat doleful theme in the cello around which the upper strings add their own comments, including violin tremolos. In a way, it’s just as “twisty” in its theme and development as the first movement. The next movement, “Auction Chant,” simulates the rapid-fire chatter of a country auctioneer, using fast pizzicato and spiccato figures in the upper strings, letting the viola emulate the auctioneer. Although not really a jazz piece, it has the same kind of rhythmic drive and insouciance as one of the Turtle Island String Quartet’s pieces. Later on, the music suddenly slows down, presenting a new theme that is surprisingly tonal and lyrical before picking up the original tempo for the finale.

I found “Effects Pedal,” on the other hand, to have a touch of jazz rhythm about it, at least a syncopation that touched on jazz, with the cello doing the syncopated rhythm beneath the other three strings. (I think David Balakrishnan, founder of the Turtle Island Quartet, would really like this piece.) I really like the way Paterson teases the listener’s ear by keeping things moving, albeit in quirky rhythms, in such a way that you have to pay attention but you don’t mind doing so because, deep down, the music is enjoyable. The fifth and last movement, “Anthem,” is another lively piece, sort of like a hoedown in counterpoint. (Balakrishnan would like this one, too.) Perhaps the almost consistently quick tempi are a bit too much of a good thing, and there were moments when I wished that Paterson would perhaps get just a little more serious about his thematic development, but he has his own style and this is it.

There are no two ways about it: Robert Paterson’s music is both modern in every respect you can think of—harmonically, rhythmically and thematically—but audience-friendly at the same time. It’s a little nutty, but the world needs more humor in classical music. We have far too much of the “oh-God-I’m-so-depressed-and-serious” type.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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Pettersson Played by Nisbeth and Lindberg

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PETTERSSON: Symphony No. 15. Fantaisie for Solo Viola.* Concerto for Viola & Orch.* / *Ellen Nisbeth, vla; Norrköping Symphony Orch.; Christian Lindberg, cond / Bis SACD-2480

This is the last installment in Christian Lindberg’s Pettersson symphony cycle. Pettersson has always had a strange, outsider’s relationship with the classical establishment outside of Sweden, not only during his lifetime but even after his death. As I mentioned in an earlier review, because the music struck me as somewhat dreary when I first heard one of his symphonies in 1978, I stayed away from collecting his music.

In listening to this, his last symphony (which was unrecorded at the time the professor visited me), I can’t say that the music is dreary in the least. On the contrary, it opens with a surprisingly loud, busy figure played by the brass, strings and percussion before moving into the opening theme, and even here there are frequent outbursts of a similar nature as it progresses.

Yet there is one feature of this symphony, written in one continuous movement but divided up on the SACD into 11 individual tracks, that I do remember from the one I heard, and that was its harmonic and textural density. Pettersson’s symphonies are not really audience-friendly, but now that I’ve become much more comfortable with such composers as Robert Simpson and Per Norgård, I can follow and understand his train of musical thought more clearly than I did when I was young. He was a composer who found a way to fuse 12-tone elements with spurts of chromaticism, tone clusters and even occasional microtones in a linear fashion, but it was his extraordinarily complex instrumental voicings and astringent scoring that could easily confuse the non-musically literate listener.

One thing that helped in my appreciation of this work was the SACD recorded sound. Even though I only have conventional equipment to play it on, the microphone placement with its close perspective and almost panoramic soundstage brought all of the different strands of this score together in a way that I could hear everything that was going on inside the music. It seemed to me not so much a good, third-row seat in a concert hall so much as if I were sitting on the stage, fairly close to the orchestra as it played…almost the same perspective that the conductor himself would have on the podium. Naturally, this isn’t going to help someone who is listening for melodies that he or she can hang on to, but I really got the impression that Pettersson wrote two different works for each half of the orchestra, then put them together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Musical figures that I heard in the left channel were juxtaposed against different figures in the right, and he somehow kept this juggling act going throughout the entire work. Although it is a one-movement symphony lasting almost 36 minutes, it is divided on this disc into 11 separate fragments, identified by bar numbers. Truthfully, however, I wondered if this was really such a good idea, since some of the most extreme changes in tempo and/or harmony occur within tracks and not necessarily at the beginnings of them. But I digress.

As the symphony continued, the one thing I noticed about the music—and this was something that, vague as my memory is, I recall hearing in that Pettersson symphony so many years ago—was that it sometimes doesn’t have a purpose or a direction. It just “is” a collection of knotty and complex sounds. Although it is far from sounding like minimalism, it tends to get lost in its own musical knots…not all the time, but when it does, my mind tunes out and all I can think of is, “Oh, come on already!:

The solo viola Fantaisie is so short (3:27) that Pettersson really didn’t have time to get lost in his own musical maze, and in fact I found this a surprisingly attractive piece, much more lyrical than his later work (it dates from 1936, before he started studying composition in earnest in 1951). Yet, interestingly, although the Viola Concerto is also a late work, in fact written after the Symphony No. 15, it, too is more lyrical and, to a point, less lost in its harmonic mazes. Perhaps writing for a solo string instrument led him to modify his approach somewhat, but in any case I really enjoyed this piece. It should surely be played more often in concert halls, but in the back of my mind, I just know it won’t be. Again, the SACD sonics help one to hear everything in this piece with the utmost clarity, particularly the ostinato rhythm played by the celli and basses in the right channel. These help propel the music along somewhat more conventional rhythmic lines than the symphony just as the often-resolved harmony make it easier for listeners to appreciate all the little details that Pettersson put into this work. Also in one continuous movement, it is broken up here into six separate tracks. In the second band of this concerto, Pettersson surprisingly lightens the orchestral texture to that of a chamber orchestra and again uses rhythmic figures to help propel the music. This is, in my view, a real masterpiece; the longer it continued, the more I liked it, and it’s superbly played by Ellen Nisbeth.

A mixed review, and oddly it was the symphony that posed the most problems for me.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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Gielen Conducts Messiaen

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MESSIAEN: Les Oubliées Offtandes. Poèmes pour Mi.* Chronochromie / *Sarah Leonard, sop; ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orch.; Michael Gielen, cond / Orfeo C250131 (live: 1991 & 1996)

Michael Gielen’s posthumous recorded oeuvre continues to grow exponentially, here reaching the mystical French composer Olivier Messiaen. For Gielen, a wide-awake, objectivist conductor in the same vein as Rodziński, Leibowitz, Markevitch and Boulez, approaching the music of Messiaen seems like a poor fit; it’s just not his thing. Or was it?

As it turns out, his performance of Les Oubliées Offrandes is not only meticulously played in terms of orchestral clarity—one hears every note and every strand of the music as one sees it on paper—but it is also the most emotional performance I’ve yet heard. Granted, by range of experience in this piece isn’t very wide, consisting of Cambreling, Chung and Giulini, but he is better than those three conductors. The slow opening section is constantly nudged forward ever-so-slightly by Gielen’s enlivened conducting, and when the loud explosion occurs, it does not sound as jarring and out of place as in the other performances cited above because here, too, his focus is on orchestral transparency and clarity, not a massive sound such as the one that Chung elicits on his recording.

Although this performance of the more familiar Poèmes pour Mi is a good one, the microphone placement, like that of the preceding work, is somewhat distant. This doesn’t really hurt the sound textures of the orchestra, but soprano Sarah Leonard’s excellent voice is simply swimming in echo/reverb. I know some people who love this sound, but I’m not one of them, thus I give this performance a qualified positive rating. Since Leonard does not interpret the lyrics at all, one must ask one’s self if this is the kind of performance you personally like. Granted, the French tradition between roughly 1904 and the late 1950s was to sing both opera and French chansons with no interpretation whatsoever, so as far as historical performance practice goes, this is correct, but personally I prefer the more involved versions by sopranos Renée Fleming (one of her finest recordings) and Anne Schwanewilms. Nevertheless, the decision is yours to make, not mine, since both approaches are valid.

In Chronochromie, Gielen sounds particularly happy and at home in this, Messiaen’s most harmonically and rhythmically complex orchestral score, and the sound on this live recording is, happily, somewhat clearer and more focused than the first two works, which helps particularly in focusing the brass outbursts as well as the complex interaction of the winds. (The complex interaction of the percussion comes through clearly no matter who is conducting it.) To be honest, it’s not my favorite Messiaen orchestral piece, but it is interesting from a technical standpoint, and Gielen imbues the music with considerable emotion as well as energy.

All in all, then, an interesting CD for Gielen aficionados, something pretty far outside his normal repertoire.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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Niemann Conducts Mayer’s Symphonies

 

 

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MAYER: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 3 / Bremerhaven Philharmonic Orch.; Marc Niemann, cond / Hänssler Classic HC22016

This very welcome CD presents two of Emilie Mayer’s symphonies. Since my first discovery of this remarkable and outstanding composer two years ago, a CPO release of her first two symphonies, she has been on my radar for anything and everything she ever wrote, and so far I’ve not been disappointed.

As luck would have it, this release fills in a gap in my collection. I have her Symphonies Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 7, but neither the third nor the sixth, so I was absolutely thrilled to be able to hear them.

Although the liner notes indicate that the third symphony (1850) was based on Haydn’s “Military” Symphony, No. 100, it is much closer in ideas, rhythm, and harmony to Beethoven, yet she takes it a step further than that composer’s music based on Haydn. More to the point, her musical concepts are entirely her own; despite using Haydn and Beethoven as models, she was very much her own person. Little bits of the theme are distributed among sections of the orchestra, starting in the trumpets, then moving to the violins and finally to the celli and basses. She continues this clever variation on hocket style into the “bridge” of the first theme, even after she makes some unexpected dips into the minor. This is a full-blooded symphony, built along traditional lines but with a great deal of imagination; although the first movement is not developed in quite as complex a manner as Brahms was to do, it is clearly good music. Interestingly, she applied the same bounce-around-the-orchestra style to the lyrical second movement, a very passionate, almost masculine-sounding piece.  By and large, however, the sprightly menuetto which starts in the minor and then moves to major, is the most tightly-knit movement so far, but the finale Mayer pulled some neat tricks, like starting it out as an “Adagio” before swinging into a brisk “Allegro vivace” with some light cymbal work in the background.

Mayer’s Sixth Symphony was written only three years later; unlike Beethoven, she worked fairly quickly. This one dispenses completely with Classical models; it is clearly based on the more advanced of Beethoven’s symphonies. One would say his Third, since the second movement is a “Marcia funèbre,” but that’s not the case in the first movement, where a slow introduction very quickly begins to morph into something livelier and more powerful. I also think a but of late Schubert crept into this one as well. The “punchy” rhythms and swirling string figures she used in the first movement remind one of both composers (but, interestingly, not of Schumann). Near the end of the first movement, Mayer gets into some fast key changes back and forth to raise tension as the music drives forward to the finish.

Mayer’s funeral march isn’t quite as simple a theme as Beethoven’s or Chopin’s, but it is effective. At the halfway mark in this movement, she does borrow one particular motif from the Beethoven “Eroica,” possibly as a small form of homage. Once again, her scherzo is quirky and uses a modified hocket form in the orchestration. The last movement is a quick-moving allegro that features French horns playing a motif against soft violin section tremolos and, again, that “jumpy” sort of rhythm that was apparently one of her trademark sounds (undoubtedly the influence of her first teacher, Carl Loewe, whose songs are full of such devices).

Emilie Mayer was not as transcendent a genius as some of her models, particularly Beethoven, but her music was scrupulously well written and solidly grounded in addition to being highly original in form. She didn’t need to beg any favors from the male musical establishment in her time except one, and that was that only her chamber works were published, not her excellent symphonies. Mayer clearly deserves to be remembered as well as heard more often, and if you don’t have any of her other symphony recordings, this is a good place to start.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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Kallembach’s Moving “Antigone”

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KALLEMBACH: Antigone / Lorelei Ensemble: Sarah Brailey, Rebecca Myers Hoke, Jessica Beebe, Arwen Myers, sop; Christina English, Sophie Michaux, mez; Stephanie Kacoyanis, Emily Marvosh, alto. Cello quartet: Caleb van der Swaagh, Lisa Caravan, Michael Unterman, Jonathan Dexter / New Focus Recordings FCR333

James Kallembach, a name new to me, is an American composer who is also a Senior Lecturer in Music and director of Choral Activities at the University of Chicago’s Music Department. This rather brief but deeply moving and remarkably appealing work was based on both Sophocles’ play on Antigone and the writings of Sophie Scholl, a leader of the Munich-based White Rose anti-Nazi resistance movement of the 1940s. Both Sophie and her brother Hans were arrested and executed at the guillotine in 1943.

According to the notes, Kallembach wove Sophie Scholl’s writings into the text of the Sophocles play to create a unified work. As he puts it, “The clash between what we hold to be undeniably just and the decrees of those in power was important two thousand years ago in the public spectacle of Greek drama, it was important during WWII, it is important now and it always will be.” I agree with him and stand by that sentiment, whether the tyrants are Donald Trump or Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin or Emmanuel Macron. Those who repress people’s freedoms are to be fought against regardless of political ideology.

Antigone is simply scored for a women’s vocal octet and cello quartet. The piece is divided into a Prologue, three scenes and an Epilogue. The text is primarily Sophocles, but includes fragments from the White Rose writings of Scholl, which are clearly marked in the accompanying booklet. The Epilogue is all Sophie Scholl. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the music is both tonal and melodic but not of the drippy, maudlin school that has so infected many modern-day composers. After a wordless vocal introduction, we hear one of the cellos enter in a different key, which then leads the voices into that domain. The singers all have extraordinarily beautiful voices and completely garbled diction; without the text in the booklet, you wouldn’t have a clue what they were singing (and you certainly wouldn’t suspect the English language) except for the name of Creon. That comes through loud and clear. The cello quartet plays a somewhat repetitive rhythmic pattern behind the voices, but the music is not minimalism since it does change and develop. During the first vocal solo, I also recognized the words “My dear sister,” but nothing else.

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A page from Sophie Scholl’s “White Rose” writings.

The music is modal to a certain extent, using open harmonies, fourths and fifths. Although relatively simple, it has shape and form and is surprisingly lovely and relaxed music considering the serious nature of the text. There is also a sort of continuous development that evolves as each track appears, creating a whole structure rather than a series of episodes. In the fourth track, “Who could be sure,” one of the cellos plays pizzicato in a manner similar to that of a jazz bass but without a real jazz feeling. The ensuing vocal ensemble interweaves the voices in contrasting melodic lines, creating a hypnotic effect. Following this is a purely instrumental passage in which the four cellos also play against one another. The music develops slowly enough that even a lay listener can catch all of what is going on. In track 6, “Then Creon, knowing that the people were uneasy in time of war,” Kallembach uses bitonal harmonies, just enough to give a little edge to the music.

Despite its brevity—only 36 minutes (the album is being marketed as an “EP”)—this is a surprisingly rich and well-written piece. It exhibits a feeling of sadness without belaboring the point and, if one reads the libretto as it plays, you will find that it mirrors the text fairly well. In track 7, “O numberless wonders,” Kallembach has the cellos echo the vocal line. All of this is subtle but not the least boring.

The music, and atmosphere, become more tense in the section “Then, suddenly, a sentry approached, leading Antigone in chains,” followed by a deeply-felt lament in the solo section “But lo, now what dark sign?” In fact, the music from this point on is faster and somewhat edgier than before, and although there is not any real jazz feeling in the music, there is a certain blues feeling that I detected despite the use of non-blues form.

Antigone is proof positive that there is still some interesting and moving music to be written in a tonal idiom. True, it’s not a large-scale masterpiece like an opera or a symphony, but its relatively simple approach works extremely well in getting the message of the Sophocles play and some of Sophie Scholl’s writings across. I cannot recommend this quiet little gem highly enough.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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Belli Conducts Ghedini & Hindemith

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GHEDINI: Musica da Concerto.* Musica Concertante.# HINDEMITH: Schulwerk: 5 Pieces for String Orchestra+ / *Simonide Braconi, vla/vla d’amore; +Lucio Degani, 1st vln; #Enrico Bronzi, cel; Nuovo Orch. de Camera “Ferruccio Busoni”; Massimo Belli, cond / Brilliant Classics BC96117

This is the kind of CD I enjoy listening to for review: three unusual works by two fine 20th century composers. Would that most modern CD releases were this kind of music instead of more of the same old same old, which we clearly don’t need.

Compared to Per Nørgård’s Eight Symphonies, which I had just finished reviewing, Ghedini’s 1953 Musica da Concerto sounds like Mozart—which is not intended as a criticism. As the notes indicate, Ghedini loved “the music of much older periods – Frescobaldi, Monteverdi, the Gabrielis, etc. His independence from any school of composers and his alienation from avant- garde trends make him a genuinely individual figure.” And despite his aversion to the more abrasive of modern harmonic music, not only of the 12-tone school but also of Stravinsky and Bartók, Ghedini did use modern harmonies, but always in a way that did not alienate the average listener while still attracting those who enjoyed music that was not beyond their range of experience. He was sort of a milder Italian relative of early Shostakovich or Britten, which wasn’t a bad thing. In this concerto, he lays out his theme broadly and lyrically while still moving into interesting rhythmic and contrapuntal figures as the music progresses. The music still challenges the ears of those listeners used to Respighi and Wolf-Ferrari, but clearly not to an extent that is off-putting. Both violist Braconi and conductor Belli clearly love this music, playing it with warmth and affection without unduly softening its contours when the rhythm becomes more sharply defined.

Interestingly, Hindemith’s Schulwerk, written in 1927—his early prime as a composer—is also mostly tonal and lyrical; in fact, the first of the five pieces is slow and moody, sounding much like a Brahmsian serenade except for a few unusual (but not abrasive) harmonies. The second piece, “Langsam – Schnell,” almost sounds like early Britten, and the third piece, “Lebhaft,” is also rather jaunty, with some nice counterpoint. This, too, is played with loving case by the Orchestra “Ferruccio Busoni.”

If anything, Ghedini’s Musica Concertante sounds even more Romantic than his earlier piece. Written for cello and string orchestra in 1962, it almost sounds at first like a lullaby, and a piece that would not be out of place on your local classical FM radio station. The nervous-sounding last fast section (the piece is in one movement), however, makes it quite interesting in places.

While not an indispensable disc, it is an eminently listenable one that may dispense some listeners’ fears of and repulsion of “modern music.” Recommended for admirers of these composers.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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Nørgård’s Complete Symphonies

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NØRGÅRD: Symphonies Nos. 3* & 7 / *Ulla Muinch, alto; *Danish National Vocal Ens., Concert Choir & Symphony Orch.; Thomas Dausgaard, cond / Symphonies Nos. 1 & 8 / Vienna Philharmonic Orch.; Sakari Oramo, cond / Symphonies Nos. 2, 4-6 / Oslo Philharmonic Orch.; John Storgårds, cond / Dacapo 8204002

Considering that Per Nørgård is one of Denmark’s more famous and popular living composers, I find it odd that Dacapo, a Danish label, couldn’t have contracted one conductor and orchestra to present his eight symphonies in a single set, whether he be Dausgaard, who now works primarily with the Seattle Symphony, Oramo, Storgårds, or even Leif Segerstam, whose recordings of Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 I already have in my collection, but here we are with what the British like to call a “potted” set using three different orchestras and conductors.

Nørgård, now 90 years old, has been writing music since the early 1950s, amassing a catalogue of more than 400 works. Wikipedia places him in the Sibelius-Nielsen camp, but Holmboe’s first symphony is more advanced than either of those composers. Although it is primarily lyrical and does contain “repeatedly evolving melodies” in the style of Sibelius, his music is driven by stark modern harmonies which, though never atonal, are clearly beyond the grasp of the average concertgoers who love their Brahms and Sibelius. Echoes of Bartók, Hindemith and of course his teacher Vagn Holmboe, run through this piece; he often uses rising chromatic harmonies known as the “infinity series” in his music. Even from this first symphony in 1953-55, his music was volatile, churning, and often unpredictable in the manner in which it moves forward. It was clearly no whim that led him to dub this work the “Sinfonia austera,” for austere it most certainly is, with powerful, muscular orchestration. In some respects—aside from the much more advanced harmony—this symphony clearly has some features in common with Mahler.

Symphony No. 2, in one movement, was written 15 years later, in 1970. It begins very softly—so softly, in fact, that even with the volume turned 3/4 of the way up I couldn’t hear the opening, so I had to increase the volume. This was a mistake on the part of the recording engineer; what probably sounds eerie and ambient in the concert hall was inaudible on records. Nørgård’s style had clearly changed in those 15 years; this music has neither a definable tonality nor rhythm, although there is clearly some rhythm somewhere in this music. But it’s also clearly not the kind of mooshy, comfy-sounding ambient music we hear nowadays; its harmonies are much closer and even edgier than before. It sounds related to the music of György Ligeti. Yet there is clearly development going on, mostly by the winds (clarinets and oboes) against the soft string tremolos. At around the six-minute mark, there are some contrapuntal figures playing against the slower top line of the music. The way that Nørgård has fashioned his orchestration creates a strange sound, the kind we now hear from such modern composers as Kalevi Aho or Poul Ruders. At the 9:50 mark, fairly complex percussion figures also come into the picture, then recede as the volume decreases and further development begins. Oddly, much later in this one-movement work, at the 16-minute mark, one actually hears a somewhat melodic figure as the orchestra gets louder and the internal counterpoint busier, and as we pass the 20-minute mark, the harmony suddenly coalesces into tonality. A strange but oddly attractive work considering its form. It ends as it began, quietly, just fading off into nothingness.

The Third Symphony, written in 1972-75, opens with a contrabass C banged out on a piano, followed by soft, held notes in the lower strings; there are cymbal washes, freaky high piccolo figures, and slow, grumbling figures played by the contrabasses. Now we’re in a sound world that’s even beyond what Ligeti aid and Aho does today; the piano interacts with the strings to create a falling arpeggio that seems to be in a modal harmony, with other high strings playing slithering, screaming figures up above. After more soft screaming from the high violins, chimes enter the picture, then the music becomes faster and busier. Now we’re very much enmeshed in Nørgård’s “infinity series” chording, yet despite all this free tonality and occasional atonality, he introduces a legato section played broadly by the strings. It’s almost as if his mind was working in two different modes and styles simultaneously.  What impressed me was the fact that, although the second and third symphonies were written only a few years apart, Nørgård uses different styles. albeit with similar features, thus he is one of those rare composers who has more than one “voice.” The third symphony is somewhat more advanced in the sort of devices he used and the way he used them, but it still sounds very different from its predecessor (for one thing, it’s in two movements instead of one; for another, he used an organ here for color rather than a piano).

The second movement, surprisingly, has a set rhythm, a jaunty 4with a 3 figure (two eighth notes followed by a quarter) sometimes played across it. Yet, of course, both the rhythm and the bitonal theme (occasionally lyrical) become more complex as things progress. Nørgård also uses a wordless alto voice in the background, for ambience, not in loud but in soft passages…yet another surprising change in texture for him. Another surprise is the entrance of two choirs of voices later on. The music then becomes not only faster but highly rhythmic, using the words of Ave Maris Stella and a poem by Rückert, Sing, My Heart, of Unknown Gardens Poured in Glass. The movement runs so long (almost 26 minutes) that they manage to get the entire poem in. This is a really weird trip! Yet this symphony has become so successful in the concert hall that Nørgård has dedicated it to conductor Thomas Dausgaard, who directs the performance here.

But if you think this was weird, wait until you hear his Fourth Symphony (1981). Although the symphony as a whole has no title, the first movement represents an “Indian Rose Garden” and the second a “Chinese Witch’s Lake,” which means that here Nørgård fused his by-now-usual non-tonal style with some more exotic harmonies…not quite Indian or Chinese, but suggestive of them. In certain moments, he also uses the string basses to play low droning sounds that resemble a didgeridoo. Here, the free tonality is even more pronounced, yet despite the very abstract sound of this music, there is some quite logical development going on in it. At around the 10:35 mark in the first movement, he also uses some microtonality, just for fun. And surprisingly, the “Chinese Witch’s Lake” follows without a break, suddenly jumping up in volume with a fast, pounding theme underscored by some heavy percussion. After a long, slow decrescendo, this symphony also ends in the middle of nowhere.

The Fifth Symphony, initially composed between 1987 and 1990 but revised in 1991, is in five movements. Here, Nørgård takes one more step forward; now, his music is much more abstract than before, yet his musical instincts are so good that he still manages to pull his strange themes, some of which are microtonal, together to create a coherent if somewhat bizarre structure. The music slithers about, enveloping the listener in Nørgård’s strange web of sound (as opposed to a wall of sound). The interconnected movements continue to move his ideas forward, and since they are all atonal, just listening to the symphony complete runs them together in the listener’s mind and ear, which was probably his intention. At times, he somehow gets the orchestra to simulate the sound of broken glass; in the second movement, he also scores the trumpets, with mutes, to sound “drunk.”

Symphony No. 6 (1999) is subtitled “At the End of the Day,” 3 Passages for Large Orchestra. This one opens in an almost cheerful mood, with high, chirping piccolo and flute figures over very close atonal harmonies. Harp and winds come swooping in to create a swirling mélange of sound, aided and abetted by horns and winds, then the basses and cellos. We then move onto trumpets playing in their middle and low ranges, then the cellos; the wind figures now come swooping down from up top as the orchestra slowly builds upwards in sound until we finally get the violins, oboes, horns and clarinets. The volume drops off as the tympani plays a decrescendo and the trumpets, trombones and middle strings play microtonal figures. Nørgård is nothing if not unpredictable! Playful rhythms come and go, but the music is only moderately chipper on the surface. Underneath, it sounds as if the orchestra is trying to split up into chaos, though this never quite occurs. The piccolos and flutes still keep on trying to jolly things up, and eventually the lower instruments start to sound a bit jolly as well, but in a galumphing manner. A piano tosses in some atonal figures. Once again, a strange piece in a very different style although recognizably the same composer. Apparently, Nørgård’s mind explodes at the ends of days !

In the second movement, low trombones combine with the basses for the opening statement (not even really a theme), underscored by percussion (but not the tympani). Here, the music sounds menacing but sort of glides along in whole notes for the most part with occasional little figures played by solo instruments (oboe, bassoon, viola). You might call this movement a collection of musical gestures that the composer has tossed together. This is the only movement so far that I didn’t much like, as I felt it was just a string of effects without cause or direction. The third movement, which follows the second without pause, is much of the same but in a faster tempo.

In Symphony No. 7 (2004-06, of which this is the first recording), Nørgård opens with a sonic explosion that quickly splits into little shards playing against one another in counterpoint. This movement also features 14 tuned tom-toms playing against one another. Eventually, the counterpoint becomes extremely complex in rhythm, in fact it sounds like three different rhythms played against one another, and then a real surprise—a sort of swinging syncopation that resembles jazz (something one did not hear in the previous six symphonies). Indeed, this entire first movement is a study in constantly shifting and counteracting rhythms. The slow second movement, surprisingly, opens with a lyrical theme statement by the clarinet, then the oboe, but is followed by a loud crushed chord played by brass and strings before the music moves on to strange little gestures that never quite coalesce into a theme. The third movement opens with a wacky theme in a syncopated 3 that sounds nothing like a waltz; again, strong contrapuntal figures dominate the proceedings. But this sort of thing goes on too long and doesn’t say very much. My feeling is that, in his old age, Nørgård has gotten not stodgy but wholly intellectual in his approach. His music surprises, but doesn’t really communicate a lot. One surprise is that, like some of his previous movements, the symphony ends abruptly.

Much to my surprise, the Eighth Symphony (2010-11, of which this is also the first recording) is not only more playful but also more cohesive. This is delightful music, in its strange atonal way, that harks back to some of his earlier works. Yes, it ruminates a bit too long, but it does develop and it is interesting. Lots of syncopation in the first movement, along with a cute piano solo playing circular chromatic figures. Later on, after the winds have some syncopated fun, the harp plays the circular chromatic figures along with what sounds like a celesta. The second movement is lyrical in Nørgård’s own quirky way, again with the celesta in the background. The sounds of some percussion that sounds like maracas heralds the last movement, “Più mosso – Lento visionario,” with its swirling wind figures that rise up into infinity.

Nørgård is quoted in the booklet as saying that “The music I would have liked to hear wasn’t there,” which is why he became a composer. Well, now it exists, and although there are some weak moments here and there, for the most part his symphonic journey has been successful. My sole caveat about this set, as I normally have of sets of symphonies or concerti by one composer, is that the works are not presented in order but all jumbled up on these CDs. In Nørgård’s case this is particularly unfortunate; one really needs to hear these works in chronological sequence in order to appreciate not only his growth as a composer, but also his growing sophistication, the new harmonic forms and orchestration he used, and other, subtler things that one hears in these works, yet the fact that these eight symphonies fit very easily in their correct sequence on the four CDs doesn’t seem ti have bothered Dacapo. Since this is the way these CDs came out as individual discs, they just took the lazy route and repackaged them in this goofball order: 3 & 7, 1 & 8, 6 & 2, and 5 & 4. (They didn’t even have the integrity to sequence 5 and 4 and 4 and 5.) In my opinion, this is inexcusable laziness on their part, and their refusal to sequence them properly will drive you crazy. They do NOT sound better when heard out of order; on the contrary, they sound somehow wrong this way.

Other than that, this is a great set of performances. I even like Dausgaard’s performance of No. 3 and Storgård’s of No. 4 better than the recording of both symphonies that Leif Segerstam made for Chandos several years ago. Thus I recommend it, but be forewarned about the sequencing.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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Jason Palmer at Summit Rock

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PALMER: Falling In. Landscape With an Obelisk [Flinck]. Kalispel Bay. Self-Portrait [Rembrandt]. Program for an Artistic Soiree [Degas] / Jason Palmer, tpt; Mark Turner, t-sax; Edward Perez, bs; Johnathan Blake, dm / Giant Step Arts GSA 007 (live: Summit Rock in Central Park, New York City, May 31, 2021)

After trying to review two “jazz” albums, one of which was infected with the deadly disease of rock music and the other with the even deadlier one of maudlin, drippy music, it was a pleasure to be able to turn to a truly creative jazz musician who knows what he is about, trumpeter Jason Palmer.

There are many reasons for liking Palmer, but among those that impress me the most are:

1) His excellent tone and technical control, which allows him to play anything that comes into his head;

2) His highly imaginative compositions, which fortunately are all jazz and owe nothing to rock or fusion;

3) His fully integrated band members, who are all on his wavelength and thus contribute greatly to each and every performance.

And that is exactly what we get in this outstanding set, performed live at Summit Rock, a part of Seneca Village, which was founded by free black Americans in 1825, and is in turn now a part of Central Park, where people take their lives in her hands by walking through at night. A lot has changed since 1825, and not all for the better.

But the appearance of Palmer’s quartet is clearly one of them. Listening to the opening track, Falling In, one wonders how much of this was written out—Palmer is credited as the composer—and how much was improvised into being. Not that it matters a great deal, but Youth Wants to Know. As is usual on Palmer’s Giant Step Arts albums, the recorded sound is perfect: close but ambient and very warm. You miss nothing because the microphones are placed in such a way that everything is captured, yet nothing is exaggerated. These recordings have a great deal in common, sound-wise, with the superb ones made at Ronnie Scott’s London jazz club back in the 1960s and ‘70s. The warm, “coochy” feel of this recording brings Palmer and his group right into your listening space as if you were right there at the concert.

Although Mark Turner is a fine tenor saxist, Palmer’s solos are more cohesive as miniature compositions; they have real structure, a beginning, a development, and an ending, yet he makes them up as he goes along. The rhythm on this track is amorphous, constantly moving around thanks to the superb work of bassist Edward Perez (almost as fine an improviser as Palmer) and drummer Johnathan Blake. In one sense the band plays with a good, tight sound, but in another sense there is an incredible amount of interplay going on, counterpoint against counterpoint.

Three of the pieces in this set are named after artwork, Govert Flinck’s 1638 Landscape With an Obelisk formerly attributed to Rembrandt (though it really doesn’t look like his style at all), Rembrandt’s famous Self-Portrait, and Edgar Degas’ pencil sketch Program for an Artistic Soiree, but these seem to be but loosely related to the pictures themselves. Nonetheless, they are interesting, the first of them opening with a quite extensive drum solo before Palmer and Turner come in as a duo, playing the brief theme in thirds before they take off on their solos. In an odd way, this piece, and Palmer’s solo, seem to be circular, not in the sense of repeating circular licks as Coltrane used to do in the sense that all of the music played seems to circle back on itself. It’s hard to describe, but when you hear it I think you’ll understand. And yet, this piece ends with a brief, soft, slow coda.

Kalispel Bay has some bop overtones, particularly in the rhythm of Palmer’s opening theme statement, and even though the rhythm plays rather irregular beats-between-the-beats, there’s a sort of Dizzy Gillespie Cubano-bop feel to this piece throughout. The solos, perhaps purposely, ramble a bit, as if one were enjoying a landscape and not wanting to move too much, at least until Palmer’s longer, more extended solo in the middle which, though staying primarily on two chords (except for the bridge), says a great deal.

When we reach Self-Portrait, we realize that the allusions to artwork are simply symbolic, but it doesn’t matter because the music is interesting using some circular figures in the middle section of the theme. The continual interplay of Palmer, Turner and the rhythm section continue throughout this set, as do the excellent solos of all concerned.

This is the kind of jazz concert you wish you were at, to get the ambience of the players in person as the music passes by your ears. I can only hope that Palmer will continue to play and prosper as the years go on; I hear even more untapped potential in both his writing and playing that I look forward to his bringing out.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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Hogan, Olivo and the Marketing of Jazz Singers

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SWEET INVITATION / JACQUET-MUNDY-STILLMAN: Don’tcha Go ‘Way Mad. RODGERS-HART: Falling in Love With Love. VAN HEUSEN-BURKE: Here’s That Rainy Day. BERLIN: I Got Lost in His Arms. KAPER-WEBSTER: Invitation. LAWRENCE-TINTURIN: I’m Just Foolin’ Myself. COMDEN-GREEN-DAVIS: What a Way to Go. MANILOW-MERCER: When October Goes. COLEMAN-McCARTHY: Why Try to Change Me Now? / Beverley Church Hogan, voc; John Proulx, pno/arr; Bob Sheppard, sax; Grant Geissman, gtr; Lyman Medeiros, bs; Clayton Cameron, Dean Koba, dm; Kevin Winard, perc / Café Pacific Records CPCD 7060

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DAY BY DAY / STORDAHL-WESTON-CAHN: Day By Day. DOMINO-BARTHOLOMEW: I’m Walkin’ JONES-KAHN: It Had to Be You. ORTLANI-OLIVERO: More. STYNE-CAHN: Time After Time. ARLEN-HARBURG-ROSE: It’s Only a Paper Moon.* RUIZ-GIMBEL: Sway. AUSTIN-BERGERE: How Come You Do Me Like You Do? KAEMPFERT-GABLER: L.O.V.E. Bacharach-david: This Guy’s in Love With You. H. CONNICK JR.: Come By Me. VAN HEUSEN-CAHN: All the Way / Dan Olivo, voc; Jamelle Adisa, tpt; Garrett Smith, tb; Kyle O’Donnell, t-sax/fl; Joe Bagg, pno/Hammond B3 org; Ian Robbins, gtr; Lyman Medeiros, bs/uke/*voc & arr; Kevin Winard, dm/perc; *Renée Myara Cibelli, voc / Ava Maria Records AMR 5316

This review is going to be different from most of those I write, because in addition to assessing the talent and level of performance exhibited on these CDs, I am also going to talk a bit about marketing.

Here we have two excellent jazz singers who, in an earlier era, might have been marketed very differently from the way they are presented here. When I first looked at the front cover of Beverley Church Hogan’s CD, the first thing I said to myself was, “No way am I reviewing this. She looks like your typical breathy, no-talent lounge singer who thinks she’s ‘jazzy’ because she sings with a ‘come hither’ whisper in her voice.” Thus when I put the record on and listened to it, I was stunned. Hogan not only has a rich, well-controlled voice, but also swings and sings with a great deal of nuance. She is, in the vernacular of the old day, as Real Jazz Chick, the kind of singer one would put in a category with Cheryl Bentyne or Maureen McGovern.

Moreover—and this is really going to floor you as it floored me—she’s 86 years old. WHAT?!? ARE YOU SERIOUS??!!? Yep, that’s what it says in the promo sheet accompanying this release. Eighty-six. Which means that she was born in 1936. If you know this when listening to the recording, really closely, you can hear a few signs—not many—of the age in the voice. I couldn’t believe it myself at first, but then I thought of Sheila Jordan and how fresh her voice sounded in her 80s, and I conceded the point.

Hogan’s singing is subtle. At her age, she’s clearly not going to belt it out like Ella Fitzgerald (who could still deliver in her 70s), but as I say, she’s a surprisingly hip singer. More of a contralto than a soprano, Hogan clearly knows what she’s doing, and she does it well.

But why market her like a young sexy chickie-poo? Just look at the cover. You’d think she was Julie London or some other ersatz “jazz” singer from the 1950s or ‘60s. Yet I get so many CDs of female jazz singers marketed this exact same way. Even an online acquaintance of mine, British jazz singer Beverley Beirne, who is a real artist in the subtle way she handles her voice, has to be marketed this way—and she hates it because it demeans her and obscures her art in favor of physical appearance. Have we really not changed since the ‘50s? No wonder Anita O’Day performed so often in pantsuits or slacks with a band jacket, as Connee Boswell also did in her later years (after being dolled up in chiffon dresses all through the 1940s). They were jazz chicks. Hip. Sophisticated. And this is what I also hear in Hogan’s singing. Even in a romantic ballad like I Got Lost in His Arms, Hogan’s focus is on the phrasing of the music, not a wimpy projection of the lyrics, despite the lush arrangement with bowed bass throughout. But she’s still being marketed as eye candy for the men. At age 86. Real jazz fans are more interested in how Hogan sings, not what she looks like on the cover, but she has similar photos on her website, so apparently she thinks this is how she has to sell herself, which is really sad.

But there’s another anomaly about Hogan’s record: not one song composer is identified on or in the CD envelope. There was a time when omitting even one songwriter’s name would have cost the label a lawsuit from ASCAP or BMI, but here’s a whole album of songs with no accreditation. I had to go on the Internet to find the names of the songwriters for those tunes I didn’t know, which was a little over half of them. [Update: After this review was posted, I was informed that the song composers are identified on the INSIDE of the fold-over album, UNDERNEATH the CD when you take it out…behind the plastic that holds the disc, on the inside of the back cover. Well, of course I never looked there. I never pay any attention to what is inside the album underneath the disc.]

One of Hogan’s best performances on this disc, I thought, was Invitation, where she fractures the time in the bridge and otherwise phrases like a jazz horn. It almost makes me wish I could hear what she sounded like 40 years ago; I’ll bet she was even better. I’m Just Foolin’ Myself, a song written by the unfortunately oft-forgotten songwriter Jack Lawrence, has even more subtle swing in its phrases. Hogan invites you into her world. I only wish that she could, or would, also sing a few more modern songs.

Now we move on to Dan Olivo. If you look at the cover on his album, you’d think he was also some kind of coochy lounge singer, with his tie-less white shirt and jacket plus the now-obligatory three days’ beard and moustache growth. (I’d still like to know how the scruffy look became a “thing” among men nowadays.) But when you listen to his record, you hear a pretty hip jazz singer in the Bob Dorough vein: the same light, bari-tenor vocal range and subtle but swinging phrasing. The only difference is that Olivo doesn’t accompany himself on the piano the way Dorough did. Yet once more, the poor guy is being marketed as a lounge lizard, even to the point of including lounge lizard favorites like More, This Guy’s in Love With You (a song I didn’t even like back in the late 1960s when Herb Alpert recorded it) and All the Way. Again, it’s the “Who are you selling this to?” syndrome.

Of course, the big difference between then and now is that physical record stores, and to a certain extent physical records, are passé. Everything’s online now, either for streaming or download, although if you really want the actual CD you can buy it.

If anything, Olivo’s backup band is even more swinging than Hogan’s. They have a bit more edge to their playing though it is still pretty much Swing School. The arrangements swing; they’re tight, but not terribly creative (though I did like the swinging chart on I’m Walkin’). Kyle O’Donnell’s tenor sax provides the best kicks on the album aside from Olivo’s singing. But since Olivo is much younger than Hogan, and his voice is fresher, I really wish that he’d have pushed the envelope a little more. I hear him capable of much more than we hear on this record: a bit harder swinging, some scat singing, things like that. Oh, yeah, that reminds me: What the heck ever happened to scat singing? Don’t “jazz” singers use real jazz techniques like scatting anymore? If it was good enough for Louis Armstrong, Cliff Edwards, Bon Bon, Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks, Mel Tormé, Al Jarreau and even (on occasion) Dizzy Gillespie, it should be good enough for Dan Olivo. Not that I’m picking on Olivo; he’s scarcely alone in his avoidance of scat.

But even within the limitations of this material, you can tell that Olivo has what it takes to be a good jazz singer. I can’t recall hearing a hipper version of Jule Styne’s Time After Time, and he really does do a wonderful job on Isham Jones’ old evergreen It Had to Be You. Even so, these performances show his potential, not quite the fulfillment of what I hear as a clearly first-rate talent. Except for the fact that he includes Renée Myara Cibelli in duet, Olivo’s performance of It’s Only a Paper Moon is clearly modeled on Nat “King” Cole’s classic recording with his trio, and on this track Joe Bagg plays his best piano of this set. The closest Olivo comes to the kind of potential I hear in him is How Come You Do Me Like You Do?, the old Gene Austin classic from the 1920s.

The bottom line, then, is that I liked both CDs, Olivo’s a little better than Hogan’s (because there was more variety in the programming), but have issues with their holding back somewhat on the potential they have in their voices as well as the visual presentation of their respective talents. Maybe someday we’ll reach a point where adult music like this can be presented in an adult image and packaging.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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Holliger Conducts Schoenberg & Webern

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SCHOENBERG: Chamber Symphony No. 1. 6 Kleine Klavierstücke, Op. 19 (arr. for orch. by Holliger). WEBERN: Symphony. 5 Movements, Op. 5 (vers. for string orch.) / Lausanne Chamber Orch.; Heinz Holliger, cond / Fuga Libera FUG794

Heinz Holliger is, to me, a fascinating figure in the classical music world, a man who started his career as an oboist playing Baroque and other early music, yet whose later career as a conductor has taken him through the rest of musical history. This latest CD features him conducting two works by the seminal 12-tone composers Schoenberg and Webern that are not usually performed or recorded, each of their symphonies, in addition to other works, one of which Holliger himself arranged for orchestra (Schoenberg’s 6 Little Piano Pieces).

The Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, despite its very lean sound, takes a very musical approach to these works, meaning that they phrase the music with as much of a legato feeling as they can. Of course, the Chamber Symphony was part of Schoenberg’s earlier style, the era of Verklärte Nacht, Pelleas und Melisance and the first half of Gurre-Lieder, when he was pushing tonality to its limits but had not yet broken that system open. But what many conductors seem not to realize was that Schoenberg was a very emotional composer; he never conducted cold performances of his own music, and didn’t want others to do so either, thus this fluid yet very emotional approach is probably just what he wanted. One thing that struck me about this piece was its internal “busy-ness.” There’s a lot more going on here in the interaction between sections of the orchestra, and even within each section; there are many passages of quite complex counterpoint, not just in terms of pitting one section against the others but also in terms of the kinds of rhythms used. Schoenberg had one of those musical minds that could balance two, three, or even up to four different rhythms with different accents against one another and do so for several bars at a time. Of course, just this aspect of the music will undoubtedly lead Schoenberg-haters to assume that this music is all just an intellectual game, but as I said, that’s not true. It is emotionally affecting music as well, just very, very complex emotional music. And although this piece is not 12-tone, but rather rooted more or less in tonality, the tonality is often unsettled, moving around over a base of constantly shifting harmonies that always seem to be in flux. It’s a fascinating piece that continually holds your interest because it never stops moving and developing…not just a moto perpetuo but also a contrapuntal perpetuo. At about the 13:30 mark, Schoenberg suddenly shifts in tempo and mood to produce a lyrical melody reminiscent of Richard Strauss, but more advanced.

I also liked the sound quality of this recording: closely miked in order to bring out all of this incredible detail, yet just resonant enough not to make it sound too much like an old NBC Symphony broadcast. This is the perfect way to record this music, as this is the way the scores of Schoenberg and Webern sound when the music is performed “live” in a concert hall.

The Webern Symphony, a fully mature work from 1928, is on the other hand a purely cerebral exercise. Unlike Schoenberg, Webern conceived his music intellectually and dispassionately, thus the rather detached performance style exhibited here is also appropriate. As Tom Service wrote in The Guardian on December 17, 2013, “The paradox is that this apparently tiny, pocket-sized piece (its full score is written on just 16 pages), does things with the most important elements of all, our old friends musical space and time, that much grander symphonies take ten times as long to achieve.” Here’s the first page of the second movement:

Webern Symphony example

Although Holliger’s arrangement of Schoenberg’s piano pieces may sound at first like Webern, as the music goes on one can hear the difference between even this mature work of Schoenberg and that of his pupil and friend. There is more legato involved (Webern almost NEVER used legato phrases) and an undercurrent of emotional feeling even though this music is not nearly as emotional as the Chamber Symphony. The somewhat cooler emotion, however, stems from the fact that these pieces are to be played very softly (No. 4 being an exception), not from anything that Schoenberg felt when writing them. Nonetheless, hearing them orchestrated in this manner, and played immediately after the Webern Symphony, illustrates the close musical relationship between these two men.

Even more striking, to me at least, was the surprising kinship between these Schoenberg pieces and Webern’s 5 Movements, Op. 5. These were originally written for string quartet in 1909, thus this is “early” Webern even though this arrangement for string orchestra was made 19 years later. Here, there is indeed more legato in the music as well as continuity in the melodic line, particularly in the third piece, “Sehr lebhaft,” despite the fact that it only runs 48 seconds!

I tell ya what, those 12-tone guys were some snappy tune writers. Even if you own Robert Craft’s groundbreaking recordings of Webern and Schoenberg from the 1950s and ‘60s, this is a CD you’ll want to have, if only because of the extraordinarily excellent sound quality which is easily five times better. For those of us who can appreciate dodecaphonic music at its best, this disc is a gem.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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