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Modernist links to the past

An essential release for anyone who loves Schoenberg's music

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A blitz of concert performances and some highly-publicised new recordings of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring are currently appearing to remind listeners that a century has passed since the work's notoriously riotous 1913 premiere. But when the 100th anniversary of that other cornerstone of musical modernism, Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire, arrived last year, there was not nearly as much as a fuss. The reason is that, while The Rite has long since taken its place in the standard repertoire, Schoenberg's musical "melodrama" has lost none of its uncomfortable strangeness since its first performance in 1912, and like much of the composer's work, its appearance on a concert programme is enough to ensure that much of the usual crowd won't show up. 

HOMAGE TO EDUARD STEUERMANN: SCHOENBERG: Complete Piano Music; EDUARD STEUERMANN: Suite ; POULENC: Toccata (arr three pianos by Steuermann); JOHANN STRAUSS: Themes from Die Fledermaus (arr three pianos by Steuermann); SCHUBERT: Wohin (arr two pianos by Steuermann); JOHANN STRAUSS: Perpetuum mobile (arr two pianos by Steuermann). Eduard Steuermann (piano, in the Schoenberg); Thomas Hell (piano, in the Steuermann suite); Erika Haase, Carmine Piazzini, Ulrike Moortbak-Pick (in the Poulenc, Strauss, and Schubert transcriptions). Tacet CD set Tacet 186 (two discs)

Schoenberg's claim that "my music isn't modern, it's just badly played" is pushing it a bit. Of course it's modern, at least in terms of its atonal and later serial musical language and grammar. But the composer always insisted that there was a strong kinship between his work and that of Brahms, whom he idolised. Another famous remark of Schoenberg's was made in connection with the conductor Serge Koussevitsky's refusal to conduct his Op. 31 Orchestral Variations, on the grounds that he "didn't understand" the piece. "But he plays Brahms!," Schoenberg is reported to have said.

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