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V 2: Robert Craft Edition: Arn Box set

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Product Details

  • Performer: Robert Craft
  • Composer: Schoenberg Arnold
  • Audio CD (March 30 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 6
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Nsp
  • ASIN: B002YOJC8G
  • In-Print Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #245,257 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Robert Craft, the noted conductor and widely respected writer and critic on music, literature, and culture, holds a unique place in the world of classical music. He is in the process of recording the complete works of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Webern fo

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring the Music of Schoenberg with Robert Craft -- 2 March 29 2010
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
More than 50 years after his death, the music of Arnold Schoenberg (1874 - 1951) remains difficult and controversial. There is no other great composer whose works provoke such a broad range of reactions from listeners. Schoenberg's music developed markedly during his life. It deserves patience and careful hearing. A series of recordings on the budget-priced Naxos label by scholar and conductor Robert Craft offer an excellent point of entry for adventurous music lovers willing to engage with Schoenberg. Many of the Craft recordings are reissues of earlier releases on the Koch label while others are new. Craft's recordings are available in both single CDs and in box sets. There are two box sets of Craft's Schoenberg available, the first of which includes five CDs and a broad cross-section of Schoenberg's music. The Works of Arnold Schoenberg, Vol. 1 The second box set, which I am reviewing here, includes six CDs and a further broad sampling of Schoenberg. The works range in date of composition from 1895 to 1948. The earlier set focuses more on Schoenberg's later, 12 tone compositions while the current set includes more of Schoenberg's pivotal earlier works dating from roughly 1906 - 1911. The following paragraphs offer a brief summary of the highlights of this compilation.

Schoenberg's pivotal works begin with the Chamber Symphony No. 1, opus 9 (1906). Scored for ten winds and five strings, the Chamber Symphony is a taut work in a single movement in which Schoenberg combines the late romantic style of Wagner and Strauss with a musical modernism featuring the use of the whole-tone scale as well as of atonality. The second transitional work in this set is Schoenberg's second string quartet, opus 10 (1908) which followed the Chamber Symphony. The quartet is a tragic, difficult work which moves into atonality in its second, third, and fourth movements. The two final movements set poems of Stephan George, (1868 - 1933) The Fred Sherry String Quartet and soprano Jennifer Welch-Babidge perform this seminal work. The third of Schoenberg's critical transitional works included in the set is the monodrama "Erwartung" opus 17 (1909) set for solo soprano and large orchestra. Erwartung is romantic in theme and modernist in its musical language. It is a work of about 28 minutes in which the singer wanders through the forest declaiming and mourning for her lost lover whom she has killed in a jealous rage. Rarely performed, Erwartung is stream-of-conscious and disturbing music.

Schoenberg's earlier compositions were late romantic in character. Several of these works presented in this set show their connections and differences from his subsequent compositions. In 1902, Schoenberg composed his massive orchestral work, Pelleas und Melissande, based upon the same play by Maeterlink that Debussy used for his opera. Schoenberg's Pelleas is a large-scale, Straussian rendering of the story. Earlier, in 1901, Schoenberg had begun work on his massive Gurre-Lieder for large orchestra, soloists, and chorus. He did not complete the orchestration until 1911. This work is a story of passion and adultery which sets a text by the Danish poet Jens Peter Jacobsen. Craft conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in this outsize, 2CD work which also features the Simon Joly Chorale and a case of outstanding, if relatively little-known soloists. A little known but fine example of early Schoenberg included in this set is a collection of six songs for soprano and orchestra, opus8, dating from 1903-1904.

The later Schoenberg begins on this compilation with his famous work in Sprectstimme (speaking-singing) style Pierrot Lunaire, opus 21 (1912). This is romantically decadent music in a cabaret style that is also Schoenberg's first venture into full atonality. It is performed here by Anja Silja. Other works from this period include the Four Orchestral Songs opus 22 (1916) sung by Mezzo-soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers.

Schoenberg's late twelve-tone method of composition is shown in this compilation by the selections from his opera Moses und Aron (1932) and from his idiosyncratic setting of the Jewish prayer, Kol Nidre, opus 39 (1939). Both these works also show Schoenberg's return to the Judaism of his birth, in 1931-1932. Schoenberg also continued to write relatively more conservative music during his twelve tone years. Some of these works, such as the suite in G for String Orchestra (1934) and the Six A Cappella Mixed Choruses (1928, 1948) are included in this compilation and offer a good entry to the composer's more difficult styles.

This set is invaluable for listeners wanting to learn about Schoenberg and about Twentieth Century music. For those interested, links to the individual CDs in the set are provided below.

Schoenberg: Pelleas und Melisande; Erwartung
Schoenberg: Gurre-Lieder
Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire
Schoenberg: Six A Cappella Mixed Choruses
Schoenberg: Six Songs for Soprano and Orchestra

Robin Friedman
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Schoenberg and Craft: A bargain you can not afford to miss Nov. 15 2009
By Y.P. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Robert Craft is most noted for his association with Igor Stravinsky: a close friend and a co-author of books, but he also knows very well the music of the Second Viennese School, esp. Schoenberg's music.(*) Naturally his interpretation of their works carries some weight of "authority".

Indeed, there is not a bad performance here. Among a few small segments of Schoenberg scores I've studied for pleasure, Craft has shown precise execution and intimate understanding, if not extrovert emotional involvement. Furthermore, there are a few lesser-known, but definitely worthwhile, works which are only available here, at least in the Amazon catalogue. Another BIG plus is Robert Craft's own very informative liner notes. A must read!

That said, not all performances here are my top drawer Schoenberg. For example, I think any serious Schoenberg collection should have Hilary Hahn's beautiful performance of Schoenberg Violin Concerto Op.36, one of my favorite violin concertos, and Karajan's stunning recording of "Variations for Orchestra" Op.31, among my favorite Schoenberg scores.

Here is a list of 5 CDs:
Schoenberg: Chamber Symphony No. 2
Schoenberg: Violin Concerto; A Survivor from Warsaw
Schoenberg: Five Pieces for Orchestra; Cello Concerto (after Monn); Piano Quartet (Brahms orch. Schoenberg)
Schoenberg: Serenade; Variations, Op. 31; Bach Orchestrations
Schoenberg: Concerto for String Quartet; Lied der Waldtaube; The Book of the Hanging Gardens

One notable novelty of this set is that it contains quite a few re-work of the past masterworks. (However, I must confess that these are not my favorite Schoenberg.) For example, Concerto for String Quartet was based on Handel's Concerto Grosso in B-flat Op.6 No.7, and must be counted as the most "tuneful" of Schoenberg's music. After all, the tunes come from Handel! The Cell Concerto was also "freely adapted" from Georg Monn's 1746 Cembalo Concerto. The orchestration of Brahms' Piano Quartet seems to start getting attention from conductors. (For example, Simon Rattle put it in one of the Berliner's EuroKonzert program.) There are also 3 Bach orchestrations.

Naxos has been issuing or re-issuing some wonderful recordings at budget prices. For a few years, it has been re-issuing Robert Craft Collection at the Naxos price: $8.99 per disc.(**) Now, this set collects 5 of them for under $30, with average listening time per disc more than 75 minutes! Furthermore, it includes a short (radio) interview with Arnold Schoenberg which is only available here.

I hope this set sells well and very soon Volume II will come out. (I am holding off further purchase on the Craft Collection for now.) At this price, this is a set you cannot afford to miss.(***)

Highly recommended.

(*) In fact, some have suspected it was through his influence that Stravinsky started to infuse serialism into his composition palette.

(**) My understanding is that these were originally issued by Koch about a decade earlier. Kudos to Naxos for making them available.

(***) By the way, this box contains 5 individually shrink-wrapped CDs, like all other Naxos box collections I've purchased. So even if you already have some in the collection, it still makes sense to buy the set and give away or sell the duplicates.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring the Music of Schoenberg with Robert Craft Jan. 20 2010
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The best way to explore the music of an unfamiliar composer is to immerse oneself in it. This is particularly true for difficult and demanding music, such as the works of the 20th Century composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874 -- 1951) whose music still provokes a broad spectrum of critical reactions. With the advent of budget priced CDs, it is relatively easy for anyone with the time and desire to do so to hear and try to respond to Schoenberg's music.

Robert Craft is a conductor and scholar of note who has deep knowledge of Schoenberg's music as well as that of Stravinsky's. Over the years, he has recorded Schoenberg's music extensively, and the results of his efforts, together with that of supporting artists, have been made available on the budget-priced Naxos label. The five CD's in this set also are available individually, which encourages listening to each CD and work in detail. I supplemented my listening by reading Craft's extensive program notes on each work together with Malcolm MacDonald's book "Schoenberg" written as part of the Master Musicians series.

In approaching Schoenberg, it is worth remembering that all music speaks to the heart and the emotions. Schoenberg was a modernist who found a need to expand the language of musical expression. It does Schoenberg a disservice to regard him as a "cerebral" or "intellectual" composer. Similarly, in hearing the 12 tone pieces for which Schoenberg has become notorious, it is best to try simply to hear and respond to the music rather than to try to pick out the details of the tone row. Schoenberg developed his musical language as a tool for expression rather than as an academic exercise.

Each of the five CDs in this set includes a variety of types of works by Schoenberg. Thus the compilation gives a sense of the depth and breadth of Schoenberg's musical vision. I offer some comments as a guide to the types of works included in this set.

Throughout his life, Schoenberg was involved with transcribing the music of earlier composers. These works, in which Schoenberg combines another idiom with his own, present a way of making the composer accessible and showing his relationship with his predecessors. Thus this set offers the opportunity to hear Schoenberg's famous transcription of Brahms' piano quartet, opus 25, for orchestra together with his orchestral transcription of three Bach works for organ. Schoenberg also transcribed a Handel concerto into a highly difficult work for orchestra and string quartet and a harpsichord concerto by the early classical composer Monn into a cello concerto intended for Pablo Casals. All four of these works are included here.

Schoenberg's early music is sometimes described by the term "expressivist" and it follows heavily on late romanticism with elements of Mahler, Wagner, and Brahms. The instrumental compositions from this period include the Chamber Symphony no. 2, a remarkable work which Schoenberg completed late in his life, together with the five pieces for orchestra, opus 16. Vocal compositions from this "expressivist" period include the song-cycle "The Book of Hanging Gardens" setting poems by Stephan George, one of my favorities in this collection, the short opera "Die gluckliche Hand", and a transcription for chamber orchestra of an aria from Schoenberg's massive early work "Gurrelieder."

I want to turn to the music using in whole or in part the twelve tone method of composition. The Serenade for seven instruments and bass soloist makes use of twelve tones in one of its seven movements. Thus this work offers a good transition into hearing this music. The suite for piano opus 25 is Schoenberg's first complete work in 12 tones, and it helps to listen to it with the Baroque dance models in mind which inspired the piece. The wind quintet opus 26 remains a difficult and dense piece. And the two instrumental masterworks in 12 tones in this set are the Variations for Orchestra, opus 31, in which Schoenberg uses the notes for the name of Bach (B, A,C, B-flat) and the thornily romantic violin concerto.

Some of Schoenberg's late masterworks combining 12 tone with other techniques were impassioned vocal pieces. In particular "A Survivor from Warsaw" gives a grim portrayal of the Holocaust while Schoenberg's setting of Byron's poem "Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte" attack tyranny in all its guises. Other late vocal works, including the setting of Psalm 130 and the Prelude to Genesis reflect the religious character of Schoenberg's vision and his growing attachment in later life to Judaism.

With patience and effort, I have found this music rewarding. I am looking forward to hearing the successor volumes of Schoenberg and Craft on Naxos. For those readers who are interested, I am attaching links to each individual volume included in this set.

Robin Friedman

Schoenberg: Chamber Symphony No. 2
Schoenberg: Violin Concerto; A Survivor from Warsaw
Schoenberg: Five Pieces for Orchestra; Cello Concerto (after Monn); Piano Quartet (Brahms orch. Schoenberg)
Schoenberg: Serenade; Variations, Op. 31; Bach Orchestrations
Schoenberg: Concerto for String Quartet; Lied der Waldtaube; The Book of the Hanging Gardens
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Schoenberg even for who hate Schoenberg Oct. 19 2011
By Nelson Jose De Camargo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This box set contains five CDs with some of the most important works by Schoenberg. Not only Schoenberg's compositions, but also arrangements of Haendel, Bach, Brahms, and Monn. I confess that I am not a fan of Schoenbergs's music, but this box set is quite enjoyable. The interpreters are all firt class, the sound quality excellent, the booklets comprehensive, with texts in English and German, librettos and photos. In CD 1 there is a short interview with Mr. Schoenberg. And the price is a bargain! Recomended!

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