Schoenberg: Six A Cappella Mixed Choruses, Etc / Craft

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Arnold Schoenberg's a cappella folksong settings are among his least-appreciated--and most easily listenable--works, excellent examples of his pre-12-tone harmonic style, with masterfully crafted polyphonic textures. For one thing, they're rarely heard, and although not especially a breeze to sing, they're effectively and soundly written--Schein uns, du liebe Sonne being the standout among the six works. The Op. 10 string quartet performed here is its original 1908 version rather than the one for string orchestra that the composer produced in 1929. It's craggy and difficult--but also offers a multitude of lyrical and beautiful moments that the Fred Sherry String Quartet fully exploits. Soprano Jennifer Welch-Babidge adds poignancy, sensitivity, and knowing style to the solos in the final two movements, using her thoughtful inflection to capture the music's colorful, moody impressionistic elements.

The 1934 Suite in G for String Orchestra is another gem--solidly tonal yet occasionally stretching the boundaries of traditional harmony, rich in melodic ideas and exciting rhythmic touches. Its five movements demand the highest level of technique from the players, even though it originally was written for developing student musicians. Again, this outstanding piece is rarely played or recorded, but this first-rate performance by Robert Craft's Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble is all you will need. The same goes for the rest of the program--and Naxos' engineering, from London's Abbey Road studios (choral works) and New York's premiere chamber-music recording venue, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, matches the disc's fine musical values. Informative notes by Craft, along with texts and translations for the vocal works, crown this much-needed addition to the Schoenberg catalog. [1/5/2006]
--David Vernier,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8557521

  • UPC: 747313252121

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Arnold Schoenberg

  • Conductor: Robert Craft

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: 20th Century Classics Ensemble, Fred Sherry String Quartet, Simon Joly Singers

  • Performer: Erin Keefe, Fred Sherry, Ida Kavafian, Jennifer Welch-Babidge, Paul Neubauer