The Complete Music of Anton Webern - Recorded 1954-56 / Robert Craft
These pioneering recordings, now more than half a century old, have been transferred to CD for the first time.
Sony Classical is pleased to announce a new batch of reissues from the CBS/Sony and RCA Victor/BMG back catalogues. This latest installment of the popular series showcases Mozart and Chopin along with conductor Robert Craft’s pioneering Webern recordings and the global journeys of that irrepressible musical explorer Yo-Yo Ma.
The works of the Austrian composer Anton Webern were to have a far greater influence on subsequent composers than that of his teacher Arnold Schoenberg, but when he died tragically in 1945 they were still virtually unknown to the musical public. That situation changed dramatically in 1957 with the release of a 4-LP box set of Webern’s complete works. High Fidelity called it “an epical undertaking, and one that has been accomplished with epical success. Robert Craft and his associates spent two years recording the music of Anton Webern. They perform it magnificently, they have had the utmost painstaking collaboration from Columbia, and the whole will remain for a very long time as one of the major monuments of modern discography.” This epoch-making project now appears for the first time on a 4-album set from Sony Classical.
Robert Craft's Webern recordings proved hugely influential; for those of us growing up in the 1960s and 70s, until in 1979 Pierre Boulez released the first of what would be his two complete surveys.
His second series of Webern recordings, begun in 2009, was left unfinished at his death; these pioneering efforts from more than half a century earlier have never been transferred to CD.
There’s no doubt that Webern interpretation has moved on since these discs, not only thanks to Boulez’s work, but through recordings by other prominent conductors. The cool, rigorous beauty and impacted lyricism they reveal in this music can only be sensed occasionally. But in the orchestral works, Craft shows that he understands what the essence of Webern’s music is; in the Passacaglia Op 1, the two sets of orchestral pieces, Op 6 and Op 10, and the Variations Op 30, the raw-edged fierceness and cut-glass precision seem authentic.
In the years following his death in 1945, Anton Webern’s works became the Rosetta Stone of post-war Serial composers. One of his big champions was conductor Robert Craft, under whose direction Columbia Masterworks recorded Webern’s complete works between 1954 and 1956.
Marni Nixon of Hollywood “ghost singer” fame brings pinpointed agility and spot-on intonation to the songs, supported by Schoenberg scholar Leonard Stein’s brilliant handling of the piano parts. Indeed, Stein’s contributions are one of the cycle’s key assets in regard to his attentive phrasing, voicing, and dynamic scaling. For this reason, his Variations Op. 27 and bracing collaborations with violinist Ralph Schaeffer in the Op. 7 Four Pieces and with cellist Emmet Sargeant in the Op. 11 Three Little Pieces still hold their own.
Release Date: January 21, 2022
Catalog Number: 19439911902
Label: Sony Music Entertainment
Number of Discs: 4
Period: 20th Century
Composer: Anton Webern
Conductor: Robert Craft
Performer: Marni Nixon, Grace-Lynne Martin, Richard Robinson, Charles Scharbach, Dorothy Wade, Ralph Schaeffer, Robert Sushel, Ward Fenley, Cecil Figelski, Milton Thomas, Emmet Sargaent, Magdelena Rivera, Arthur Gleghorn, Arnold Koblentz, Gordon Pope, Hugo Raimondi, Mitchell Lurie, William Ulyate, James Decker, Lester Remsen, Morris Boltuch, Lloyd Ulyate, Max Gralnick, Jack Marshall, Leonard Stein, Wesley Kuhnle, Barbara Shik, Dorothy Remsen, Ann Dragonette
Works (Various), Opp. 1-31
Composer: Anton Webern
Ricercata from J.S. Bach’s ‘Musical Offering’
Quintett für Streicher und Klavier