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The Viennese School: Teachers & Followers Of Schoenberg, Vol. 2

Schoenberg / Scheilermacher,Steffen
Release Date: 01/25/2011 
Label:  Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)   Catalog #: 6131434   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Arnold SchoenbergNatalia PrawossudowitschPeter SchachtNikos Skalkottas,   ... 
Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

THE VIENNESE SCHOOL, TEACHERS AND FOLLOWERS: ARNOLD SCHOENBERG 2: Berlin/Los Angeles Followers Steffen Schleiermacher (pn) MDG 613 1434-2 (66:00)

SCHOENBERG Klavierstücke, op. 33a, 33b. PRAWOSSUDOWITSCH Primitivi. SCHACHT Kinderstücke. SKALKOTTAS Suite No. 3. Read more BLITZSTEIN Sonata 1927. SCHMID Widmungen. KIRCHNER Little Suite. HARRISON Sarabande. CAGE Variations I

For all its horrendous title (there have been earlier volumes in this series, on Berg, Webern, and Schoenberg), and despite the second composer’s name, this is a delightful disc, filled with a variety of intriguing, even charming music. As much as Schoenberg may have influenced these seven gentlemen and one lady, he didn’t pass along his dense, dry surfaces. As pianist Steffen Schleiermacher says in his otherwise awkwardly written (or badly translated) notes, “a good teacher is revealed by not being omnipresent in the works of his pupil.” The composers I know—Skalkottas, Blitzstein, Kirchner, Harrison, and Cage—are all strong individualists, and the others also seem to be.

For that matter, Schoenberg’s two final piano pieces (1930/31) are themselves relief from his earlier works, the 12 tones now sublimated into something closer to Brahms. On Glazunov’s recommendation, Natalia Prawossudowitsch (1899–1988) came to Berlin to study with Schoenberg in 1928, but her six Primitivi were written in the previous year. They run about a minute each and reflect Berlin’s 1920s avant-garde, early Hindemith sprinkled with a dash of Gershwin, their titles ranging from Espresso cantabile to Foxtrott grotesque . Schleiermacher emphasizes their delicate colors more than their rhythmic punch. Peter Schacht (1901–45)—not to be confused with Dutch composer Peter Schat—studied with the master from 1927 to 1931; his seven Children’s Pieces (c.1940) are also light and colorful, glowing with a high polish.

Skalkottas’s Suite brings us back to the second Viennese school while maintaining his own distinctive personality; after Berg and Webern, he was able to make the most convincing use of the 12 tones. These four movements pack a wide variety of expression into 11 minutes: a minuet, a tight set of variations on a Greek popular theme, a devastating funeral march, and a sparkling Allegro Vivace to wash away the tears. Blitzstein’s Sonata 1927 was written right after a year’s master classes with Schoenberg. It was greeted as the explosion of an angry young man. (“They felt as uncomfortable as hell. And so did I.”) Yet today its eight minutes ring true, as fresh, inventive, and convincing as anything Blitzstein wrote. Once again, Schleiermacher demonstrates an ability to find the lyrical heart of complex music. Erich Schmid (1907–2000) is the one composer here in whose music the teacher is revealed. His five Dedications try to out-Schoenberg Schoenberg, with a hint of Webern thrown in; they do a very impressive job of it and manage to sound beautiful as well.

The remaining three composers are the Los Angeles branch of Second Vienna. Their studies with Schoenberg seemed to have less influence on their music than on that of his Berlin pupils; one senses that they came to study with the now renowned master teacher but didn’t take much away with them. Three of the five movements of Leon Kirchner’s 1949 Little Suite are gentle, almost romantic music, upset briefly by “Fantasy,” an oddly titled Adagio sequence of harsh chords, which is in turn relieved by an Andante epilogue. Somehow it all fits. Lou Harrison’s Sarabande is a conservative, reflective piece, quite outside our normal perceptions of either him or his teacher. Cage’s Variations I certainly has little to do with Schoenberg, or with the piano, what with its randomly generated events and extraneous noises—is that a Lion’s Roar I hear (the instrument, not the beast)?

We are much in Schleiermacher’s debt for investigating, learning, and presenting this music to us. His technical proficiency is not an issue here, but his musical sensitivity is, as he enlivens this wide variety of little-known music. This is probably the best Prawossudowitsch you will ever hear. Another keeper.

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

Piece for Piano, Op. 33a by Arnold Schoenberg
Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928-1929; Berlin, Germany 
Piece for Piano, Op. 33b by Arnold Schoenberg
Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; Berlin, Germany 
Primitivi, Op. 17 by Natalia Prawossudowitsch
Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926/1927 
Kinderstücke by Peter Schacht
Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1940 
Suite for Piano no 3, A/K 73 by Nikos Skalkottas
Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; Greece 
Sonata for Piano by Marc Blitzstein
Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917; USA 
Widmungen, Op. 9 by Erich Schmid
Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933/1935 
Little Suite by Leon Kirchner
Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949 
Prelude and Sarabande for Piano by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; USA 
Variations I, for any number of players and means by John Cage
Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; USA 

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