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Schoenberg: Die Jakobsleiter, Chamber Symphony No 1 / Boulez

Release Date: 07/13/1993 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 48462   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Arnold Schoenberg
Performer:  Siegmund NimsgernKenneth BowenIan PartridgePaul Hudson,   ... 
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony OrchestraBBC SingersEnsemble InterContemporain members
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

I have chosen SMK 48462 for review because it includes the only commercial recording Jacob's Ladder has ever had, made in EMFs London studios in 1976 (there is also an extremely rare Radio Nederland LP of a live performance). Schoenberg wrote and published the text for this grandiose oratorio and was writing the music with great enthusiasm and speed in 1917, when a call to military service interrupted its composition. He tried several times during his life to get back to it, but always with incomplete results. His widow persuaded Winfried Zillig, a one-time Schoenberg student, to put it all into performable shape; the result is this forty-seven-minute fragment, which was premiered in 1960. It is about half (the first half) of the work Read more Schoenberg had planned.

Even in its incomplete form, Jacob's Ladder is one of Schoenberg's most impressive works, and it is comparatively easy to get to know. That accessibility has been aided by an English translation of the text for this issue—the original LP had only the German text. The performance is of course unique, and the monopoly did not dim Boulez's ability to probe, organize, and present Schoenberg's music. The lead vocalist is Siegmund Nimsgern as the angel Gabriel, who summons mankind and instructs them in the true way; his part calls for both singing and Sprechstimme. The other soloists have one section each, and their parts are almost completely sung; Mady Mesplé sings electronically dubbed overlapping roles as The Soul and “high female voices,“ much of which is vocalise in an extreme high register. The fragment ends with a “Big Symphonic Interlude“ which was supposed to lead to Part II, plus a final high-soprano trio.

The performance of the Chamber Symphony No. 1 is all balance and clarity; tempos are about average, but Boulez's ability to bring out every point makes them seem more relaxed than some of today's hypertense readings. Fifteen members of the Ensemble InterContemporain perform the original scoring, but the string quintet plays so smoothly as to suggest the later version for full orchestra. The 1930 Accompaniment to a Cinematographic Scene is rarely heard, perhaps because of its title; it contains some of Schoenberg's most colorful orchestration and makes a striking orchestral piece. Boulez and the BBC Symphony make the most of it. This disc is an absolutely essential part of any Schoenberg collection. Boulez's Die glückliche Hand, again featuring bass Siegmund Nimsgren, is also the only recording on CD, and is superior to Robert Craft's earlier stereo recording, making that disc equally necessary.

-- James H. North, FANFARE [11/1993] Read less

Works on This Recording

Die Jakobsleiter by Arnold Schoenberg
Performer:  Siegmund Nimsgern (Bass), Kenneth Bowen (Tenor), Ian Partridge (Tenor),
Paul Hudson (Baritone), John Shirley-Quirk (Baritone), Anthony Rolfe Johnson (Tenor),
Ortrun Wenkel (Alto), Mady Mesplé (Soprano)
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra,  BBC Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1922; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/01/1980 
Venue:  IRCAM, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 
Length: 47 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Language: German 
Chamber Symphony no 1 in E major, Op. 9 by Arnold Schoenberg
Performer:  Marc Marder (Double Bass), Sylvie Gazeau (Violin), Michel Arrignon (Clarinet),
Michel Tavernier (Contrabassoon), André Cazalet (French Horn), Robert Tassin (French Horn),
Jacques Ghestem (Violin), Gérard Caussé (Viola), Philippe Müller (Cello),
Alain Marion (Flute), Gérard Perreau (English Horn), Didier Pateau (Oboe),
Alain Damiens (Clarinet), Guy Arnaud (Bass Clarinet), John Wetherhill (Bassoon)
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble InterContemporain members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  IRCAM, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 
Length: 19 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Incidental Music to a Motion Picture Scene, Op. 34 by Arnold Schoenberg
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929-1930; Berlin, Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/09/1976 
Venue:  EMI Studios, London 
Length: 8 Minutes 24 Secs. 

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