Notes and Editorial Reviews
ALBANY 1371 (49:59)
If you were to have asked almost any serious young composer in the West in the mid 20th century what lay ahead in music, they would have predicted the dominance of serialism. It seemed inevitable at the time, epitomized by Pierre Boulez in his now infamous dictum that “anyone who hasn’t experienced the necessity of the serial
language is useless!” How things have changed. History shows us that the very militancy of Boulez almost immediately sowed the seeds of further revisionism. The late, great Hans Werner Henze, an early adherent of the 12-tone language, recoiled from what he perceived as the same kind of politicization of art that he experienced as a student in Nazi Germany. And even as the modernists sneered, tonal music continued to be written and consumed by the general public. Contrary to the predictions of some of the most learned scholars of the day, the last century will not be characterized by the dissolution of traditional tonality, but rather by a kind of modernist tonality rife with neo-ism (dominated by the classical model), with examples by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Barber, Britten, Hindemith, Bartók, etc., now firmly in the repertoire mainstream.
But there is also a danger that the triumph of tonality could have a backlash, leading to a lack of adventure and daring in music, and in the case of the music on this CD, a neglect of serious, engaging music that was written in the serial manner. It would be a mistake for any composer, much less any devoted music lover, to deny the power and influence of Arnold Schoenberg and Karlheinz Stockhausen, not to mention so many of their peers (including Boulez). The music at hand is, in both cases, beautifully crafted and deeply expressive. Stockhausen’s single movement
of 1957 comes from a time in the composer’s career when he had already turned away from strict Schoenberg 12-tone technique, but before he became more involved in electronics and aleatoric music. The pairing here with Schoenberg’s groundbreaking 1924 Wind Quintet, his first ensemble work in the new 12 tone technique, makes the enormous influence of the older composer inescapable.
The Phoenix Ensemble is a cracker-jack band of New York-based wind, brass, string, and percussion players. They play with passion, commitment, and superb technique. I already cherish this release as a splendid display of but one face of the wonderfully multifaceted world of 20th-century music.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
Works on This Recording
Zeitmasze by Karlheinz Stockhausen
Period: 20th Century
Quintet for Winds, Op. 26 by Arnold Schoenberg
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1923-1924; Vienna, Austria
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