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Schoenberg Quartets in the Coolidge!

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The following is a guest post from Daniel Walshaw, Music Division.

Portrait of Arnold Schoenberg, 1941. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Scream with uncontrollable, horrific shrieks! Schoenberg is coming to the Coolidge Auditorium!

Perhaps that was a tad overly dramatic, but for those who would react in such a manner, and for those who are members of the dodecaphonic cognoscenti, the Music Division lecture this Thursday is for you. On March 22 at noon in the Coolidge Auditorium, I will explore the musical language of Arnold Schoenberg as it relates to themes from earlier periods. Violinists Jonathan Richards and Nicholas Hodges, violist Daniel McCarthy, and cellist Gozde Yasar join me on stage to perform excerpts from Arnold Schoenberg’s string quartets.

To the joy of academicians and to the dismay of comfort music lovers, our Viennese friend’s music is often dense in its texture and ideas.  However, when analysis is set aside and the music is heard through the background of early music themes, the language can seem a little more approachable.

Arnold Schoenberg was not only a great composer, but also a great scholar of music. He believed that the path to the ‘modern manner’ is paved in the complete mastery of older styles. Or in other words, a composer must be able to write perfect four-bar phrases before he/she can write in a liberated fashion.

Beyond his teaching, Schoenberg was constantly exploring older works, either in study or through his arrangements, transcriptions, and editions. His orchestrations of works by Johann Sebastian Bach show a composer who is extremely sensitive to the composition styles of older composers.

Surely at least some of his musical scholarship spilled over into his compositions. So, this Thursday, March 22, come to the Coolidge Auditorium at noon to hear and experience Arnold Schoenberg’s quartet music as we explore Schoenberg the classicist.

Comments (3)

  1. Gershwin met Schoenberg and asked him for help.Schoenberg refused, saying, why be a second rate Schoenberg when you are already a first rate Gershwin(george).
    I love Gershwins music as much as I loathe Schoenbergs..His “music” is not music but effect. Glauzenov ran from the hall screaming,this will destroy you.
    I agree- why suffer when you can soar? Rhapsody in Blue,for example.Gershwin said true music was a part of the time and place- a part of humanity. Making people experience pain is not moral.Gershwin said,This is America,my place,my time is now and I am American.

  2. I know this is an old event, but I had to respond. It has been a hundred years since Schoenberg’s pioneering career was in full swing, and fascinating compositions such as his oeuvre for string quartet helped open up a new landscape for composers, musicians, and music lovers. However, listeners like “len” still carry on like Schoenberg’s music is something best ignored and derided. Not only does “len” appear to know Schoenberg’s music only through anecdotes and rhetoric, but he seems proud of his ignorance.

    I’m a music lover with no professional training, and I find a lot of beauty and humor in Schoenberg’s allegedly “painful” music. Far from being a radical, Schoenberg (as the article states) had a great respect for musical tradition. It’s a shame that audiences today seem just as unwilling to get beyond their prejudices and open their ears to his talent as the audiences of his time.

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