Monday, February 1, 2010

Brahms/Schoenberg: World Premiere Recording

The miracles of youtube never cease. Here's the broadcast of Otto Klemperer and the Los Angeles Philharmonic giving the 1934 premiere of Schoenberg's orchestration of the Brahms g-minor Piano Quartet. The famous story that accompanies this is that one old lady was heard to say to another "Wow. That Schoenberg is so melodious. I have no idea what the fuss was over!"

I've loved this piece since I first heard it in college, for a time more than I loved Brahms (what an idiot I was...). The piece is ten times more uninhibited than anything Brahms ever wrote. It has a kind of in-your-face vulgarity that belies the idea that Schoenberg was a humorless composer. An orchestration like this flies in the face of Brahmsian restraint, and yet on its own terms it works nearly as perfectly as anything in Brahms.

Here's a much more modern performance of it if you can't take the sound. Sir Simon Rattle leading the Berlin Philharmonic. One day Sir Simon will merit a much longer post, I remain a die-hard fan. There are conductors for just about every composer who do them as well or better than Sir Simon. But before Rattle no conductor of such eminence had the guts to put literally music of any style on the same program....and he's pretty awesome at the other parts of conducting too...just listen here. A totally different performance that's easily ol-man-Klemp's equal.

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