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Hyperion Records

CKD442 - Bruckner: Symphony No 2
Improvisation 9 (1910, detail) by Wassilky Kandinsky (1866-1944)
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2014
CKD442

Recording details: March 2013
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Jonathan Freeman-Attwood
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Release date: April 2014
Total duration: 65 minutes 26 seconds

'The Scherzo's Trio works especially well and there are times in the finale where the music takes flight in a way that I've virtually never heard in an orchestral performance (just get that piano). Those passages alone would deem the disc an enjoyable supplement to your existing Bruckner collection. Alban Berg's colour-conscious arrangement of Strauss's Wine, Women and Song (where the harmonium plays a very prominent role), lustily played, is both an appropriate and a happy conclusive fill-up' (Gramophone) » More

'Using a 20-strong ensemble, including the harmonium beloved of that society, Payne creates a beautiful pinpoint effect that illuminates Bruckner's argument and makes it seem even more productively spacious. Berg's transcription of Johann Strauss II's Wein, Weib und Gesang follows' (The Sunday Times) » More

'Anthony Paynes Bearbeitung der 2. Symphonie ist ein kammermusikalisches Glanzstück … Trevor Pinnock leitet das Royal Academy Of Music Soloists Ensemble sehr umsichtig und achtet in seiner Interpretation mehr auf Feinschliff als auf Bruckners großen Atem. Alban Bergs Bearbeitung von Johann Strauss' Wein, Weib und Gesang schließt das Programm dieser CD dann mit einem Augenzwinkern. Eine hervorragende Klangqualität macht das Hörvergnügen komplett' (Pizzicato, Luxembourg)

Symphony No 2
Moderato  [17'45]
Andante  [14'27]

This is the second in the series which sees Trevor and the Academy perform and record works which are retrospectively reigniting Schoenberg's vision of performing chamber reductions of symphonic repertoire. This brand new edition was commissioned by Royal Academy of Music Principal Jonathan Freeman-Attwood who asked composer Anthony Payne (of Elgar's Third Symphony fame) if he would adopt the principles of Schoenberg's Society in a new version of this symphony.

Whilst employing a slightly larger ensemble than the core group used by Schoenberg, this scoring serves to reveal the luminescent appeal of a little-known nineteenth-century masterpiece—whilst also extending Schoenberg's and his pupils' practice of refined intimacy. Upon hearing the recording Anthony Payne remarked ‘the arrangement exceeded my most extravagant expectation … performed magnificently under Trevor Pinnock's direction by one of the finest chamber groups I've heard.'

Rounding off this recording is Strauss' Wein, Weib und Gesang arranged by Alban Berg, whose own pieces were regularly performed by the Society.


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Introduction  EnglishPerformance note
A New Essence for Bruckner
Arnold Schoenberg founded his Society for Private Musical Performance in 1918 as a reaction against the commercialisation of music in post-war Vienna. Restoring music’s value by turning inwards and closing ranks may seem strange to us in an age when the constant accessibility of music has become a cultural assumption, yet Schoenberg believed that elevating the currency, purity of expression and mystique of music inevitably meant a degree of exclusivity. By giving expert performances, in private, by subscription and without critics (a notice of ‘Kritikern ist der Eintritt verboten’ was pinned to the door), applause or accompanying programmes or notes, a new platform of creativity for the cognoscenti was established. Sometimes audiences did not know what they were going to listen to until they turned up.

Quality of execution through careful preparation was matched by a discriminating presentation of the works of eminent living composers, whose musical creations were often refashioned for the Society in manageable chamber scorings. A wide variety of pieces by Ravel, Debussy, Bartók, Mahler, Johann Strauss, Webern, Berg and Schoenberg were all regularly heard in a chamber idiom of winds, string quintet, piano and, crucially, the Society’s ‘signature’ harmonium. The experiment was short-lived. It barely lasted three years but its legacy is an interesting one, not least for an evocative, alternative landscape it offered to now-established masterpieces and the generosity by which composers honoured and ‘critiqued’ their fellow artists, through arrangements which distilled the very essence of the musical language in this micro-oeuvre. That this music could be presented with such finely drawn lines and in such favourable conditions allowed fine works to resonate in challenging ways which ultimately celebrated their most durable characteristics.

Of special interest to Schoenberg was the potential for getting to the heart of a large orchestral work through the intimacy and flexibility of single instrumental ‘voices’ interacting as if the works were conceived as chamber creations. This principle cast a magic spell on reworkings of pieces such as Mahler’s Symphony No 4, Das Lied von der Erde and Debussy’s L’aprés-midi d’un faune (also recorded for Linn by Trevor Pinnock and the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble).

The challenge continues in this latest ‘premiere’: Bruckner’s Symphony No 2 in C minor. I asked composer Anthony Payne (of Elgar’s Third Symphony fame) if he would adopt the principles of Schoenberg’s Society in a new version of this symphony. We might imagine Bruckner to be a bridge too far within this aesthetic though, actually, Bruckner’s Symphony No 7 was reworked in 1921. Our retrospective appraisal of this earlier gem arguably merits even greater attention as we identify, through adopting the ideals of the Society, an especially coherent ensemble work, one with a fresh and perhaps even more pervasive Schubertian dialect than Bruckner’s original canvas for full orchestra.

Whilst employing a slightly larger ensemble than the core group used by Schoenberg, we hope that this scoring serves to reveal the luminescent appeal of a little-known nineteenth-century masterpiece—whilst also extending Schoenberg’s and his pupils’ practice of refined intimacy. Yet, unlike Schoenberg, we aim to disseminate the pieces as widely as possible. You may applaud and you are permitted to read this note.

Critics?

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood © 2014

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