Hyperion Records

Variations for piano, Op 27
1935/6; first performed by Peter Stadlen in 1937

'Tsontakis: Man of Sorrows; Berg: Piano Sonata; Webern: Variations' (CDA67564)
Tsontakis: Man of Sorrows; Berg: Piano Sonata; Webern: Variations
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Movement 1: Sehr mässig
Movement 2: Sehr schnell
Movement 3: Ruhig fliessend

Variations for piano, Op 27
The music of Berg, particularly his operatic works, have gained a universal acceptance. Even much of Schoenberg’s music has been granted a grudging approval by the musical audience. But Webern’s music still seems to stand outside the listener’s embrace, due, perhaps, to its reputation for angularity and abstraction. How informative it is to see the score of the Variations for piano Op 27 as published by Universal. Notes by Peter Stadlen, who gave the first performance of the variations in 1937, reveal a composer intent on anything but the abstract. Expression was paramount to Webern, as it was to his teacher Schoenberg who famously said: ‘My music is not modern, it is just badly played.’

Webern’s passionate instructions to Stadlen were so extreme that ‘notes had become almost incidental and were only regarded as carriers of expression’. Little wonder that Webern himself likened the first movement to a Brahms intermezzo, and the frolicking agility of the second movement to the flute-mad Badinerie of Bach’s B minor orchestral suite! If there is a bleakness heard in this music, most potently in the final movement, we must again recall the uncertainties of the times. By 1937, Schoenberg had fled to California, and Webern, whose music had been declared ‘degenerate’ after Hitler’s rise to power, faced his final years of isolation in Austria.

from notes by Grant Hiroshima © 2007

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