Evolution or revolution?
SAMUEL BROWN on RTÉ's Second Viennese School weekend
'My music isn't modern, it's merely badly played.' Arnold Schoenberg's
words could be true, but one of the biggest problems for any listener wanting
to make their own mind up is the relative lack of performances of the composer's
music. With the exception of Verklärte Nacht and perhaps the
Variations for Orchestra Op 31, over fifty years after his death it is still
unusual to see Schoenberg's name on an orchestral programme. In chamber
music he fares a little better with the second quartet and first Chamber
Symphony making occasional appearances. But Schoenberg is still seen as
the pastime of specialist performers (particularly pianists and singers)
-- not to mention specialist audiences. Whether it is orchestral managers'
fear that Schoenberg will not bring the crowds in or simply prejudice, the
composer's standing in classical music certainly isn't related
to his popularity in the concert hall.
For this reason alone, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and
RTÉ deserve praise for their courage in hosting the weekend of music
just past. Schoenberg, Berg and Webern: Evolution or Revolution was
a short festival of six concerts and recitals involving not only the National
Symphony Orchestra, but also its sister ensemble the RTÉ Concert
Orchestra and Vanbrugh String Quartet. As the rather wordy title suggests,
it was to be a weekend of exploration, with visual displays and talks complementing
the performances in Dublin's National Concert Hall.
To take on not one, but three composers and their place is music history
in just a few performances is a tall order but, even from the first concert,
the value of hearing the music in live performance became clear.
Copyright © 22 February 2002
Samuel A Brown, Dublin, Ireland
THE NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OF IRELAND
THE VANBRUGH STRING QUARTET
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