This disc includes all the music for string quartet written by Louis Andriessen, recorded by the Schoenberg Quartet in the years before the group dissolved in 2009. Even in the early Quartet in two movements, written when Andriessen was 18, the composer's inventiveness and quirky sense of humor peek through. It's an affable piece, entirely professional and assured, with enough individuality to be recognizably the work of a composer who has something to say and the wherewithal to say it.
Although both the Op.9 Chamber Symphony and Five Orchestral Pieces Op.16 broke new ground not only in Schoenberg’s own output but the fast‐developing history of orchestral music around the turn of the 20th century, piano duet arrangements of such works were still regarded as obligatory, as they had been for Brahms.
Collecting five CDs for about the price of three, this set of Boulez recordings is without parallel among the conductor's new-music releases. Imagine getting Boulez's celebrated single CD of Luciano Berio's Sinfonia and Eindrücke and his equally impressive single CD of Arnold Schoenberg's Pelleas und Melisande and Variations for Orchestra, bundled with four pivotal Elliott Carter works, Sir Harrison Birtwistle's electrifying …AGM…, Gérard Grisey's Modulations, Iannis Xenakis's Jalons, Hugues Dufourt's Antiphysis, and Brian Ferneyhough's Funerailles, and you have an idea how far this set stretches.
The three works presented here reveal distinctly different phases of Arnold Schoenberg's development, each a critical point of departure. In the Pieces (5) for Orchestra (1909), Schoenberg's atonal language appears full-blown and marks a clear break with tonality. For the first time, Schoenberg places content over form and dispenses with any pretenses toward classical objectivity or balance.
Markus Stenz and the Gürzenich Orchestra Köln have demonstrated a special aptitude for performing large scale post-Romantic works, notably the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, which they recorded for Oehms Classics as a series of hybrid SACDs. They have followed that impressive cycle with what is probably the most Mahlerian work Arnold Schoenberg ever composed, the massive Gurrelieder for solo voices, multiple choruses, and large orchestra. This 2015 Hyperion release is impressive in its crisp details, vibrant tone colors, and startling clarity, all of which are evident in the opening instrumental passages in the Prelude, and which continue through the nearly operatic vocal parts, which have remarkable presence in the face of an orchestra that exceeds Wagnerian proportions. The recording is presented on two CDs that offer extraordinary sound for digital stereo, and the only disappointment is that this wasn't released as a multichannel recording. Listeners who find Schoenberg's modernist music difficult may be more receptive to this cantata, which is his most openly Romantic score and strongly reminiscent of Wagner's music dramas. Highly recommended.