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Hans Pfitzner, Arnold Schönberg

Altenberg Trio Wien

Verklärte Nacht / Piano Trio

  • Type CD
  • Label Challenge Classics
  • UPC 0608917209228
  • Catalog number CC 72092
  • Release date 18 March 2002
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€ 12.95
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About the album

H. Pfitzner - Piano trio in F major, opus 8

“Hans Pfiitzner’s noteworthy Piano Trio No.2 in F Major, Op.8 was composed during 1895-96 and was published in 1898. Though not particularly easy, it is not beyond the reach of accomplished amateur players. Every Music Society and Concert Series will garner considerable praise and honor for programming this ourstanding late romantic era work on their concerts. Interestingly, a side theme from the first movement (a waltz from, at the time, Puccini’s little known opera La Boheme) is used throughout all four movements of the trio as a binder link, that is to say a leitmotiv, The first movement, Kräftig, feurig, nicht zu schnell (powerful, fiery, not to quick), is so stormy and turbulent that one barely notices the aforementioned side theme. In the slow second movement, Langsam, Pfitzner, harks back to the music of the past for his source of inspiration. This leitmotiv is least recognizable in the third movement, Mässign schnell, etwas frei im Vortrag (moderately quick, but not in strict time), which is a cross between a humorous scherzo and a capriccio. The finale begins Rasch und Wild (fast and wild) but soon the leitmotiv appears and leads to a slow fugue. Several dramatic episodes follow wherein the leitmotiv is clearly recognizable. As the trio reaches its stormy conclusion, the composer shifts into an extensive slow and effective coda.”—the famous chamber music scholar Wilhelm Altmann writing in his Handbook for Piano Trio Players.
Hans Pfitzner (1869–1949) was born in Moscow of German parents. His father was a professional violinist and he received violin lessons from his father. Later he studied piano and composition at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. He enjoyed a long career as a conductor and teacher. His music was held in high regard by contemporaries such as Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. Pfitzner was an avowed opponent of the Second Vienna School with its serialism and atonal music. Instead, he sought new paths for traditional tonality. He composed in nearly every genre and is best known for his operas. He did not ignore chamber music, writing a number of string quartets, two piano trios and a piano quintet.

A. Schönberg - Verklärte Nacht, string sextet, opus 4, arrangement for piano trio

Originally Schönberg composed Verklärte Nacht for string sextet. On this album you can hear this famous work in an arrangement for piano trio made by Eduard Steuermann.

“Yesterday evening I heard your ‘Transfigured Night’, and I should consider it a sin of omission if I failed to say a word of thanks to you for your wonderful sextet. I had intended to follow the motives of my text in your composition; but I soon forgot to do so, I was so enthralled by the music” (Richard Dehmel to Arnold Schönberg, 12 December 1912). Arnold Schönberg composed his op. 4 in just three weeks in September 1899, while vacationing in Payerbach at Semmering with Alexander von Zemlinsky and Zemlinsky’s sister Mathilde – who would become Schönberg’s first wife. The final version of the manuscript is dated 1 December 1899.
The subject of this programme music, which “restricts itself to sketching nature and expressing human emotions” (Schönberg), is Richard Dehmel’s poem “Verklärte Nacht,” from the collection “Woman and World” (“Weib und Welt”) published in 1896. Before the first World War Dehmel was one of Germany’s most highly regarded lyric poets. His principal work, “Two Figures: A Novel in Romances” (“Zwei Menschen. Roman in Romanzen,” 1903), essayed eroticism and sexuality within the context of stylistic conceptions of art nouveau (Jugendstil). The first main piece of the “Novel” is “Verklärte Nacht” (a poem already once published, but without title), which is carried by the “pathos of a new, anti-bourgeois sexual morality [and] the idea of an all-conquering Eros that shuns every convention” (Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt). The five verses of the poem sketch in sections of clearly contrasting content: a forest scene with two figures (Nos. 1, 3, 5); the words of a woman who loves one man but is expecting a child from another, and who thus reproaches herself (No. 2); the words of the man, who comforts the woman and accepts the child as his own (No. 4). Dehmel’s poem drew upon an autobiographical episode, insofar as it alludes to his liaison with Ida Auerbach, whom he met as she was already carrying a child by her husband, Consul Auerbach. The daughter in an upper-class Jewish family played an essential role in the constellation Stefan George – Richard Dehmel – Arnold Schönberg: George elaborated upon his unspoken love for her in his autobiographically composed “Book of the Hanging Gardens” (“Buch der hängenden Gärten”), fifteen poems of which Arnold Schönberg would set as op. 15. The genre of programme music appears to have occupied Schönberg intensely in the year preceding composition of his op. 4. So much, at least, is suggested by those compositions which remain as fragments: “Hans, the Lucky One” (“Hans im Glück”), “The Death of Spring” (“Frühlingstod”), and “Blind Corner” (“Toter Winkel”), the latter also a string sextet. His blossoming relationship with Mathilde Zemlinsky in 1899 may also have been decisive in his specific choice of programme for op. 4.
As a one-movement form, “Verklärte Nacht” represents a conjunction of two developmental trends in the music of the late 19th century: the inclination towards the one-movement sonata (Franz Liszt’s Sonata in B-minor stands as historical model) and the one-movement symphonic poem. The formal arrangement in Schönberg’s op. 4 by and large adheres to the literary model, whereby the narrative sections (the woods scenes) and internal episodes (direct discourse) find their parallel in rondo form. The first section unfurls in dense motivic mastery and epic gestures a picture of a clear, moonlit night, that in the second section, through the confession of a tragedy (the first theme is linked by D minor to the preceding episode), leads to a “dramatic outburst” (Schönberg, 1950, in his Programme Notes to “Verklärte Nacht”). The first section now clearly set off by a fermata, the second theme follows in B-flat minor to illustrate the misfortune and loneliness of the woman. A third theme in C minor elucidates the compulsion for fidelity: after the woman “finally obeyed her maternal instinct, she carries a child from a man she does not love. She had even considered herself praiseworthy for fulfilling her duty towards the demands of nature.” This section of Dehmel’s poem is expounded by a fourth theme in E major, which in its further elaboration quotes motives from material heard previously and leads to a distinct caesura. There follows a contrasting, homogenous passage, with new shadings of timbre, as bridge to the third formal section. This in turn draws upon the principal opening motive, thereafter continuing in the style of ‘developing variation’ (reminiscent of Johannes Brahms). The discourse of the man, “whose generosity is as noble as his love,” modulates in the fourth section to the ”extreme contrast of Dmajor.” Mutes and harmonics express in new sound effects the “beauty of the moonlight.” According to Schönberg, this episode “reflects the mood of a man whose love, in harmony with the splendor and radiance of nature, is capable of ignoring the tragic situation.” The fifth section assumes the function of an all-encompassing coda based not only on the opening motive, now transformed to major (and as its counterpoint the principal theme of the fourth section), but also on thematic components of the third section.
At the end of 1939 the American publisher Edwin F. Kalmus approached Schönberg with the wish to publish a new edition of “Verklärte Nacht.” Schönberg agreed, provided it be an improved edition (alterations in dynamics, bowings, etc.) in an arrangement for string orchestra. Even as early as 1917 the composer had prepared for Universal Edition a version of op. 4 for string orchestra with a supplementary part for contrabass (the first known performance of the work in this form took place in the Leipzig Gewandhaus on 14 March 1918); but the experience of numerous performances had pursuaded him to reshape this version as well. When the contract with Kalmus failed to materialize, Schönberg approached Associated Music Publishers in New York. The modifications in the arrangement for string orchestra (which was issued by AMP in 1943) concern primarily dynamics and articulation, but also tempo markings. In a letter of 22 December 1942 Schönberg describes the essential improvements over the edition of 1917: “The new version [...] will improve the balance between first and second violins on the one hand, and viola and cello on the other, and restore the balance of the original version of the sextet with its six equivalent instruments.”

The description of Verklärte Nacht is written by Therese Muxeneder:

The poem by Richard Dehmel (1863-1920):

Verklärte Nacht (aus „Weib und Welt“, 1896)

Zwei Menschen gehen durch kahlen, kalten Hain;
Der Mond läuft mit, sie schaun hinein.
Der Mond läuft über hohe Eichen,
kein Wölkchen trübt das Himmelslicht,
in das die schwarzen Zacken reichen.
Die Stimme eines Weibes spricht:

Ich trag ein Kind, und nit von Dir,
ich geh in Sünde neben Dir.
Ich hab mich schwer an mir vergangen.
Ich glaubte nicht mehr an ein Glück,
und hatte doch ein schwer Verlangen
nach Lebensinhalt, nach Mutterglück
und Pflicht; da hab ich mich erfrecht,
da ließ ich schaudernd mein Geschlecht
von einem fremden Mann umfangen,
und hab mich noch dafür gesegnet.
Nun hat das Leben sich gerächt:
Nun bin ich Dir, o Dir begegnet.

Sie geht mit ungelenkem Schritt.
Sie schaut empor; der Mond läuft mit.
Ihr dunkler Blick ertrinkt in Licht.
Die Stimme eines Mannes spricht:

Das Kind, das Du empfangen hast,
sei Deiner Seele keine Last,
o sieh, wie klar das Weltall schimmert!
Es ist ein Glanz um alles her,
Du treibst mit mir auf kaltem Meer,
doch eine eigne Wärme flimmert
von Dir in mich, von mir in Dich.
Die wird das fremde Kind verklären,
Du wirst es mir, von mir gebären;
Du hast den Glanz in mich gebracht,
Du hast mich selbst zum Kind gemacht.

Er faßt sie um die starken Hüften.
Ihr Atem küßt sich in den Lüften.
Zwei Menschen gehen durch hohe, helle Nacht.

Edison nominations for Challenge!


image April 16th, 2009 the Edison nominations were announced quite a few nominations for Challenge Classics!The Nominations are:Category Chamber Music:Malawski/Mayer – Polish Piano Trios – Altenberg Trio Wien (CC 72310)Category Baroque:Monteverdi – Vespro della Beata Vergine – La Petite Bande o.l.v. Sigiswald Kuijken (CC 76613)Category Medieval and Renaissance Music:Gaultier d’Épinal – Remembrance – Ensemble Syntagma o.l.v. Alexandre Danilevski(CC 72190)Moreover there is a beautiful nomination for the Public Award:Various – ...

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