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Cat. No. CHAN 10285 X Price: £0 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10285 - Schoenberg: Pelleas und Melisande/ Piano Concerto, Op. 42
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It was Richard Strauss who suggested Maurice Maeterlinck’s symbolic drama Pelléas et Mélisande as the basis for an opera to Arnold Schoenberg in 1902, apparently unaware that Debussy had already completed his opera on the same subject. In the event, Schoenberg rejected the idea of an opera, choosing instead to write and extended symphonic poem based on Maeterlinck’s play. This, his first work for orchestra, was completed in 1903 and his pupil, Alban Berg, stated that he considered it a symphony in four linked movements. Indeed, the overall construction follows the symphonic pattern of sonata first movements a scherzo, adagio and finale. When he started work on Pelléas Schoenberg had already completed the first part of his vast cantata ‘Gurre-Lieder’, and the orchestra for Pelléas was only marginally smaller – quadruple woodwind, 18 brass (including 8 horns), 2 harps, 6 timpani, a large array of percussion and a specified string section of 65 players.

In October 1933 Arnold Schoenberg, under increasing harassment from the Nazis, embarked for America with his wife and baby daughter. Several of his wartime works reveal his reactions to events in Europe, including his Piano Concerto. Though the work is in no way programme music, the composer wrote down ‘a few explanatory phrases (which he never published) to characterise the work’s four sections, written to be played without a break: Life was so easy (Andante); suddenly hatred broke out (Molto allegro); a grave situation was created (Adagio); but life goes on (Giocoso). The references to Schoenberg’s life in pre-Nazi Vienna and to the coming of the Second World War are self-evident. Though there is a degree of virtuoso display, the piano part is essentially an obbligato one, with the instrument accorded pride of place in the dazzlingly inventive orchestral texture. The Piano Concerto was premiered in February 1944 by Eduard Steuermann and the NBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski.

Ms Malling’s touch is light and attractive, and the Danish orchestra’s Joie de vivre overcomes occasional and inconsequential technical limitations. The result is romantic and French in style.
American Record Guide

Amalie Malling proves an intelligent and sympathetic soloist… Michael Schønwandt gets very good results from the Danish Orchestra and the texture is lucid and transparent, and splendidly recorded.
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs on the Piano Concerto

…thrilling and successful. Digital clarity is evident, and just what this rich, complex score needed…
Which CD on Pelléas et Mélisande

Amalie Malling… offers a shapely and intelligent reading, unhurried and undogmatic in phrasing, with articulate and sensitively voiced textures and a good feeling for Schoenbergs pained lyricism…
Gramophone on the Piano Concerto


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