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Arnold Schoenberg - Five Orchestral Pieces, Op.16 (Movements Vorgefühle, Vergangenes and Farben)

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Uploaded on Jul 11, 2011

Most of the music written by Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) during the first decade of this century -- including the monodrama Erwartung, his Second String Quartet and First Chamber Symphony, the song cycle Buch der hängenden Gärten, the Op. 11 piano pieces, and the present Five Pieces, Op. 16 -- was received at worst with open hostility, at best by blank stares.

"Incomprehensible" quickly became the operational Schoenbergian adjective, although none of these works was written according to the precepts of what was to become at once a principal bugaboo and arguably the most influential of 20th-century musical innovations: the system of writing with 12 tones, or dodecaphony, which Schoenberg would codify during the next decade.

In a letter written in 1928, Schoenberg stated: "For the present it matters more to me if people understand my older works.... Only those who understand...them will be able to hear [later ones] with any understanding beyond the fashionable minimum.... I do not attach so much importance to being a musical bogeyman as to being a natural continuer of properly understood, good old tradition."

That is a concise and durable statement of principle, a guide for the open-eared listener, and one more variant on a truism applicable to all important composers: no matter how radical, their music retains elements of the past. That is obviously so in the outré-for-their-time Five Pieces (1909), which can sound downright Romantic to properly tuned modern ears.

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