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What happens when composers re-arrange the works of their predecessors?  Is the result a comment or a completely new work of art? The next subscription week concert at the Duisburg Philharmonic will trace this question in Anton Weberns reworking of Bach and Arnold Schoenberg’s reworking of Brahms.  The evening’s solosist will be Amanda Forsyth und Pinchas Zuckerman. Read meastro Jonathan Darlington’s programme notes …

Hommage to the past

Composers have arranged and rearranged other composers’ works from time immemorial, so in a way this programme has nothing original about it.

Webern’s reworking of Bach’s Ricercar was, as he puts it, an attempt to reveal the interrelation of ‘motifs’ and to show how he (Webern) himself saw the character of the work. He was definitely not trying to orchestrate in the style of Bach but sought to honor past genius in a highly subjective and idiosyncratic way.

Schönberg was doing something completely different in his orchestration of the Brahms G minor piano quartet. As he said (in 1939) his intention was to remain strictly in the style of Brahms and not go further than he himself  would have gone if he had lived today. Crucially he adds, “to watch carefully all the laws which Brahms obeyed and not to violate them, which are only known to musicians educated in his environment.” Whether he succeeds or not is open to discussion, but that was his intention. What he does is certainly reveal the symphonic nature of the piece – almost as some would have it Brahms’ 5th symphony.

That title has also been occasionally attributed to Brahms’ double concerto. It was his final work for orchestra and the reasons for its conception are very well documented, also the reaction – rather negative – from his famous friends, (Clara Schumann, Edward Hanslick etc.). I see a great deal of influence from previous classical models:- Mozart’s ‘Sinfonia Concertante’, Louis Spohr’s Concertante in C for Violin, Cello and orchestra’, Beethoven’s ‘Triple concerto’ or even the baroque concerto grosso form. Perhaps, aside from the act of reconciliation towards his great friend Josef Joachim, in a way it was Brahms’ way of honoring his past, just as Schönberg and Webern did after him.

P.S. If you want to learn more about the Brahms/ Schönberg relationship, read Schönberg’s essay entitled “Brahms the progressive”.

Jonathan Darlington

4th Philharmonic Concert

Jonathan Darlington conductor
Pinchas Zukerman violin
Amanda Forsyth violoncello

Johann Sebastian Bach
Fuga (Ricercata) a 6 voci from “Musical Offering” BWV 1071

arranged for orchestra by  Anton Webern

Johannes Brahms
Quartett No. 1 G minor for piano, violin, viola and violoncello op. 25
arranged for orchestra by Arnold Schönberg.
Concerto for Violin, violoncello and orchestra A minor op. 102

Wed. 10th / Thur. 11th November 2010, 20.00 h
Philharmonie Mercatorhalle, Duisburg

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