Just like Bach, who he very much admired, Schoenberg is regarded primarily as a creator of “high-brow” music. There is, however – as with the Thomaskantor – also another, sensuous side to Schoenberg, full of emotion, richness of sound and even humour. Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker invite you to immerse yourself in this often overlooked sphere of Schoenberg’s work.
The concert opens with the Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene (“Music to a film scene”). Although the film in question was never made, it is easy to imagine the gloomy plot, partly from the extant cue titles: “Danger looms, Fear, Catastrophe” – but mostly because Schoenberg’s music knows how to create oppressive pictures for the listener’s inner eye. Yet more brutal, even psychotic, is the story behind the monodrama Erwartung: a young woman loses her way in the forest, finds a corpse and discovers to her horror that it is her lover. Evelyn Herlitzius, a highly sought-after dramatic soprano who has been acclaimed for her performances as Brünnhilde and Kundry at the Bayreuth Festival, makes her début as the soloist.
The concert closes with Schoenberg’s sumptuous orchestration of Brahms’s Piano Quartet No. 1. The finale especially, entitled “Rondo alla zingarese” creates a high-spiritedness otherwise hardly associated with Schoenberg. The composer himself was highly satisfied with his arrangement of the piece, saying – half-jokingly, half seriously – that he had helped Brahms to no less than a Fifth Symphony.