“Unanswered Questions” – musical Modernism between 1910 and 1920

“Unanswered Questions” – musical Modernism between 1910 and 1920
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    Charles Ives
    The Unanswered Question (5 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

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    Gustav Mahler
    Symphony No. 10 (performing version by Deryck Cooke): Adagio (29 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Claudio Abbado

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    Arnold Schoenberg
    Pierrot lunaire, op. 21, 1st Part (14 min.)

    Members of the Berliner Philharmoniker

    Patricia Kopatchinskaja speaker, Egor Egorkin flute, Manfred Preis clarinet, Krzysztof Polonek violin, Naoko Shimizu viola, Ludwig Quandt cello, Tamara Stefanovich piano

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    Igor Stravinsky
    Le Sacre du printemps (revised 1947 version) (40 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

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    Claude Debussy
    Jeux, Poème dansé (20 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

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    Alban Berg
    Three Pieces for orchestra, op. 6 (28 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Daniele Gatti

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    Béla Bartók
    Bluebeard’s Castle, Sz 48 (concert performance) (68 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Sir Simon Rattle

    Rinat Shaham Mezzo-Soprano, Gábor Bretz Bass, Ulrich Noethen Speaker

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    Arnold Schoenberg
    Pierrot lunaire, op. 21, 2nd Part (12 min.)

    Members of the Berliner Philharmoniker

    Patricia Kopatchinskaja speaker, Egor Egorkin flute, Manfred Preis clarinet, Krzysztof Polonek violin, Naoko Shimizu viola, Ludwig Quandt cello, Tamara Stefanovich piano

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    Maurice Ravel
    La Valse, Poème chorégraphique for orchestra (15 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    François-Xavier Roth

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    Ferruccio Busoni
    Tanz-Walzer for orchestra, op. 53 (13 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Susanna Mälkki

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    Rudi Stephan
    Music for Orchestra (17 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Kirill Petrenko

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    Alexander Scriabin
    Prométhée – Le Poème du feu, op. 60 (19 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Claudio Abbado

    Martha Argerich piano, Berliner Singakademie, Achim Zimmermann chorus master

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    Leoš Janáček
    Taras Bulba, Rhapsody for Orchestra (31 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Jakub Hrůša

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    Arnold Schoenberg
    Pierrot lunaire, op. 21, 3rd Part (18 min.)

    Members of the Berliner Philharmoniker

    Patricia Kopatchinskaja speaker, Egor Egorkin flute, Manfred Preis clarinet, Krzysztof Polonek violin, Naoko Shimizu viola, Ludwig Quandt cello, Tamara Stefanovich piano

  • free

    Claude Debussy
    Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp (18 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

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    Edgard Varèse
    Amériques (1st Version from 1918−1922, revised 1997) (28 min.)

    Berliner Philharmoniker

    Peter Eötvös

The period between 1910 and 1920 can be counted as a particularly productive period in recent music history. Although most of the composers presented here were rather apolitical, their works also reacted to the historical upheavals of the time. For example, in Ravel’s La Valse, first performed in 1920, the aftermath of the shock caused by the First World War cannot be ignored. A direct victim was the composer Rudi Stephan, who died at the age of 28; Kirill Petrenko highlighted the significance of his work in 2012.

Debussy, Scriabin and Mahler who also died in the decade mentioned above, advanced into new spheres of expression in their farewell works: the adagio of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony, which remains a fragment, contains a chord in which nine notes of the chromatic scale are heard simultaneously. In Jeux, Debussy achieved a maximum of freedom in terms of its form, orchestration and harmonic technique. Finally, in Prométhée – Le Poème du feu, Scriabin used a piano whose purpose was to produce colours rather than sounds. For other composers, the 1910s were a time of new beginnings: Schoenberg and his students provoked the audience with compositions whose “free atonality” emancipated them from the basics of familiar harmonies, and the proverbial “thunderbolt” would be a far too harmless metaphor for the shock that Stravinsky’s ballet music Le Sacre du printemps caused at its premiere in 1913. Finally, Béla Bartók, one of the most important and forthright composers of the era, completed his only opera Bluebeard’s Castle in 1911. 

The great Modernist composers often regarded each other as competitors. However, with Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire there was a work that intrigued many composers: Ravel praised the combination of “Romanticism” and “sobriety”, Stravinsky described the instrumentation as “perfect”, and Edgard Varèse drew Debussy’s attention to the piece he admired. Schoenberg’s mysterious and expressive Sprechgesang in three parts therefore form the leitmotif of this selection.

With Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question and Varèse’s Amériques – as prologue and epilogue – the playlist also presents two compositions written shortly before and after this exciting decade. Ives was undoubtedly one of the early authentic voices of American music; Varèse moved from Europe to the USA at the time of his first major composition. And the emigrants Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Bartók also found their last home there.