Music Festival Orchestra to Play World Premiere of Schoenberg Composition

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The National Music Festival concert Tuesday features the world premiere performance of a work by Arnold Schoenberg, one of the most important composers of the 20th century.

Composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)

While“Verklärte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”), which Schoenberg wrote in 1899, has long been one of the composer’s most popular pieces, the versions performed had a number of deviations from the original manuscript — a fact unearthed by Richard Rosenberg, the NMF’s artistic director when he found the manuscript misfiled in the Library of Congress music collection.

“Verklärte Nacht” was originally written as a string sextet, which Schoenberg later arranged for string orchestra. It is an early work, written when the composer was still very much under the influence of the German Romantic composers such as Wagner and Brahms. “iI has had a tremendous life of its own,” Rosenberg said Monday night at a potluck dinner for the musicians and their hosts.

Rosenberg said he came across the work when he was a graduate student, researching another project at the Library of Congress. He came across a large bound red folio, which upon examination turned out to be Schoenberg’s manuscript for “Verklärte Nacht,” which he said had been lost for 45 years. And on closer examination, Rosenberg said, he realized that there were significant deviations from the published version — including five bars of music near the beginning that had somehow been left out.

The manuscript included the composer’s revisions to the score, with some sections hand-sewn into the copy, “And he was a terrible seamstress,” Rosenberg joked. He spoke to various people who had worked with Schoenberg, who came to the U.S. in the late 1930s to escape Nazi persecution, and determined that what he had was “the real McCoy.” He eventually published a corrected edition, and premiered it with members of the San Francisco Symphony in its string sextet version.

It took many years for Rosenberg to get around to transcribing the work for string orchestra, incorporating the revisions and corrections into Schoenberg’s own arrangement. In fact, it was only when he became fluent with modern computer software for composers and arrangers that he was able to complete the project to his satisfaction. Now it will receive its world premiere at the NMF concert tonight, at 7:30 in Washington College’s Decker Theater.

Schoenberg went on to become one of the most influential composers of the century, especially after his development of the 12-tone technique of composition in the 1920s. Almost every subsequent composer has had to come to terms with the technique, which rejects the concept of a piece being in a particular key. Even composers who were active before the development of 12-tone technique in many cases adopted it for their later work.

In addition to performing the Schoenberg at Tuesday’s concert, the NMF orchestra will be recording it for Naxos Records, one of the major classical recording labels. The recording sessions, which will not be open to the public, will take place over several days.

Also appearing on the program Tuesday will be J.S.Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto #6,” Nielsen’s “Little Suite,” Reger’s “Lyric Andante” and Grieg’s “Suite: From Holberg’s Time.”

There will be a pre-concert talk by Rosenberg at 6:30 in Tawes Theater. Admission to the concert is $15, which includes the pre-concert talk.

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