Triskaidekaphilia… indicated at the start of last night’s posting that I don’t really have the time to be writing these things just at the moment — and yet here I am again, 24 hours later, writing another one of these things…

Well, I really couldn’t let today go by without uploading at least a quick posting on a topic very close to my heart as well as my brain. (Yes, that’s a clue: come back and click this later, if you want to know how.) You see, the thing is that 13 September happens to be the birthday of the great Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) — and since he’s one of my ‘top five’ composers in terms of how much his work and thought and example have moulded my life as well as adorned it, I don’t want the day to end without me doing something that will constitute at least a small tribute to one of our culture’s greatest musical minds and most indomitable integrities.

In the present circumstances, though, there really isn’t time for me to do much more than ‘paste and run’ — so let me quickly share with you two things that are precious to me, in forms plucked from the internet…

First, here’s one of my favourite photographs of Schoenberg. Apparently, it was taken in 1911 — which is the year in which he wrote the Sechs kleine Klavierstücke (‘Six Little Piano Pieces’), Op. 19, and the song Herzgewächse (‘Foliage of the Heart’), Op. 20, for soprano, harp, harmonium and celesta (yes, really!). In the following year — 1912 — he wrote the 21 songs that make up Pierrot Lunaire

I’ve always felt that this photo — in which Schoenberg is around 37 years old — is one with a great deal of revealing detail in it; if you’ll spend a little while looking carefully at it, you may find yourself agreeing…

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Secondly, here are two recordings – yes, not one, but two! — of a piano piece which, since it was written in 1909, was a couple of years old at the time that photo was taken.

Back around 1981 or ’82, this was one of the first pieces of Schoenberg’s piano music that I found compelling — and to the extent, in fact, that at one point I used to take the music round to the house of my girlfriend’s parents so that I could explore all those incredible harmonies on their full-sized grand piano and try and work out what it was that made so many strange collections of notes seem so unquestionably ‘right’. (In case you’re wondering, I’m still looking for the answer…)

Anyway, here are the two performances — both of them with scores added, so that anyone who wishes to can see the harmonies as well as hear them.

Oh, yes: the piece is the second of three that were published as Drei Klavierstücke (‘Three Piano Pieces’), Op. 11…


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And that, dear reader, is all I have time to do on this particular anniversary. Maybe next year there’ll be an opportunity to write more and better. Though, of course, it’s not as if any of us actually has to wait for a birthday, now, is it…?


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