Friday, February 24, 2006

The Boston Symphony Orchestra Performs Huge Schoenberg Early Masterpiece And Receives Repeated Standing Ovations

"Many in the audience were on their feet, applauding, before intermission of last night's performance of Arnold Schoenberg's "Gurrelieder" by James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and by the end of the concert the response was unanimous.

"Gurrelieder" is one of the composer's early masterpieces, composed mostly in 1901 and 1902, although Schoenberg didn't complete the orchestration for another decade. The work is a series of narrative songs that recount the old Danish legend of King Waldemar, his beloved Tove, and his jealous Queen who engineers Tove's death. The King mocks God and is condemned to ride nightly from dusk to dawn for eternity, but the King finds Tove again in the splendor of the natural world.

In the music, as the work progresses, you can hear the 19th century pass into the 20th, and Schoenberg evolve from the world of Brahms, Mahler, and Richard Strauss into the [modern] world that he both perceived and helped to create.

The work always stirs an audience but it is seldom performed because of its size, cost, and difficulty....

[Last night], the huge orchestra -- 8 flutes, 10 horns -- covered itself with glory throughout...

Levine has probably conducted more performances of "Gurrelieder" than anyone in the work's history; he helped the performers deliver every dimension of the piece -- its roots in tradition and its modernity; its peculiarities and its reassurances; its particularity and its universality."

Richard Dyer "Passion rules the night in BSO's 'Gurrelieder'" The Boston Globe February 24, 2006 via news

"Lorraine Hunt Lieberson was magnificent in the tragic narrative of the Wood-Dove who sings of Tove's death."

Blue-headed Wood-Dove (Turtur brehmeri)

Photo credit: Brian Schmidt at With thanks.


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