ADAM SCHOENBERG (b.1980): American Symphony, Finding Rothko, Picture Studies.
Catalogue Number: 02S009
Label: Reference Recordings
Reference: RR-139 SACD
Format: SACD hybrid
Description: Adam Schoenberg (no relation, but he is related by marriage to the pioneer of dodecaphony's one-time tennis partner, George Gershwin), is highly regarded and widely performed, and it is easy to understand why; his works are instantly accessible, tonal, bold, guaranteed audience-pleasers. The 2010 symphony was conceived partly as a contemporary counterpart to Copland's quintessentially American symphony, the Third, written as an optimistic forward-looking statement after WWII. Schoenberg's piece is in five movements; a breezy, energetic opening fanfare; a chromatic slow movement depicting the desire for change and relief from struggle; a lively, propulsive 'scherzo'; another slow movement, prayerful and consoling; and an optimistic finale Stars, Stripes and Celebration. The composer is fond of ostinati, and both here - in the scherzo and finale - and especially in the large suite of Picture Studies they contribute to the enthusiastic youthful momentum of the music. Picture Studies is a modern Pictures at an Exhibition, based on a diverse group of works in the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. The ten movements are similarly diverse, with expansive textures, lively rhythms and a wide stylistic range, from the floating, metallic, improvisational sounds depicting a Calder mobile, angular, abrupt sonic shapes for Kandinsky, vivid colors and folk-like naïveté for Miró, and fulsome, cumulative textures for photographs and paintings full of motion and life. Finding Rothko is an earlier work, the composer's first professional commission. It depicts impressions of four of the artist's color field works; a pastoral interpretation of luminous oranges and yellows; vivid abstract action for red, and so on. When Schoenberg speaks of aggression, aleatoric techniques and graphic notation (not really; it's free gestures within prescribed pitch ranges) in relation to some movements and effects, it should be noted that there is nothing remotely avant-garde in these works; the limited chance and improvisation permitted refers to resolutely tonal material, thoroughly unthreatening. Kansas City Symphony; Michael Stern.