Composers Datebook®

Schoenberg for Winds

Arnold Schoenberg (1874 - 1951) –Theme and Variations, Op. 43a (Peabody Conservatory Wind Ensemble; Harlan D. Parker, cond.) Naxos 8.570403


Composer's Datebook - 20220627

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June 27, 2022

Synopsis

According to Emerson, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Well, we’re not sure if the composer Arnold Schoenberg ever read Emerson, but we think the 20th-century Austrian composer must have shared this principle with the 19th-century American essayist. Just when many people had Schoenberg comfortably pigeon-holed as an “atonal” composer, he went and wrote a big TONAL piece, resolutely set in the key of G minor.

In the 1940’s, Schoenberg’s publisher asked him to write a piece for high school or amateur wind band. The work Schoenberg finished during the summer of 1943 was entitled “Theme and Variations,” and was described by its composer—with his customary modesty—as (quote), “one of those compositions which one writes in order to enjoy one’s own virtuosity and… to give a certain group of music lovers something better to play.”

Schoenberg’s music proved a little too difficult for high school bands, however, so its first performance was given on today’s date in 1946 by the Goldman Band, America’s top wind ensemble of that day, at a Central Park concert in New York City conducted by Richard Franko Goldman, an enthusiastic supporter of new works for band.

Music Played in Today's Program

Arnold Schoenberg (1874 - 1951) –Theme and Variations, Op. 43a (Peabody Conservatory Wind Ensemble; Harlan D. Parker, cond.) Naxos 8.570403

On This Day

Births

  • 1922 - American composer and pianist George Walker, in Washington, D. C.;

  • 1932 - British composer Hugh Wood, in Parbold, near Wigan, Lancashire;

  • 1958 - Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg, in Helsinki;

Deaths

  • 1729 - French composer and harpsichordist Elizabeth-Claude Jacquet de LaGuerre, age 64, in Paris;

  • 1948 - Expatriate American composer and watercolorist George Templeton Strong, age 92, in Geneva;

Premieres

  • 1985 - Dave Brubeck: dramatic scene "Voice of the Holy Spirit (Tongues of Fire)," at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, with Richard Gloyd conducting;

  • 1990 - Michael Torke: "Mass" for baritone, chorus and orchestra, at the New York State Theater, with baritone William Stone, the Trinity Church Choir, and the NY City Ballet Orchestra, Gordon Boelzner conducting.