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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Thursday, June 27

Schoenberg for Winds

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

Additional Information

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