Pianist Pina Napolitano will give three performances of a new chamber transcription of Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto in February

Concerts will take place in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre (17 February 2017), London’s Cadogan Hall (22 February 2017) and Cambridge’s West Road Concert Hall (26 February 2017)

The new transcription has been written by British composer Hugh Collins Rice

February 2017 will see the UK premiere of a new transcription of one of Schoenberg’s masterpieces – the Piano Concerto Op. 42 – with soloist Pina Napolitano and the Façade Ensemble directed by Benedict Collins Rice. Napolitano has especially commissioned a new chamber transcription of the work for fourteen players by the British composer Hugh Collins Rice.

The adaptation uses the same orchestration as Schoenberg’s Kammersymphonie Op 9, drawing out the chamber and dance qualities of the piece and connecting it to Schoenberg’s earlier expressionistic sound-world, with which it shares many similarities despite the different compositional technique and decades which passed between the two works.

Promoted by the independent record label Odradek Records, the three concerts – at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre (17 February 2017), London’s Cadogan Hall (22 February 2017) and Cambridge’s West Road Concert Hall (26 February 2017) – will also include performances of Schoenberg’s Kammersymphonie Op. 9, Berg’s Seven Early Songs (arr Reinbert de Leeuw) and Schoenberg’s Song of the Wood Dove, from Gurre-Lieder. Napolitano and The Façade Ensemble are joined by soprano Rosalind Dobson and mezzo-soprano Helen Charleston.

Pianist, Pina Napolitano, said: ‘I first came to know Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto when I was rather young. I remember listening to it and feeling that there was something there which was “real”, and substantially emotional. Many years later, after having studied the solo piano works, it was natural to continue on to the Piano Concerto. I found again some of the old sensations, the complexity of the texture, the piece being saturated with expression. Strangely it seemed a lot more traditional than I remembered, and more traditional than the solo piano works. The ties with the past emerged, with the Viennese waltz rhythms, echoes of dances from a suite, the traditional form of the piano concerto – but also somehow a jazzy character, and a mixing of styles that seemed typically American. The complexity of this work, together with its expressive style and with the fact that it is strangely not yet part of the standard repertoire of piano concerti, drove me to commission the reduction. Although we may lose something of the colours, the big fortissimi of a symphonic orchestration, a general sense of grandeur, we instead gain something else – more clarity, more expressive subtleties, and a real sense of intimacy with the audience. My hope is that this will be a way to popularize this wonderful concerto, and make it heard and performed more often.’

Composer and transcriber of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto, Hugh Collins Rice, said: ‘When Pina Napolitano asked if I would make a transcription of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto for a chamber ensemble there was an entirely practical motivation: to enable her to programme the work more easily. But it also seemed entirely appropriate to the music, given Schoenberg’s strong relationship with the art of transcription.

In arranging the piece for essentially the same ensemble as Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony, I wanted to bring out some innate qualities of the work. This is an instrumental ensemble uniquely associated with Schoenberg, and it has always seemed to me an ideal vehicle for Schoenberg’s combination of contrapuntal intricacy and emotional intensity. I also hoped it would even be possible to hear this wonderful piece as music rather than twelve-tone music.’

 

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