Plush Ensemble: Schoenberg - Verklärte Nacht
The Plush Ensemble share a deep, dark secret in Schoenberg’s sinfully expressive "Transfigured Night".
"Infectious energy and original interpretations" Adrian Brendel
Includes HD Video & Audio files
A concert at St. John the Baptist church, Plush on 28th June 2008. Part of the Music at Plush festival.
Arnold Schoenberg – Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) for sextet, Op. 4
HD Video and Audio
Director – Mark Kidel
Cameras – Tom Swindell, Amy Rose, Tom Maine and Mark Kidel
Audio recorded and mastered by Eric James for URM Audio
Video editing – Denni Bakardji
Producer – Matthew Jolly
The Plush Ensemble is a flexible collective of international musicians committed to performing new programmes at the highest level, contrasting chamber music works with the most interesting music of the avant-garde. Previous programmes include Beethoven and Schubert quartets paired with modern works by Ligeti, Birtwistle and Kurtag.
Benjamin Nabarro, violin
Benjamin has given performances as a soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe, North America, Africa, and the Far and Middle East. He has a growing reputation as a guest leader and director, and was recently invited to play Rimsky Korsakov’s Sheherazade with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Charles Dutoit. He is a member of the London Bridge, Wakeford, and Olivier Ensembles. He also plays regularly with the Nash Ensemble.
Ania Safonova, violin
Ania was born in Tomsk, Siberia and gave her concert debut at the age of seven with the Omsk Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1990 she immigrated with her family to Israel, later continuing her studies at the Royal College of Music, London. Between 2001 and 2006, She was Associate Leader of the Halle Orchestra, and is currently Associate Concertmaster of the Royal Opera House Orchestra. Ania plays on a violin by Gennaro Gagliano, generously on loan to her from the Tate Tompkin Trust.
Tobias Breider, viola
A native of Münster, Westphalia, Tobias has been a regular guest at the Music at Plush Festival, as well as performing at other venues across Europe. After being a member of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for seven seasons, he recently moved from his previous role in Hamburg as principal violist of the Philharmonic State Orchestra, to a new leader role in Berlin.
Susan Knight, cello
Sue made her debut at the Purcell Room in London's South Bank Centre after completing her studies at the Royal College of Music. During the screening of "Viola Viola" by George Benjamin at the Meltdown Festival in London, Susan performed with violist Lawrence Power in the Royal Festival Hall. She is a guest of the Nash Ensemble, and she is a regular at the international musicians' seminar Prussia Cove.
Adrian Brendel, cello
Adrian Brendel's commitment to chamber music has led to projects with Lisa Batiashvili, Imogen Cooper, Till Fellner and Paul Lewis, amongst others. Sir Harrison Birtwistle regularly commissions new work for him; the latest work premiered at the Cheltenham festival in 2009. Adrian divides his time between Plush, London and Berlin when he is not performing around the world. He has been Music Director of Music at Plush festival since 1995, and is Classical Music Director of label Plushmusic.
Julian Steckel, cello
A prizewinner at many prestigious competitions, Julian has appeared with ensembles such as the Orchestre de Paris and the Radio Symphony Orchestras of Berlin, Stuttgart, Saarbrücken, Frankfurt, Warsaw and Copenhagen. Julian divides his career between chamber collaborations, frequent broadcasts and a burgeoning recording schedule. In 2009 AVI-Music released works for cello and piano by Mendelssohn, with the pianist Paul Rivinius.
Schoenberg finished Verklarte Nacht as his Opus 4 three weeks after his first encounter with Mathilde von Zemlinsky, the daughter of his teacher and the woman whom he would later marry. Completed on 1 December 1899, even Verklarte Nacht's date is significant, marking the end of a century and the beginning of a new musical era.
The piece was inspired by Richard Dehmel's poem of the same name, in which a man and woman walk through a dark forest on a moonlit night, and the woman reveals that she bears the child of a stranger. If the poem is somewhat kitsch, the piece transcends this through its emotional power and harmonic originality.
It is ironic that Schoenberg, the father of the twelve-tone technique and architect of the shift towards atonality, should still be best known for "Transfigured Night", for it is a chromatic work borne out of German post-romanticism, and heavily influenced by Brahms, Wagner and Mahler. Nonetheless, several passages point towards the composer's future atonal endeavours, notably a repeated minor ninth interval that ultimately led to the work’s rejection by one influential Viennese music society. Schoenberg remarked, 'Thus the piece cannot be performed, as one cannot play that which does not exist.' One critic famously denounced it as 'smearing the score of Tristan when wet'.
The piece is a single movement work in five sections, corresponding to the structure of Dehmel’s poem, and the themes in each section are direct musical metaphors for the narrative and discourse of the poem. As such, it is one of the first pieces of programme music for chamber ensemble, an impressive achievement that confirms Schoenberg as one of the most historically aware and technically gifted composers of all time. Years later, it is said, a close friend asked Schoenberg why he didn't write music as beautiful as Verklarte Nacht any more, to which he replied: 'I do; you just have to learn to hear it.'