Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Second Vienna School by Ormandy

Here is the recording of Ormandy conducting work of the second Vienna School that I promised would be the follow-up to the tribute on the 25th anniversary of his death. The two Webern works on this record were discovered only in the 1960s and received their first performances by Ormandy and his orchestra. Rather than unnecessarily re-write a lot of text, I have photographed the back of the album, which has the pertinent information. I would only add that the Sommerwind is more Post-romantic than what we normally expect from Webern and the the 3 pieces are performed with a delicacy that does justice to a composer whose music is more apt to be thought of in terms of harmonic violence rather than the astonishing refinement of its polyphony.

The Lulu Suite presented here sounds to me less repulsed by Lulu's amorality than saddened by the destruction of her humanity. A kind of Lulu as tragic heroine, if you like. And if you don't --well -- I won't insist on it!

The Schoenberg Theme and Variations, first conceived as a piece for band, gives us a triumphantly tonal work late in Schoenberg's career. Whatever dodecophonic ideologues may have said during the musical culture wars of the middle and late twentieth century, the head honcho of the whole movement stated unequivocally that there was still plenty of good music to be written in C major. Though without Schoenberg's authority, I would still add that there is undoubtedly still plenty of good music to be written using serial techniques and charts of tone rows.


Link to all files


  1. Larry - Most interesting. I wonder how many of these Columbia sold!

  2. Larry,

    Fascinating issue. Though admittedly not my cup of tea, I am intrigued by this because I would not have thought Ormandy to be much too sympathetic towards the SVS. I do have the Minneapolis version of Verklaerte Nacht, albeit in pretty crappy sound.


  3. Great post! Thanks a lot! I did not know Ormandy had known Berg. The cover art is amazing too ;-)

  4. Buster and Fred: It was an interesting find, and I have been wanting to post it for a while, so a follow up to my last post seemed opportune. It is not a record I have seen around much since getting it.

    According to the notes on the back jacket, containing a long, laudatory quotation of Ormandy on Berg, he was a friend of the composer, and characterized Lulu as one of the century's most important works. He expressed a desire to conduct it; I wish he had, although Dohnanyi's recording with Anja Silja satisfies me completely.

  5. Karl Böhm is said to have been a friend of Berg, too, and to have given him advice about some details in Wozzeck. Like Ormandy, record companies did not make much profit of these friendships (with the exception of course of Wozzeck and Lulu recordings by Böhm!)

  6. I have that Wozzeck recording by Böhm, which I remember as being quite good --the singers are terrific -- although I confess I have a soft spot for the Mitropoulos recording with Mack Harrell and Eileen Farrell despite the criticism it has garnered.

    I have to say the the triumphant smugness with which certain modern composers and critics crusade against serial and twelve tone composition infuriates me. New tonalists, I guess one should call them, since the religious fervor with which they advocate for a tonal-only musical world and "approachable" music parrots the "serial only" inanities of a previous generation that was sometimes tempted to measure a music"s worth according to how many in the audience scratched their heads in incomprehension. David del Tredici is one of its most egregious exponents, and one can only hope he will lose some of his zealotry, as has Pierre Boulez, who got frequently stupid in his advocacy of "new" music. I should add, lest I be misunderstood, that I think Pierre Boulez, for all his annoying ticks, is a genius and that del Tredici decidedly is not.

  7. Hi,
    Looking forward to this, but 2 of the zip files (FLAC) have problems, I downloaded as a group and separately. Tracks 1 & 7 are bad. I tried repair with both sets of downloads, but without recovery record it did no good. If you could upload those tracks, I'd sure appreciate it !
    PS Love your site

  8. I've just re-uploaded the folders with the files in questions, and everything now seems to be OK.

    Thanks for letting me know about the problem. I'm glad you like the site!

  9. Started listening to this - it is exceedingly good!

  10. Buster, I'm glad you like it. I've always thought Webern's concentrated, abstract miniatures could be exceedingly beautiful, given a little room to breathe. I think that's what Ormandy manages to do with them.