Schoenberg: Klavierstücke, Opp. 11, 19, 23 & 33; Suite, Op. 25

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COMPOSERS: Schoenberg
LABELS: Hat Hut
WORKS: Klavierstücke, Opp. 11, 19, 23 & 33; Suite, Op. 25
PERFORMER: Pi-Hsien Chen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ART 125
Most ‘complete’ recordings of Schoenberg’s piano music consist only of the works with opus numbers. Pi-Hsien Chen’s disc supplements this corpus with both the Three Piano Pieces of 1894 (the first of which experimentally encases a lilting triple-metre tune in a counter-intuitive duple metre) and scattered chips from the master’s workbench: namely, 17 fragmentary pieces dating from before 1900 to 1933 or later. Some of these are several minutes long – the first, for example, is a scherzo that Schoenberg abandoned upon apparently losing interest during the central lyrical section – while others are extremely cryptic jottings indeed. It’s instructive to listen in on them, but since even the finished pieces often have a disjointed, stop-and-go quality, the brief amount of time this disc allows between fragments makes them seem less self-sufficient than they really are.

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Chen is a persuasive advocate for Schoenberg despite a certain lack of tonal allure and variety (exacerbated by clear but slightly dry recorded sound). Some of the early music could do with more character and a less pointillistic texture than Chen provides (notably the second of the 1894 pieces), but from at least Op. 23 onward in this chronologically arranged disc Chen’s playing is satisfyingly trenchant. David Breckbill