Schoenberg: Moses und Aron

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schoenberg
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Schoenberg
WORKS: Moses und Aron
PERFORMER: Wolfgang Schöne, Chris Merritt, Irena Bespalovaite, Bernhard Schneider, Michael Ebbecke, Karl-Friedrich Dürr; Polish Radio Choir, Kraków; Stuttgart State Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Roland Kluttig
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660158-59
There are excellent things in this

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bargain-price Moses und Aron,

recorded live at the Stuttgart

Staatsoper in December 2003.

Perhaps most impressive is the

natural way that the big ensembles

flow, the multifarious counterpoint

of voices and instruments making

complete musical and dramatic sense

with no sense of strain but plenty of

conviction. There’s some first-rate

orchestral playing, too: Schoenberg’s

brass writing, especially, comes

across with great gusto. Roland

Kluttig clearly has his forces well in

hand, though he chooses some rather

leaden tempos for the Dances round

the Golden Calf.

As Moses, Wolfgang Schöne,

though intelligent, seems curiously

diffident – he conveys little of the

character’s almost enraged, baffled

inability to communicate, the

harshness and near-inarticulacy

of his Sprechstimme. For much of

Act I he also seems too backwardly

balanced, too easily overwhelmed in

the ensembles, his solos insufficiently

audible or commanding. And in

Moses’s great concluding soliloquy

he sounds more meditative than

anguished. Chris Merritt is a flashily

commanding Aron – Schoenberg

wanted him to have a conventionally

‘operatic’ tenor, but one gets a

little tired of his vibrato in slow

passages. Overall this new version

hardly displaces Boulez’s ideally

authoritative reading with Günter

Reich’s darkly eloquent Moses and

Richard Cassilly’s charismatic Aron.

Still, this is an admirably inexpensive

way into one of Schoenberg’s greatest

works, and one whose relevance – in

Moses’s insistence on the primacy of

unseen, immaterial spiritual truth

rather than the physical benefits of

miracles, idols, land – is as urgent as

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ever today. Calum MacDonald