Schoenberg: Moses und Aron

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schoenberg
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Moses und Aron
PERFORMER: Günter Reich, Louis DevosAustrian RSO & Chorus/Michael Gielen
Moses und Aron is a work of immense difficulty, but its significance, as Schoenberg’s longest stage work and his religious and political testament, has led to its being recorded at least four times. I retain a soft spot for the premiere recording, by Rosbaud; among its successors, Gielen’s grip on the score is the equal of Solti’s or Boulez’s and he unites, as far as possible, their fire and precision. Reich is a harsh Moses, and, though a fine singer, he makes few concessions to the notated pitches of the speech-song. There have been suaver Arons than Davos; his lyric line here appears less pliable, enhancing his political threat to Moses – a perfectly valid interpretation. The ferociously difficult choruses come over with clarity and force, and the orchestra, raw in places and not always completely clean in attack, displays virtuosity and a wide colouristic and dynamic range. This is a studio performance without special effects (such as noises of an approaching crowd), and it is a pity that at the crisis in Act II the 70 elders sound exactly like the chorus which threatens them. But Schoenberg’s vision of a crowd seizing on half-truths to turn a spiritual ideal into savage nationalism remains as frightening as ever, and as topical. Julian Rushton