Schoenberg: Moses und Aron

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COMPOSERS: Schoenberg
LABELS: Berlin Classics
WORKS: Moses und Aron
PERFORMER: Werner Haseleu, Reiner Goldberg, Renate Krahmer, Gisela Pohl, Armin Ude; Dresden Hofkirche Boys Choir, Leipzig Radio Chorus & RSO/ Herbert Kegel
CATALOGUE NO: 0011162 BC ADD Reissue
For a work of such extreme difficulty, Schoenberg’s incomplete biblical epic is fortunate in the number and quality of recordings. Intriguingly, this performance of Moses und Aron emerges from East Germany, where it was made in 1978. How could the censors permit that heartfelt cry of ‘Alles für die Freiheit’ (‘everyone for freedom’)? Kegel’s tempi are cautious, sometimes seriously too slow. The opening scene suffers as the speaking chorus cuts its syllables, which clarifies the texture (one hears orchestral detail normally swamped) but itself sounds silly. There is some excellent orchestral playing, particularly in the dances, and the brass may be just what Schoenberg would have expected in Germany c1930: harsher, more menacing, than modern instruments. Haseleu, a grainy, sombre Moses, barely attempts the notated pitches of his Sprechstimme (speech-song). Goldberg’s husky tenor conveys something of the visionary in Aron and shows real command at the climaxes. Among the many adequate minor roles it is a pity that the Young Maiden is unappealing, and poor balance mars the sensuous rapture of the quartet of Naked Virgins. The performance has a certain rawness, and will be nobody’s first choice, but its dramatic conviction makes it well worth experiencing. Julian Rushton