MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline


Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
A Survivor from Warsaw for Narrator, Men’s Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 46 (1947) [7:11]
Prelude to Genesis for Mixed Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 44 (1945) [6:17]
Dreimal Tausend Jahre, Op. 50A (1949) [2:52]
Psalm 130, De Profundis, for Mixed Chorus a cappella (six voices), Op. 50B (1950) [5:01]
Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte for String Quartet, Piano, and Reciter, Op. 41 (1942) [15:02]
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 36 (1936) [34:50]
Rolf Schulte (violin); David Wilson-Johnson (narrator); Jeremy Denk (piano); The Fred Sherry Quartet; Simon Joly Chorale
Philharmonia Orchestra/Robert Craft
rec. Studio One, Abbey Road 3 October 2007 (Op.46); 7 June 2006 (Op.44); 19 September 2005 (Op.50); 19-20 April 1999 (op.36) and Performing Arts Centre, SUNY Purchase, New York April 2006 (Op.41). DDD
NAXOS 8.557528 [71:03]
Experience Classicsonline

This latest instalment in the Naxos Robert Craft series contains a mixture of newly recorded items and one work, the Violin Concerto, that has already appeared on Koch Classics in 2000. Comprising largely music composed during the last ten years of Schoenberg’s life, the disc also reflects to a large extent the émigré composer’s preoccupation with his Jewish heritage as his life drew to a close.
The disc opens with the powerful Survivor from Warsaw, Schoenberg’s moving response to a Nazi atrocity in the Second World War. Schoenberg gave this a universal significance by playing down the Warsaw location and concentrating instead on the atrocity itself, an incident in which weak, elderly and starved Jews were systematically liquidated by the Nazi cohorts, and one that was repeated time and again throughout the war. This work had huge personal significance to the composer, as he wrote in 1948:
“Now, what the text of the Survivor means to me: it means at first a warning to all Jews, never to forget what has been done to us, never to forget that even people who did not do it themselves, agreed with them and many of them found it necessary to treat us this way. We should never forget this, even such things have not been done in the manner in which I describe in the Survivor. This does not matter. The main thing is, that I saw it in my imagination.”
If memory serves, Craft has recorded this before, with Simon Callow as narrator, but this is a new version with David Wilson-Johnson and the Philharmonia. While the choral and orchestral contribution make their mark under Craft’s watchful baton, I have heard performances of the narration which were more vividly re-enacted than that by Wilson-Johnson. In particular the delineation of the different episodes in the story and of its various characters, from the prisoners to the German sergeant, could have been more sharply defined. This is a work which demands commitment and involvement over accuracy to the score. However the final chorus makes an overwhelming effect. In the same 1948 letter Schoenberg wrote. “The Shema Jisroel at the end has a special meaning to me. I think, the Shema Jisroel is the ‘Glaubensbekenntnis,’ the confession of the Jew. It is our thinking of the one, eternal, God who is invisible, who forbids imitation, who forbids to make a picture and all these things, which you perhaps have realised when you read my Moses und Aron und Der biblische Weg [Moses and Aaron and the Biblical Way]. The miracle is, to me, that all these people who might have forgotten, for years, that they are Jews, suddenly facing death, remember who they are.”
The Prelude to Genesis was written as part of the same commission from the composer and publisher Nathaniel Shilkret that resulted in Stravinsky’s miniature cantata Babel. Schoenberg’s was one of a series of works written to reflect various events in the Book of Genesis. Other music featured in this unusual project included Cain and Abel by Milhaud; The Flood by Castelnuovo-Tedesco and The Covenant by Ernst Toch. Bartok, Hindemith and Prokofiev were also approached but did not contribute in the event. Schoenberg’s Prelude, a twentieth-century “Representation of Chaos”, begins with fugal entries representing the moment of creation itself and includes a wordless chorus whose unaccompanied vocalise brings the piece to a rather unexpected conclusion. (See reviews of the complete composite work by Jonathan Woolf and Rob Barnett).
Dreimal Tausend Jahre and Psalm 130 are Schoenberg’s final works. Providing a further reminder of his Jewish faith, here the music represents a distillation of his life’s work. Passages of quasi-tonality alternate with angular 12-tone themes and sprechgesang. Excellent performances and recordings.
We move to New York briefly for the recording of Ode to Napoleon, in which David Wilson-Johnson is joined by the Fred Sherry Quartet and pianist Jeremy Denk. This setting of Byron, whose poem pulled no punches in its condemnation of the French emperor, also served as a pertinent condemnation of Hitler during the Second World War. Of his decision to compose the piece, Schoenberg wrote: “I knew it was the moral duty of intelligentsia to take a stand against tyranny.” First performed at Carnegie Hall by Mack Harrell and Rodzinski in an orchestral version which was later abandoned, Schoenberg attempted to ensure the dramatic values of the work were given full rein by notating precisely the rhythms and dynamic of the spoken text. The performance is first-rate.
Finally, to the main work on the disc, the 1936 Violin Concerto. On its original appearance Rolf Schulte’s coolly accurate performance of Schoenberg’s work was generally much admired, supported as it was by the analytical clarity of Craft’s conducting and the well-balanced sound. Accurate and involved in the opening movement, Schulte is affectionate in the central Andante grazioso, and he and Craft even manage to create genuine Brahmsian warmth as the movement progresses, followed by exuberance in the closing Alla Marcia. However Hilary Hahn’s recent performances and recording have added a new dimension to our understanding of this challenging piece. Hahn brings a warmth and romanticism to the concerto, and perhaps ultimately a sheer love of the music, which Shulte and Craft do not quite match. But it’s a close run thing, and some may prefer the cooler approach on this disc. Certainly in terms of sound there’s not much to choose between them.
A fascinating collection of music by one of the twentieth century greats, performed by one of his most eloquent advocates. Don’t miss it.
Ewan McCormick


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.