Commercially Available CDs

Arnold Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), Op. 4; Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 (CD/DVD)

The Smithsonian Chamber Players, Kenneth Slowik, conductor

DVD participants include Elisabeth Adkins (associate concertmaster, National Symphony Orchestra); Anner Bylsma (Dutch cellist); René Clemencic (Viennese composer & ensemble leader); Richard Hoffmann (composer who was Schoenberg’s pupil and assistant); Richard Kurin (Undersecretary for History, Arts, & Culture, Smithsonian Institution); Reinbert de Leeuw (pianist, composer, founder of Amsterdam’s Schoenberg Ensemble); Christian Meyer (Director, Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna); Jon Newsom (former Chief of the Music Division, Library of Congress); James Ross (conductor); Kenneth Slowik (artistic director, Smithsonian Chamber Music Society); James Stern (Associate Professor of Violin, University of Maryland).

Listen to an excerpt from the Chamber Symphony

Verklärte Nacht (“Transfigured Night”) is Schoenberg’s most often performed work. And so it should be, whether heard as the original string sextet or in the composer’s arrangement for orchestra. In 1996 Deutsche Harmonia Mundi issued a fascinating CD, now unfortunately deleted, entitled “Transfiguration” which included Verklärte Nacht played by the Smithsonian Chamber Players led by conductor Kenneth Slowik. There is no more impeccable, ardent, and probing recorded performance, be it sextet or orchestra, than this orchestral version. Now a new performance by cellist Kenneth Slowik and the Smithsonian Chamber Players featuring an all-Schoenberg program is available on a two-disc set from Dorian Sono Luminus. As expected, the playing is exemplary in the brand new recording of the sextet followed by the Chamber Symphony, Op. 9 played by the 15-member chamber orchestra under Slowik’s direction. The second disc is a fascinating and informative DVD with films exploring the origin of Verklärte Nacht, contemporary influences and appreciations of the two works by distinguished musicians and heads of associated institutions, and also their place in the arts world of the fin-de-siécle, concluding with video performances. Bonuses include the origins of the Smithsonian and tours of the Schoenberg Center and the Library of Congress Music Division. Highly recommended.


—DualDisk Reviews
On this album: 

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)

[1]–[5] Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), Op. 4
[6]–[10] Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9

On the DVD:

  • Introduction to Verklärte Nacht [Schoenberg in Mödling—“Ring me up, tear me out of bed, anytime!”—Wagner and Schoenberg—The Grip of a Master—A Calf with Six Feet—Richard Dehmel’s Verklärte Nacht—Explorations of the Psyche] and performance of the sextet version, filmed in the Smithsonian Castle
  • Introduction to the Chamber Symphony [Schoenberg’s First Chamber Symphony—A Close Reading—“Schoenberg invented us”—Different Versions—“As if it were the first time”] and performance, filmed in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress
  • A tour of the Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna, with its director, Dr. Christian Meyer
  • Schoenberg at the Library of Congress, with Chief of the Music Division, Jon Newsom
  • Introduction to the Smithsonian, with Richard Kurin, Undersecretary for History, Arts, and Culture