Schoenbergs Take Center Stage


Two California composers head their namesake program this upcoming Sunday at Caltech. But while they may share the same hometown and surnames, they could not be any more different from each other.

“I’m very surprised that, despite their California connection, they’re unrelated,” said Glenn Price, conductor of the TEMPO (The Epicenter Musical Performance Organization) Ensemble.

The two composers in question are Adam and Arnold Schoenberg, whose works will headline TEMPO’s “From Schoenberg to Schoenberg” program. Adam’s “Ahava” will precede Arnold’s “Chamber Symphony No. 1” in the version for reduced ensemble made by his pupil and friend, Anton Webern.

Adam Schoenberg has gained notice in recent years through his audience-friendly idiom fusing glossy post-John Adams minimalism with even glossier film music. Arnold Schoenberg, on the other hand, was the passionate, restless auto-didact whose emotionally intense late Romantic idiom charted new frontiers in musical expression.

The program was the result of the professional relationship between Price and Adam Schoenberg.

“I’ve become a colleague of [Adam Schoenberg’s] and we’ve crossed paths in other professional capacities,” Price said. “So we’ve become good friends. I proposed [‘Ahava’] to TEMPO and they took up the idea. It’s a very sunny and light-hearted work.”

“It’s such a joyful work,” added Julia Heinen, TEMPO’s clarinettist and one of the group’s founding members. “Everyone in the group loved it. We were so taken by it. It’s the perfect work as a companion to Arnold Schoenberg’s ‘Chamber Symphony No. 1.’”

Webern’s reduction of his mentor’s already compact score, prepared for a performance at their short-lived Society for Private Musical Performances in Vienna, is itself a masterpiece.

“I’m amazed at how effectively Webern reduced the score,” Price explained. “Having conducted the original version for 15 players, which is already very compressed, I found myself thinking that some things would be lost. To my surprise that didn’t happen. It’s just unbelievable how he has been able to rearrange these lines and retain the original integrity of the work. Of course, Webern’s secret weapon here was the piano.”

The TEMPO Ensemble’s “From Schoenberg to Schoenberg” concert will take place at Caltech’s Dabney Hall (1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena) on Sunday, April 29 at 3 p.m. Admission is free and no reservations are required. For more information visit call (626) 395-3295.