Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Curious Affair of the Silence in the Night-time

On Tuesday evening my regular quartet, augmented by my wife Hilary on piano, played at Edinburgh Music Club. Rebecca, our usual viola player, switched for the occasion to harmonium (or its digital equivalent) and we played Arnold Schoenberg's Weihnachtsmusik. Schoenberg write the piece in 1921 for a domestic occasion of some kind (one assumes at Christmas time), and it's a fantasia on the two Christmas carols Es ist ein Ros' Entsprungen and Silent Night. (Clever of Schoenberg to spot that the two tunes have similar shapes.) It went pretty well, in fact: the piano part is by no means easy, and there are ensemble problems to be overcome at the end. We were a little surprised, then, when we finished and received no applause until Hilary said "That's it!".

Subsequent discussion with (generally enthusiastic) audience members suggested that they had for the most part failed to detect Silent Night in the mix. It appears only in the piano part (which is quite an ingenious arrangement) and is always embellished with a certain amount of triplet figuration. It seemed pretty obvious to us, and we know we got the balance OK with the piano. Anyway, we think the audience were all waiting for Silent Night to appear, hence their silence.

With the wonder that is the Internet, you can decide. Here is a recording of Weihnachtsmusik (not by us). I bet you spot Silent Night. Remember it's only in the piano, and first appears about half way through (3:28 to be exact). (I note that whoever labelled the Youtube clip also failed to register that there are two carols involved. Sigh.)

Enjoy the piece anyway: it's thoroughly charming and deserves to be heard more. Last Christmas it was played on Classic FM, so I'm not its only champion.

Special thanks to Chip and Eddie of Ed's World who came along to support. I like to think they spotted SN but stayed quiet so as not to embarrass less careful listeners.....


At 13 December, 2007 09:44, Blogger Eddie Louise said...

Actually... I had spotted the Silent Night... but the piece had put me in such a lovely reverie that I literally forgot to applaud. When Hilary said 'that's it' I came back from my Winter Wonderland with a bit of a jolt. We enjoyed it very much!

At 13 December, 2007 15:29, Blogger Chip said...

It was a lovely concert and I felt the highlight was the Schoenberg piece.

Why didn't I applaud right away? I was still enjoying the atmosphere of the music, while it had ended the feeling had not. It takes a while to come back to responses after that. The silence was (in my part) a compliment to the players and the music.


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