Schoenberg, Berg and Webern

Peter Hill

Naxos 8.553870


  • The complete published piano music of the Second Viennese School Trinity is generous measure, when most rivals (e.g., Pollini, DG) devote a whole disc to just Schoenberg’s output. Programming in the order Berg–Schoenberg–Webern also allows a strict chronological survey, since Berg’s Sonata precedes, as Webern’s Variations follow, Schoenberg’s entire canon of piano pieces. But the really important feature of this disc is the insight and musicianship of Hill’s performances. Had this been a full-price disc it would still be my first recommendation in this repertoire, and at bargain price it’s unbeatable. Hill’s intensely lyrical, beautifully-shaped account of the Berg is one that rivals and perhaps surpasses Glenn Gould’s magnificent mono-only recording from 1958 (Sony), as it certainly outclasses Barenboim (DG) in warmth and insight. The crepuscular delicacy of the closing bars is unforgettable. The Schoenberg works appear with very distinct profiles: the burden of emotion in Op. 11 no. 2 is so profound that the explosive expansion of Op. 11 no. 3 seems the only possible outcome. The Op. 19 ‘Little Pieces’ have seldom sounded more daringly aphoristic. The ‘neo-classical’ nature of the pioneering serial works, Opp. 23 and 25, is very clearly brought out, yet I’ve never heard Op. 23’s concluding Waltz so evocatively done. And Webern’s Variations, though deceptively simple and pellucid in this account, is given at the same time a reading of enormous depth of feeling which entirely avoids the effect of didactic 12-tone pattern-making … The whole effect of the disc is to show an entire musical tradition in the act of evolution … A superb disc, beautifully engineered. Hi-Fi News and Record Review
  • Pollini’s DG recordings have been a landmark since their appearance in the 1970s, while Glenn Gould’s set, reissued a few years ago by Sony, has its special, idiosyncratic virtues. Now they have a genuine rival, with excellent 1990s recording quality … Hill offers interpretations which brilliantly combine intensity, clarity and control. Classic CD
  • … a satisfying, scintillating disc as played by Peter Hill, who also contributes an acute booklet essay. Berg’s one-movement Sonata Op 1, in a poised reading that brings out the music’s sudden swagger but lingers over its perfume, provides a symbolist gateway to the expressionist eventually 12-tone idioms of his teacher Schoenberg. Hill is equally at home with the black bravura of the third of the Op 11 Three Pieces, the Pierrot-like irony of the Six Little Pieces, Op 19, or the mercurial brilliance of the Op 25 Suite’s Gigue, a musical Catherine wheel. He caps all this with a sensitive account of Webern’s geometric, impassioned Variations. Sunday Times
  • … Throughout Hill combines crystal-clear articulation with beautiful piano sound. [Schoenberg’s] op 19 pieces come across not as febrile miniatures but as substantial statements; the opening chord of No. 6, resonating on each repetition like a funeral bell for the dead Mahler of Schoenberg’s inspiration, is a small miracle in itself. The interplay of dialectics and fantasy in the op 23 pieces and op 23 Suite comes across unerringly: the Suite’s Gavotte and Musette are a coruscating delight, the Gigue at once controlled and impulsive … Buy, and listen enthralled. Tempo
  • As with his landmark Messiaen cycle … Peter Hill infuses the very different pianistic, stylistic and emotional demands of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern with technical assurance, intelligence and authority … Enthusiastically recommended. International Piano Quarterly
  • Where Pollini responds with near frenetic intensity and an excess of dazzling pianism, Hill probes with subtlety, sympathy and high intelligence. Both approaches are equally valid, it seems to me, and both are done with comparable finesse … Apart from its amazing value for money, Naxos’s first-rate recording quality, Peter Hill’s own lucid booklet-essay, and what sounds like an ideally regulated instrument, all contribute to the outstanding success of the new issue. Gramophone
  • Peter Hill’s searching intelligence in this music provides a wonderful introduction to the piano works of the Second Viennese School … Guardian
  • … among some of the most intelligent and imaginative performances of this repertoire in the catalogue. The Times

Track listing

  • Berg: Piano Sonata, Op. 1
  • 1 Piano Sonata, Op. 1
  • Schoenberg: 3 Piano Pieces, Op. 11
  • 2 I. Mässig
  • 3 II. Mässig
  • 4 III. Bewegt
  • 6 Little Piano Pieces, Op. 19
  • 5 I. Leicht, zart
  • 6 II. Langsam
  • 7 III. Sehr langsam
  • 8 IV. Rasch, aber leicht
  • 9 V. Etwas rasch
  • 10 VI. Sehr langsam
  • 5 Piano Pieces, Op. 23
  • 11 I. Sehr langsam
  • 12 II. Sehr rasch
  • 13 III. Langsam
  • 14 IV. Schwungvoll
  • 15 V. Walzer
  • Suite for Piano, Op. 25
  • 16 I. Präludium
  • 17 II. Gavotte
  • 18 III. Musette
  • 19 IV. Gavotte
  • 20 V. Intermezzo
  • 21 VI. Menuett
  • 22 VII. Trio
  • 23 VIII. Menuett
  • 24 IX. Gigue
  • Piano Piece, Op. 33A
  • 25 Piano Piece Op. 33A
  • Piano Piece, Op. 33B
  • 26 Piano Piece Op. 33B
  • Webern: Variations, Op. 27
  • 27 I. Sehr mässig
  • 28 II. Sehr schnell
  • 29 III. Ruhig fliessend
  • Total Playing Time [01:18:10]