On Saturday, NCSA’s chamber orchestra, Solisti Symphony, gave a solid performance here of Arnold Schoenberg’s Kammersymphonie No. 1.

A century has gone by since the premiere of this piece, but it remains as freshly challenging for new listeners as ever. As is frequently true with Schoenberg’s works, the problem is not dissonance – harsher dissonances than he ever used have long been commonplace in film music — it’s the density of ideas that can be overwhelming.

What can we say about a piece that has more changes of direction in the first 16 bars than most previous composers put in an entire piece? The audacity is astounding. The music, though never quite incoherent, is hectic as all hell. Themes surface with a quick nod and submerge back into the constantly shifting texture.

Even if you don’t consider the piece an unqualified success, you have to tip your cap that level of innovation, or bullheadedness, or whatever you may wish to call it.

Leave a Reply