C1571. BRUNO MADERNA Cond. Saarlandischen Rundfunks S.O.: Invitation to the Dance (von Weber-Berlioz), Live Performance, 6 April, 1972; BRUNO MADERNA Cond. Netherlands Radio Phil.: Différences (Berio); plus Soloists & Chorus: Die Jakobsleiter (Schonberg), Live Performance,1 July, 1972. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-579. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“As early as 1912, Schonberg had begun planning some quasi-religious music, and between 1912 and 1917 worked on several pieces. DIE JAKOBSLEITER, an oratorio begun in 1915 with his own text, was by far the most substantial of these, and it occupied Schonberg for a number of years. In the summer of 1917, Schonberg abandoned some of the smaller pieces he had been working on and turned his attention back to the oratorio. The title was taken from Balzac's SERAPHITA, which provided much of the inspiration for the oratorio. In SERAPHITA, Balzac mentions the story from GENESIS, in which Jacob dreams of a ladder joining earth and heaven, with angels going up and down. Schonberg, like Balzac, does not directly portray this biblical story; instead, Jacob's ladder symbolizes the theme of a connection between the earthly and the spiritual.
DIE JAKOBSLEITER is an enormous, complex work scored for large orchestra, choruses, and soloists. It is structured much like a traditional oratorio, with clearly delineated sections devoted to aria, recitative, and chorus. The central character is the angel Gabriel who oversees the action and comments upon it. The other characters include a number of ‘souls’, who are called upon by Gabriel to explain how their pursuits in life were worthwhile. At the close of the first half of the libretto, the souls are found wanting and are admonished by Gabriel: they must return to earth and be reincarnated. In the second half, the imperfect souls begin their return to earth, descending from the higher level to the lower level. The character of the Chosen One, who appears in the first half to give advice to one of the souls, returns in the second half to receive Gabriel's wisdom in the form of a lecture on metaphysics and the importance of prayer. The oratorio ends with three choruses singing together, linking the souls from the high, middle, and low realms.
As with much of Schonberg's dramatic music from his atonal period, there is some autobiographical significance to DIE JAKOBSLEITER. The Chosen One, for example, like the Man in Schonberg's 1911 opera DIE GLUCKLICHE HAND, is the contemporary artist called to a higher purpose, who must struggle with his peers as he looks to the art of the future. Musically, the oratorio represents a refinement of Schonberg's earlier atonal practices, and looks ahead to the 12-tone method in its organization of chromatic structures.
Schonberg was unable to finish the oratorio as he was called to active military service in September, 1917. Although he had completed a great deal of the music, after the war he was unable to finish the work, despite several subsequent attempts to revive it.”
- Alexander Carpenter, allmusic.com
“Bruno Maderna, like his close friend and fellow avant garde composer Pierre Boulez, had in recent years become a conductor of international reputation. Since his debut here in 1970 conducting Mercadante's opera II GIURAMENTO at the Juilliard School, Mr. Maderna had led the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Symphony and the Detroit Symphony. In Europe he had conducted widely, including the London Symphony, the B.B.C. Symphony and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. For the last two years of his life he was music director of the Italian Radio in Milan.
Mr. Maderna did not put great stock in his, or anyone's, success on the podium. ‘The era of the star conductor is finished’, he told a NEW YORK TIMES interviewer in 1972. In place of that phenomenon we must have, he contended, composer-conductors who could guide the musical life of their communities. His ideal in this respect was Mr. Boulez, the New York Philharmonic's music director.
Mr. Maderna, who was born in Venice, made his New York City Opera debut [in 1972] conducting a new production of DON GIOVANNI.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 14 Nov., 1973