V024: Sinfonietta

Non-commercial, VHS (PAL), color (1989), 2:30:00.

Written and presented by Paul Crossley
Produced by Michael Howes (Channel Four Television Co. Ltd.)
Directed by Derek Bailey ("The Universal Singing"), Dennis Marks ("Ghosts: Arnold Schoenberg"), and Barrie Gavin ("Labyrinth")

Further credits below.

Time Description
0:00 Commercials
3:00 Sinfonietta program begins: "The Universal Singing", featuring music of Ives and Webern
3:20 Footage of rehearsal, voice-over of comments by Ives, ensemble rehearses "Putnam's Camp" from Three Places in New England
5:00 Narrator introduces Ives compositional ideas in that piece, chance procedures
6:00 Photos of Ives, narrator gives a biographical sketch. Both Ives and Webern struggled with the idea of the personal vs. the universal
9:10 Performance of "Putnam's Camp" from Three Places in New England
11:30 Narrator describes the associative effect of Ives' music. His music draws on the tunes and places of (his) childhood.
13:35 Narrator sits at piano, plays and describes the "Alcott's" and "The Housatonic at Stockbridge" from Three Places in New England
16:10 Ensemble resumes Three Places in New England before the end of "Putnam's Camp" and continues with "The Housatonic at Stockbridge"
21:15 Narrator describes the role and significance of silence in Ives' works. He quotes George Lúkás on silence.
22:45 Commercials
25:25 "Sinfonietta" continues with the story of Anton Webern. Narrator gives a brief biographical sketch.
26:30 Performance of 5 Pieces for Orchestra, op. 10 (number 3), accompanied by photos of Webern.
28:05 Narrator connects Ives' and Webern's use of silence and memory
30:20 5 Pieces for Orchestra (number 4)
30:45 Narrator alludes to the 12-tone method of composition and discusses Webern's aphoristic style.
33:20 Instruments used in Webern's orchestra are introduced
35:10 Complete performance of Webern's 5 Pieces for Orchestra
40:10 Narrator returns to an urban setting and makes closing comments.
42:15 Ensemble concludes with Ives.
43:10 Program credits.
44:00 Commercials
46:10 Sinfonietta program begins: "Ghosts: Arnold Schoenberg"
46:45 Performance of "Song of the Wood Dove" from Gurre-Lieder (in English). Ensemble performs in a 19th-century salon.
52:10 Performance of "The Dandy" from Pierrot lunaire, op. 21 (in English). Performer is dressed as Pierrot.
53:30 Narrator Paul Crossley observes the differences in emotional reactions to the two preceding pieces.
55:05 Performance of "Nostalgia" from Pierrot lunaire. All performers are in costume.
56:55 Narrator introduces the history of the Pierrot figure and the compositional history of Schoenberg's work.
58:45 Performance of "Vile and Vulgar" from Pierrot lunaire. All performers are in costume.
1:00:10 Narrator proposes that the concept of "alienation" was a popular one at the time among contemporary intellectuals and artists. He further suggests that the reason Schoenberg was able to convey such a powerful sense of alienation was a series of alienating events in his own life.
1:04:00 Reprise of "Vile and Vulgar".
1:05:20 Commercials
Program returns. Narrator explains the idea of Sprechstimme and reads from the introduction to Pierrot.
1:10:45 Performance of "Parody" from Pierrot. Instrumentalists are invisible except for their hands.
1:11:45 Narrator describes Schoenberg's practice of setting instrumentalists as soloists within an ensemble.
1:14:45 Performance of "Moonspot" from Pierrot.
1:15:50 Narrator explains the way Schoenberg refers to the musical past that shaped his present style.
1:17:15 Performance of "Serenade" from Pierrot.
1:19:35 Narrator confesses his difficulty in coming to terms with Schoenberg's more challenging works. He discusses the continuing reluctance among large, prestigious ensembles to perform his works even now. He conveys his fear that audiences for new music continue to shrink.
1:23:25 Performance of "Homecoming" from Pierrot. All performers are in street clothes, without masks.
1:25:25 Performance of "O Ancient Scent".
1:26:55 End of program.
1:44:10 Commercials
1:46:35 Sinfonietta program begins: "Labyrinth". Narrator gives biographical sketch of this program's subject, Alban Berg. The Sinfonietta works on the Concerto for Piano, Violin, and 13 Wind Instruments. Crossley, the narrator, is also the pianist.
1:50:50 Ensemble begins rehearsing the first movement. Narrator explains that the work was a tribute to Arnold Schoenberg, and it includes cryptic references to the letters of his name, Anton Webern's and Berg's.
1:55:00 The first variation is for piano solo. The second variation, a waltz, is a retrograde of the original melodic material; the relationship between orchestra and piano solo is also reversed. Narrator describes the soloistic aspect of much 20th-century music.
2:04:20 "End of part one." Commercials
2:05:30 "Part two": rehearsal resumes. Narrator speculates on the unexpected appearance of the "Arnold Schoenberg motif" in the middle of the piece and discusses Berg and Schoenberg's relationship.
2:11:00 Narrator describes the musical building blocks of Berg's piece: aspects of 12-tone composition along with traditional forms and procedures. Orchestra rehearses Variation 5. Narrator urges active listening to this piece.
2:16:00 Performance of Berg's Chamber Concerto, movement 1
2:24:20 Conclusion of the first movement and of the program.
2:25:20 Credits
2:26:55 Commercials
2:30:00 End


The London Sinfonietta
David Atherton, conductor
Alfreda Hodgson, soloist ("The Song of the Wood Dove")
Linda Hirst, voice (Pierrot lunaire)
Paul Crossley, pianist
Nona Liddell, violinist