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Schoenberg: Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31

two pianos, 4 hands
New York City Ballet for Richard Tanner

Wuorinen composed his arrangement of Schoenberg’s Variations under a commission from New York City Ballet for the dance choreographed by Richard Tanner. The composer has written the following:

Schoenberg finished his Variations for Orchestra Op. 31 in 1928, and it is his first orchestral essay in his new “method of composing with twelve notes.” It is also a monument of modernity, of western music altogether, a great work. So much of the impression it makes seems to depend on the vivid orchestral colors of the score, that it may come as a surprise to find that this music is really “about” the notes more than anything else. This is why I thought the idea of making a version for two pianos was plausible; and in doing so I have tried to preserve all of the harmonic content of the piece. What we lose in color in this version, we gain in clarity.

-CW, 1996

"I was pleasantly surprised by Charles Wuorinen’s two-piano transcription of Arnold Schoenberg’s Opus 31 Variations for Orchestra, a version much more romantic in sound than the thickish Brahms-sounding original, and at the same time far clearer and more involving in its unfolding. I’ve always admired the work, if from a considerable distance. Wuorinen and the two-pianists brought it closer and also made it likable. If you don’t think that’s a feat, you don’t know the music."  LA Weekly