Odradek Records takes Schönberg’s reception of the classical tradition and his pioneering the path to the new music as the starting point of its musical adventure. Its first release features Italian pianist Pina Napolitano performing Schönberg’s complete piano works, in a rendition that, fully realizing the scores in all their complexity, animates the music and makes it dance.
Philology and Romanticism
Fully realizing a musical piece does not mean only playing the right notes with the right rhythms; the accurate and correct interpretation of all the so-called “secondary signs” - dynamics, articulation, and phrasing - is part and parcel of this task. This principle, in itself as obvious and banal as it is often ignored, is naturally valid for every type of music, but comes to the forefront in the case of Schönberg.
Often in the pages of the Austrian composer, almost every note has a different articulation, dynamic indication and phrasing; in places where the texture of the musical discourse becomes thickly polyphonic, each note of every voice has a different “intonation”, a different sonority, a different quality of attack, in other words “speaks” with a different accent, with a different intensity and character. To completely trust the musical text, to let oneself be guided at every step by it, seeking to “reproduce” as faithfully as possible all its signs, without giving up even when this seems impossible (Schönberg’s scores abound in dynamics and phrasings that verge on the unperformable: sforzatos on rests, diminuendos or crescendos on single notes, thickets of dynamics that would require ten fingers capable of producing ten different sounds), but trying to understand the underlying musical intention that the signs try to communicate - this has constituted the guiding principle of my approach to Schönberg’s piano works.
The biggest discovery as been that just this approach, which might be rebuffed as excessively philological, has brought me to
the heart of Schönberg’s compositions. In a paradox typical of music, only such apparently narrow limits as given by the musical score open up the profound depths of a free and imaginative interpretation that is not arbitrary, but which asymptotically approaches the “truth” of the musical text. And, even more importantly, only by respecting and complying with these aspects of the text, “secondary” only in name, one discovers the romanticism of Schönberg’s music. A romanticism so exasperated - the afterglow of a 19th century romanticism by now dying - that the usual musical indications of expressivity cannot convey it; such an arch-romanticism that each note is signed, tormentingly and assiduously, with indications that do nothing but speak to the insufficiency of language and of writing - of every language and every writing, even of the most absolute, the musical language - to express the idea and the thought, the sensation and the still indistinct feeling. Such a concentrated and dolorous romanticism, so essential, that it takes your breath away, a romanticism of the mind and of the heart, in which to feel and to think are not distinct.
My hope is to have been able to communicate through this disc, at least in part, the expressive and romantic force of Schönberg’s music - I would feel I have in some way performed a small service.
-- Pina Napolitano
"Exploring what she terms as Schoenberg's 'exasperated Romanticism' through his solo piano works, Napolitano produces playing of rare penetration, understanding, grace and elegance."
5 STARS - BBC Music Magazine Calum MacDonald Christmas Edition 2012
“The rush of talent is as limitless as the infinity of labels that now flourish where once the majors commanded attention. Winnowing wheat from chaff becomes ever more difficult and the risk of missing a remarkable artist is a constant anxiety. Odradek is a start-up label based in Italy and committed to new artists and modern work. A one-CD album of Arnold Schoenberg’s solo piano works has not come my way for years, perhaps since Pollini three decades ago. Pina Napolitano plays the tricky pieces with light fingers and innate wit, bringing out a welter of contemporary parallels – Mahler in op 11/2, Busoni in op 23 – amid a panoply of delicate beauty.”
La Scena Musicale “CD of the Week” Norman Lebrecht May 21, 2012
“It is a beautiful disc, an interpretation that is both intelligent and sensitive, of great contrapuntal clarity and an extraordinary variety of touch.”
Dino Villatico, music critic of L’Espresso January 18, 2013
“...Pina Napolitano's debut recording... certainly is outstanding... Her knowledge of the music is manifest in every bar, and she conveys its real quality as music - rather than as an object of academic study - with nice judgment and a fine, delicate technique. Tempi are frequently more measured than in many competitors, for instance Uchida in Opp 11 and 19, or Pollini in general. Where some might miss the latter's masculine drive and momentum in Op 25, Napolitano has a tensile strength to her playing that is distinctly hers. The Suite is, without doubt, Schoenberg's piano masterpiece - however much the Op 19 pieces may hog the limelight - yet Napolitano convinces that the Op 33 diptych is its logical extension and refinement.”
International Piano Magazine Guy Rickards, September 2012
“On more imaginative lines, I was hugely grateful to receive the... complete Arnold Schoenberg piano works on just one CD. Why did no-one think of that before? The set is on a new label, Odradek, that both looks and sounds good enough to eat. The pianist is Pina Napolitano: you will hear more of her.”
Sinfini Music: Album of the Year Norman Lebrecht
Picked as #3 Disc of the Year (Premio della Critica)
￼￼￼Musica e Dischi Oreste Bossini December 2012
"Pina Napolitano is note-perfect from first to last... She plays with delicacy and expression; in her hands the music sounds eminently approachable even when at its most iconoclastic... The recorded sound is ideal, not too close and not too distant, so that everything in this complex music is clearly audible...
Heard as a whole in chronological order they make a fascinating experience, especially in performances as good as this...
However there is another plus to this issue. The new label Odradek has a declared policy by which – once production and distribution costs have been covered – all royalties from their releases will go to the artists themselves. Those who would like to support this surprisingly novel idea should by all means invest in this disc. The pianist in a booklet note says that she has tried to communicate the “expressive and romantic force” of the music, and she has certainly succeeded in this.”
Music Web International Paul Corfield Godfrey, February 13, 2013
“[Napolitano] approaches each of the suite’s movements with clarity, attentiveness to all of the notation (rather than just the pitch classes), and an overall sense of rhetoric that tries to covey each movement as a journey from a well-defined “here” to an equally well-defined “there.” She then leaves the rest to the listener’s capacity for sensemaking; and that little voice inside me that remembers all those narrow-minded exercises from my student days seems to be telling me that Schoenberg himself would probably have approved of her approach.”
Stephen Smoliar Published February 23, 2013
“A CD that has brought her comparisons that are almost embarrassing (read Maurizio Pollini)...”
Giornale di Brescia Enrico Raggi April 21, 2013
“Napolitano excels at highlighting the debts he owed to the past. The opus 11 and 19 suites have a suitably improvisatory, probing quality. Listen with open ears and you’ll encounter marvellous things... The Intermezzo at the heart of Op 25 Suite is mesmeric, its heady romanticism both irresistible and unsettling. It’s as if you’re listening to Brahms while nursing a colossal hangover...
Napolitano’s playing is consistently brilliant, emphasising the sheer rigour of Schoenberg’s music whilst unafraid to accentuate its sensuality. Good notes and presentation add to this disc’s charms.
Arts Desk Graham Rickson August 3, 2013
Clavier Companion May/June 2013
“For the praiseworthy US non-profit label, Odradek Records, which has created a catalog dedicated to the modernist classics and some contemporaries, the young and gifted pianist Pina Napolitano has documented her take on Schoenberg - basing herself on a meticulous reading, focused especially on the articulation signs, with a dark shimmering sound with an extremely dense legato, taking as her guiding principle Schoenberg’s request: ‘Always sing with all your soul and create a legato as in a cantilena.’ In doing this, she takes her time to allow the sound to become wholly saturated with expression, sometimes even becoming too pregnant with meaning.”
Österreichische Musikzeitschrift Walter Weidringer April 2013
“This seems to be a very nice recording of Schoenberg's complete piano works. Op. 11 has an appealing mysteriousness, and it tickles me pink that the Langsam from Op. 19 sounds like 'Jingle Bells' at the beginning. Napolitano is an excellent musician with a love for these works that shows itself in the warmth of her tone and the intelligent care in her phrasing. The sound is fine.”
American Record Guide
“Under the title «The Vienna Connection», pianist Pina Napolitano played an interesting concert at LO OTRO [Madrid]. The Mozart C minor Fantasy and Brahms Klavierstücke op. 119 framed works by the famous members of what is generally known as the Second Viennese School: Webern Variations op. 27, Berg Sonata op. 1 and Schoenberg Suite op. 25. These were without doubt the best of the concert. Meanwhile I was able to purchase the CD Pina Napolitano recorded for the label Odradek Records, featuring the complete works by Arnold Schoenberg. Judging form what I heard in concert, I am sure I will enjoy it.”
Miguel Bustamante Guerrero, Radio Clásica Nacional España, 18 November 2013
“Pina Napolitano’s in-depth exploration of Schoenberg’s production for solo piano... shows that it is a music that requires at the same time a thoroughness of analysis and a clear expressive intent. It is not a paradox, she herself explains it: in the interpretation of these parts, besides the millimetric accuracy when executing each of the notes and their subsequent polyphonic structures, the expressive dramatic character must be sought... "Philology and romanticism", so accurately and timely, define Pina Napolitano’s approach of the music of Schoenberg. Those who tell us that Central and Mediterranean Europeans cannot understand each other: here they have the proposal of this Italian pianist on the Viennese master, a perfect joint between dissection (rather microcellular than cellular) and expressive sensitivity (almost heartbreaking, disturbing); a Schoenberg that in her hands is not a "historical necessary" merely in passage, but one of the most significant contributions to the history of contemporary music. And anyone who does not believe it, anyone who thinks that music of the Viennese master is cold, distant and unfathomable, should listen to this interpretation. Certainly you will change your mind. Without a doubt: Schoenberg is not dead.”
**** EXCELENTE - Ritmo Inés Ruiz Artola March 2014