Adam Schoenberg: American Symphony; Finding Rothko; Picture Studies

Reviewed on Thu 16 Mar, 2017

Adam Schoenberg’s painterly soundscapes fall very easily on the ear, which isn’t to say that they lack substance.

“My music comes straight from the heart – striving to be beautiful and inspiring, and simultaneously challenging and rewarding.” The well-chosen words of Schoenberg, not Arnold but Adam, born in Northampton in 1980, not Northampton in the East Midlands of Great Britain but its namesake in Massachusetts. Schoenberg’s painterly soundscapes fall very easily on the ear, which isn’t to say that they lack substance. Best in my view are the Picture Studies, especially the Stravinskyan ferocity of ‘Kandinsky’ and ‘Miró’, which is bouncy and percussive, with telling use of an E-flat clarinet. The closing piece, ‘Pigeons in Flight’ after a photograph by Francis Blake recalls, like certain other works on the disc, the gently pulsing, harmonically pleasing delirium of Reich, though Schoenberg’s style more approximates the composing manners of Adams (unintentional punning there) or Torke. In no sense could you call it ‘minimalist’. The profoundly lyrical ‘Prayer’ from American Symphony is as good a place as any to start. The playing of the Kansas City Symphony under Michael Stern is excellent and the recorded sound, superb.
–Rob Cowan