This Sony CD, called “The Schoenberg Effect” puzzled me: recently, I reviewed a recording which included an arrangement of Brahms G Minor Piano Quartet for string orchestra and two pianos which I felt fell between two stools. Indeed, my strap line for the review said, “Well played but it is really necessary?” Indeed.

Notos Quartet

This time, along with the G Minor Piano Quartet itself, Brahms’ Third Symphony has been transcribed for the same forces. What’s going on here? In the earlier review, I wrote, “Schoenberg’s orchestral re-imagining of Brahms’ Piano Quartet No 1 in G Minor is Schoenberg for people who hate Schoenberg. Schoenberg considered Brahms, along with JS Bach, his greatest precursor and saw himself as the grateful inheritor of their respective mantles. Works like the Op. 25 transcription very strongly created a highly personalized view of his predecessors.” 

Schoenberg’s treatment has rightly gained a place in the mainstream repertoire, as well as curiously making the original work better known. The arranger in this case, Dr Andreas Tarkmann has, in effect, gone in the...