Gurrelieder was one of Arnold Schoenberg’s greatest public triumphs, but he refused to acknowledge the audience’s rapturous applause at its 1913 premiere because they had hated his more recent 12-tone music. Clive Paget discusses the ravishing, monumental cantata with Simone Young, who is conducting the Sydney premiere.

Arnold Schoenberg.
Arnold Schoenberg. Photo © Smith Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

“There is nothing I long for more intensely . . . than to be taken for a better sort of Tchaikovsky – for heaven’s sake; a bit better, but really that’s all. Or if anything more, then that people should know my tunes and whistle to them.” 

Guess who? Give up? Believe it or not, it’s Arnold Schoenberg – the ‘apostle of atonality’ – writing in 1947 to his friend, the conductor Hans Rosbaud. For over a century, Schoenberg – whose...