The New World Players, under the direction of Stephen Kleiman, brought music of the Second Viennese School -- Scheonberg, Berg and Webern -- to the auditorium of the National Academy of Sciences last night. wNo one booed or hissed or whistled or did any of the things that caused a famous scandal in Vienna when this music was first performed.
Nearly all of the music is a child of Wagner's "Tristan," either by direct descent or by open denial of that idiom. The adagio from the Berg Chamber Concerto, the Song of the Wood Dove from Schoenberg's "Gurre Lieder," Berg's four pieces for clarinet and piano and the familiar Chamber Symphony of Schoenberg all bow the knee before Richard the Great. Even Webern, in his fierce insistence upon the utmost compression, could not suppress his indebtedness to Wagner.
The crown of the evening was Phyllis Bryn-Julson's glowing singing of the Wood Dove's song. While ideally she would sing Tove in that great work rather than the Dove, she touched the heart with her revealing perceptions of the poignant lament.
Another distinctive performance was that of clarinetist Stephen Bates and pianist Stefan Scaggiari in the Berg pieces. Scaggiari, an exceptional musucian all evening, played with total comprehension of the music's lyric beauty.
Only the opening "Nachtwandler" of Schoenberg was an embarrassment. Written as a super-cabaret song, it is the work of a man desperate for money. If it must be performed, it can only hope to succeed in some Blue Angel Cafe.
Kleiman led the ensemble works with obvious authority, though there were times in the Schoenbeerg symphony when things were rough as much as smooth. It was also apparent in the larger works that the bare, dry acoustics of the auditorium suffer from the same problem as those in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, namely carpeting over every inch of the floor. In the Academy auditorium this is necessary because the room is often used for speaking, but it is a hardship for music.