Perhaps New York audiences got the better deal with the near-simultaneous performances of Arnold Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron that took place at the Met and in Chicago. At the concert performances of Schoenberg’s opera, Chicago audiences missed out on the Met’s cable-version debaucheries in the Golden Calf scene and other stage business that can enliven—or divert one from—the gnarled, less-than-tuneful score. Certainly, the pristine objectivity of Pierre Boulez and the turn-on-a-dime virtuosity of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus heard at Symphony Center allowed one, for better or worse, to concentrate on the Austrian composer’s music.

Schoenberg’s star ascended when the postwar Darmstadt musical leaders took up serialism as their god, and it has largely stayed there since due to their advocacy. Yet even today, while the composer enjoys the support of all the...

 
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