BERG; BUSONI; WEBRN; ZEMLINSKY Lieder
The short-lived Society for Private Musical Performances, founded by Schoenberg and his pupils, is the inspiration for this unusual disc. Restricted by their limited funds, the Society’s concerts regularly offered full-scale works in modest arrangements. As a result, reductions exist of a fair number of pieces by Second Viennese School composers for small, flexible ensembles, and it is in that spirit that Reinbert de Leeuw has conceived this programme. Old or new, the arrangements mostly employ nine or ten instruments and crucially include the distinctive sounds of harmonium and piano.
This is a world of shimmering beauty, reflected in glowing colours. Busoni’s dreamy Berceuse élégiaque, in an arrangement by Schoenberg, sets the tone. Then two sets of songs – Berg’s Seven Early Songs and Zemlinsky’s little-heard Six Songs after Maeterlinck – are sung with light, lyrical warmth by soprano Katrien Baerts. De Leeuw’s arrangements of the Berg engage the most suggestive of colours, subtly underpinned by the harmonium (there is little of the post-Wagnerian lushness found in Berg’s own version for full orchestra). Various hands were involved in the arrangements of the Zemlinsky songs, which range from a dark, fairy-tale ambience to Pelléas-like, barely suppressed passion. The disc ends with Webern’s Op 1 Passacaglia, arranged again by de Leeuw and played on a surprisingly large scale by the fine musicians of Het Collectief. Only just over 50 minutes’ playing time, but this is a disc where size is pointedly not the issue.