Schoenberg Chamber Works

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Schoenberg Chamber Works

  • Verklärte Nacht
  • String Trio

Reviewing a new recording by the Schoenberg Ensemble of the same works plus the late violin Phantasy on Philips, I found the LaSalle Quartet distinctly less convincing, and I felt then, and still feel, that the Santa Fe Music Festival Players, who duplicate the LaSalle programme on Nonesuch, are the finest of all. However, since the DG is at mid price in its CD incarnation, since the Nonesuch issue is currently LP only, and since the shortcomings of the LaSalle are hardly drastic, the new release must still be reckoned competitive. If you are wondering whether you can live with them the shortcomings are these: that tempos in Verklarte Nacht tend not to cohere into large paragraphs—the piece sounds unduly sectional; that the placing of the first cello left of centre in the sextet overloads this side of the ensemble and fails to make the most of passages of dialogue with the first violin; that the first violin is less than ideally subtle in his vibrato and the viola overfond of portamento—the latter is a problem in the Trio, where notated glissando has a specific structural role; the other players generally do not follow the viola's lead, and being his musical bestfriends they should perhaps have whispered a word of warning in his ear.
As I say these may be things you can live with, although I definitely feel that the Schoenberg Ensemble at full price are worth the extra outlay. It should be said that criticism such as the above is a luxury that could hardly have been indulged in ten years ago; the LaSalle's championing of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern in the 1960s and 1970s is one important reason why there are ensembles in the 1980s equipped to equal or even surpass them.'

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