SCHOENBERG Violin Concerto. Verklärte Nacht (Isabelle Faust)

Record and Artist Details



Label: Harmonia Mundi

Media Format: CD or Download



Catalogue Number: HMM90 2341

HMM90 2341. SCHOENBERG Violin Concerto. Verklärte Nacht (Isabelle Faust)


Composition Artist Credit
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra Isabelle Faust
Daniel Harding
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Verklärte Nacht Antoine Tamestit
Anne Katharina Schreiber
Danusha Waskiewicz
Jean-Guihen Queyras
Isabelle Faust
Christian Poltéra

Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto can be heard as his typically defiant response to a period of exceptional stress and strain. In 1933, at the age of 58, he was deprived of his professorship in Berlin, and his attempts to establish a new life with his family in America were bedevilled by poor health and offers of unsuitable employment. Only in 1936 did he settle in Los Angeles and it was there, in September, that he finished the concerto, which he’d begun the previous year. No other composition of his – not even the Fourth String Quartet, written at the same time – has quite as powerful a mix of lyrical vulnerability and energetic assertiveness, though the unfinished opera Moses und Aron (begun in 1930 and constantly in his mind thereafter) is evidently a work of the same hand.

That Schoenberg dedicated the Concerto to his pupil Anton Webern could have been a warning as well as a mark of respect – a warning about all that Webern seemed to have renounced in his search for distance between his own compositional style and the great traditions of the classical past which Schoenberg sought to preserve through transformation. That this preservation was a constant struggle will be clear to any violinist tacking this concerto, and there is obviously a better chance in recording than live in concert of avoiding the sense of fingers tending to run ahead of themselves in the ferocious cadenzas that feature in the outer movements. During the past decade or so, recordings by Hilary Hahn and Rolf Schulte have done excellent service in showing that, for all its difficulties, this really is music rather than an arid technical exercise; and for the 2020s Isabelle Faust performs the same function, with admirably alert support from the Swedish RSO under Daniel Harding. Building to its tersely triumphant final cadence, the whole performance is superbly sustained, and as convincing in the reticent eloquence of the central Andante as in the turbulent fireworks that dominate elsewhere, in the orchestra as much as in the solo part.

The range of instrumental colours conveyed by Harmonia Mundi’s excellent recording of the Concerto cannot be matched in Verklärte Nacht, especially in the original string sextet version, shorn of the weighty double basses and opulently enriched textures of Schoenberg’s later string-orchestra arrangement. Yet only in the sextet version can the full interactive, individual virtuosity of this music be realised. Isabelle Faust and her colleagues achieve miracles of coordinated flexibility, making the ultimate advance into Schoenberg’s serenely shimmering coda a truly magical experience.

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