Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Pelléas et Mélisande - symphonic poem
Verklärte Nacht

Philharmonia Orchestra/Giuseppe Sinopoli
rec 1995
ELOQUENCE 469 690 2 [79.06]

Commentary on the Eloquence series

Universal confound sceptics like me by adding not one but two Schoenberg discs to their garage forecourt and supermarket bargain price Eloquence series.

This music is far from tough. We hear instead the early Schoenberg of Gurrelieder rather than the often dysjunct, arid and rebarbative material of his full maturity.

Pelléas et (surely it should be 'und'?) Mélisande is a familiar subject approached by both Sibelius and Fauré.

Sinopoli tackles Schoenberg's first orchestral work (Op. 5) on a very expansive basis. Indeed, I understand, from my research, that, at 46 mins, this is the longest playing recorded version. The music is late late-romantic carrying about it the lineage or auguries of Richard Strauss (Alpine Symphony in track 7), Zemlinsky, Franz Schmidt and startlingly, Elgar and Allan Pettersson (track 9). It has something about it of Mahler 9 and 10. Another work in the same territory is Miaskovsky's Thirteenth Symphony and Bernard van Dieren's Chinese Symphony. The music seems to be an extension, in tormented tonality, of an immeasurably finer work, Josef Suk's Asrael Symphony. The Schoenberg work is a florid rhapsody that in this version sprawls and meanders. I am not familiar with other versions but would not be surprised if a tauter approach would convince more easily. As it stands the music does not grip the imagination. Verklärte Nacht is more successful. The rhapsodic Elgarian regret and dreamlike torture of the writing communicates poignantly.

Of the six Eloquence CDs I have reviewed I note that none strayed across the Philips, DG and Decca divides. Each disc draws its versions exclusively from one of the three catalogues. This contrasts with the contemporaneous Panorama series which flits freely across the three catalogues.

The present disc is a straight reissue of DG 439 942-2GH issued in 1995. Like all the discs in the Eloquence series it has been subject to the AMSI process to achieve greater presence and brilliance. Whether this has had any real effect on what we hear I do not know. The sound, however, is most impressive.

In terms of playing time this is likely to be the most generous in the whole Eloquence range.

Rob Barnett

Reviews from previous months

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