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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
Pierrot Lunaire Op.21 (1913) [34.33]

Chrichan LARSON (b.1956)

Väsen (1989) [9.56]
Cordes et Tuyau (1991) [7.23]

Anton WEBERN (1883 - 1945)

Quartet op.22 (1931) [6.01]

Pierre BOULEZ (b.1925)

Dérive 1 (1984) [5.51])
Ma
Ing-Britt Ibba Andersson, soprano
Rec. sveriges Radio Stockholm, November 1999/January 2000
NYTORP NYTORP 0001 [63.57]


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So much of modern music springs from Schoenberg that groups specialising in modern music are almost compelled to use him as a touchstone. Simon Rattle and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group did it with the Chamber Symphonies early in their existence, and the Swedish group Ma open their discography with the craziest work of them all, Pierrot Lunaire.

It is a version I have a few problems with. Firstly, so dry is the recording acoustic (perhaps in an over-zealous search for clarity) that it sounds as if it has been recorded in a particularly horrible practice room. It does the violin, in particular, no favours, and is a constant deadening effect on this disc. The second is the approach of the reciter, Ing-Britt Ibba Andersson. Sprechstimme is not an exact science, but my taste prefers a bit more sprech than she offers there is a fair sit of singing in her approach. I am reluctant to criticise too much on the grounds of personal taste, especially as Ibba Andersson has a good feeling for cabaret, and she is always involving and dramatic. The overall approach verges on the cool, and although the playing is not at all bad, this version is very much in the shadow of the recent version with Pierre Boulez and Christine Schäfer.

The rest of the disc is more interesting. Two works here by Chrichan Larson, cellist in the ensemble, particularly caught my attention. Both show an imaginative use of sound, and a talent for unfolding an interesting and engaging dialogue. Väsen is particularly interesting, using a prepared piano to underline moments of tension, although I am not so sure the gurgling bass clarinet interlude in the manner of a pig was strictly necessary. Cordes at Tuyau is a more conventional clarinet trio.

Two more "standards" finish the disc, a masterful quartet by Anton Webern, and a chamber work that shows what beautiful music Pierre Boulez can write whenever he gets around to it. I always find it ironic that for a composer who places such a premium on the quality of musical material, he has written such magnificent chamber music from inconsequential cells suggested by arbitrary, non-musical impulses. This Derive, written to commission, uses the letters from the name Paul Sacher, but its gorgeous soundworld and compulsive working out make it very obviously a piece of the highest quality. The performance here is equally compulsive.

Aidan Twomey


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