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Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
Complete Works for Violin and Piano

Phantasy for Violin with Piano Accompaniment (1949) [9'03]. Piece for Violin and Piano (1893/4) [1'23]. Sonata after the Wind Quintet, Op. 26 (1923/4, arr. Felix Greissle, 1926) [48'42]. Fragment for Violin and Piano (1927) [4'23].
Ulf Wallin (violin); Roland Pöntinen (piano).
rec. Bybrokajen 11 (former Academy of Music), Stockholm, Sweden in March 2001 (Phatasy) and August/November 2003 (other works). DDD
BIS CD-1407 [64'26]


An outstanding disc in every way. Recording qualities are, as so often with BIS, of the highest. It is possible that some may find the recording too up-front, but it is an approach that seems to suit the music in question.

And that music is the complete works for violin and piano, a project that actually includes a World Premiere recording: the final item, the Fragment of 1927. But to take the pieces in order, the Phantasy - pointedly titled 'for violin with piano accompaniment', putting the piano firmly in its place - is given a magnificent rendition. Schoenberg, interestingly, initially wrote out the violin part complete. The work is dodecaphonic and may be subdivided into four: the exposition of the material; a lento; a scherzando; and a coda. As Therese Muxeneder's exemplary booklet notes point out, there is a Viennese tone underlying this work heard perhaps most explicitly in recurring, lilting rhythms. Wallin and Pöntinen are superbly confident and completely at home in Schoenberg's idiom. This is now my recording of choice for this work.

The Piece in D minor could hardly stand in greater contrast. Dating from much earlier (1893/4), it is almost unutterably sweet, and despatched with supreme charm by Wallin and Pöntinen.

The meat of this recital is Felix Greissle's 1926 violin and piano arrangement of the near-fifty minute Wind Quintet. The Wind Quintet has often been heard as one of Schoenberg's 'difficult' works. This arrangement softens the more objective sounds of winds and makes it a trifle more approachable.

All credit to the rich-toned Wallin and Pöntinen for presenting such a dedicated account. The concentration necessary for this huge span - the shortest movement is the finale, at 10'45 - is huge, and the players rise to the challenge heroically. They revel in the lyric side of Schoenberg and lines, no matter how dysjunct, sound unfailingly vocal in inspiration. The scherzando (II) reveals their telepathic level of rapport. The movement certainly lives up to its playful indication, and Schoenberg's manipulation of musical space is absolutely gripping. Some may find, as I did, a Bachian purity to the piano's opening to the third movement. This is a theme continued by the violin. Schoenberg sets up a desolate, beautiful space. This contrasts well with the sprightly-in-the-nature-of-a-well-behaved finale, a last movement that includes some echt-Schoenbergian Schwung towards the very end. Wonderful.

Finally, the short (4'23) Fragment of only 43 bars, is given its first hearing on record here. The composer is clearly experimenting with types of twelve-note manipulation. It is difficult to imagine a more committed performance than the present one. Wallin provides some almost guttural playing, while both players remain fully alive to the work's dramatic possibilities; particularly towards the dysjunct end. The work, incomplete, just stops in mid-flow, providing a thought-provoking close to this superb disc.

A compulsory purchase for all students of this important composer. The musicality of Wallin and Pöntinen make his into a valuable and involving musical experience that far outreaches the purely musicological.

Colin Clarke


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