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Vienne 1900
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Also sprach Zarathustra - Introduction (1896) [1:50] Orchestre National de Bordeaux-Aquitaine/Alain Lombard
Anton WEBERN (1883-1945) Langsammer Satz (1905) [8:18] Quatuor Arditti
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Intermezzo, Op. 117 no. 1 (1892) [4:48]
Ballade, Op. 118 No. 3 (1892) [3:33] Andrea Bonatta (piano)
Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951) Verklärte Nacht –Sehr Ruhig (1899) [4:02] Quatuor Arditti with Thomas Kakuska (viola) and Valentin Erben (cello)
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphonie No. 5 (1904) – Adagietto [10:26]
Symphony No. 6 (1906) – Scherzo [13:15] Orchestre National de France/Bernard Haitink
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899) arr. Arnold SCHOENBERG Rosen aus dem Süden (1880) [10:10] Quatuor Arditti with Louise Bessette (piano) and Hakon Austbö (harmonium)
Aloexander von ZEMLINSKY (1871-1942) Une Tragédie Florentine (1916) – Overture [4:44] Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Armin Jordan
Alban BERG (1885-1935) Quatour, Op. 3 (1910) – Langsam [9:28] Quatuor Arditti
Gustav MAHLER arr. Clytus GOTTWALD (b. 1925) Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (1901-04) [6:04] Chœur de Chambre Accentus/Laurence Equilbey
Arnold SCHOENBERG Quatuor en ré majeur (1897) 1. Allegro Molto [6:56] Quatuor Arditti
Richard STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel (1895) [15:34] Orchestre National de Bordeaux-Aquitaine/Alain Lombard
Anton WEBERN Cinq Mouvements pour quatuor à cordes, Op. 5 (1909) [11:16] Quatuor Arditti
Franz SCHREKER (1876-1934) Gesänge für tiefe Stimme (1909):
Die Dunkelheit sinkt schwer wie Blei [2:21]
Sie sind so schön [2:52]
Anna Holroyd (mezzo-soprano); Camerata Versailles/Amaury du Closel
Arnold SCHOENBERG Quatuor à cordes II, Op. 10 (1907) – 3. Litanei [5:53] Dawn Upshaw (soprano); Quatuor Arditti
Richard STRAUSS Sonate pour violincelle et piano, Op. 6 (1883) – Andante ma non troppo [8:15] Anne Gastinel (cello); Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano)
Johannes BRAHMS Quintette, Op. 111 (1890) – Adagio [7:43] Quatuor Danois with Serge Collot (viola)
Gustav MAHLER arr. Arnold SCHOENBERG Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (1885) – Die zwei blauen Augen [5:18] Jean-Luc Chaignaux (baritone); Quatuor Arditti; Marc Marder (double bass); Michel Moragues (flute); Paul Meyer (clarinet); Hakon Austbö (harmonium); Isabelle Berteletti (percussion); Louise Bessette (piano)
Alban BERG 5 Variations sur un thème de Schumann (1906-07) [1:36] Quatuor Arditti
Thème et 5 Variations pour violon et piano (1906-07) [3:52] Irvine Arditti; Stefan Litwin (piano)
rec. locations and dates not supplied
NAÏVE V 5039 [77:12 + 72:20]
I’m not quite sure as to the purpose of this release. Is it a sampler or is it intended as a kind of snapshot of the Viennese musical scene in the first couple of decades of the twentieth century? If it’s the latter – and the tone of the booklet essay, in which the author points out links between several of the composers represented, suggests that thus may be the intention - then I don’t think it’s being pedantic to question the title of the album. After all, at least eleven of the pieces that are included were written after 1900. Be that as it may, with certain reservations, the album achieves something of an overview of the musical side of the cultural scene in Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century, a cultural scene that vanished for ever soon after the catharsis that was World War I.
The trouble with compiling an anthology such as this is that the record company concerned is inevitably limited by what it has available to it in its own vaults. Happily, in this case, the quality of the performances is consistently pretty high. Whether the choice of music is quite so happy I’m not entirely sure.
Some things work rather well. It’s useful to hear one movement from each of Schoenberg’s string quartets, if only to realize the extent of the musical journey that he accomplished in the decade that separated the two works. The Arditti Quartet are fine advocates of the music and, when it comes to the Second Quartet, I like the way that soprano, Dawn Upshaw, is balanced as part of the group rather than as a stand-out soloist. This, surely, is what the composer intended. Similarly we hear contrasting early and late music by Webern and it’s fascinating to be able to compare and contrast his early and later styles. Returning to the subject of Schoenberg, it’s interesting to hear the arrangements of the Johann Strauss waltz and the Mahler song, made for the Society for Private Musical Performances. It’s not altogether clear if these two arrangements are actually by Schoenberg; I have read elsewhere that it’s now believed that at least some of these arrangements were made by others, such as Erwin Stein, merely under Schoenberg’s aegis. However, both arrangements included here are respectful of the originals and shed interesting alternative lights on the pieces.
In the debit column of the ledger, however, I do have to question the merit of including just a fairly brief excerpt from Verklärte Nacht. I don’t think this really adds anything to the collection, especially when Schoenberg is well represented elsewhere in the anthology. The same comment is even more true of the inclusion of just the opening of Also sprach Zarathustra, a hackneyed idea these days. Strauss is much better served by the complete performance of Till Eulenspiegel. Alain Lombard may not quite match the best in this piece nor set the pulse racing in the way that, say, Kempe or Szell achieve but his reading is nicely characterised and the recording brings out a good deal of orchestral detail.
There’s a reasonable representation of Mahler too. I haven’t heard Haitink’s complete recording of the Fifth Symphony but his reading of the Adagietto, taken from that complete recording, is well controlled and played. Typical of this conductor is the way in which he seems here to strike a good balance between feeling and objectivity. I do have his complete recording of the Sixth Symphony, however. Despite the fact that this is a live performance (as is the Fifth, I think) I’m afraid I found his performance of the full symphony worthy but just a bit dull and lacking in tension. The scherzo, included here, is well played, however.
We also hear one of Mahler’s most poignant and moving creations, the song ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ from the Rückert Lieder. Unfortunately it is given here in an egregious arrangement for a cappella choir by one Clytus Gottwald. Frankly, this seems to me to be an abomination, though the Accentus Chamber Choir sings it very well. Unlike the Schoenberg arrangements of Strauss and Mahler this Gottwald arrangement seems to fly in the face of the spirit of the original. In this song Mahler surely wanted the solo voice to stand out from the accompanying texture so that the words made their effect. That’s completely nullified here. This should have been left out as it seems to me to do Mahler no service whatsoever.
For the rest, it’s good that Zemlinsky and Schreker are represented, the latter by two of his five Gesänge für tiefe Stimme. It’s good too that Brahms is given his due as an essential bridge figure between nineteenth-century German romanticism and twentieth-century modernity, a role which Schoenberg, for one, acknowledged.
The standard of performance and recorded sound in this collection is consistently pretty high. I suspect that most collectors who are interested in Viennese music of this period will already have versions of most of these pieces. However, for someone wanting an introduction to the musical world that the Great War and atonality swept away this could be a good place to start.
John Quinn


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