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Schonberg, Webern, Schnittke: String Trios

Goeyvaerts / Roels / Matthynssens / Stas
Release Date: 09/14/2010 
Label:  Challenge   Catalog #: 72375   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Arnold SchoenbergSpoken WordAlfred SchnittkeAnton Webern
Performer:  Pieter StasKristien RoelsKris Matthynssens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Goeyvaerts String Trio
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHOENBERG String Trio , op. 45. WEBERN String Trio , op. 20. Movement for String Trio , op. posth. SCHNITTKE String Trio Goevaerts Str Tr CHALLENGE CC 72375 (65:14)

For a very long time—most of the 20th Read more century—Schoenberg enthusiasts defended his music by claiming that performers had not yet learned how to play it properly. There was some truth to that mantra, certainly for the more difficult works, and the new century has produced many fine performances. This may be the first modern recording of his op. 45 Trio that I have heard, and it is revelatory. Gone are all the scratchy, screaming struggles of old, and a clean, soaring lyricism emerges between all the varied dramatic interruptions (which no longer throw the music and the listener out of kilter). The composer’s explanation of the work as a depiction of his massive 1946 heart attack and its treatment is still admissible, but the trio no longer needs a crutch to stand on. It may never become “easy” music, but it has become beautiful. On the following track, Schoenberg speaks—in English—about a 1949 broadcast performance of the trio.

Webern’s 1927 Trio is comparatively easy on the ears, shaping its 12 tones with rondo and sonata form. The op. posth. Trio is a single movement from two years earlier, in which Webern experimented with those unlikely score-fellows. The Goevaerts (Kristien Roels, violin; Kris Matthynssens, viola; and Pieter Stas, cello) give both works elegant but never slick performances.

Such a disc should end with a Berg string trio, but he forgot to write one. Schnittke’s 1985 work was commissioned by the Alban Berg Society to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that composer’s birth. The 26-minute trio is in two movements that seem to contain everything. The opening Moderato is basically serious but has some wild flights of fancy: What seems to be a riff on Nixon in China (which was being written at the time) is followed by an Ivesian calm and then by energetic takeoffs on postmodernism. There is a hint of Happy Birthday . Philip Glass makes a brief appearance, loud but humorous. Call it Schnittkean. The closing Adagio is a lament, incorporating a distant “Taps” in another Ivesian soundscape. The writing is rich and dense, and the Goevaerts’s luminous tones suggest an orchestra of many strings. The piece is fascinating, its Adagio extremely moving. While I hear no direct references to Berg, it is easy to imagine a connection with the deteriorating Vienna of the early 20th century. For all of these reasons, plus gorgeous recorded sound, this is a stunning disc.

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

Trio for Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 45 by Arnold Schoenberg
Performer:  Pieter Stas (), Pieter Stas (Cello), Kristien Roels (Violin),
Kris Matthynssens (), Kristien Roels (), Kris Matthynssens (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Goeyvaerts String Trio
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; USA 
Venue:  Partika-Saal, Düsseldorf (D) 
Length: 20 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Schönberg Spricht (For the broadcast of the String Trio (May 1949)) by Spoken Word
Length: 3 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Trio for Strings by Alfred Schnittke
Performer:  Kris Matthynssens (), Pieter Stas (Cello), Kris Matthynssens (Viola),
Pieter Stas (), Kristien Roels (), Kristien Roels (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Goeyvaerts String Trio
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; USSR 
Venue:  Partika-Saal, Düsseldorf (D) 
Length: 26 Minutes 4 Secs. 
String Trio, Op. 20 by Anton Webern
Performer:  Pieter Stas (Cello), Pieter Stas (), Kristien Roels (Violin),
Kris Matthynssens (Viola), Kris Matthynssens (), Kristien Roels ()
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Goeyvaerts String Trio
Period: Modern 
Written: 1927; Austria 
Venue:  Partika-Saal, Düsseldorf (D) 
Length: 12 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Movement for String Trio op. posth.: Ruhig fliessend by Anton Webern
Performer:  Pieter Stas (Cello), Kristien Roels (Violin), Kristien Roels (),
Kris Matthynssens (Viola), Kris Matthynssens (), Pieter Stas ()
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Goeyvaerts String Trio
Period: Modern 
Written: 1926; Austria 
Venue:  Partika-Saal, Düsseldorf (D) 
Length: 2 Minutes 23 Secs. 

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