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Webern, Schoenberg: Chamber Works / Lasalle Quartet

Release Date: 10/22/2008 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 415982   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Arnold SchoenbergAnton Webern
Performer:  David GriffithStefan Litwin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  LaSalle String QuartetLaSalle String Quartet members
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 47 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The LaSalle Quartet's boxed LP set of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern (DG 2720 029, 11/71) has held its place in the catalogue for 15 years and this new issue complements that set and their single LP of Schoenberg's Verkliirte Nacht and String Trio (DG 410 962- IGH, 5/84). Collectors looking for complete coverage of the repertoire will still have to go-if they can-to the Schoenberg Ensemble for Schoenberg's 1897 Scherzo (Philips 6570 811, 9/83-nla) and to the Quartetto Italiano for Webern's 1905 Langsamer Satz (Philips 6570 925, I/83)-both of these could so easily have been included on the new record. But we must at least be grateful for what are the only available recordings of Webern's Rondo, Movement for string trio and Piano Quintet. As a Read more valuable bonus the informative sleeve-note includes Schoenberg's own remarks on the composition of his Ode to Napoleon and, here published for the first time, his amendments to the German translation. The full text of Byron's original is given, together with explanations of the various historical references.

If Stefan Litwin and the LaSalle Quartet's accompaniment to the Ode could be grafted on to David Wilson-Johnson's declamation (for Boulez on CBS) we might have something like the ideal performance. As it is, Kenneth Griffiths (on DG) is not well recorded-the voice sounds synthetic, with harsh sibilants throughout-and his delivery is rather stilted in places. By contrast, Boulez's instrumentalists are not so assured as Litwin and the LaSalle. On Decca the London Sinfonietta accompaniment is distant and lacks impact; Gerald English, though wonderfully spiteful, takes greater liberties with the notated Sprechstimme than do either Wilson-Johnson or Griffiths. These drawbacks notwithstanding, none of the performances leaves room for doubt that this is one of Schoenberg's most striking creations. Composed in 1942 the Ode represents his "stand against tyranny" and it may be that, Nazism apart, all the many other antagonisms of his life were subconsciously channelled into it as well, such is its relentless outpouring of vitriol.

The early Webern Rondo is something of a curiosity, and the Movement for string trio is a wellmade but essentially modest preliminary to the full-scale Trio, Op. 20. The Piano Quintet, however, is a more ambitious undertaking. It is a single 11-minute moderato movement with long arching melodies and massive climaxes—a fascinating attempt to marry hyper-romantic gestures to the strict regime of Schoenberg's formal tuition, and the shadow of the Master's First Chamber Symphony falls over several of its ideas, most obviously at the final cadences. The piece has been recorded before (by the Quintetto Italian° on Dischi Ricordi RCL27012—not generally available in the UK) but the new version is to be preferred for its thrusting tempos, richer piano sound and greater care for textual accuracy.

In the other Webern works admiration for the LaSalle Quartet's careful preparation and quicksilver reactions may be slightly tempered if, like me, you are not entirely sold on the first violin's wide vibrato and the viola's propensity for seasick glissandos on wide intervals. The CD also shows them to be among the heaviest breathers in the business. These are long-established features of their playing. So too is their insight into, and respect for, this repertoire. Admirers of their previous recordings need have few qualms about investing in this one.

-- D.J.E., Gramophone [2/1987]
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Works on This Recording

Ode to Napoleon, Op. 41 by Arnold Schoenberg
Performer:  David Griffith (Spoken Vocals), Stefan Litwin (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  LaSalle String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; USA 
Language: English 
Satz for String Trio, M 278 by Anton Webern
Orchestra/Ensemble:  LaSalle String Quartet members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; Mödling, Austria 
Quintet for Piano and Strings, M 118 by Anton Webern
Performer:  Stefan Litwin (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  LaSalle String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907; Vienna, Austria 
Rondo for String Quartet, M 115 by Anton Webern
Orchestra/Ensemble:  LaSalle String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; Vienna, Austria 
Quartet for Strings, Op. 28 by Anton Webern
Orchestra/Ensemble:  LaSalle String Quartet members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936-1938; Austria 

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