Transfigured Night brings together two outstanding composers associated with Vienna: Joseph Haydn and Arnold Schoenberg. The former is often seen as the oldest representative of the “First Viennese School”, whereas the latter founded the “Second Viennese School”, using the classicism of his predecessors to explore new, atonal musical paths into the twentieth century. By combining Haydn’s two cello concertos (in C-major and D-major) and Schoenberg’s symphonic poem Verklärte Nacht – in the 1943 edition for string orchestra – this album sheds a new, fascinating light on both Viennese masters. The connection between the stylistically contrasting pieces on this album isRead more further enhanced by the inspired playing of American cellist Alisa Weilerstein and the Trondheim Soloists. For Weilerstein, this album is not only a fascinating exploration of the rich Viennese musical heritage, but just as much a confrontation with the dark history of a city her grandparents had to flee in 1938. Transfigured Night is Weilerstein’s first album as an exclusive PENTATONE artist, as well as the first album recorded with the Trondheim Soloists since her appointment as Artistic Partner of the ensemble in 2017.
You’d go far to find performances of the Haydn concertos that match Alisa Weilerstein’s mix of stylistic sensitivity, verve, and spontaneous delight in discovery, and for a performance of the Schoenberg that combines chamber-musical intimacy, transparency of detail, and urgent human expressiveness, you won’t do better than this.
Transcendence, transfiguration and redemptionAugust 26, 2018By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"The new Pentatone album of music from Vienna by Alisa Weilerstein, her first as Artistic Partner of the Trondheim Soloists, comes from a place of profoundly mixed feelings: "Schoenberg fled Vienna in 1934, four years before my grandparents escaped. So, as a young artist, nowhere in my imagination was the possibility of duality and contradiction made more manifest than in the history of that city. A culture that gave birth to some of the greatest achievements in the artform that I had chosen to pursue could, in the same breath, harbor sentiments and sanction behavior antithetical to musics transcendent promise." This ambivalence is a common theme when writing about Vienna since the 1930s, by Jewish writers, or indeed anyone who has been paying attention to the often sordid political and social life of this great intellectual centre, once an Imperial capital. In "Thomas Bernhard, Karl Kraus, and Other Vienna-Hating Viennese", a fascinating article in the Paris Review, Matt Levin counts down a list of many great thinkers and artists - Robert Musil, Elias Canetti, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Arthur Schnitzler, and more - and concludes, "...in some way, they all seemed to despise the city in at least equal measure to their affection." For the last twelve years of his life Joseph Haydn lived in Gumpendorf, then a village on the outskirts of Vienna. After his many years away from the mainstream at Esterházy, he really wanted to be closer to the centre of the musical world, and that meant, in turn, Paris, London and Vienna. Alisa Weilerstein has a chance here to show off her considerable chops as a cellist in the two cello concertos that are undeniably by Haydn. But it's also Weilerstein as a conductor who shapes this music in the context of her thought-provoking program (a program that's beautifully laid out in a superb, long liner-notes essay by Mark Berry). We have here a picture of 18th century Vienna, one of civilized life before multiple revolutions brought down the power structures that had built the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But this is more than the usual nostalgic sentimental kitsch so common in Vienna, since Weilerstein brings out both Haydn's earthy humour and the folkloric musical roots of his music. Weilerstein and the players of the Trondheim Soloists have already developed a superb partnership in this repertoire, which also bodes well for future projects. There's a huge gap between Haydn's Vienna and Arnold Schoenberg's Vienna, but in our post-modern world even the Second Vienna School can take on the same kind of nostalgic sheen that drapes pre-WWI society, of a different sort, certainly, but just as sentimental in its own way. Vienna has been called "an essential cockpit of modernism", but that revolution, which once seemed so close to our time, begins to recede into distant memories as we move into our new century. In his 1943 transcription of the 1899 original Schoenberg loses chamber music textures but gains in emotional intensity, assuming a very good performance, which we certainly get here. I always thought the famous Karajan recording from 1974 was way over the top, but this definitely isn't. Though it also packs an emotional punch, Weilerstein's version is responsible in the way that Karajan's version wasn't, clear-eyed about the beauty of the music but also the horrors into which Vienna would descend. What a thoughtful and impressively musical disc this is!"Report Abuse