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Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht, Chamber Symphonies / Orpheus CO


Release Date: 09/10/1990 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 429233   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Arnold Schoenberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A remarkable artistic achievement -- Orpheus players use their special conductorless alertness to mold performances that sound supremely spontaneous, sustaining the tensions of Schoenberg's music with an ideal blend of wit and pathos.

''That would be quite a disc!'' said Orpheus Chamber Orchestra member Julian Fifer when announcing the ensemble's plan for a recording of these three works. How right he was! Not only is this the first time that this combination of compositions has been issued on a single disc but, more to the point, it is a remarkable artistic achievement.

Reporting the belief that the Orpheus was probably the first ensemble to perform the Chamber Symphony No. 1 without conductor, Fifer
Read more claimed that ''it all sounds so much better when everyone listens to each other closely and there's no 'interpreter' to get in the way''. This performance strongly conveys the collective surge of adrenalin from 15 soloists, each of whom knows that a micro-second's lapse of concentration would mean disaster. But the Orpheus players demonstrate much more than nervously mechanical proficiency. They use their special conductorless alertness to mould performances that sound supremely spontaneous, and the clean, natural recording underlines the textural refinement as well as the remarkable variety of expression which they can achieve. Reinbert de Leeuw's Schonberg Ensemble account, for Schwann/Koch International, is no less virtuosic and sometimes even more vivid in detail, yet there is, relatively speaking, a mannered, posturing quality to the interpretation, and less rounded warmth to the sound.

It is in the second of the two movements of the Chamber Symphony No. 2 that the Orpheus players reveal their decisive superiority to Jeffrey Tate's in many ways excellent English Chamber Orchestra reading for EMI. Once or twice I found the EMI balance superior (the muted trumpet solo in the first movement) but the DG sound is, again, cleaner, and the playing more characterful, the exemplary attention to detail never hindering appreciation of the larger structure. The Orpheus performance sustains the tensions and relishes the pungencies of this quirky yet cogent music with an ideal blend of wit and pathos.

As for Verklärte Nacht, it is possible to feel that Schoenberg's early tone-poem should be played either by a solo string sextet or by the largest possible string orchestra. A small string orchestra runs the risk of being too weighty in intimate moments and too light-weight at climaxes. Yet this Orpheus account is triumphant proof that such a performance can work. Like the chamber symphonies, it is given a head's start by a recorded sound that hits precisely the right balance between clarity and spaciousness, and the playing itself has an eloquence and expressive freedom that encompasses with distinction the music's extremes of passion and repose. I found myself thinking—and this is meant as a compliment—that this is the kind of performance of Verklärte Nacht that Leonard Bernstein at his most inspired and least self-indulgent might conjure from a string orchestra. By comparison the English String Orchestra on Nimbus, though competently directed by William Boughton, seem generalized, and at times in too much of a hurry; often weighty, but with insufficient attention to expressive detail. When it comes to weight combined with finely-shaped expression, there is Herbert von Karajan's 'big-band' recording, also on DG, and very special of its kind. But the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is different, and I would be very surprised if this performance did not prove as hard to displace in its own terms as Karajan's.

-- Arnold Whittall, Gramophone [7/1990]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Chamber Symphony no 1 in E major, Op. 9 by Arnold Schoenberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/1989 
Venue:  Performing Arts Center, SUNY Purchase 
Length: 21 Minutes 3 Secs. 
2.
Chamber Symphony no 2, Op. 38 by Arnold Schoenberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906-1916; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/1989 
Venue:  Performing Arts Center, SUNY Purchase 
Length: 19 Minutes 27 Secs. 
3.
Verklärte Nacht for String Orchestra, Op. 4 by Arnold Schoenberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1899/1943; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/1989 
Venue:  Performing Arts Center, SUNY Purchase 
Length: 28 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Notes: Version: 1917 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Tempest in a teapot October 16, 2012 By George W. (New York, NY) See All My Reviews "My introduction to this piece was a recording by Pierre Boulez with the New York Philharmonic. It is dark, brooding, and, at times, almost unsettling. By comparison, the Orpheus CD is tame and withdrawn. The tension feels more like a tempest in a teapot than a thunderstorm. The two chamber symphonies included on the CD are, however,a worthy bonus." Report Abuse
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