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, FiferRead 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.
Verklärte Nacht for String Orchestra, Op. 4by 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
Chamber Symphony no 1 in E major, Op. 9by 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.
Chamber Symphony no 2, Op. 38by 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.
Verklärte Nacht, Op.4: Grave (Takt 1)
Verklärte Nacht, Op.4: Molto rallentando (Takt 100)
Verklärte Nacht, Op.4: A tempo (Takt 188)
Verklärte Nacht, Op.4: Adagio (Takt 229)
Verklärte Nacht, Op.4: Adagio (Takt 370)
Chamber Symphony Opus 9 For 15 Solo Instruments: Langsam
Chamber Symphony Opus 9 For 15 Solo Instruments: Sehr rasch
Chamber Symphony Opus 9 For 15 Solo Instruments: Viel langsamer, aber doch fliessend
Chamber Symphony Opus 9 For 15 Solo Instruments: Viel langsamer
Chamber Symphony Opus 9 For 15 Solo Instruments: Etwas bewegter
Chamber Symphony No.2 Opus 38: 1. Adagio
Chamber Symphony No.2 Opus 38: 2. Con fuoco
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Tempest in a teapotOctober 16, 2012By 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