Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cello Concerto. String Quartet Concerto. Theme and Variations
, op. 43b
Jun Märkl, cond; Johannes Moser (vc); Quatuor Diotima; MDR Leipzig RSO
MDR 1205 (55:46)
This performance of Schoenberg’s Cello Concerto is very different from that on the MDR SACD reviewed below: this one is slow, precise, and weighty, with each note, each bar line cleanly delineated. It would be ideal to study the score with, but it lacks the flowing melodiousness that makes the MDR performance so attractive. Both performances and both recordings are excellent, each suiting a mood-of-the-moment. The two of them would make fine mates in a collection, demonstrating everything the work has to offer. Comparisons of recorded sound yield similar opinions: there warm and natural; here bright, clean, and a touch antiseptic.
The more fanciful, and less heard, Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra benefits from all that exactitude, capturing all the funny bits with which Schoenberg showered Handel’s Concerto Grosso. (Monn’s Cello Concerto is a fairly close antecedent, whereas Schoenberg took great liberties with Handel.) Balances are often a problem with this piece, and the woodwinds here sometimes drown out the string quartet in the
; the producer could have given the strings greater prominence. This performance finds some elegance in the Concerto; nothing could ferret out much graciousness.
Although basically tonal, the 1943 Theme and Variations is a difficult work to parse. This performance drifts along for a while, with a few brilliant moments, but it catches fire about half way through, and as the end nears it rises to considerable nobility and strength.
This is perhaps a more useful than enjoyable disc, homing in on and cleanly elucidating several elements of Schoenberg’s late tonal music.
FANFARE: James H. North