Magazine article Strings

Arnold Schoenberg: String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 (1908); Anton Webern: Langsamer Satz (Slow Movement) (1904); Alban Berg: Die Geheime Gesangstimme (the Secret Voice), Finale of the "Lyric Suite" (1925)

Magazine article Strings

Arnold Schoenberg: String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 (1908); Anton Webern: Langsamer Satz (Slow Movement) (1904); Alban Berg: Die Geheime Gesangstimme (the Secret Voice), Finale of the "Lyric Suite" (1925)

Article excerpt

Arnold Schoenberg: String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 (1908); Anton Webern: Langsamer Satz (Slow Movement) (1904); Alban Berg: Die geheime Gesangstimme (The Secret Voice), Finale of the "Lyric Suite" (1925). Petersen Quartet: Conrad Muck, Daniel Bell, violins; Friedemann WeIgIe, viola; Henry-David Varema, cello; Christine Schäfer, soprano. (Phoenix Edition 133, Deutschlandradio Kultur)

Schoenberg's 12-tone system has often been called cerebral, producing music that's all brain and no heart. The three works recorded here refute that concept: reflecting a crucial experi- ence in each of the composers' lives, they express power- ful, intense emotions with wrenching immediacy. The earliest, Webem's Langsamer Satz, written when hé had just begun to study with Schoenberg (1874-1951), is still firmly rooted in the romanticism of Brahms and Mahler. Tonal, luxurious, serene, and ecstatic, its intoxicating beauty makes the suggestion that he wrote it after falling in love with his future wife totally believable.

Schoenberg's Second Quartet hovers between tonality and its dissolution, and between old and new forms. The structure is thematically cyclical, the texture linear. Each movement has a key signature and begins and ends on a tonal chord, but the primarily contrapuntal lines form dissonant nontonal harmonies. The wild, spooky scherzo has a waltz-like trio that quotes an ironic Viennese street song. In the last two movements, Schoenberg adds a stratospheric soprano part for settings of poems by Stefan George, one despairing, one visionary, which may indicate his state of mind: Schoenberg's wife (to whom the quartet is dedicated) was having an affair with a painter, who committed suicide when she returned to her husband. …

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