SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

ARNOLD SCHOENBERG: Early and Unknown String Works [TrackList below] – Rangzen Quartet & Strings/ Christina Fong – OgreOgress Productions, Limited Edition – Stereo DVD-Audio

If you are a Schoenberg fan, this is the disc to get.

Published on December 8, 2009

ARNOLD SCHOENBERG: Early and Unknown String Works [TrackList below] – Rangzen Quartet & Strings/ Christina Fong – OgreOgress Productions, Limited Edition – Stereo DVD-Audio

ARNOLD SCHOENBERG: Early and Unknown String Works [TrackList below] – Rangzen Quartet & Strings/ Christina Fong – OgreOgress Productions, Limited Edition. (This stereo-only DVD-Audio disc is playable on most DVD players and all DVD-Audio players.) About 90 minutes ****:

This disc borders on being a novelty record. It is unlike any other Schoenberg recording I’ve ever heard. It covers Schoenberg’s composition for strings from the age of eight to 1949, two years before his death. It’s amazingly comprehensive. There are duets, trios, quartets, and string ensemble pieces. Many of them span popular genres like polkas and waltzes. Most are charming and non-jarring, like the Waltzer fur Streichorchester from 1897, composed two years before his groundbreaking string sextet Verklärte Nacht. These eleven bagatelles could almost have been written by the waltz king Johann Strauss II (who was alive at the time), except they don’t have that swaying heavily accented style that Strauss popularized. They are a bit too gentle and consequently none of them really caught on.

Several works on the disc are listed as having been composed “after 1882,” but probably before the mid-90s, since the style remains quaint and pleasantly callow. The rest of the disc is taken up by fragments. It is both tantalizing and disconcerting to hear these examples of “musicus interruptus.” Unlike other famous musical torsos (like Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony and Bach’s Art of the Fugue) there is often precious little music to chew on before the piece ends. How can you have development (or even a consistent musical experience) when so many fragments are less than thirty seconds long? To the scholar or aficionado, they show Schoenberg traversing one compositional path, then abruptly terminating it for whatever reason. (He never says.) One piece, String Quartet No. 5 (1949), stutters through four sub-minute versions before Schoenberg gives up on it, having provided us with ineluctable glimpses of dense structures that were never to be. Of course the sound is intricately detailed in this DVD-audio format, and the works are played with skill and even passion by the Rangzen Quartet and violinist Christina Fong. If you are a Schoenberg fan, this is the disc to get. You will love Severine Neff’s exhaustive liner notes, tiny print and all.

TrackList:
1. Sonnenschein-Polka [Sunshine Polka] for 2 violins (after 1882) [3:09]

2. "Alliance" Walzer ["Alliance" Waltz] for 2 violins (after 1882) [5:41]

3. Lied ohne Worte [Song Without Words] in B-flat major for 2 violins (after 1882) [3:05]

4. Idylles Lied ohne Worte [Idyllic Song Without Words] in C major for 2 violins (after 1882) [2:34]

5. Lied ohne Worte [Song Without Words] in A minor for 2 violins (after 1882) [2:29]

6. Geburtstags-Marsch [Birthday March] for 2 violins and viola (after 1882) [1 part] [4:01]

7. Romance Ré mineur [Romance in D minor] for 2 violins and viola (after 1882) [2 parts] [8:32]

8. String Quartet in F major (before 1897) [fragment] [:33]

9. Gavotte und Musette (im alten Style) [Gavotte and Musette (in old style)] for string orchestra (1897) [original version] [2:18]

10. to 20. 11 Walzer für Streichorchester [11 Waltzes for String Orchestra] (1897)

21. Toter Winkel for string sextet (1899) [fragment] [1:46]

22. String Quartet in D minor (1904) Nicht rasch [fragment] [:54]

23. String Quartet in D minor (1904) Sketch for the Langsam movement [1] [fragment] [:17]

24. String Quartet in D minor (1904) Sketch for the Langsam movement [2] [fragment] [:24]

25. String Quartet in D minor (1904) Sketch for the Langsam movement [3] [fragment] [:21]

26. String Quartet in D minor (1904) Langsam [double fugue, version 1] [fragment] [3:29]

27. String Quartet in D minor (1904) Langsam [double fugue, version 2] [fragment] [3:33]

28. String Quartet in C major (after 1904) [fragment] [1:01]

29. String Quintet in D major (1905) [fragment] [:32]

30. String Septet (1918) [fragment] [:54]

31. String Quartet Movement (1926) [fragment] [:26]

32. String Quartet (1926) Beginning of a movement [version 1] [fragment] [:14]

33. String Quartet (1926) Beginning of a movement [version 2] [fragment]

34. String Quartet (1926) Beginning of a movement [version 3] [fragment] [:12]

35. String Quartet (1926) Theme for another movement [fragment] [:24]

36. String Quartet (1926) Violin/cello duo for another movement [fragment] [:08]

37. String Quartet (1926) Violin theme for another movement [fragment] [:29]

38. Untitled in D major (1926) [fragment] [:12]

39. String Quartet in C major (after 1927) [fragment] [1:49]

40. Mirror Canon in A major for string quartet (after 1930) [:27]

41. Fugue [arranged for string quartet by Stephen Dembski] (1938) [fragment] [1:27]

42.- 45. String Quartet #5 (1949)

– Peter Bates




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