Berg, Mahler, Schoenberg & Zemlinsky

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Berg,Mahler,Schoenberg & Zemlinsky
LABELS: Claves
ALBUM TITLE: Wien 1900
WORKS: Vocal works by Berg, Mahler, Schoenberg & Zemlinsky
PERFORMER: Maria Riccarda Wesseling (mezzo-soprano); Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain/Pierre-Alain Monot
For those who positively wallow in the lush sonorities of many a late-Romantic orchestral work, it may seem somewhat perverse to recast such repertoire for much more modest instrumental forces. Yet this was exactly the practice adopted by Schoenberg at the concerts he organised under the auspices of the Society for Private Musical Performances in Vienna in 1918. It was a bold move designed to enable listeners to hear the best contemporary music in an intimate context, and not surprisingly, works particularly successfully in the medium of orchestral song. Almost half of this enterprising release is devoted to such arrangements and includes Schoenberg’s remarkable transcription of his ‘Song of the Wood Dove’, as well as the equally translucent settings of Zemlinsky and Schoenberg from Erwin Stein and Hanns Eisler. More recent arrangements by Reinbert de Leeuw of Berg’s Seven Early Songs and by Rainer Riehn of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder follow a similar tradition, though in the final song of the latter work, the turbulent storm, as described in Rückert’s poem, seems to cry out for a larger orchestral body. The young Swiss mezzo Maria Riccarda Wesseling has an obvious affinity for this repertoire and delivers performances of considerable sensitivity and warmth, although in the Mahler the heart-rending major-minor ambiguities are rather understated and the instrumental playing as a whole could project a wider range of dynamics and colour. Erik Levi