The Belcea Quartet play Berg, Webern and Schoenberg

'Herewith the hyper-expressive world of 20th-century Viennese chamber music.'

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COMPOSERS: Alban Berg; Anton Webern; Arnold Schoenberg
ALBUM TITLE: Berg • Webern • Schoenberg
WORKS: Berg: Lyric Suite; Webern: Langsamer Satz; Fünf Satze; Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht
PERFORMER: Nicolas Bone (viola), Antônio Meneses (cello); Belcea Quartet


Herewith the hyper-expressive world of early 20th-century Viennese chamber music. Arnold Schoenberg’s youthful sextet Verklärte Nacht, evoking a narrative of Redemption through Love, may still be under the influence of post-Wagnerian late-Romanticism – a manner reflected in the more intimate Langsamer Satz for string quartet by his student Anton Webern in 1905. But within four years, Webern had fined down and acidulated his musical language into the unprecedented miniatures of the Fünf Satze, Op. 5 (1909), with their expressionistic frissons and agonised sighs, while his fellow composer Alban Berg went on to chart the ever-widening gulf between ecstasy and despair in the serial textures of his six-movement Lyric Suite (1925).

There is no question that the Belcea Quartet – plus viola player Nicolas Bone and cellist Antônio Meneses in the Schoenberg – are completely on top of the formidable technical demands of these scores. Only occasionally pitches seem to get lost where these composers request the ghostly effect of bowing on the bridge of the instrument – in the spectral scutterings of Berg’s Allegro Misterioso third movement, for instance. But the knife-edge contrasts of the Webern miniatures and the generously flowing paragraphs of the Schoenberg are equally well projected, while even in the most frenzied extremes of the Berg, these players never relinquish beauty of sound.


Bayan Northcott