WORKS: Lyric Suite, Verklärte Nacht
PERFORMER: Duke Quartet; Helen Kamminga (viola), Sophie Harris (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 15062
The chamber and string-orchestral versions of Schoenberg’s post-Wagnerian tone poem Verklärte Nacht can offer quite different listening and emotional experiences. On balance, I prefer the slenderer means of the string sextet, with its relative intimacy and the claustrophobic intensity it gives to the opening section. Since the orchestral version outnumbers the chamber in the catalogue by almost two to one, any new recording of the latter is welcome. But this addition from the expanded Duke Quartet needs no justification merely on those grounds: it is a powerful, well-shaped performance in its own right, one to stand comparison with the classic Juilliard (Sony).
Berg’s Lyric Suite is another work also known in chamber and string orchestra versions (the latter of three of the six movements only), but here there is no question of the supremacy of the string quartet medium, which speaks vividly of the confessional nature of Berg’s coded expression of his extramarital affair with Hanna Fuchs-Robettin. Again, the Duke Quartet brings just the right degree of fantasy and desperation to this volatile music, together with emotional warmth and technical finesse. In all, this is an apt and powerful coupling of two of the greatest Second Viennese School chamber masterpieces. Matthew Rye