Berg, Webern

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Berg,Webern
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: String Quartet, Op. 3; Lyric Suite
PERFORMER: Leipzig String Quartet; Christiane Oelze (soprano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 307 0996-2
Berg’s Lyric Suite has been well served on CD, not least by two fine recordings by the Alban Berg Quartet: one made for Teldec in the mid-Seventies, the other for EMI in 1992. This new version from the young Leipzig Quartet can well stand comparison with them. It has all the warmth and tenderness these passionate love-letters need; and in the Allegro misterioso third movement, where the composer’s own initials are whisperingly intertwined with those of the woman he secretly loved, the music rushes by in more hushed tones than it does on either of the Alban Berg Quartet recordings. The Leipzig players are not quite so convincing in the Op. 3 Quartet, the last piece Berg wrote during his study years with Schoenberg. Here – and especially on its EMI disc – the Alban Berg Quartet conveys the music’s drama and intensity rather more vividly, while the presto sections of the second movement have greater urgency.

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As a bonus, the Leipzig Quartet includes Webern’s three unpublished pieces of 1913 – preliminary versions of the outer numbers of the Six Bagatelles, Op. 9, plus an eventually suppressed setting of some lines by Webern himself. Having roped in the fine soprano Christiane Oelze for no more than this single minute of Webern, it is a pity the Leipzig Quartet didn’t ask her to record the ‘hidden’ Baudelaire setting embedded in the finale of the Lyric Suite, as an alternative to the familiar version. But make no mistake: this is a very distinguished disc indeed. Misha Donat