WORKS: Kleines Requiem für eine Polka; Lerchenmusik
PERFORMER: Schönberg Ensemble/Reinbert de Leeuw (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 442 533-2 DDD
Both performances here have a rival version by London Sinfonietta members in the catalogue. While Kleines Requiem für eine Polka (1993) was written for and premiered by the Dutch Schönberg Ensemble, the Sinfonietta got in first on Nonesuch (reviewed last August). Admirer though I am of de Leeuw, I have to admit that David Zinman obtains the better reading from the Sinfonietta: beautifully phrased and magical in the slow music. As hysteria beckons – in the circus polka of the third movement – the rough virility of the Dutch gives them the edge. But overall, the English players do more to persuade me that this motley collection of clichés adds up to a real piece (their couplings are Górecki’s Harpsichord Concerto and Good Night).
Lerchenmusik (1984) for clarinet, cello and piano is in some respects even more outrageous, with its ‘Minimalist’ reworkings of Beethoven and Messiaen. De Leeuw’s trio, in which he plays piano, is certainly highly charged. But, as in Kleines Requiem, his performance is sometimes too volatile. On Nonesuch (coupled with the Kronos Quartet’s performance of the First Quartet), the Sinfonietta’s players’ precision leads to greater impact; both their performances are enhanced by more focused recording. Keith Potter