ALBUM TITLE: Schubert • Schoenberg
WORKS: Schubert: String Quintet in C, D956; Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht
PERFORMER: Janine Jansen, Boris Brovtsyn (violin), Maxim Rysanov, Amihai Grosz (viola), Torleif Thedéen, Jens Peter Maintz (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 478 3551
Two of the most emotionally powerful works in the chamber repertoire come together on this exceptionally long CD. Transfigured Night¸ written when Schoenberg was only 25, shows the pervasive influence of Wagner, that is, of the eternal yearning and postponed fulfilment of Tristan und Isolde. You might think that that work took unresolved harmonies as far as they could go, while remaining tonal, but Schoenberg was evidently out to show you would be mistaken. The performance here is the original version, which Schoenberg later adapted for string orchestra. The individual strands of the chamber version make the music even more claustrophobic than it need be, so that by the end of the half-hour the feeling that you are in a sauna is overwhelming. This team makes sure that you share their efforts to the full.
After that, if you listen to the Schubert Quintet in C major straightaway, you feel as if you’ve emerged into fresh air – not the usual impression this work gives. Even the desolate slow movement, with its fantastically wild central section, is less poignant than usual. The trumpet-like effects of the scherzo are marvellous here, but in the passage leading from the trio section, the most pained in this whole work, a long series of unresolved dissonances, there is a groaner among the players who really should be stopped. Unfortunately this performance as a whole is too superficial to be recommended in its own right, though its coupling with Schoenberg is interesting, if perhaps not in the way intended.