Berg; Schoenberg; Strauss

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COMPOSERS: Berg; Schoenberg; Strauss
LABELS: Virgin
ALBUM TITLE: Berg; Schoenberg; Strauss
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B minor, Op. 1 (arr. Muller)
PERFORMER: Artemis Quartet; Thomas Kakuska (viola), Valentin Erben (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 335 1302
It’s something of a challenge to recast Berg’s Op. 1 Piano Sonata as a work for string sextet. There’s the statement of a low B in the piano in the first few bars which requires at least one of the cellists to tune down his bottom string; and there’s also the intractable problem of having to take into account the role of the pedal in building up and sustaining the intensity of Berg’s involved contrapuntal argument. Yet this arrangement, made by the Artemis Quartet’s violinist Heime Müller, works wonderfully well. I can pay no higher compliment than to say that it sounds completely idiomatic and without doubt deserves a secure place in the repertory. Needless to say, the augmented Artemis Quartet play the work with complete passion and conviction mapping the ebb and flow of Berg’s turbulent narrative to perfection.


Despite being recorded in a somewhat dry studio acoustic, their performance of the Sextet from Strauss’s Capriccio sounds equally sumptuous as does their atmospheric and highly charged account of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. Amongst the many recordings of the sextet version of this masterpiece, there’s little doubt that the Artemis’s interpretation must be regarded as one of the most compelling. At the same time, the Leipzig Quartet on Dabringhaus and Grimm, benefiting from a warmer acoustic, produce an even greater variety of texture and colour, pacing the drama more carefully so as not to overwhelm the listener too early in this somewhat discursive work. Erik Levi