WORKS: Verklärte Nacht; Pelleas und Melisande
PERFORMER: Atlanta SO/Yoel Levi
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80372 DDD
Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), written for string sextet in 1899, was arranged for string orchestra by Schoenberg some 18 years later. Based on Richard Dehmel’s poem, printed in the notes accompanying this new recording, the music evokes the forgiveness of a man who learns that his lover carries another’s child. While many will prefer the intimacy of the original version, the refinement of the Atlanta strings is never in doubt. Their rich tone is impressive too, but there is room for more ardour and urgency than Levi provides.
The Straussian symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande (1903) is based on the Maeterlinck play, which also inspired Debussy and Sibelius. Schoenberg develops his material closely and over an extensive span, using themes representing the main characters. The huge orchestra includes 18 brass and eight percussion players, and the textures are dense and change focus constantly. This is challenging music for performers and listeners alike, and the final phase (treating the death of Melisande) is particularly impressive. Although Levi and his fine orchestra do not match the opulence of Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, nor do they disappoint; and their coupling of these pieces is both logical and generous. Terry Barfoot