Schoenberg, Veress, Bart—k

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bartok,Schoenberg,Veress
WORKS: Verklärte Nacht
PERFORMER: Camerata Bern/Thomas Zehetmair (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: 465 778-2
Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht is regularly performed by groups of very different sizes, and one can make a case for adopting any of the three usual possibilities – string sextet for exploring the psychological intricacies and intimacy suggested by the Dehmel poem on which the work is based, full string orchestra for realising the opulence and dynamic range of this hyper-expressive music, and chamber orchestra for combining (in theory, at any rate) the best of the other two worlds. One drawback for performers in this last option, however, is that intonation within the individual lines requires constant and conscientious vigilance, and this dimension is less than ideally cultivated in the Camerata Bern’s new disc. An only occasionally bothersome tendency towards sour tuning does not consistently impede enjoyment of this responsible and involved performance, but it does blunt and generalise the otherwise reliably musical instincts of the performers. Those seeking a recording of Verklärte Nacht with chamber orchestra will find more imaginative phrasing and conception in versions by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the Smithsonian Chamber Players (the use of period instruments and portamenti makes the latter especially intriguing), both of whom also manage to keep the pizzicato viola off-beats in bars 251ff better sorted rhythmically. In the remaining works on this new disc, the players demonstrate ample, sturdily infectious spirit in Sándor Veress’s Four Transylvanian Dances and the outer movements of the Bartók Divertimento, but they miss out on achieving the hypnotic inwardness that should characterise Bartók’s Molto adagio movement. David Breckbill