Berg, Schoenberg, Webern: Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16

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COMPOSERS: Berg,Schoenberg,Webern
WORKS: Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16
PERFORMER: Arleen Auger (soprano); CBSO/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: 5 75880 2 Reissue (1987)
Although regarded as one of the most significant works of Schoenberg’s atonal period, the Five Orchestral Pieces have been recorded surprisingly infrequently. Indeed, this reissue of Rattle’s 1987 performance of the original 1909 version currently has the field almost to itself. Fortunately the performance is warmly persuasive, with the conductor bringing a welcome clarity and lucidity to the composer’s complex musical argument, though Riccardo Chailly, on a deleted Decca release, is even more attuned to the subtly shifting images of light in ‘Farben’.


I have few reservations about the rest of the disc. Rattle delivers a shattering, nightmarish account of the fourth of Webern’s Six Pieces, and despite occasional thinness of tone in the upper strings, the CBSO projects Berg’s Lulu Suite with blistering urgency. It’s a pity that EMI provides scanty booklet notes and fails to include text and translations for the Berg. But at budget price this release serves as an indispensable introduction to some of the finest music of the Second Viennese School. Erik Levi