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 74318 2 (available only from HMV stores) Reissue (1989)
Coming to the Berg at the end of this disc was almost a shock. How voluptuous and accessible the Lulu Suite sounds after Webern – halfway between Schoenberg’s Vienna and Gershwin’s Broadway. Or at least it does in Simon Rattle’s gorgeous, sweepingly lyrical performance. Can someone persuade him to record the complete opera? In Schoenberg’s freely atonal (ie not 12-note) Five Orchestral Pieces the rather harsher colours are picked out and blended unusually well, and the opening ‘Vorgefühle’ (Premonitions) grips with an iron glove right from the start. For the Webern, Rattle uses the revised version, with its reduced scoring – more practical perhaps, but the substitution of piccolo and clarinet for E flat clarinet and alto flute at the ominous heart of the Funeral March is only the worst of a series of dubious compromises. It’s still an impressive performance, if not quite as viscerally compelling as the other two. Excellent recordings. Stephen Johnson