Schoenberg/Stravinsky/Strauss

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schoenberg/Stravinsky/Strauss
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Verklärte Nacht; Apollon musagète; Sextet from Capriccio
PERFORMER: Saito Kinen Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
CATALOGUE NO: 446 085-2 DDD
The Saito Kinen Orchestra was founded only twelve years ago, but already it has become a formidably polished and virtuoso band of players. Its hallmark, if this CD is anything to go by, is an almost febrile intensity, which is particularly well suited to the hyper-expressive world of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. Every dynamic nuance and tempo fluctuation of this music is played for all its worth, but the sense of steely precision in the playing is never lost. The sound is a little glassy and lacking in bloom, so I wasn’t quite as bowled over as I might have been, but there’s no doubt the band has the pulse of this music exactly.

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Unfortunately the same can’t be said about Apollon musagète, where the orchestra sounds as if playing in a foreign language. The beginning sets the tone of the entire performance – uncomfortably rushed, with the trills at the ends of phrases clipped so hard you can’t hear them. I expect Ozawa wanted his brisk tempi to create a sense of Classical severity, in contrast to the Schoenberg, but in fact it robs the music of that ease and poise which are its most Classical traits. Ivan Hewett