Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire; Verklärte Nacht

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COMPOSERS: Schoenberg
LABELS: Vanguard
WORKS: Pierrot Lunaire; Verklärte Nacht
PERFORMER: Ilona Steingruber (soprano); chamber ensemble/Vladimir Golschmann, Zürich CO/Edmond de Stoutz
CATALOGUE NO: SVC 145 HD ADD Reissue (1961, 1964)
These performances come from the early Sixties – practically the Stone Age as far as Second Viennese School interpretation goes. Yet there were fine musicians then, too, much nearer in time to the composers, who knew what they required. Edmond de Stoutz’s account of Verklärte Nacht, though sincere and well-played, is too heavy and unatmospheric to compete with Karajan or Craft or Holliger. But Golschmann’s unnamed and uncredited ensemble provides a sensitive, generally well-observed and well-characterised Pierrot (the cellist is superb in ‘Serenade’); and Ilona Steingruber, recorded at the age of 49 (she died the next year) is a very acceptable soloist, with plenty of song as well as speech in her Sprechstimme. If Boulez (with Yvonne Minton) remains my first choice here, the recording sounds very well and would give any purchaser coming fresh to the work an honest idea of it. Calum MacDonald