Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Berlin Philharmonic - Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht and Pelleas und Melisande (V)

This release is a combination of two of Schoenberg's works that, despite a commonality in the relatively large-scale orchestration and late-romantic aesthetic, show several marked differences in approach and overall sound.

The "symphonic poem" Verklärte Nacht is often hailed as one of Schoenberg's greater works. The piece, though, lovely as the motifs and development may be, forcefully reminds me of Rimsky-Korsakov's warnings against overuse of a single timbre. In this case, Schoenberg seems to have realised the entire epic late-romantic composition in strings alone. Nevertheless, the word "epic" remains relevant. Verklärte Nacht is an excellent piece, and is quite satisfying listening if your fingers don't itch to reorchestrate it.

Pelleas und Melisande is a touch less directly thematic, but employs a much wider pallette of timbres. Given time, it, too, swells into epic themes with a wide variety of orchestration and spirit. Verklärte Nacht is overall darker, but Pelleas und Melisande still delivers, especially with the addition of brass, woodwinds, and percussion. Schoenberg slides seamlessly to victorious joy to epic evil and back to lighter thoughts in his development here.

This CD release is really a good sampler of Schoenberg's symphonic works. Although I'd not recommend it as a "my first Schoenberg CD," I would recommend it as an addition to any late-romantic collection. One of my preferred records.

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