Schoenberg • Webern
Schoenberg: Kammersymphony, Op. 9; Sechs Kleine Stücke, op. 19 (arr. Holliger); Webern: Symphony, Op. 21; Fünf Sätze, Op. 5
Lausanne Chamber Orchestra/Heinz Holliger
Fuga Libera FUG794 53:22 min
Chamber symphony op. 9, beginning with his horn calls advancing energetically in fourths, is one of the most exhilarating pieces he has ever composed. It was in one of those continuous conceptions which he favored in his early years, of Verklärte Nacht from there, forging the traditional movements of a symphonic form into a unified whole. It calls for considerable virtuosity from each of its 15 soloists, and the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Heinz Holliger does very well. There may have been even more incisive performances – Simon Rattle and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group on EMI, for example – but Holliger and his musicians reveal every detail of the intricate score, even if at the cost of a recording a little too analytical. Rattle’s more generous acoustics lend the music a warmth not always present in this new recording.
Holliger gives a meticulous account of the enigmatic Symphony op. 21, with its intimate series of guns; and the Five Movements Op. by the same composer. 5, more familiar in their original version for string quartet, also do well. But perhaps the most fascinating element here is Holliger’s arrangement for chamber orchestra by Schoenberg Six small pieces for piano Op.11, made with so much imagination and inventiveness that they are almost entirely new pieces. The rumbling and menacing basses of the slow third track are particularly effective; and the final number, inspired by Mahler’s funeral in 1911 (Schoenberg also painted a picture of the event), where Holliger transforms the distant resonance of bells into something very different but no less haunting.