on 27 November 2011
It's hard to imagine how virtually all the works of one of the 20th century's great composers could possibly fit onto eight CDs and yet be available for the extraordinarily modest price that this set sells for. So value for money here is not in question.
The performances, with one exception, are of a sensational quality. The La Salle quartet's version of the Lyric Suite is very fine - just briefly in the Largo Desolato I found myself wanting something a little more fluid in the dramatic outburst that is the culmination of the work, but really the playing is outstanding. I am absolutely seduced by Anne Sofie von Otter's sumptuous singing in the seven early lieder - she downsizes gorgeously for the piano version and then makes you just as happy in the 1928 orchestral version. I am lost for words in admiration for Juliane Banse's singing in the Altenberg lieder and especially in the Lulu suite, where she picks out the dizzying tessitura as though with a razor blade.
The conducting is broadly divided between Abbado and Boulez. Abbado adores these scores and gets some fabulous playing out of the Vienna Philharmonic. This is most notable in the Lulu Suite, where despite it being a live performance you get some immaculate playing (especially in the brass, but also throughout) that many studio efforts could have required multiple takes to achieve. Boulez contributes the original 1979 recording of the full Lulu with Cerha's completion - Teresa Stratas in truly memorable form in this historic recording.
I do feel one disappointment, however, which is the 1987 Wozzeck. DG doubtless disdained reissuing their 1965 Boehm recording, where Fischer-Dieskau and Fritz Wunderlich combined so utterly memorably, on grounds of its age, but I would never pass over those unique performances in favour of this mediocre alternative. The live recording is badly balanced and Abbado presses the pace to the extent that vocal lines often struggle to communicate key emotional issues.
But at this price I am sure you should be happy to brush over that - if you are really passionate about Wozzeck (which of course you should be) then find out either the Boehm or one of the other superior versions available. Likewise if you are set on the best Chamber Concerto recording, find the recent Boulez/Tetzlaff/Uchida version, but really there's not a lot wrong with the Barenboim/Zukerman pairing here (also under Boulez).
This is a very exceptional set, and will enable you to reach out to pieces you might not know such as the Clarinet and Piano pieces op 5 (which I haven't heard for a good 15 years now). I recommend it most highly.
on 12 April 2007
Alban Berg (1885-1935) Discover this world of beauty and love , horror , death and defiance .
I first heard and then studied this man's music in my early twenties , and I fell in love.
I bought this CD edition from the U.S (at a crazy inflated price) and have revisited the man and his music anew and I have to say that - unlike many other returns - this is no nostalgic re-living ; I find it afresh, and his light undimmed and far brighter . The orchestral writing , and playing , is an inspiration. Here is colour and texture that you simply won't find anywhere else .Buy it immediately . Indulge that early 21st century longing for Real Life with ...
I can't put my finger on the reason for this , but Alban atomises all my usual reservations and the tragedy that is The Second Viennese School. His fluidity of line is such that rhythm transcends its' usual confines and appears to sustain everything,and does so - to my ears - quite anonymously. I never really considered this dimension of his music before, because every facet is somehow presented seamlessly, but now this rhythmic element is remarkable, and this could also be said of a harmonic/melodic sense and delineation of structure as concentrated and pure and beautiful as J.S.Bach's. This is music conceived, written down, performed and recorded of the highest order.
Detractors will find an easy path to critique and deliberate marginalisation through Hollywood's appropriation of that style(e.g.Op.6)But Hollywood this ain't.
You will inhale new-mown Viennese grass , see the people , taste their delights and their food and the smell of their acrid tobacco and almost touch a world.
Now, hearing it again in 2007,it seems unbearably sad that this world is gone and that we chose an easier, lesser path; but that is what he was saying all along.
on 21 September 2013
The recordings included in this collection range from 1971 to 1996. Published in 2003, it includes the full 3-act version of Lulu, world premiere from 1979, conducted by Boulez, as well as Wozzeck under Claudio Abbado. Highly recommended.