Monday, May 11, 2009

Berg, the serial romantic

Any classical music lover who dismisses the dodecaphony (twelve tone) movement originated by the so-called second Viennese school (Schoenberg, Berg, Webern) as calculative and emotionless high-brow art should be forced to listen to this CD, and especially to the very last composition of Alban Berg (1885-1935). This two mevement violin concerto with its telling subtitle "To the memory of an angel" was composed for the sad occasion of the death at age 18 of Alma Mahler's daughter Manon Gropius. It is an incredibly moving piece, easily amongst the 10 best violin concertoes ever writen in my opinion. On this CD, it receives a beautiful performance by Rebecca Hirsch. The two other pieces are also amongst Berg's most accessible works. The Lyric Suite (1926) was originally in six movements, composed for string quartet. After a successful premiere, Berg decide to re-cast the second, third, four and six movements for string orchestra. The much darker Three Orchestral Pieces date back to 1915. The performances by the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra under Eri Klas are exemplary and the recording quality is great. An essential disc in any classical collection.