SCHOENBERG: Transfigured Night; FAURE:L La Bonne Chanson – var. perf. – Marlboro Festival – Sony Classical

by | Sep 3, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

SCHOENBERG: Transfigured Night, Op. 4; FAURE: La Bonne Chanson, Op. 61 – Felix Galimir and Ernestine Briesmeister, violin/ Harry Zaratzian and Samuel Rhodes, viola/Michael Grebanier and Judith Rosen, cello/ Martial Singher, baritone/Richard Goode, piano/ Michael Tree and Philipp Naegele, violin/ Gaetan Molieri, viola/Michael Grebanier, cello – Sony Classical 86697 92170 2, 50:55 [Distr. By] ****:

Recorded directly at the Marlboro School of Music in Vermont (12-19 August 1960), these two disparate chamber works bear all the hallmarks of enthusiasm that typify the level of ensemble provided by the summer music festival’s ethos of “A Republic of Equals.”  To hear Arnold Schoenberg’s 1899 string sextet in its original form—a tone-poem for an intimate setting—still comes as a rarity. Verklaerte Nacht follows the program of Richard Dehmel’s haunting poem in which a woman confesses an illicit pregnancy to a man not her husband, but his unqualified acceptance redeems her and the unborn child. The idea of a man’s redemption of a fallen woman extends to Massenet’s Thais, and we can hear hints to that opera’s famous Meditation. The structure, a basic movement from D Minor to D Major, subdivides into the four-part evolution favored by Schubert and Liszt. Even within the relative confines of six instruments, the post-Wagnerian harmony and melodic flow becomes quite incendiary, the internal cyclicism moving to an incandescent apotheosis. The Marlboro players project a seamless line—taut, melancholy, inflamed or ecstatic, as required.
Gabriel Faure set his song-cycle of nine poems of Paul Verlaine Le Bonne Chanson for piano and string quintet in 1898.  Faure claimed that the songs inter-relate by virtue of melodic and harmonic figures that recur throughout the cycle. Singer Emma Bardac, who later married Debussy, inspired the cycle, conceived as a love-offering to her. The work evoked highly contrasting reactions from Saint-Saens and Marcel Proust, the former denouncing the cycle as madness—the latter calling it a glory of inspiration. The set of nine poems reflects the joyous side of love, a sentiment Faure had expressed in an earlier song, “Lydia,” which provides much of melodic tissue for this entire cycle. Goode’s piano part conveys any number of visual effects, from a rippling dawn to a golden horn, to the disjointed metrics of amorous insecurity.  French baritone Martial Singher (1904-1990) performs the cycle with smooth subtlety and clean, elegant phraseology, those vocal  strong suits that marked his professional career. The last song, “L’hiver a  cesse” (Winter has passed) sums up the conceit of the cycle, that the time of discontent has been made glorious summer by the expectation of amorous wedded bliss.
—Gary Lemco

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