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Berg, Schönberg & Webern

Webern Langsamer Satz
Berg Lyric Suite
Schoenberg 4th Quartet

Quatuor Psophos
Ayako Tanaka - violin
Bleuenn le Maitre - violin
Cécile Grassi - viola
Eve-Marie Caravassilis - cello

Zig-Zag Territoires ZZT070502

With coaching from Walter Levin, the young Psophos Quartet (BBC "New Generation Artists") have produced a quite outstanding recording of three key works by leading members of the Second Viennese School, dating respectively from 1905, 1925 and 1936.

Webern's beautiful slow movement, prior to his adoption of the twelve-note method, is too little known. Berg's Lyric Suite has attained a place in the standard repertory; it contains a secret message, and Wikpedia has a good introductory discussion of its history and complexities. None of that need trouble prospective purchasers. There are many recordings but none I have heard (without score) impresses more than this vivid, committed - indeed passionate - reading, and it is superbly recorded.

But the main reason to aquire this selection is the inclusion of the last of Schonberg's quartets, formerly a 'hard nut' to crack, but herer sounding as natural as Brahms. A representative of the ‘naturel dodécaphonique’ (René Leibowitz), it is well described as having 'serenity of tone hand in hand with an agile serial realisation which does not disdain borrowing traditional elements derived from tonal grammar'. The Psophos have persuaded me that this is a work one could learn to love.

The presentation may tip the balance in favour of this CD; ZigZag T has a unique book style, far more interesting than the cramping old jewel cases, with interesting artwork and quirky illustrations by their resident painter Anne Peultier, though I have to say that her somewhat cadaverous cover picture for this one may be found a little off-putting, so I've shown it at the bottom of my review!

The Psophos can be heard twice during July in the City of London Festival.

Peter Grahame Woolf