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Richter Ensemble - Vienne 1905-1910 - Schoenberg, Webern & Berg: String Quartets

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Vienne 1905-1910 - Schoenberg, Webern & Berg: String Quartets

Richter Ensemble, Mireille Lebel

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If the Richter Ensemble is a new name to you, then that's because in the grand scheme of things it's relatively new on the block, formed as recently as 2018 by British-Brazilian Baroque violinist and former Academy of Ancient Music concertmaster, Rodolfo Richter. Its other members are equally drawn from across the world of Historically Informed Performance, and while HIP credentials may not at first glance seem an obvious fit for a debut album of Second Viennese School repertoire, they actually point both to the group's mission statement and its unique selling point – to highlight hidden connections between repertoire ranging from the seventeenth to the twenty first centuries, with all of that repertoire played exclusively on gut strings.

Back to the recording in hand, and this is the first installment of a project to record the complete Second Viennese School string quartets on gut strings, and it is very fine indeed. Repertoire-wise, they take us through chronologically, beginning with Webern's ardent one-movement Langsamer Satz of 1905, couched in the language of late Romantic chromaticism; then Schoenberg's String Quartet No. 2 of 1907-8, one of his first forays into atonality which features a mezzo soprano for its latter two movements setting poems by Stefan George; after which comes Berg's two-movement String Quartet Op. 3 of 1910, equally exploring atonality.

Sound-wise, beyond super-glued chamber playing and wonderfully rich-toned and emotive vocal performances from mezzo Mireille Lebel, what really makes these interpretations stand out is the way they place the works in their immediate Viennese context: the fact that it wasn't a hard-edged brand of modernism that was in everyone's heads during these early ventures beyond tonality, but instead the music of Brahms, Mahler and Wagner; and all this amid a wider expressionist and symbolist artistic context that equally blended Romanticism and modernism – think of Gustav Klimt's paintings. So, beyond the greater softness and wider coloristic palette offered by those aforementioned gut strings, we also get tonal sheen, subtle “portamentos”, and a singing freedom to their lines. We are also at a period pitch slightly lower than today's standard: A=432Hz compared to the current 440Hz. Yet all this Romantic gorgeousness is still sounding clean as a whistle – just thanks to the nineteenth century practice of using vibrato only sparingly.

Even if Second Viennese School isn't your usual bag, I urge you to give it a spin. This is likely to be a very covetable series indeed. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz

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Vienne 1905-1910 - Schoenberg, Webern & Berg: String Quartets

Richter Ensemble

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1
String Quartet (Düster und schwer - Mit grossem Schwung - Langsam - Schnell - Sehr breit - Zart bewegt - Sehr langsam)
00:08:02

Anton Webern, Composer - Carl Fischer Music, MusicPublisher - Richter Ensemble, Ensemble, MainArtist

(C) 2020 Passacaille (P) 2020 Passacaille

2
String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 : I. Mässig (Moderato)
00:07:04

Arnold Schoenberg, Composer - Universal Edition, MusicPublisher - Richter Ensemble, Ensemble, MainArtist

(C) 2020 Passacaille (P) 2020 Passacaille

3
String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 . II Sehr rasch
00:06:48

Arnold Schoenberg, Composer - Universal Edition, MusicPublisher - Richter Ensemble, Ensemble, MainArtist

(C) 2020 Passacaille (P) 2020 Passacaille

4
String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 : III. Litanei. Langsam, "Tief ist die Trauer"
00:05:31

Arnold Schoenberg, Composer - Stefan George, Composer - Universal Edition, MusicPublisher - Mireille Lebel, MainArtist - Richter Ensemble, Ensemble, MainArtist

(C) 2020 Passacaille (P) 2020 Passacaille

5
String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 . I. Entrückung. Sehr langsam, "Ich fühle Luft von anderem Planeten"
00:11:27

Arnold Schoenberg, Composer - Stefan George, Composer - Universal Edition, MusicPublisher - Mireille Lebel, MainArtist - Richter Ensemble, Ensemble, MainArtist

(C) 2020 Passacaille (P) 2020 Passacaille

6
String Quartet Op. 3 : I. Langsam
00:09:54

Alban Berg, Composer - Universal Edition, MusicPublisher - Richter Ensemble, Ensemble, MainArtist

(C) 2020 Passacaille (P) 2020 Passacaille

7
String Quartet Op. 3 : II. Mässig Viertel
00:11:00

Alban Berg, Composer - Universal Edition, MusicPublisher - Richter Ensemble, Ensemble, MainArtist

(C) 2020 Passacaille (P) 2020 Passacaille

Album Description

If the Richter Ensemble is a new name to you, then that's because in the grand scheme of things it's relatively new on the block, formed as recently as 2018 by British-Brazilian Baroque violinist and former Academy of Ancient Music concertmaster, Rodolfo Richter. Its other members are equally drawn from across the world of Historically Informed Performance, and while HIP credentials may not at first glance seem an obvious fit for a debut album of Second Viennese School repertoire, they actually point both to the group's mission statement and its unique selling point – to highlight hidden connections between repertoire ranging from the seventeenth to the twenty first centuries, with all of that repertoire played exclusively on gut strings.

Back to the recording in hand, and this is the first installment of a project to record the complete Second Viennese School string quartets on gut strings, and it is very fine indeed. Repertoire-wise, they take us through chronologically, beginning with Webern's ardent one-movement Langsamer Satz of 1905, couched in the language of late Romantic chromaticism; then Schoenberg's String Quartet No. 2 of 1907-8, one of his first forays into atonality which features a mezzo soprano for its latter two movements setting poems by Stefan George; after which comes Berg's two-movement String Quartet Op. 3 of 1910, equally exploring atonality.

Sound-wise, beyond super-glued chamber playing and wonderfully rich-toned and emotive vocal performances from mezzo Mireille Lebel, what really makes these interpretations stand out is the way they place the works in their immediate Viennese context: the fact that it wasn't a hard-edged brand of modernism that was in everyone's heads during these early ventures beyond tonality, but instead the music of Brahms, Mahler and Wagner; and all this amid a wider expressionist and symbolist artistic context that equally blended Romanticism and modernism – think of Gustav Klimt's paintings. So, beyond the greater softness and wider coloristic palette offered by those aforementioned gut strings, we also get tonal sheen, subtle “portamentos”, and a singing freedom to their lines. We are also at a period pitch slightly lower than today's standard: A=432Hz compared to the current 440Hz. Yet all this Romantic gorgeousness is still sounding clean as a whistle – just thanks to the nineteenth century practice of using vibrato only sparingly.

Even if Second Viennese School isn't your usual bag, I urge you to give it a spin. This is likely to be a very covetable series indeed. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz

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