- Anton von Webern - Avant Guarde Composer [Recommended Recordings]
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Anton Webern
Recommended Recordings

Boulez conducts Webern
(Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Françoise Pollet, et al, Pierre Boulez and Malcolm Hicks, conducting)
Many listeners will be surprised to learn that Anton Webern wrote choral music--and indeed, his complete output, performed here, lasts a total of five minutes and seven seconds. Two of the three pieces are rooted in Webern's familiar serial technique, but the scoring, for choir, violin, clarinet, bass clarinet, celesta, and guitar, is delightfully original. The instrumental works are given expert readings by some of this century's finest performers. (review by David Vernier)

Passacaglia, Symphony, etc
(Cleveland Orchestra; Christoph von Dohnányi, conductor)
This immaculately played disc contains absolutely all of Webern's orchestral music. Grab it while you can. Although it's one of the best Webern compilations ever made, chances are it won't last in the catalog very long. Why? Because Dohnányi and the Cleveland are no longer a marketing "priority," probably because they record almost exclusively "serious" classical music. Webern is about as heavy as it gets, and even though the Cleveland Orchestra plays this music with a sensitivity and precision that no other orchestra can match, if you don't buy it, it's history. Sad, but true. (review by David Hurwitz)

Works for String Quartet
(Eugene Drucker, Lawrence Dutton, et al; Emerson String Quartet, Emerson String Quartet members)
Opening with the longest single movement Anton Webern ever composed, this collection of his nine works for string quartet and trio covers his entire career. For starters, it bears reminding that the first, longest movement he wrote encompasses a mere nine minutes--glorious minutes, but only nine of them. They make up the 1905 string quartet, taken abundantly through its most sonorous dialogues by the Emerson String Quartet, who provide a lavish setting in Lawrence Dutton's viola for the crucial middle ground between David Finckel's robust cello and the sometimes jarred, sometimes whizzing violins of Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer. Beyond the first string quartet, there are loads of vantages here from which to examine postserial music. For while Webern owed much to Schoenberg's revolution, he owed even more to an inherently economic sense of wholeness. These are miniatures, really, each cutting rapidly to the quick of the matter and finding sometimes abrupt completion. It's perfect music for an era when the tension between experimentation and economy of phrasing urges on creative motion. And here it's perfectly played: tense, sad, sweet, and urgent. (review by Andrew Bartlett)


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