- String Quartet No. 2 for soprano & string quartet in F sharp minor, Op. 10 - Arnold Schoenberg - Sandrine Piau - Stefan George - Quatuor Diotima
- Bagatelles (6) for string quartet, Op. 9 - Anton Webern - Quatuor Diotima
- Langsamer Satz (Slow Movement), for string quartet: [Excerpt] - Anton Webern - Anton Webern - Marie-Nicole Lemieux - Quatuor Diotima
- Lyric Suite, for string quartet - Alban Berg - Charles Baudelaire - Marie-Nicole Lemieux - Quatuor Diotima
Berg, Webern, Schoenbergby Quatuor Diotima
Recordings that include strings quartets by Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern are common, but an album that includes music for quartet and voice by each of them is a rarity. Schoenberg's "Second String Quartet," with a part for soprano in its third and fourth movements, is standard repertoire, but the version of Berg's "Lyric Suite" with a vocal part in the final movement is highly unusual, and Webern's bagatelle with voice, an unpublished movement apparently once intended to be part of the "Six Bagatelles, Op. 9," receives what is probably its first recording. Novelty aside, the high standards of these performances make this a formidable release. Founded just before the turn of the millennium, Quatuor Diotima plays with the assurance and mutual understanding of a seasoned ensemble. The quartet has a lean, clean sound and the ensemble is immaculate, playing with exquisite expressiveness, an ideal combination for this repertoire. The supplely nuanced tempo shifts and the knowing phrasing are evidence that the music of the Second Viennese School is a language in which the quartet is absolutely fluent; these pieces seem to be part of the players' musical DNA, and every line and gesture sounds colloquially meaningful. The aphoristic movements of Webern's "Six Bagatelles," which in the wrong hands can sound random and disjunct, are each revealed as miniature dramas. The vocal bagatelle, with a text by the composer referring to his mother, lasts less than a minute and fits beautifully with the established set. Heard immediately after the Webern, Berg's largely twelve tone "Lyric Suite" sounds, well, absolutely lyrical, an effusion of Romantic passion, which it was. Its vocal version is hardly less obscure than the Webern, but the Kronos Quartet has recorded it with Dawn Upshaw. In the Schoenberg, soprano Sandrine Piau's performance is perfectly matched to the quartet's: expressive, but always pure and focused. Contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux's voice has a little more vibrato than is ideal for the Webern and the Berg, but she sings with precision and passion. Naïve's sound is clean, nicely ambient, and well-balanced, but the music is recorded at a very quiet level, so a boost in volume may be necessary to hear all the details, and they shouldn't be missed.
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Performance CreditsQuatuor Diotima Primary Artist
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Those familiar with Schoenberg's string quartets know the integral role that voice plays in the Second Quartet. That work receives an excellent, committed performance here by the Quatour Diotima and Sandrine Piau. Less known is the fact that Webern actually composed a seventh bagatelle in the opus 9 set with voice, and there is a version of the classic Berg Lyric Suite with voice in the last movement. Therein lies a tale. After the death of Berg's widow, scholars examined a copy of the score, with Berg's annotations, indicating a vocal line setting of one of Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal, a coded love message to Hanna Fuchs, a woman with whom he was having an affair. There is drama aplenty in all these works, and with Sandrine Plau, Marie Nicole Lemieux gives a wonderful account of the vocal writing in the Webern and Berg. Those who might shy away from works with a shaky hold on traditional tonality should not fear. These are masterpieces in fantastic performances. Highly recommended!