- Suite, septet in E flat major, Op. 29
- Chamber Symphony No. 1 in E major, Op. 9
Written shortly after Schoenberg's first published foray into his twelve-tone system of writing, the "Chamber Symphony No. 1/9," and the "Suite, Op. 29," reflect the composer's desire to experiment not only with harmony, but also with instrumental texture and color achieved with various combinations of instruments. Both of these works were originally scored for a combination of winds, strings, and piano, a synthesis that can create numerous logistical difficulties including balance and intonation. Schoenberg himself tried to address balance issues in his "Chamber Symphony" on two occasions with little success. The version heard on this Naxos album is an arrangement for quintet (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano) by Schoenberg's student, Anton Webern, which adequately addresses the balance problems in the original. The suite is presented in its original scoring for a septet of three clarinets, violin, viola, cello, and piano. Performing these technically and musically challenging works is the Zahir Ensemble, a Spanish chamber ensemble founded in 2005. Much to its credit, intonation throughout the disc is surprisingly solid, even between strings and winds. This fundamental achievement paves the way for an even more musically satisfying performance that can often be missing. Balance is carefully managed throughout, with the strings never being obscured by the more forceful winds or robust piano. The different sections presented in the single-movement "Chamber Symphony" are brilliantly woven together into an easy-to-follow, flowing performance. Naxos' sound is a bit thin here, but this does have the advantage of maintaining clarity with these non-traditional instrumental combinations.