Amalie Malling / Matthias Bamert / Michael Schønwandt

Arnold Schoenberg: Piano Concerto; Pelleas und Melisande

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Most recordings of Schoenberg's tone poem Pelleas und Melisande are of the blonde bombshell variety. They're big. They're built. They're over the top. And they can't act. Think of Barbirolli's, Böhm's, or especially Karajan's recordings: no matter how gorgeous they are and how emotional they get, the listener is ultimately left unmoved an unimpressed.

Not so in Matthias Bamert's 1988 recording with the Scottish National Orchestra. More of the slim, trim, tight, and taut variety, Bamert's Pelleas is transparent, translucent, luminous, radiant, beguiling, mysterious, tragic, and ultimately very, very moving. While this might not sound like the Pelleas that generations of listeners have learned to love, newer listeners who want to be seduced rather than bludgeoned might find Bamert's Pelleas more attractive.

Instead of Bamert's recording of Webern's Passacaglia, which appeared with the original release of Schoenberg's Pelleas, there is Schoenberg's Piano Concerto by pianist Amalie Malling with conductor Michael Schønwandt leading the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. While some may regret the loss of the Webern, others might appreciate the longer and rarer Piano Concerto, especially when played with such character and strength. Chandos' reissued sound is now as it was then very clean, but just a little bit too hard.

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