Fred Sherry String Sextet / Fred Sherry String Quartet

Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht; String Quartet No. 1; Four Canons

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Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht; String Quartet No. 1; Four Canons Review

by Blair Sanderson

Arnold Schoenberg's innovations in modernist music established him as one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, but his youthful works grew out of the intensely chromatic style of the late 19th century, when composers were still under the powerful sway of Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt. The string sextet Verklärte Nacht is perhaps the clearest example of Schoenberg's late Romantic expression, for its harmony is clearly Wagnerian, in the rich vein of Tristan und Isolde, and it is indebted to the vaguely literary tone poems of Liszt. The String Quartet No. 1 in D minor is more classically structured, albeit in a greatly expanded form, though the music constantly modulates with tortured counterpoint that weaves in an out of unstable chromatic progressions, and the intense expressions Schoenberg communicates are similar to the restless emotions of Verklärte Nacht. The Four Canons, taken from the larger collection of 30 Canons, are not Romantic essays, but exercises Schoenberg used to keep his mind agile. This album is a volume in Naxos' Robert Craft Collection, and the performances by the Fred Sherry String Quartet and the Fred Sherry String Sextet are among the most focused and committed that can be found. Listeners trying to appreciate Schoenberg's development would do well to use this CD as a starting point.

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