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12.7.11

Second Viennoiserie

available at Amazon
Berg / Webern / Schoenberg, Quatuor Diotima, S. Piau, M.-N. Lemieux

(released on February 22, 2011)
Naïve V 5240 | 64'23"
The Quatuor Diotima has captivated my ears enough times, both in concert and on disc, that the names of two favorite singers, Sandrine Piau and Marie-Nicole Lemieux, were only the icing on the pastry of this recent release. The program brings together three pieces for string quartet and solo voice, by the big three composers of the Second Viennese School. This is a combination that was somewhat in vogue in the 20th century, as composers looked for ways to revive the string quartet genre after it had run out of steam in the previous century. The other examples that come to mind, like Ginastera's third quartet or Vaughan Williams' On Wenlock Edge, are really song cycles with string quartet accompaniment. The Diotima proceeds from Schoenberg's second quartet, with its third and fourth movements with Piau, radiant and enigmatic, to two oddities. Webern's six bagatelles, op. 9, each no more than a delightfully unexpected sonic bite, are presented with the lagniappe of a seventh bagatelle, never published, with a truly odd little poem sung in the velvety contralto of Lemieux, a compressed expression of grief for the composer's dead mother. For good measure, they include Berg's gorgeous Lyric Suite, in the recently restored version with a vocal part added to the Largo Desolato movement: the hidden words that reveal the amorous program of the work are a poem by Baudelaire, a blasphemous paraphrase of Psalm 129, with the lover crying out to his beloved when he is unable to sleep. That the final work is recorded complete lifts this disc over a similar disc released by the Petersen Quartett a couple years ago, with Christine Schäfer on the soprano part, as good as it apparently was.

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