Schoenberg String Quartet 2 with soprano

(Post prompted by an upcoming lunchtime performance at Wigmore Hall later this week on Wednesday.7.May.2014 – see below.)

This is a string quartet that – with no exaggeration – I love, so much so that I posted about it 18 months ago:

Adding to that: the 20th Century string quartets that mean most to me are Bartok’s 3rd, 4th and 5th, in that order. But after those comes Schoenberg’s 2nd Quartet, and maybe I’d put it above Bartok’s 4th and 5th. (But not above Bartoks’s 3rd: one thing that particularly appeals to me about the 3rd is its conciseness and compression.)

In my previous post I wrote:

* I love that he uses a soprano in the third and fourth movement, singing poems by Stefan George: sort of a chamber music equivalent of Beethoven introducing voices into the symphony in his ninth symphony.

* I really love the opening words of the second poem Schoenberg sets, which he uses in the last (fourth) movement of the quartet:
“I feel the air from other planets”.
I like those words just for themselves, but in the context of Schoenberg leaving late romanticism for something quite new, they are for me even more moving.

My previous post is useful for links, but adding to it:

* there is the wonderful opening of the fourth movement, where a three note figure is passed around the instruments, the music being on the edge of atonality.

My previous post has a link to part of a BBC Radio3 “Discovering Music” programme in which Stephen Johnson talks about Schoenbergs String Quartet 2. Stephen Johnson says:
“Entrucking [the title of the last movement – it’s a poem by Stefan George] is difficult to translate in one word: it’s the state of being transported or carried away or in a sense carried out of yourself … This is the point where Schoenberg steps into the void, the unknown, and creates an entirely new kind of music in the process.”

The following link is to the full programme, in which Stephen Johnson also talks about Schoenberg’s Five Orchestral Pieces, which were written a bit later than the second quartet. I highly recommend listening to the programme:

And Stephen Johnson talking about Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony Number 1 – Johnson is (as usual) engagingly enthusiastic about the music he is talking about:

Stefan George’s poem Entrucking, in German with some translations:

***** ***** Wigmore Hall concert at 13:00 Wednesday.7.May.2014 Wigmore Hall, 36 Wigmore Street, London W1U 2BP

Duration: This concert will be approximately one hour in duration with no interval.
Britten Sinfonia
Jacqueline Shave – violin
Miranda Dale – violin
Brett Dean – viola
Caroline Dearnley – cello
Allison Bell – soprano


Georg Tintner – The Ellipse (First & Fifth Movements)
Brett Dean – And once I played Ophelia (London première)*
Schoenberg – String Quartet No. 2 in F# minor Op. 10

*Co-commissioned by Britten Sinfonia and Wigmore Hall, with the support of André Hoffmann, president of the Fondation Hoffmann, a Swiss grant-making foundation

About this concert

Brett Dean began his career as a violist and played with the Berlin Philharmonic for more than a decade. Britten Sinfonia’s final At Lunch concert this Season includes the London première of his latest chamber work, with Dean among the performers. The Ellipse by another composer-performer, the Austrian-born Georg Tintner, and Schoenberg’s revolutionary Second String Quartet complete the programme.

More Schoenberg the same evening:
Duration: This concert will be approximately two hours in duration with a 20-minute interval.
Hilary Hahn – violin
Cory Smythe – piano


Schoenberg – Phantasy Op. 47
Schubert – Fantasy in C D934
Telemann – Fantaisie in E minor for solo violin TWV40:19
Richard Barrett – Shade
Antón García Abril – Three Sighs
Mozart – Violin Sonata in A K305

About this concert

A major presence on the international music scene since her mid-teens, Hilary Hahn has worked tirelessly to introduce new and neglected older compositions to the violin repertoire.

Her latest Wigmore Hall programme explores different approaches to the notion of fantasy in music, from Telemann’s dazzling contrapuntal Fantaisie in E minor and Richard Barrett’s wild Shade to Antón García Abril’s affecting ‘Sighs’.

About Colin Bartlett

I'm interested in arts, mathematics, science. Suliram is a partial conflation of the names of three good actors: Ira Aldridge, Anna May Wong, and another. My intention is to use a personal experience of arts to make some points, but without being too "me me me" about it. And to follow Strunk's Elements of Style. Except that I won't always "be definite": I prefer Niels Bohr's precept that you shouldn't write clearer than you think.
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