Transfigured Night brings together two outstanding composers associated with Vienna: Joseph Haydn and Arnold Schoenberg. The former is often seen as the oldest representative of the “First Viennese School”, whereas the latter founded the “Second Viennese School”, using the classicism of his predecessors to explore new, atonal musical paths into the twentieth century. By combining Haydn’s two cello concertos (in C-major and D-major) and Schoenberg’s symphonic poem Verklärte Nacht – in the 1943 edition for string orchestra – this album sheds a new, fascinating light on both Viennese masters.
The connection between the stylistically contrasting pieces on this album is further enhanced by the inspired playing of American cellist Alisa Weilerstein and the Trondheim Soloists. For Weilerstein, this album is not only a fascinating exploration of the rich Viennese musical heritage, but just as much a confrontation with the dark history of a city her grandparents had to flee in 1938. Transfigured Night is Weilerstein’s first album as an exclusive Pentatone artist, as well as the first album recorded with the Trondheim Soloists since her appointment as Artistic Partner of the ensemble in 2017.
Alisa Weilerstein – Cellist
Total time: 01:12:51
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|Original Recording Format|
Selbu Kirke, Trondheim, Norway in April 2018.
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|Release Date||August 24, 2018|
Alisa Weilerstein and the Trondheim Ensemble manage the feat of being throbbingly intense and meticulously exact, and this performance knocked me flat.
Faced with the Trondheim Soloists’ gutsy fervour as they beaver through the late romantic paroxysms in the string orchestra version of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, a casual listener might wonder: “What do they put in the water in Trondheim? How come the musicians have such zing?” Well, the players are young, which always helps, but aside from the water, or the Norwegian air, another reason must be the galvanising presence of the always exciting American cellist Alisa Weilerstein, the ensemble’s new artistic partner.
She gives us an immediate demonstration of her powers as the soloist in two Haydn cello concertos, music of an earlier Viennese age, although delivered with such volatile passion and flying fingers that no trace of dust remains. Even so, the interpretation that makes this album essential is the electrifying account of Schoenberg’s pivotal early piece (1899), based on Richard Dehmel’s enraptured poem about two lovers, a moonstruck forest and another man’s baby in the woman’s womb.
Here, Weilerstein is largely embedded in the ensemble, but she springs up for achingly soulful solo spots as the musical voice of the male lover, who hastens the night’s transfigurations by saying (although much more poetically): “It’s OK by me.”
Yet this truly is a group triumph. In the singing lines of this hypnotic work, the Trondheim ensemble manage the wonderful feat of being throbbingly intense and meticulously exact at the same time, and this performance knocked me flat. If it’s something they do put in the water, I’d like to get it bottled.
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