On this disc, the Juilliard String Quartet welcomes a couple of renowned guests, Yo-Yo Ma & Walter Trampler, to join them in performing the version of Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night for String Sextet. Then they trim things back to just a trio to perform Schoenberg’s String Trio no. 45. As you can tell from the Opus numbers, these pieces come from very different moments in Schoenberg’s career. Verklarte Nacht is one of his first works and the first to win wide-spread acclaim; the String Trio was written when he was seventy-two. This is a wonderful performance of these two pieces, drenched in emotion and very raw. Transfigured Night is inspired by a poem that follows a couple on a tempestuous night and it is a really great piece, spanning from really dark despair to quiet beauty and this group nails it. The String Trio was written after Schoenberg nearly died from an asthma attack and, after receiving an injection of adrenalin to his heart, spent three days in a state of delirium. He claimed that the entire trio played for him during those three days. It’s a lot more dissonant and atonal than Transfigured Night, of course, but it’s also really good and a piece I wasn’t familiar with. This is a short album. Usually classical albums find ways to fill out a disc by putting shorter works on the disc, but this album has an actual thematic arc to it – it’s clear that the people behind this disc wanted to put these two pieces in particular next to each other to compare and contrast them and so the disc is a brisk forty-five minutes or so. This one’s a really great one. 4 stars.
tl;dr – two great selections given passionate, raw readings; brisk and beautiful. 4 stars.