Alban Berg Ensemble in Innsbruck

The Alban Berg Ensemble was invited to inaugurate the chamber music series at the new ‘Haus der Musik’ in Innsbruck.

5* review for Le Concert de l’Hostel Dieu in London

“Franck-Emmanuel Comte’s production – part whimsy, part scholarship – combined with the excellence of all the performers, made for an inspiring, sparkling and entertaining evening… The singing was perfection from all concerned, but the two upper voices – the soprano Heather Newhouse Peraldo and the contralto Anthea Pichanick Contralto – need special mention.’
Read the full 5* review in London’s MusicOMH here:


Hans Swarowsky Exhibition, Vienna State Opera

Prior to the upcoming revised edition of Hans Swarowsky’s writings on Music the Vienna State Opera House is hosting an exhibition titled Hans Swarowsky: Conductor – Teacher – Pianist – Translator – Writer. The revised edition of ‘Wahrung der Gestalt’, first edited by Manfred Huss for Universal Edition in 1979, will subsequently be published for the first time in English (Universal Edition) and Italian (Il Saggiatore). Puskas International artist management and consultancy is delighted to have been invited to contribute to the conception and curation of the project in collaboration with the Hans Swarowsky Akademie in Vienna. The exhibition opens on 23rd October and will be on till early January.

Partnership Squire Artists & Puskas International

In September 2018 Squire Artists and Puskas International artists management & consultancy will be launching a large-scale strategic international partnership with a view to jointly representing a pool of selected artists and ensembles in general management and developing projects together. Each agency will retain its own distinct profile, roster and projects, but will collaborate on artist development for a growing pool of international soloists, chamber music ensembles, orchestras & conductors.

Jesko Sirvend LIVE ON ARTE

To end his first season as Chef Assistant with the Orchestre National de France, Jesko Sirvend is closing the Palazzetto Bru Zane Festival with this Gounod Gala at the Auditorium de Radio France. Live on ARTE CONCERT FR on 16th June, 8pm CET and available on VOD until 17th June 2019:

Le Concert de l’Hostel Dieu live on ARTE WEB

Hip Hop meets Baroque:
‘Folia’, Mourad Merzouki’s collaboration with Le Concert de l’Hostel Dieu live from the ‘Nuits de Fourviere’ festival on ARTE WEB. Live at 21:30 local time, and for another 12 months to catch up.

Alban Berg Ensemble Wien live on Radio Klassik

Am 19. Mai musizierte das Alban Berg Ensemble Wien im Brahms-Saal des Wiener Musikvereins sein viertes und letztes Konzert im aktuellen Saison-Zyklus. Am Programm standen die „Bruchstücke“ aus Alban Bergs Wozzeck in einer eigens für das Ensemble angefertigten Fassung von Martyn Harry und die 4. Symphonie von Gustav Mahler in der Fassung für Kammerensemble vom Arnold Schönberg-Schüler Erwin Stein. Ursula Magnes lässt den umjubelten Abend Revue passieren.

BERGfrühling (4) and (5) – Dvořák, Berg, Schumann, and Schubert, 12 May 2018

Mark Berry reviews the BERGfrühling festival for his Boulezian blog.

St George’s Parish Church, Sternberg, and Alban Berg Saal, Carinthian Music Academy, Ossiach

Dvořák: String Quintet no.2 in G major, op.77, for string quartet and double bass

Berg: Four Pieces for piano and clarinet, op.5
Schumann: Piano Quartet in E-flat major, op.47
Schubert: Octet in F major, D 803

Alban Berg Ensemble Wien (Sylvia Careddu (flute), Alexander Neubauer (clarinet), Ariane Haering (piano), Sebastian Gürtler, Régis Bringolf (violins), Subin Lee (viola), Florian Berner (cello)), Rya Yoshimura (bassoon), Peter Dorfmayr (horn), Ivan Kitanović (double bass)

This year’s BERGfrühling closed in style with two final-day concerts: one at the lovely little Parish Church of St George, Sternberg/Strmec (in this part of Carinthia, one is very close indeed to Slovenia), the other back at Ossiach Abbey, now the home of the Carinthian Music Academy. At the former, we heard Dvořák’s Quintet, op.77, the little church full to the rafters. I found a place up in the organ loft, from where I could look – and listen – down to an equally lovely performance. I was struck immediately by the richness and sheer physicality of the string tone, the first movement, like its successors, proceeding at a well chosen tempo, with a fine sense of motivic cohesion and harmonic impetus. It thus perhaps sounded closer to Beethoven than one often hears, and was certainly none the worse for that. Not that ‘Bohemian’ lyricism was lost, far from it. Indeed, ‘local’ dance rhythms and melodies were transmuted into something more universal, nowhere more so than in the scherzo. Darker undertones were given their due, especially by the viola and cello. The melancholy lyricism of the third movement was permitted to speak, even to be savoured, without indulgence. An intangibly – sometimes tangibly too! – integrative finale again relied on motivic cohesion, or rather on its communication to round things off in duly good-natured style. Then it was out of the church for a little tasting of local produce.

Back in Ossiach, Berg, Schumann, and Schubert concluded the festival. I do not think I have heard a better performance of the Four Pieces for clarinet and piano, op.5 than this, from Alexander Neubauer and Ariane Haering, both musicians clearly in their element. The first piece exuded Schoenbergian lyricism, horizontally and vertically: paradoxically perhaps – or not – given its tendency to aphorism. (Schoenberg could write aphoristically too, of course. When he and Berg do, it is striking how little they sound like Webern!) Weighting and tone quality sounded just right, an integral part of the work’s performance. A more fragmentary Busoni – the Busoni of, say, the Sarabande and Cortège – came to mind in the second piece, its line as long, or so it seemed, as those of the Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet heard the previous day, yet endlessly variegated too. The third piece, ‘Sehr rasch’ was sardonic, yet lightly rather than aggressively so: a Mahler movement telescoped, not unlike Webern perhaps in conception, and yet still very different in practice. It was a very different radicalism we heard in the final piece, imbued with an unmistakeably Bergian nostalgia, and yet related nevertheless, almost mystically, to Wozzeck too. Violent and serene, there were dialectics aplenty here.

Schumann’s Piano Quartet seemed to take leave from late Beethoven, prior to release in the exposition proper. If hardly carefree, it nevertheless spoke of joy in its post-Mozartian lot. (Given the key, E-flat major, one can hardly fail to think of certain Mozart works in that same key: KV 482, 493, etc.) Not that we were ever in any doubt that this was Schumann, of course, especially when it came to the piano writing – and performance, but there is perhaps something more Classical, not least in its very particular tension between major and minor, than in much of his music. Beethoven inevitably came to mind in the scherzo, but Mendelssohn too, for its opening proved truly featherlight, whilst lacking nothing in harmonic grounding. Its fantastical paths spoke unmistakeably, though, of a darker, more troubled woodland. Over in the twinkling of any eye, it prepared us for the necessary contrast of the Andante cantabile, ardent lyricism to the fore. A few intonational lapses could readily be overlooked for chamber music with such a heart. The final fizzed as post-Mozartian Sekt: necessary release. There were darker passages too, of course, a battle still to be won, yet we knew that it would be.

Additional woodwind caught one’s ear from the off in Schubert’s Octet. Here, aptly for so welcoming a festival, we found ourselves in the world of superior Hausmusik. The first movement offered space and dynamism. For all that one can and should delight in this music, it needs direction, which it certainly received. Likewise the Adagio never dragged, whilst remaining very much an Adagio in character. There was darkness at its heart, but light too. The scherzo gloried in its evocation of rusticity (not the same thing as rusticity itself!) Like the first trio in the previous day’s Mozart Clarinet Quintet, the trio both relaxed and intensified, Florian Berner’s cello a guiding presence here in its counterpoint. The theme and variations developed with purpose, a rebuke to those – there are still many – who underestimate classical variation form (perhaps excepting the Diabelli Variations). All musicians shone individually, yet, more important still, as an ensemble. There was more post-Mozartian delight, but also pathos and tumult in the minor mode. The strange minuet proved melancholic without exaggeration, preparing the way for the extraordinary introduction to the finale, imbued with foreboding, close to Beethoven, yet never quite to be identified with him. The main body of the movement emerged as if a storm had passed, with the colours one might thereby expect. There were reminders, yes, of what had passed, yet, as with Schumann, it was clear where we were heading. And once we had reached that destination, what was more fitting than to round off with a little Johann Strauss, the Kaiser-Walzer, as arranged by Schoenberg? A delightful end to a delightful festival.
Berg 4 5

BERGfrühling (3) – Haydn, Berg, and Brahms, 11 May 2018

Mark Berry reviews the BERGfrühing festival for his Boulezian blog.

Alban Berg Saal, Carinthian Music Academy, Ossiach, 11.5.2018 (MB)

Haydn, arr. Johann Peter Salomon: Symphony no.104, in D major, ‘London’
Berg: Lyric Suite
Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor, op.34

Alban Berg Ensemble Wien (Sylvia Careddu (flute), Alexander Neubauer (clarinet), Ariane Haering (piano), Sebastian Gürtler, Régis Bringolf (violins), Subin Lee (viola), Florian Berner (cello)) Ivan Kitanović (double bass)

We think that we know a broader range of music than ever before, or at least that we can. Everything is there, often at the mere click of a mouse. Perhaps we do. Or perhaps not. So many nineteenth-century households knew Haydn’s, Mozart’s, Beethoven’s symphonies, and many more works, through playing them in piano duet versions. Other domestic chamber arrangements existed too, even at the time of first performance. Johann Peter Salomon’s chamber versions, often highly flexible regarding instrumentation, are a case in point. And Salomon knew the London Symphonies; he had, after all, commissioned them, and brought Haydn to London for that purpose. Indeed, those symphonies have sometimes also been called Haydn’s Salomon Symphonies. The twelfth and final of that set, and the last one of all, remains, of course, his singular London Symphony; it was that which we heard this evening, in Salomon’s arrangement, here for flute, piano, string quartet, and double bass.

Such arrangements tend to be more rewarding for players than for listeners, but it remains fascinating to hear them from time to time, not only as documents of taste, but also, often, for what they permit us to hear in the musical argument itself – if only because we are compelled, or at least invited, to listen differently. The first movement’s introduction proved broad, yet broad as chamber rather than symphonic music: just right, in many ways. The Allegro I perhaps found less convincing as a whole, although it grew on me. It seemed that Salomon allocated a little too much to the piano: fun for the pianist, no doubt, but did it quite work for the listener? Nevertheless, the players understood and communicated its formal dynamism, offering a fine sense of arrival at the close of the development. The Andante walked quickly, which made sense in a chamber version, and was far from inflexible. There was an almost – I stress ‘almost’ – Beethovenian vehemence in the central section, without abandoning its Baroque roots. The minuet again worked well, taken almost as a scherzo. However, I found the finale, especially its drone bass – perhaps surprisingly, given the presence of a double bass – lent itself less well to these particular forces. There were a few intonational slips too.

Berg’s Lyric Suite is, of course, ‘the real thing’, and what a thing it proved here, in work and in performance. We began in the thick of it: in medias res, if you prefer. Unfailingly alert and generative, the first movement set the scene for the explicit – in more than one sense – drama to come. Its successor seemed to partake in the erotic worlds of both Wozzeck and Lulu, whilst remaining quite rightly itself. What especially struck me was the fine command of what Wagner termed the melos of the work: its line or thread. Whispering, scurrying confidences, almost on the cusp of Ligeti, characterised the third movement, whose closeness also to Tristan und Isolde was never in doubt. The rich, mahogany sound of the quartet, married to the delirium of Berg’s argument, intensified that sense of Tristan in the Adagio appassionato. ‘Du bist mein Eigen’ is the celebrated Zemlinsky quotation. Quite. Afterglow lingered, yet not too long for us to regret its passing, greater tension then reignited, leading us necessarily into the motive-led vehemence of the fifth movement: at least as intense, differently so. The final movement sounded just as marked: Largo desolato. Eroticism, Tristan in particular, remained. And then, it subsided, but into what?

Brahms’s F minor Piano Quintet followed. There was much to admire here, much to get our teeth into, and again there was much to be gleaned from the programming, hearing it after both Haydn and Berg. In the first movement, there seemed to me more than a little of Schumann’s Florestan and Eusebius too. Was there a little too much? Did the argument threaten to break down? I was genuinely unsure, and unquestionably benefited from being compelled to listen: to find out, as it were. Brahms is difficult, and should never sound otherwise. That difficulty, to the point of collapse, however manifested itself more clearly, problematically in the rhythmic contradictions of the second movement. The scherzo, no more a joke than in Chopin, proved more successful, at least to my ears – and mind’s ears. Its fury rightly hung over the trio too. The finale offered, again, something of both worlds. Its introduction seemed to pick up where late Beethoven had left off, the Allegro non troppo offering a degree of relief, yet with a keen sense that there remained a long way to go. I enjoyed the danger, the sense of losing oneself, but did it quite add up? Should it have done? Ultimately, did Brahms not need something a little more integrative? I was made to ask such questions, though: no bad thing at all.

BERGfrühling (2) – Debussy, Webern, and Mozart, 11 May 2018

Mark Berry reviews the BERGfrühling Festival for his Boulezian blog.
Alban Berg Saal, Carinthian Music Academy, Ossiach

Debussy, arr. Michael Webster: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, for flute, clarinet, and piano
Webern: String Quartet (1905)
Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A major, KV 581

Alban Berg Ensemble Wien (Sylvia Careddu (flute), Alexander Neubauer (clarinet), Ariane Haering (piano), Sebastian Gürtler, Régis Bringolf (violins), Subin Lee (viola), Florian Berner (cello)

Continuing to echo, rather to imitate, Schoenberg’s Society for Private Performances, BERGfrühling’s second concert opened not with Benno Sachs’s arrangement of Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, but with a version for flute, clarinet, and piano by Michael Webster. It worked very well, I thought, for which much of the credit must of course go to the performers: Sylvia Careddu, Alexander Neubauer, and Ariane Haering. The opening solo goes to the flute, of course; Careddu played it in wonderfully free fashion, as if new, as if without bar lines. She was answered by Neubauer, equally impressive, opening up a fascinating flute-clarinet duet – usually statement and response, but sometimes together – with piano ‘accompaniment’. I am not sure that I did not prefer it to the Sachs ensemble version – or perhaps it was the excellence of the performance.

London buses famously take their time and then appear in twos. Such has certainly been my experience with Webern’s 1905 String Quartet, one of the many works discovered by Hans Moldenhauer after the composer’s death. I heard it for what I think was the first time ‘live’ only this January, from the Hagen Quartet at London’s Wigmore Hall. If anything, I think this performance from members of the Alban Berg Ensemble, resident here at BERGfrühling, was better still. It certainly had me think and think again about this extraordinary early work. (Which, one might well ask, of Webern’s works is not extraordinary? The over-performed Im Sommerwind, perhaps, but that has undeniable charms too.) The first of the single-movement-work’s three sections opened perhaps not unlike it had with the Hagens: still, and yet it moved. Warm yet febrile – an almost unavoidable word with much Webern – this performance had nothing generically ‘late Romantic’ to it. This may not be the Webern of his op.28 Quartet, but it is undeniably Webern.

The players shaped the music’s progress as if it were a repertoire work, which it undoubtedly should be, and perhaps is for them, without taking anything for granted. Schoenbergian tendencies were clear without being overwhelming, thereby mirroring and interpreting the work itself. Then came sweet, yet not too sweet, serenity, which also yet moved. Schoenbergian development soon had the better of that serenity, both in work and performance, furthering a sense of something at least approaching transfiguration (Verklärung). Such was enabled, it seemed to me at least, by a performance that was spacious not in the sense of being slow, but in the sense of an inviting clarity that permitted us to take in the music and its implications: to travel, as it were, with the players, interpreters ourselves. The return to stillness at the close was in essence not a return at all, for this, quite rightly, proved a very different, quite wondrous stillness, finely won.

The Hagen Quartet, joined by Jörg Widmann, had also given us Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in that Wigmore concert. One can never hear that work too often, of course, at least when performed with the distinction it not only deserves but requires. Musical performance is not a competition; at least it should not be. If I give the Alban Berg Ensemble the edge in Webern and the Hagens the edge in Mozart, the important thing is that both offered much – and indeed offered quite different performances. The first movement, not inappropriately for a festival of this name, perhaps evoked spring rather than autumn; there was certainly no hint of sepia, Romantic or otherwise. Perhaps that was partly a matter of our hearing Mozart through Webern, more through programming than performance as such, yet none the less welcome for that – not unlike Christoph von Dohnányi’s revelatory Cleveland recordings pairing the two composers. Developing variation did not, after all, start with Brahms. Neubauer’s liquid tone did not preclude the most alert of musical responses. Indeed, the two incited the other, nowhere more so than in a development section which, with true grit and vehemence, truly developed, before subsiding into a recapitulation in which the old became new.

Serenity, this time more or less unbesmirched, characterised the slow movement. That is not to say that it was without incident, far from it, but that its own developing variation was heard in an almost Wagnerian unendliche Melodie. (The two, as Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern would all show, have far more in common than ‘Brahmsian’ and ‘Wagnerian’ partisans would ever have admitted, or indeed appreciated.) A tone of hushed awe quite rightly drew us in. The minuet flowed swiftly, as if in a single breath. Its first trio relaxed, yet intensified; here, the players seemed to say, is the truly ‘learned’ music. The second trio tellingly mediated between both tendencies. If the finale can readily be taken too insouciantly, we were here reminded that this is serious music, long before the turn to the minor mode. Not that this was unsmiling, but it was perhaps champagne rather than prosecco. Given the location, it was perhaps inevitable that I should think of a mountain lake when we came to the Adagio variation. This was, however, a Lake Ossiach situated in a greater Carinthian landscape, and thus all the more beautiful for it. Before, that is, Mozart-as-not-quite-Papageno rounded things off.

BERGfrühling (1) – Schubert, Weber, and Berg, 10 May 2018

Mark Berry reviews the Bergfrühling Festival on his Boulezian blog:
Alban Berg Saal, Carinthian Music Academy, Ossiach

Schubert: Quintet in A major, D 667, ‘Trout’
Weber: Trio for flute, cello, and piano in G minor, op.63
Berg, arr. Martyn Harry: Fragments from ‘Wozzeck’ (world premiere)

Alban Berg Ensemble Wien (Sylvia Careddu (flute), Alexander Neubauer (clarinet) Ariane Haering (piano), Sebastian Gürtler, Régis Bringolf (violins), Subin Lee (viola), Florian Berner (cello)) Ivan Kitanović (double bass)

The Vienna-based Alban Berg Ensemble is hosting its first BERGfrühling (Berg Spring) festival, in Ossiach, home to the Carinthian Music Academy, close to the Berg family estate, aptly enough called the Berghof, where the young Alban would spend his summer holidays. Four out of the five concerts will take place in the CMA’s Alban Berg Saal, a splendid new hall with an excellent acoustic, three with a work by Berg on the programme, the other with a piece by his fellow Schoenberg pupil, Webern; the fifth, a performance of a Dvořák’s G major String Quintet, op.77, will be heard in the parish church of St Georg, in nearby Sternberg. (Whether referring to mountains or composers, the word ‘Berg’ is rarely far away here.)

It was with, Schubert, one of the most indispensable forerunners of the Second Viennese School, that the festival opened, members of the ensemble joined by double bass player Ivan Kitanović for the Trout Quintet. The resonance of that bright A major chord, piano arpeggio included, seemed to announce both ensemble and acoustic in one: as it should be. A cultivated yet clear sound characterised a first movement full of tension, yet never aggressively so, the second group relaxed in the best sense, permitting a further increase of tension to propel us into the serious business of development. Modulations retained, or better revealed, their magic. Harmonic tension built and then exhausted itself, not unlike Mendelssohn, the onset of the recapitulation almost yet not quite imperceptible. A poised, almost chaste Andante sounded in almost neo-Classical style (vis-à-vis Mozart, that is, rather than anything Stravinskian!) It made me listen – and think. And yet, was it not too late for chastity? Such was subtly hinted at too, especially as the movement progressed. A propulsive reading of the scherzo, not without Beethovenian affinities – elective or otherwise – was counterbalanced by a somewhat neutral trio, but perhaps that was the point.

Having seen the wondrous Ossiacher See only that afternoon – the Abbey, now the Academy, stands by the lake – it was especially lovely to welcome the freshwater fish of the fourth movement theme and variations, here characterful, without overstatement. Well seasoned, one might say. There was plenty of time and space left to build, preparing for true vehemence in the minore fourth variation. I loved cellist Florian Berner’s shaping of his melody in the fifth: aristocratic, without aloofness. The final variation took us to the coffee house: where better a place to round off proceedings? The finale seemed, almost likewise, to hint at Brahms, whilst rightly remaining very much of its own time. Our tragedy, as well as its, may well be to be too late for Mozart; yet, as Brahms would counsel, there are sometimes worse things than lateness.

Weber’s trio for flute, cello, and piano, op.63 is an engaging, if sometimes perplexing, oddity. The first movement proved more fantasia- than sonata-like, likewise the finale. It was often not entirely clear what the material was doing where it was, nor how their tonal structure might operate. And yet, even there, there were hints of something darker, more Freischütz-like. The second movement scherzo benefited from nicely sprung rhythms and a pleasing semi-rusticity for its ‘trio’ material. Those two tendencies are more bound together in a single dance – and here, the music certainly danced. A beautifully posed ‘Schäfers Klage’ (‘Shepherd’s Lament’) was the highpoint, subtle in its navigation between Classical and Romantic tendencies – as one must be in Weber, or Schubert for that matter. It is a truly fascinating movement, all the more so in so illuminating a performance as this.

For the final work, we turned to Berg: to the world premiere of Martyn Harry’s arrangement for the ensemble of the composer’s own Fragments from ‘Wozzeck’, echoing the celebrated performances of Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performances. The opening sounded on a knife-edge, between something frozen and molten lava: not unlike Bartók, perhaps. A labyrinth opened up before our ears, making us listen and listen anew, to find our way around something we thought we knew, yet perhaps did not after all. Indeed, for the first two fragments at least, I listened in more ‘abstract’ fashion, less heedful of the plot. Clarinet echoes from Berg’s op.5 Four Pieces led us, via Pierrot lunaire, so it seemed, into a whirling martial vortex: even here, the Captain seemed more an ‘instrumental character’ than reminiscence of a stage performance. The flute sang too, duetting, engaging with other instruments, bringing the ensemble to life – or perhaps to death.

In the second fragment, the viola came to the front: literally, Subin Lee acting as our instrumental Marie. Eloquent, even desperate, she (Marie, the viola, the violist?) remained splendidly collegiate; this was always true chamber music. In some ways, the music’s context within Berg’s instrumental œuvre came to seem clearer, or at least newly, even differently, emphasised. Curiously – in the best sense – enigmatic, it was very much the centre-piece to an aural triptych. Marie confounded us again, or perhaps Berg did, or Harry: surely, in practice as well as in theory, all three did. The drowning music with which the final fragment opens sounded properly hallucinatory, lulling, drawing us in as society draws in future Wozzecks. The ‘D-minor-ness’ of what followed somehow sounded underlined, its richness not quite that of nineteenth-century chamber music: perhaps, rather, of that music remembered, as both cage and liberation for Berg. Alexander Neubauer’s clarinet deputised for the children’s song to follow: childlike or childish? Certainly sardonic. The halt to which the music came chilled, as ever.


BERG Fruehling in Ossiach: the start of the Alban Berg Ensemble’s new festival at the Ossiacher See with the support of the Alban Berg Foundation (available until 17.05.)
BERG Fruehling