Alban Berg Ensemble Wien: ‘…the Vienna Philharmonic in miniature’

‘Stocked with musicians who have triumphed in international competitions and play in top-class orchestras around Austria and Germany, this ensemble is without doubt one of the great chamber ensembles of today, right up there with the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin and other famous formations. As the first gentle chords of the quintet ring out and Alexander Neubauer’s clarinet (deputy principle at the Vienna Symphony) begins its wondrous journey, the ensemble sounds like the Vienna Philharmonic in miniature.’

Yannick Eisenaecher reviews the opening concert of the Februari Festival in The Hague with the Alban Berg Ensemble Wien as Artists in Residence: ABEW HAAG

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:

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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