R. Hutchinson | a world ruled by fossil fuels and fossil minds | 11/27/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"All 31 works that Webern gave official Opus numbers on 3 discs, conducted by Boulez (not Kolbe!), with the Juilliard Quartet and the London Symphony Orchestra, and a superb booklet with commentary and lyrics -- so why only 4 stars? My objection is the strictly chronological presentation, and the fact that I am not won over by Webern's vocal works -- I would vastly prefer grouping the music by form. Everything is brilliantly performed, and Charles Rosen, who accompanies sopranos on piano on several pieces, plays with sparkling luminosity. But the reason I sought out this collection is because I wanted to hear Boulez's versions of Webern's masterpieces, the "Symphony (Op. 21)" and "Variations for Orchestra (Op. 30)," as well as the string trios and quartets. Here these instrumental works are mixed among the lieders, Webern's many vocal works, and I find this frustrating. I prefer hearing the instrumental pieces grouped together, as on the Dohnanyi or Sinopoli discs of orchestral works (see my reviews of both), or the Schoenberg or Emerson Quartet's discs of the string trios and quartets (see my reviews of both). Unfortunately there is not a Boulez disc comparable to the Dohnanyi (on London) or Sinopoli (on Teldec). So it's either this Sony box or the several more recently recorded discs on DG, unless of course you are a total Webern fanatic and want the Ultra-Complete box with all the numbered AND un-numbered pieces...
It's really hard to fault this excellent Webern collection. Obviously if you have a more catholic appreciation of Webern's music than I (including the vocal works), my criticism is irrelevant. If you are a completist on a budget, this is a clear choice over the more expensive box. But if you are looking for an introduction to Webern's music, the best of which is some of the best of the 20th century in my opinion, I suggest that you begin with 1) Dohnanyi and the Cleveland Orchestra, and 2) the Schoenberg Quartet.
[There is a mistake on the site. Pierre Boulez is the conductor, not Helmuth Kolbe. Careful inspection of the box reveals that Kolbe was the engineer...]"
Interesting and Challenging
Michael Newman | Long Beach, CA USA | 04/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't know if I "like" Webern, but he is certainly interesting and challenging. The textures of his music are very fragile and transparent. The pieces are extraordinarily economical (the average Webern piece, I would guess, is about two minutes in duration, maybe less). The dissonances are extreme (strange to say, twelve-tone music can vary in how dissonant it sounds, as some twelve-tone composers (Berg, for example) use "easier" tone rows as the bases of their works). Webern was a musician of great integrity, and he pushed twelve-tone music to the radical extreme (as compared his more conservative teacher, Schoenberg, and fellow-pupil, Berg.) Again, I don't know if it works, and I don't know if I like it. I will definitely continue to listen to it. What I definitely like is this wonderful recording, with performances lovingly rendered. For this reason, I'm giving the recording five stars. However, if you want an "easier" introduction to twelve-tone and atonal music, get Berg's Violin Concerto, or even Schoenberg's piano concerto. With respect to the Schoenberg piano concerto, Mitsuko Uchida's disc is wonderful, and is highly recommended."
Excellent Webern from the master Boulez and company.
paul best | new orleans | 09/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Boulez has a DG recording, which I have several singles from that set. The DG is very good and recommended as a second set. This Sony recording is outstanding and the finest in my Webern collection. If you have this set , you still may want to look at the DG set. Why? Because this music is so wonderful, so that another experience is well worth the price of say $40. But if you have the DG set, you definetly want to keep that set and also get this Sony set. Notice how few new Webern recordings are released. When conductors hear this set, I guess they feel its pointless to try to meet these standards. The artists here are all in excellent form and understanding of this extremely difficult but rewarding music."
Classic Recordings of a Musical Genius
Steven Dotson | St. Louis, MO United States | 01/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If one had to name two composers whose music set the course for the twentieth century, the names of Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg would probably most quickly come to mind. But in another way, Anton von Webern, who was a student of Schoenberg, is even more significant. If Schoenberg blazed the path, then Webern took several steps further. These miniatures are in every way a fit sucessor to the First Viennese School of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. The emphasis on form, precision and, in this case, concision, make these some of the most important works penned in the twentieth century. Pierre Boulez (himself a modern master and serialist) does great justice by them. In addition, we have such mid-20th century greats as the Juilliard String Quartet, Charles Rosen, Heather Harper, Gregor Piatigorsky, the John Alldis Choir and, of course (on the orchestral pieces), the LSO. Although these recordings may be or have been superceded in their interpretations, this is a collection that belongs in every music lover's library simply for its historic significance alone. The music itself will delight, astonish and broaden the perspectives of all who have an open heart and mind to receive it."