Berg Lyric Suite; Wellesz: Sonette der Elisabeth Barrett Browning, Op 52; Zeisl: Komm, süsser Tod

Reviewed on Mon 30 Nov, 2015

The Sonnets of Egon Wellesz, in German translations by Rainer Maria Rilke from Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese, are less well known but admirably sensitive, with bright tonal bursts within dense chromaticism.

This disc is the best recording of Berg’s epic Lyric Suite I have yet heard, surpassing even the still-wonderful Juilliard Quartet performance of 1962 in both expressive quality and in faithfulness to the score. It includes an additional sixth movement, in the version with added soprano solo that Berg composed for his beloved Hanna Fuchs-Robettin, a fact that was revealed to the world only in 1977. The Sonnets of Egon Wellesz, in German translations by Rainer Maria Rilke from Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese, are less well known but admirably sensitive, with bright tonal bursts within dense chromaticism. Eric Zeisl’s short Komm, süsser Tod would have been approved by Brahms. The Emerson String Quartet, one of the best ensembles in the world, does itself proud; Renée Fleming brings a rich voice and complete understanding to all the texts.
–Mark DeVoto