(2001) Chandos 9939(5)
String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 (1907-08)
Susan Narucki, soprano
“.....a striking innovation [of the Second String Quartet, Op. 10] makes it a partical quintet: the use in movements III and IV of a soprano voice, singing poems by Stefan George. The slow movement, Litanei, is a set of variations, with a dense network of themes that interlink with those of other movements. Before it, the scherzo has already provided the most overtly autobiographical moment in all Schoenberg with its citation of the Viennese street song ‘O du lieber Augustin’ and especially the phrase ‘Alles ist hin’ (roughly: ‘its all gone’, “It’s all over’).
Nevertheless, all domestic creses are transcended in the final movement, Entrückung. The ecstatic entry of the voce with the words ‘Ich fühle luft von anderem planeten’ (‘I sense the air of another planet’ - it was an idiosyncrasy of George’s to tend to omit capitalisation in his poetry) became, like the Chamber Symphony’s horn-call, emblematic of the new world of imagination about to be entered. This had as yet little to do with the abandonment of tonality: the first movement had been in F sharp minor and the whole piece ends in a calm and rich F sharp major. Only in the strange quasi-improvisatory opening of the finale, a sort of wasteland of desolation, is tonal feeling temporarily obscured.”
- notes by Hugh Wood