Berg, Hensel, Wolfram Wagner, Wagendristel, Schoenberg
I suppose I knew it would be an odd concert when the most musical piece on the program was the one by Arnold Schoenberg. But Ensemble LUX played everything about as well as this music can ever be performed, which I suppose made up for the music itself.
The concert opened with Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata #1 transcribed for string sextet. The transcription actually worked quite well in this arrangement, but made me wonder throughout how unbelievably awful this piece would have sounded in its original version for piano. I’m certain I do not want to find out.
Next came three pieces by living composers (two in attendance – the third was not there because his flight got stuck in a snowstorm in Frankfurt), which I understand were fun to play but less fun to listen to. The first two (Klärchens Lied by Daniel Hensel and Five Moments by Wolfram Wagner) at least qualified as curiosities, but the third (Double Trio by Alexander Wagendristel), being given its world premiere, was utter nonsense. The concept of this last piece was intriguing – rather than writing for sextet, Wagendristel wrote for two trios. But if he was doing that, he should have written two separate but related trios played simultaneously; that would have shown talent and imagination. Instead, I am not really sure what we got but a pile of notes, shrieks, and thumps, where the only innovation was seating the sextet violin-viola-cello-cello-viola-violin.
The final piece was Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht in its original version for sextet. Good performance, but I prefer this piece in its revised version for string orchestra. The original version for sextet performed here just comes off as too thin, even when the instrumentalists are good.