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David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2007

Anton Webern's name is so closely associated with his mentor, Arnold Schoenberg, we tend to forget that when they first met, Schoenberg had hardly begun his journey into the world of atonality. Being part of the late Romantic composers had been Schoenberg's early objective, and it was only with the passing of time that he and his pupils, Webern and Berg, formed the Second Viennese School. Thus we begin this disc of Webern's complete works for voice and piano with three groups of songs in the musical world of Brahms and Schumann, his mood often introspective as it concentrates on sheer beauty. Songs were numerically to make more than half of his life's work, and as we progress through the years, they increasingly follow his obsession with brevity, some of his later songs timed in seconds rather than minutes. Having fallen totally under the influence of Schoenberg from the opus 3 songs onwards we move to music more challenging to the listener than to the performers. Mainly working in shades of grey they make for a rather monochrome whole, though I have heard performances that employ to good effect a wider dynamic range. Now working mainly as a teacher and the writer of several books on the art of singing, the Moscow-born soprano, Svetlana Savenko is particularly happy in the quiet songs when her unforced voice floats effortlessly. She is partnered by the excellent Yuri Polubelov, the recording made in the Moscow film studio which is rather lively for song recitals. Available in the Naxos 'Limited Edition' range.

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