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Stephen D Chakwin Jr
American Record Guide, January 2012

These players are skilled and polished. Their performance of the Suite is the best since Atherton and about as good as I can imagine. The sheer buoyancy of the playing in the overture and the variations and the, heaven help us, dance-like feel to II and IV are a delight.

Zahir plays the piece in the Webern arrangement for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano; and, for the first time in decades of experience listening and performing this work, I did not feel that the arrangement was a poor substitute for the original. The tempos are swift, the playing is superb, and both the bright and dark sides of this masterpiece are perfectly presented.

The sound is lovely—clean and honest like the performances. This is a classic: a fine introduction to Schoenberg for people who don’t know his music and a great treat for people who know and love it. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

James H. North
Fanfare, November 2011

There have been a good many recordings of the Suite, but most have disappeared from the catalog. There remain fine ones by Pierre Boulez and Robert Craft, but my favorite has been a 1970s recording played by members of the London Sinfonietta, led by David Atherton, on a Decca disc. This performance by a Spanish ensemble puts them all to shame, with its brilliance, grace, and humor. All of which is aided by a startlingly vivid recording.

I’ve played this CD three times now, and I’ve been glowing and smiling broadly the whole time. What an enjoyable disc!

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, July 2011

In an always-stimulating program of two major works of Arnold Schoenberg, the Zahir Ensemble under Juan Garcia Rodriguez shows why it has been one of Spain’s national treasures since its founding in 2005 in Seville. The flair and precision they demonstrate in the composer’s Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 and his Suite, Op. 29 bring both works into a perspective from which we can assess the (very) original qualities of each.

Though neither work can be considered an example of Schoenberg’s revolutionary 12-tone techique, the fact that neither has a generally accepted key signature shows that his thoughts were moving in the direction of the chromatic scale as a basis for composition. The Suite is sometimes listed as a Septet, though the problem of coordinating an unusual ensemble consisting of two clarinets, a bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and piano, while still maintaining the transparency of authentic chamber music, has usually led (as here) to the necessity ofr a conductor. The members of the Zahir Ensemble display a definite zest for the piquant qualities of a work that manages to simultaneously pay tribute to the received ethos of the previous era in music and playfully thumb its nose at it. The Ouverture, for example, is based on the rhythms of the Ländler, an Austrian folk dance that hadn’t been accustomed to such hectic treatment, and the second movement, Dance-steps (Tanzschritte) plays like an clever send-up of a Polka. The third, Theme and Variations, has unexpected spots of pure lyricism in the interplay of the clarinets and the strings. The finale is a Gigue with unflagging energy and a scintillating coda to wrap matters up.

The Chamber Symphony is one of Schoenberg’s finest works, and it gets de luxe treatment here. It is a beautifully crafted work in which all the elements of a symphony (introduction, first movement exposition, scherzo, slow movement, and a finale with an impetuous coda) are telescoped to little more  than 20 minutes in the form of a continuously unfolding single movement. The lyrical element is abundant here in the arrangement Anton Weber made for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano of the original 15-instrument work, a move that highlights its expressive beauty.

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