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SCHOENBERG Pelleas und Melisande / Erwartung

Anja Silja/Philharmonia Orchestra/Robert Craft

Naxos 8.557527 [69 mins]

This is nearly a recommendable release. I had in earlier life tended to dismiss (and avoid) Schoenberg's Pelleas und Melisande as overblown rather generalised late-romanticism, but in this recording, made in London's Abbey Road Studio One 1999, the polyphonic complexities - "neither before or since has any music for large orchestra offered so many layers of intertwined counterpoint" (Robert Craft) - are clarifiedby the Philharmonia and Craft so that they become exhilarating and not at all cloying.

The monodrama Erwartung is the perfect companion piece, but fatally lacks its libretto with translation; my impression is that it is being put across worthily by the great Anja Silja, and at Naxos price the disc should not be rejected.

The notes with synopsis run to five closely printed pages, but I always feel deprived if i cannot follow the words of what is, in all but name, a small opera, regularly given as such in the theatre and with surtitles, as at Covent Garden in 2006. I thought I'd done well to find the texts on Emily Ezust's compendious website, but alas there is only an early song of the same name...

Could not Naxos put it onto their website, as they do with so much vocal music?*

Peter Grahame Woolf

* q.v. similar comment re Die gluckliche Hand