The Belgian group Het Collectief is releasing a recording of music by Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg on the Franco-Belgian label ALPHA. The five members of Het Collectief that participate in the project are Toon Fret, Julien Hervé, Wibert Aerts, Martijn Vink, and Thomas Dieltjens.

The album includes Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, in Eduard Steuermann’s version for piano trio, Anton Webern’s transcription of Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, Berg’s piano sonata no. 1, arranged by Tim Mulleman, and Berg’s arrangement of the adagio movement from his own Chamber Concert.

By the time the 28-year-old Arnold Schoenberg saw the 1902 world premiere of his Verklärte Nacht he had begun to make inroads into the Vienna music world. But nothing had prepared even the most sophisticated of listeners for what Schoenberg had in store for them. Yet, today, 123 years later, our ears welcome the harmonic unpredictability of Schoenberg’s tone poem as exuberant Romantic program music clad in relatively tame dissonance.

In Eduard Steuermann’s version for piano trio – a reduction of the original setting for string sextet – the ear thrills to Schoenberg’s harmonic intricacies, prominently kept up front and center and marvelously executed by Hervé, Aerts, and Dieltjiens. The intensity of Schoenberg’s response to Richard Dehmel’s emotionally charged poem about love and betrayal is all there in the boldly assertive playing of Hervé, Aerts, and Dieltjens, who deliver a memorable performance that does not stint on passion.

Webern’s transcription of Schoenberg’s five-movement Chamber Symphony streamlines the original instrumentation of fifteen instruments to flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, providing flutist Toon Fret, clarinetist Julien Hervé, violinist Wibert Aerts, cellist Martijn Vink, and pianist Thomas Dieltjens with music now lushly lyrical, now angularly dramatic that they play with precise clarity. 

Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata No. 1, in an arrangement by Tim Mulleman transforms Berg’s early work into a compellingly accessible chamber music piece in which all five members of Het Collectief participate, while Berg’s own arrangement of the Adagio movement from his 12-tone Kammerkonzert for 15 players is rigorously intellectual.

I look forward to future releases that feature the Het Collectief in more music from the Second Viennese School.

Rafael de Acha © 2023

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