Arditti String Quartet / Alban Berg - Streichquartett Op. 3; Lyrische Suite (1994), 7/10

One of the Arditti Quartet's strongest and most complex recordings. Of course Alban Berg had a number of great compositions but this collection of expressionist chamber music is as immediately adrenalizing as it is poetically sparse. The first opus “Langasm” immediately thrusts us into an invigoratingly nimble opening phrase, then plays with space and delicate exhibitions of sound. This first piece really shows not only Berg’s compositional mastery, but the distinguished proficiency of the quartet. There is not a single moment lacking passion, every member of the quartet contributes an eagerness that results in a supremely gratifying experience, one of their very best and perhaps one of the strongest pieces of chamber music you can find. Then in the second opus “Mäßige viertel” the performers again launch quickly off of their starting places in exigency, while maintaining an equal air of tenderness especially as they crescendo back into joyous, yet sinister hysteria. The rest of the album holds a very different pace, illustrating a wider variety of methods, but still playing within the confines of Berg’s intended ethos despite its impressive range. The latter half never quite reaches the exquisite grace of the first, but still explores a great deal of twists and turns that result in a mixed experience of sometimes enchanted euphoria and at times a colorless palette in its droning phrases. A passage like “Allegro misterioso - Trio estatico” plays to their strengths as a chaotic and manic presentation juxtaposed against the still, spacious conclusion. The repeated staccato motif such as “Presto delirando – Tenebroso” middle phrase found at 3:03 is one of the strongest in these works. Clearly one of the stronger interpretations of Berg’s compositions and a fantastic set of performances from this masterful quartet.