Verklärte Nacht, with Dawson White, viola & Annamarie Reader, cello
String Quartet No. 1 in B minor, Op. 50
Despite little interest or output in the realm of chamber music, Prokofiev was commissioned to write his String Quartet No. 1 (1931) by the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation of the Library of Congress. The study he did in preparation for the work lingers throughout, with traces of Beethoven’s legacy dotting the musical landscape. Prokofiev was well aware of his influence, but taken altogether, this work is distinctly Russian and distinctly Prokofiev.
Arnold Schoenberg’s “Verklärte Nacht” (1899) sets a dramatic tale to music, spinning a half-hour love story in one uninterrupted thread. It sets the Richard Dehmel’s poem of the same name to a lush and emotionally-charged sound world, depicting a woman’s difficult confession and her lover’s ultimate forgiveness as they walk through a forest lit by moonlight. Schoenberg’s masterful handling of harmony, aided with the additional depth of an extra viola and cello, bring this moving story to life.