Renée Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet Capture Vienna’s Golden Age on new recording of works by Berg and Wellesz on september 11, 2015
August 13, 2015 (New York, NY) – Soprano Renée Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet join forces for a new recording of Berg’s intricately complex Lyric Suite and Egon Wellesz’s highly expressive setting of Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, released on Decca on September 11, 2015. It is the first collaboration on record of America’s reigning star soprano and its premier string quartet.
Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet join together for a special performance of this repertoire at SubCulture in New York City on September 16, 2015 at 7:30pm in celebration of the album release.
In addition to their performance, excerpts will be screened from an upcoming documentary by Hilan Warshaw, Lyric Suite: A Musical Love Story. The film captures the process of ESQ and Fleming rehearsing and recording the Lyric Suite and also includes cinematic re-enactments of the “secret program” inspired by Berg’s haunting masterwork. It will be broadcast on the Austrian network ORF.
The Lyric Suite is an enigmatic work, which is believed to reflect a secret program relating to Berg’s affair with novelist Franz Werfel’s sister. In the sixth and final movement Berg introduces the soprano voice and quotes Wagner’s Tristan motif to evoke his doomed, impossible love. It was, said the musicologist Theodor Adorno, a “latent opera.”
The five short pieces that comprise Egon Wellesz’s Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning were among the last works he completed before leaving Austria ahead of the “Anschluss” in 1938. On this recording they are heard in the original version for soprano and string quartet. The release also includes Erich Zeisl’s Komm, süßer Tod, a song suggesting the acceptance of death, arranged for soprano and string quartet by J. Peter Koene.
The Emerson String Quartet has accumulated an unparalleled list of achievements over three decades: more than thirty acclaimed recordings, nine Grammys® (including two for Best Classical Album), three Gramophone Awards, the Avery Fisher Prize, Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year” and collaborations with many of the greatest artists of our time. The arrival of cellist Paul Watkins in 2013 has had a profound effect on the Emerson Quartet, and the reconfigured group has been greeted with impressive accolades. In a season of over 85 quartet performances, the Emerson plays extensively throughout North America during 2015-16. In addition to multiple tours of Europe, they visit Moscow, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul. The Emerson continues its series at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC for its 36th season, and is presented by Lincoln Center’s “Great Performers” in a three-part series of late Haydn and early Beethoven string quartets in April and May.
This modernist Viennese repertoire is perfect for Renée Fleming, who is famed for what the Evening Standard called her “intense and luxurious” performances of Richard Strauss and Korngold, Berg and Mahler. When she gave a fin de siècle recital at the Barbican in 2012, Edward Seckerson wrote: “We were back in Vienna’s golden age and it seemed like that was where she had always belonged.”
Renée Fleming’s recent commitments and honours included opening in a new production of The Merry Widow at the Metropolitan Opera, performing for Prince William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, during their visit to New York, receiving Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit, performing in the world premiere of Joe DiPietro’s Living on Love then making her Broadway debut in the same work. This fall she will sing in a special gala concert at the Los Angeles Music Center on September 25th to celebrate the life and legacy of Luciano Pavarotti.