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The “String Quartet Op. 3,” and “Lyric Suite” by Alban Berg
(1885-1935) were recorded during 1991 and 1992 by the
Alban Berg Quartet, and released on CD under the EMI label.

This passionate “String Quartet” is in two movements, using a lot
of ponticello and sul tasto bowing techniques. Both movements are
infused with a kind of fin de siècle lyricism. It is atonal, yet not harsh;
in fact, this piece exhibits an almost erotic tension, with the second
movement possibly serving as a continuation of the first one.

Another piece of heightened Expressionism is the six-movement
“Lyric Suite.” According to the accompanying liner notes with this disc,
this Suite was Berg’s first partial use of the 12-tone method
developed by composer Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951). This work
still borders on tonality, with a particularly spectral and “ghastly” third
movement. At times, the fourth movement reflects an eerie warmth.
The fifth movement features a huge dynamic range and is often
tempestuous. The opening of the sixth and final movement features
pizzicato notes in the cello. The other strings follow suit, and then
all of the string instruments switch to arco bowing. There is a brief
reference to the famous chord from “Tristan und Isolde,” by Richard
Wagner (1813-1883).

Both of these pieces are vibrantly and passionately played by the
Alban Berg Quartet, with great recorded sound to match.

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