- Verklärte Nacht, for string sextet, Op. 4 - Arnold Schoenberg - Valentin Erben - Thomas Kakuska - Artemis Quartet
- Chamber Symphony No. 1 in E major, Op. 9 - Arnold Schoenberg - Birmingham Contemporary Music Group - Simon Rattle
- Chamber Symphony No. 2 in E flat minor, Op. 38 - Arnold Schoenberg - English Chamber Orchestra - Jeffrey Tate
- Pieces (5) for orchestra, Op. 16 - Arnold Schoenberg - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - Simon Rattle
- Erwartung, monodrama in 1 act, Op. 17 - Arnold Schoenberg - Phyllis Bryn-Julson - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - Simon Rattle
- Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31 - Arnold Schoenberg - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - Simon Rattle
This two-disc EMI set, entitled Schoenberg: Orchestral Works, opens with a piece that is not actually an orchestral composition at all, at least not in its present guise. The string sextet, entitled "Verklarte Nacht" (Transfigured Night), is one of Schoenberg's earliest significant works that he later transcribed for string orchestra. Notoriously difficult and often succumbing to horrific intonation problems, this performance by the Artemis Quartett joined by the violist and cellist of the Alban Berg Quartet is pleasingly solid. Although there are noticeable difficulties with intonation in higher registers, the ensemble more than makes up for it with its passionate, lucid performance. The remainder of the program does actually contain orchestra works, progressing almost entirely chronologically. This step-by-step progression through Schoenberg's orchestral repertoire, led by conductors Simon Rattle and Jeffrey Tate, allows listeners to observe how Schoenberg's harmonic language and treatment of large ensembles changed over time. In all cases, the performances are rock solid, clear, and methodically prepared, absolute musts for listeners not already familiar with Schoenberg's work. Soprano Phyllis Bryn-Julson succeeds brilliantly in the free-form and often difficult-to-follow "Erwartung, Op. 17" (Angst-dream). The only thing that could make this set a better choice for listeners would be a more comprehensive set of liner notes that included the text for "Erwartung."