You will find on this CD a performance of Schoenberg's Pelleas & Melisande which is as seductively pleasing as any on record - but the single most persuasive argument for buying this disc is the truly glorious performance of Verklarte Nacht, or Transfigured Night. I first heard the work over twenty five years ago and it was love upon first hearing. The work was created in response to Richard Dehmel's lovely poem (included in the sleeve notes) and was originally conceived as a work for string quartet. No quartet performance has ever managed however to convince me that this was ever meant to be anything less than a piece for full string orchestra; it simply doesn't realise its potential in so sparse an ensemble. Over the years I have listened to numerous performances; some are very well performed but poorly served in the studio; others have brilliantly clear recordings but lack the inner fire and passion needed to fully ignite the experience. Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic conjured up one of the very finest and most memorable recordings of all in this version - lush, uncompromisingly romantic, poignant, wistful, lavishly and heart-stoppingly beautiful. When you hear this it is not hard to understand Mahler's interest in the young Schoenberg, who held such obvious promise. Perhaps Schoenberg's descent into the abyss of twelve-tone music soon after this high spot indicated that this was a work impossible to follow in traditional terms? Who knows? What is certain is there are few more hauntingly lovely and extravagantly romantic scores in existence. And this, in spite of the most minor flaws in its recording, is and will undoubtedly remain one of the greatest performances of this extraordinary work on record. To listen is to partake in a genuinely spiritual experience which leaves one both drained and edified upon its conclusion. There is incandescent beauty here of the kind that makes you hold your breath, a shimmering, achingly lovely, transcendent joyfulness mingled with and exquisite bittersweetness that few works can match in intensity of expression. This is not the most lucid, detailed recording in purely technical terms, but that is of very little consequence here, for this is music-making at its very best, when everything comes together to serve the composer's intentions perhaps better than he might ever have wished. You'll not be likely to want to hear the quartet version again after this. Wholeheartedly and unreservedly recommended.