Here we have yet another Warner card box of CDs made in the recording frenzy of the 1990s; these are ex-Teldec issues, as I have noted below. In brief, the box is an excellent way of owning good recordings of these important (and enjoyable!) works, although I don't think the Gurrelider is anything other than a second or third choice. So, what is in the box?
CD1 has Schoenberg's Six Orchestral Songs, Op.8, Begleitungsmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene, Op. 34, A Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46, and the entirely masterful Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op.9. Other than the Chamber Symphony, these are live recordings made in frot of a very quiet audience in 1997/98. This is a good recording, originally issued as Schoenberg - Lieder & Chamber Symphony 1, but I would hazard not a first choice.
CD2 has Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 and Erwartung, Op.17. These recordings were made between 1996 and 1997 and feature Luisa Castellani and members of the Staatskapelle Dresden in Op.21, and the full band with Alessandra Marc (soprano) in Op.17. It's all very good and was originally on Schoenberg: Erwartung/Pierrot Lunaire; well-worth hearing.
CDs 3 & 4 have the disappointing recording of Schoenberg's hyper-romantic Gurrelider, an absolute masterpiece, known by far too few. If you like Mahler or Richard Strauss, then you will love Gurrelider! Sinopoli pulled the piece around too much for my liking when he recorded it in Dresden in 1995 - it's rather an eccentric (but quite listenable) take. Originally out on Schoenberg: Gurrelieder, which would have contained proper notes and the all-important texts, I would recommend the well-sung and sonically spectacular Robert Craft Naxos recording as a vastly better choice for this work Schoenberg: Gurre-Lieder, as is the recently reissued Denon recording made by Elihau Inbal ages ago in great sound (I mean, really great sound!) on Brilliant Classics Schoenberg - Gurrelieder.
After 4 CDs of Arnold Schoenberg, it is Alban Berg who features on CD5 with recordings of his 1928 orchestral version of his Seven Early Songs with Juliane Banse (soprano), Altenberglieder, Op. 4 with Alessandra Marc (soprano), Der Wein and his fabulous Three Orchestral Pieces, Op. 6. Aside from rushing things a little bit, this is a good disc, originally out on Berg: Der Wein and Seven Early Songs.
CD7 has a very good performance of Berg's Violin Concerto with Reiko Watanabe producing a vibrant, sparky soloists role. However, there is a slight whiff of Sir Simon Rattle's "micromanagement" in this piece, with it not quite gelling as a whole - that's a relatively minor reservation, though. Also on CD7 we have Berg's Chamber Concerto in a performance that I rather like. There is great flexibility and Sinopoli and his group of highly-talented musicians emphasise the romanticism of this score. CD7 is a hit and was last brought out by Warner as Berg - Violin Concerto; Chamber Concerto.
The last CD, CD8, is given over to Anton Webern in the form of his "Im Sommerwind", Passacaglia Op.1, Six Orchestral Pieces Op.6, Five Orchestral Pieces, Op.10, Symphony, Op.21, Concerto, Op.24 and Variations, Op.30. I think that this is the best CD of the lot, with Sinopoli producing great sounds from the Dresdeners in these masterpieces (rather more engaging than Boulez) and emphasising that these are very emotional works. The Teldec release was Webern: Orchestral Works.
I don't mean to damn this excellent Warner box with faint praise as it clearly offers a very good overview of the many and varied orchestral works from Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern in generally good to excellent performances, superbly played by the Dresdeners and featuring some very good soloists. In addition, it stands as a fitting memorial to Giuseppe Sinopli who died not long after these recordings were made. Sinopli was a higly intelligent conductor, sometimes given over to eccentricity, but always worth hearing. Get a better Gurrelider (unless this one floats your boat better than it did mine) and you have a neatly packaged, very well-recorded, set of the majority of the orchestral pieces produced by the Second Viennese School.
Brief notes from Guy Rickards are provided, written in 2008, but no texts.