It takes an intrepid ensemble to guide listeners through this unnerving melodrama, yet the new Auricle Ensemble has stepped up to the plate, giving audiences an all-too-rare opportunity to not only hear this work but to have it explained in a prosaic, even light-hearted manner.

Conductor Christopher Swaffer preceded the performance with a Charles Hazelwood-style introduction, striking up the band to play excerpts as he gave a lucid overview of the work. Swaffer then called on his players to deliver a delicate, technically impeccable and sensitive reading of Schoenberg’s detailed score, bringing to life the disjointed travails of our eponymous moonstruck clown.

Soprano Alexa Mason was brilliantly theatrical, demonstrating a stirring variety of psychological states and mastering the challenges of Sprechstimme, Schoenberg’s half speech/half song technique. Handsomely presented surtitles allowed the audience to correspond the quicksilver contrasts and depictive solos of the ensemble with Albert Giraud’s vivid and ghoulish text. It is a thoughtful approach to Schoenberg’s complex, paradoxical musical ideas, one which receives its final airing in Edinburgh -- without that atmospheric moon -- in a lunchtime performance at the Reid Hall onTuesday October 20.


Star rating: ****