WHEN it was first advertised, the concert given by the superlative Raphael Ensemble, rightly or wrongly, announced a different order of play to the one the string sextet actually adopted on Monday night, in one of the finest events promoted in recent times by the enterprising New Town Concerts Society. Originally, the performance of Bach's six-part Ricercar was to have been followed by Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht, with Brahms's Sextet in G major occupying the second half of the concert.

In the event, the Brahms and Schoenberg works exchanged places in the programme, and it was piquant to wonder just what might have been the effect if Schoenberg's expressionist classic had remained where it was, and had followed the Bach. Such was the atmosphere of stillness and concentration generated by this wonderful group in a period-style performance of the Ricercar, played with intimacy and crystalline purity, that the plunge into the dark, nocturnal, and ultra-Romantic world of Transfigured Night might have been even more devastating than it was.

What a performance of the Schoenberg, with the rapport and ensemble-playing between these magical players, led by the burly, familiar figure of former SCO leader James Clark, absolutely seamless, and the complex textures of the music unusually translucent. Despite the rare, weightless quality the Raphael Ensemble brought to the music, it was at no cost to the intense ethos and hothouse atmosphere of this greatest of all instrumental psychodramas.

That same lightness of touch

- the mark of a truly exceptional group - characterised every page and nuance of the Brahms; anyone who considered this music to be remotely turgid would have been compelled to revise their opinion.