The above words come from Igor Stravinsky describing his impressions of an early performance of _Pierrot Lunaire_, and given my own reaction to this masterpiece it is a fitting title. Composed in 1912, _Pierrot Lunaire_ (or, _Thrice-seven Songs from Albert Giraud's Pierrot Lunaire_) is a melodrama for voice and a small chamber group, consisting of piano, flute, piccolo, clarinet, bass clarinet, violin, viola, and cello. Each of the 21 parts uses different combinations of instruments along with the vocalist. The vocalist gives frightening life to the text of Giraud's poetry, using an esoteric technique called "Sprechgesang," something between speech and singing. It is recognized as viciously difficult to perform, requiring unqualified control of tone as the vocalist must momentarily touch upon each note before moving to the next. The vocal performance here stands as one of the best I've heard by anyone anywhere. There are three sections, with seven rondels each, and in each Schoenberg deploys colorful combinations of instruments and tonal color, with music often angular and jagged, to underscore the various states of emotional drama. It's unbelievably intense, wild, outlandish, and haunting, especially once you read the translation of the poetry to understand the meaning of each individual part.
Book of the Hanging Gardens - quite good, bordering on excellent. But this disc is all about this performance of _Pierrot lunaire_. Essential in every way.