This recording is realized with care and sympathy via the sensitive conducting of Jun Markl. The MDR Sinfonie Orchester with soloists Johannes Moser, cello, and the Quatuor Diotima String Quartet do an admirable job with the scores.
There are fairly large orchestral forces in play throughout. The orchestrations are both more late romantic (almost Mahleresque) than not at times and also have spots of brilliant color as you might expect from the composer of "Pierrot Lunaire."
The melodic motives often remain contrapuntal but there are shifting groupings of instruments and cell-like motif re-divisions more typically Schoenbergian than baroque. Of course this is as we would wish. The point is not to remain authentic to the period as it is to transform while retaining baroque essences in various ways. After hearing the two transformed works, the "Theme and Variations" takes on a different light. We hear in the variations the same brilliant handing off and cellular restructurings of the original theme.
In the end this a vibrant Schoenberg, tonal, accessible, yet fully modern. It's probably a great volume to start with if you are slightly modern-shy and wish to experience Schoenberg in stages, as it were. But the music stands on its own as something listeners on any or every level can appreciate. The performances are quite good and one goes away from the program with the urge to hear it again, and perhaps again. Very much recommended.