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Dreimal sieben Gedichte aus Albert Girauds "Pierrot lunaire" ("Three times Seven Poems from Albert Giraud's 'Pierrot lunaire'"), commonly known simply as Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 ("Moonstruck Pierrot" or "Pierrot in the Moonlight"), is a melodrama by Arnold Schoenberg. It is a setting of 21 selected poems from Albert Giraud's cycle of the same name as translated to German by Otto Erich Hartleben.

Pierrot Lunaire
Melodrama by Arnold Schoenberg
Blaues Selbstportrait.jpg
Self-portrait by Schoenberg, 1910
Full Dreimal sieben Gedichte aus Albert Girauds "Pierrot lunaire"
Opus Op. 21
Style Free atonality
Text Albert Giraud's Pierrot lunaire
Language German
Composed 1912
Duration About 35 to 40 minutes
Movements 21
Scoring Pierrot ensemble plus narrator
Premiere
Date 16 October 1912 (1912-10-16)
Location Berlin Choralion-Saal
Conductor Arnold Schoenberg
Performers Albertine Zehme (voice)
Hans W. de Vries (flute)
Karl Essberger (clarinet)
Jakob Malinjak (violin)
Hans Kindler (cello)
Eduard Steuermann (piano)

The work is written for narrator (voice-type unspecified in the score, but traditionally performed by a soprano) who delivers the poems in the sprechstimme style accompanied by a small instrumental ensemble. Schoenberg had previously used a combination of spoken text with instrumental accompaniment, called "melodrama", in the summer-wind narrative of the Gurre-Lieder,[1] which was a fashionable musical style popular at the end of the nineteenth century.[2] Though the music is atonal, it does not use Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, which he did not first use until 1921.

Pierrot lunaire is among Schoenberg's most celebrated and frequently performed works. Its instrumentation – flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano with standard doublings and in this case with the addition of a vocalist – is an important ensemble in 20th- and 21st-century classical music and is referred to as a Pierrot ensemble.

The piece was premiered at the Berlin Choralion-Saal on October 16, 1912, with Albertine Zehme as the vocalist. A typical performance lasts about 35 to 40 minutes.

Contents

HistoryEdit

 
Ensemble who premiered Pierrot lunaire.

The work originated in a commission by Albertine Zehme, a former actress, for a cycle for voice and piano, setting a series of poems by the Belgian writer Albert Giraud. The verses had been first published in 1884 and later translated into German by Otto Erich Hartleben. Zehme had previously performed a 'melodrama' by composer Otto Vrieslander based on the translated poems. But, according to Eduard Steuermann, student of Schoenberg and pianist of the premiere, "the music was not strong enough, and someone advised her to approach Schoenberg..."[3]

Schoenberg began work on March 12 and completed the piece on July 9, 1912, having expanded the forces to an ensemble consisting of flute (doubling on piccolo), clarinet in A (doubling on bass clarinet and clarinet in B), violin (doubling on viola), cello, and piano.

After forty rehearsals, Schoenberg and Zehme (in Columbine dress) gave the premiere at the Berlin Choralion-Saal on October 16, 1912. Reaction was mixed. According to Anton Webern, some in the audience were whistling and laughing, but in the end "it was an unqualified success".[4] There was some criticism of blasphemy in the texts, to which Schoenberg responded, "If they were musical, not a single one would give a damn about the words. Instead, they would go away whistling the tunes".[5]

StructureEdit

Pierrot Lunaire consists of three groups of seven poems. In the first group, Pierrot sings of love, sex and religion; in the second, of violence, crime, and blasphemy; and in the third of his return home to Bergamo, with his past haunting him.

Part One
  1. Mondestrunken (Drunk with Moonlight)
  2. Colombine (Columbine)
  3. Der Dandy (The Dandy)
  4. Eine blasse Wäscherin (A Pallid Washerwoman)
  5. Valse de Chopin
  6. Madonna
  7. Der kranke Mond (The Sick Moon)
Part Two
  1. Nacht (Passacaglia) (Night)
  2. Gebet an Pierrot (Prayer to Pierrot)
  3. Raub (Theft)
  4. Rote Messe (Red Mass)
  5. Galgenlied (Gallows Song)
  6. Enthauptung (Beheading)
  7. Die Kreuze (The Crosses)
Part Three
  1. Heimweh (Homesickness)
  2. Gemeinheit! (Foul Play)
  3. Parodie (Parody)
  4. Der Mondfleck (The Moon Spot)
  5. Serenade
  6. Heimfahrt (Barcarole) (Journey Home)
  7. O Alter Duft (O Ancient Fragrance)

Schoenberg, who was fascinated by numerology, also makes great use of seven-note motifs throughout the work, while the ensemble (with conductor) comprises seven people. The piece is his opus 21, contains 21 poems, and was begun on March 12, 1912. Other key numbers in the work are three and 13: each poem consists of 13 lines (two four-line verses followed by a five-line verse), while the first line of each poem occurs three times (being repeated as lines seven and 13).

Music and textEdit

Though written in a freely atonal style, Pierrot Lunaire uses a variety of classical forms and techniques, including canon, fugue, rondo, passacaglia, and free counterpoint.

The instrumental combinations (including doublings) vary between most movements. The entire ensemble is used only in Nos. 6, 11, 14, 15 (end), 16, 18, 19 (end), 20, and 21.[6] Musicologist Alan Lessem states about the work that "on the whole instrumental textures tend to become fuller as the work progresses" and that, in general, "the piano is the leading [instrumental] protagonist of the melodramas."[7]

The poetry is a German version of a rondeau of the old French type with a double refrain. Each poem consists of three stanzas of 4 + 4 + 5 lines, with line 1 a refrain (A) repeated as line 7 and line 13, and line 2 a second refrain (B) repeated for line 8. The first poem is shown below.

1. Mondestrunken (Drunk with Moonlight)

Den Wein, den man mit Augen trinkt,
Giesst Nachts der Mond in Wogen nieder,
Und eine Springflut überschwemmt
Den stillen Horizont.

Gelüste schauerlich und süss,
Durchschwimmen ohne Zahl die Fluten!
Den Wein, den man mit Augen trinkt,
Giesst Nachts der Mond in Wogen nieder.

Der Dichter, den die Andacht treibt,
Berauscht sich an dem heilgen Tranke,
Gen Himmel wendet er verzückt
Das Haupt und taumelnd saugt und schlürft er
Den Wein, den man mit Augen trinkt.

The wine that one drinks with one’s eyes
Is poured down in waves by the moon at night,
And a spring tide overflows
The silent horizon.

Lusts, thrilling and sweet
Float numberless through the waters!
The wine that one drinks with one's eyes
Is poured down in waves by the moon at night.

The poet, urged on by his devotions,
Becomes intoxicated with the sacred beverage;
Enraptured, he turns toward heaven
His head, and, staggering, sucks and sips
The wine that one drinks with one’s eyes.[8]

SprechstimmeEdit

The atonal, expressionistic settings of the text, with their echoes of German cabaret, bring the poems vividly to life. Sprechstimme, literally "speech-singing" in German, is a style in which the vocalist uses the specified rhythms and pitches but does not sustain the pitches, allowing them to drop or rise, in the manner of speech. Schoenberg describes the technique in a foreword to the score:

In the score, sprechstimme is indicated with small x's through the stems of notes. Though sprechstimme is used throughout the piece, Schoenberg also occasionally indicates that certain passages are to be sung (gesungen).

Notable recordingsEdit

Notable recordings of this composition include:

Voice Ensemble Conductor Record Company Year of Recording Format
Erika Stiedry-Wagner Arnold Schoenberg Columbia Records 1940 LP[10]
Helga Pilarczyk Members of the Conservatory Society Concert Orchestra Pierre Boulez Ades 1961
Bethany Beardslee Columbia Chamber Ensemble Robert Craft Columbia / CBS 1963 LP
Jan DeGaetani Contemporary Chamber Ensemble Arthur Weisberg Nonesuch 1970 LP
Cleo Laine Nash Ensemble Elgar Howarth RCA Red Seal Records 1974 LP
Yvonne Minton Ensemble InterContemporain Pierre Boulez Sony Music 1977 LP
Barbara Sukowa Schoenberg Ensemble Reinbert de Leeuw Koch Schwann 1988 CD
Jane Manning Nash Ensemble Simon Rattle Chandos 1991 CD
Phyllis Bryn-Julson New York New Music Ensemble Robert Black GM Recordings 1992 CD
Phyllis Bryn-Julson Ensemble Modern Peter Eötvös BMG 1993 CD
Karin Ott Cremona Musica Insieme Pietro Antonini Nuova Era 1994 CD
Christine Schäfer Ensemble InterContemporain Pierre Boulez Deutsche Grammophon 1997 CD
Anja Silja Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble Robert Craft Naxos 1999 CD

Arnold Schoenberg himself made test recordings of the music with a group of Los Angeles musicians from September 24 to 26, 1940. These recordings were eventually released on LP by Columbia Records in 1949, and reissued in 1974 on the Odyssey label.[10]

The jazz singer Cleo Laine recorded Pierrot Lunaire in 1974. Her version was nominated for a classical Grammy Award. Another jazz singer who has performed the piece is Sofia Jernberg, who sang it with Norrbotten NEO.[citation needed]

The avant-pop star Björk, known for her interest in avant-garde music, performed Pierrot Lunaire at the 1996 Verbier Festival with Kent Nagano conducting. According to the singer in a 2004 interview, "Kent Nagano wanted to make a recording of it, but I really felt that I would be invading the territory of people who sing this for a lifetime."[11] Only small recorded excerpts (possibly bootlegs) of her performance have become available.

The American mezzo-soprano Mary Nessinger has performed Pierrot Lunaire extensively with organizations such as the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Chamber Music Northwest, and Sequitur at venues including Alice Tully Hall and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.[12] [13] [14]

In March 2011, Bruce LaBruce directed a performance at the Hebbel am Ufer Theatre in Berlin. This interpretation of the work included gender diversity, castration scenes and dildos, as well as a female to male transgender Pierrot. LaBruce subsequently filmed this adaptation as the 2014 theatrical film Pierrot Lunaire.[15]

Legacy as a standard ensembleEdit

The quintet of instruments used in Pierrot Lunaire became the core ensemble for The Fires of London, who formed in 1965 as "The Pierrot Players" to perform Pierrot Lunaire, and continued to concertize with a varied classical and contemporary repertory. This group performed works arranged for these instruments and commissioned new works especially to take advantage of this ensemble's instrumental colors, up until it disbanded in 1987.[16]

Over the years, other groups have continued to use this instrumentation professionally (current groups include Da Capo Chamber Players,[17] eighth blackbird[18]) and the Finnish contemporary group Uusinta Lunaire,[19] and have built a large repertoire for the ensemble.

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Neighbour 2001.
  2. ^ Dunsby 1992, 2.
  3. ^ Dunsby 1992, 22.
  4. ^ Quoted in Winiarz.
  5. ^ Quoted in Hazlewood.
  6. ^ Dunsby 1992, 23.
  7. ^ Dunsby 1992, 24.
  8. ^ Schoenberg 1994, 56.
  9. ^ Schoenberg 1994, 54.
  10. ^ a b Byron, Avior (February 2006). "The Test Pressings of Schoenberg Conducting Pierrot lunaire: Sprechstimme Reconsidered". Music Theory Online. Society for Music Theory. Retrieved August 16, 2011. 
  11. ^ http://lostsongs.bjorkish.net/pierrotlunaire/
  12. ^ Griffiths, Paul (January 16, 1998). "Music Review; Stravinsky and Schoenberg: A Gulf". The New York Times. Retrieved August 2, 2018. 
  13. ^ McQuillen, James (February 2012). "Tried and still brilliant: Mary Nessinger sings "Pierrot Lunaire"". Oregon ArtsWatch. Retrieved August 2, 2018. 
  14. ^ "Classical Music". Goings On About Town. The New Yorker. October 2007. Retrieved August 2, 2018. 
  15. ^ Pierrot Lunaire at the Berlin International Film Festival.
  16. ^ Goodwin, Noël. "Fires of London". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.  (subscription required)
  17. ^ Kozinn, Allan. "World Premieres, Sure, but Room for Older New Music Too," The New York Times, November 23, 2006.
  18. ^ Riley, Paul. "High-flying Quality," BBC Magazine, September 1, 2007.
  19. ^ http://www.uusinta.com/uusintalunaireE.html

ReferencesEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Argentino, Joe. 2012. "Serialism and Neo-Riemannian Theory: Transformations and Hexatonic Cycles in Schoenberg's Modern Psalm Op. 50c". Intégral 26:123–58.
  • Gillespie, Jeffrey L. 1992. "Motivic Transformations and Networks in Schoenberg's 'Nacht' from Pierrot Lunaire". Intégral 6:34–65.
  • Gingerich, Katrina (2012). "The Journey of the Song Cycle: From 'The Iliad' to 'American Idiot'", Musical Offerings: Vol. 1: No. 2, Article 3. Available at http://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/musicalofferings/vol1/iss2/3.
  • Lambert, Philip. 2000. "On Contextual Transformations". Perspectives of New Music 38, no. 1 (Winter): 45–76.
  • Lessem, Alan. 1979. Music and Text in the Works of Arnold Schoenberg: The Critical Years, 1908–22. ISBN 0835709949.
  • Metzer, David. 1994. "The New York Reception of Pierrot Lunaire: The 1923 Premiere and Its Aftermath". The Musical Quarterly 78, no. 4 (Winter): 669–99.
  • Roig-Francolí, Miguel A. 2001. "A Theory of Pitch-Class-Set Extension in Atonal Music". College Music Symposium 41:57–90.

External linksEdit

External video
 
  Two Clowns: Pierrot Meets Petrushka, 3:50, IsraeliChambrProject, Morgan Library