KNOW THE SCORE: Schoenberg's `Pierrot Lunaire'
Saturday 22 August 1998
Equally, it is interesting to compare the respective moods and mindsets of Stravinsky and Schoenberg at this time: Stravinsky, acclaimed, urbane, collaborating in an artistic Mecca with the likes of Diaghilev and Picasso. And Schoenberg, isolated, virtually penniless, his marriage in ruins, his relationship with Richard Strauss terminated, and still mourning the tragic loss of Mahler the previous year. No wonder Schoenberg was on the brink of breakdown, staring into his own existential abyss, and gradually shifting from chromaticism, via atonality, to what, a decade later, would eventually be his twelve-tone system breakthrough.
It was after Mahler's death that Schoenberg moved from Vienna to Berlin. There an old friend sent him a copy of 50 Pierrot Lunaire poems by Albert Giraud. A portrait of the introspective and morbid artist, represented by the figure of the commedia dell'arte clown, immediately appealed to Schoenberg. He chose 21 of Giraud's 13-line rondels, arranging then into three groups of seven. The emotional span of the cycle is extraordinary, moving from darkness to light and back again. At the same time, despite a number of eerie and psychologically probing moments, Schoenberg still regarded the work as essentially "light, ironical and satirical in tone". Indeed, it is: with an eclectic quintet, the composer creates a kaleidoscope of timbres, rounded off perfectly by the declamatory Sprechstimme - half- speech, half-song - of the plaintive soloist
The Scharoun Ensemble's account of Pierrot is given under the young conductor Daniel Harding in this week's late-night Prom. It is also being profitably examined in Battersea Arts Centre's enterprising and innovative fourth Annual Summer Festival of Opera and Music Theatre by the inventive Clod Ensemble.
The Scharoun Ensemble's Prom is at the Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (0171-589 8212) on 26 Aug at 10pm. The Clod Ensemble's staging of Pierrot takes place in Studio II of BAC, Sept 3-6, 8.15pm (7.15pm 6 Sept)
Arts & Ents blogs
Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch 'first sexy Holmes', says Mark Gatiss
Academy members voted for Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave 'without watching it'
Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role to marry Natasha Richardson
Jessica Alba interview: From Hollywood superwoman to household product CEO
Captain Phillips actor Barkhad Abdi struggles financially despite Oscar nomination
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Academy members voted for Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave 'without watching it'
- 3 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 4 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role to marry Natasha Richardson
- 5 Livr: A social network only for drunk people