Category Archives: Repertoire

Pierrot Lunaire by Arnold Schoenberg at Endler Hall, Stellenbosch

On 21 May 2011, the Endler Concert Series in association with KEMUS, will present a performance of Pierrot Lunaire by Arnold Schoenberg, in the Endler Hall at the University of Stellenbosch. This work, which is seldom performed in South Africa, is one of the most interesting and musically significant works composed in the 20th century, and this performance promises to be one not to be missed.

Pierrot Lunaire, composed in 1912, is one of the best examples of Schoenberg’s ‘atonal’ style, where the composer first experimented with what he termed ‘the emancipation of dissonance’. All traditional concepts of harmonic tension and release are discarded, all accepted ‘rules’ of tonality are broken, and the result is a listening experience that has a powerful emotional and intellectual impact. Pierrot Lunaire is often credited as being one of the most significant and revolutionary works of the 20th century, and few compositions that followed it could remain free from its influence.

The texts for Pierrot Lunaire are originally by Albert Giraud, translated into German by Otto Erich Hartleben. The ‘Pierrot’ from the title is taken from the traditional commedia dell’arte – he is the sad clown, pining for the love of Colombine, his unfaithful wife, who often breaks his heart. In the course of the 21  poems, we meet several fantastical figures: Pierrot and Colombine, the ‘sick, pale moon’, Cassander, the Madonna, the Pale Washerwoman and others. Pierrot steers his boat across the ocean with the moonbeam as rudder, he tries to get rid of the ‘moonspot’ on his shoulder, he does his make-up like a dandy, he bores a hole in Cassander’s head to ash his cigar in, he finally makes his way home to Bergamo.

This is the last work of Schoenberg’s expressionist period : expressionism is generally defined as an art movement in which representation of nature is subordinated to expression of emotion, where artists aimed for as direct an expression of emotion as possible, using non-representational images to project these emotions directly, rather than looking towards the ‘outside world’ for inspiration.

The expressionist setting of the poems is inspired by the morbid and often macabre aspects of expressionist painting, and is combined with echoes of the satirical and often biting German cabaret,  with which Schoenberg was intimately familiar. Through these influences he brings the poems vividly to life. Schoenberg’s use of ‘sprechstimme’ is one of the most original features of the work: the vocal technique is a combination of singing and speech, with pitch approached with a level of freedom unprecedented in western vocal literature at the time. The part will be played by Vanessa Tait-Jones. The rest of the ensemble comprises piano (Mareli Stolp), violin (Tricia Theunissen), viola (Jan-Hendrik Harley), cello (Joachim Müller-Crepon), clarinet (doubling on bass clarinet) (Becky Stelzner) and flute (doubling on piccolo) (Liesl Stolz).

Tickets: R99 /R75 at Computicket or on 083 915 8000.
Box office at the Endler Hall will open at 19:00 on the night.
For further enquiries, please call the Endler Hall Concert Series on 021 808 2343 during office hours.

(Mareli Stolp)