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Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) . Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (1912) Thrice Seven Poems from Albert Giraud’s Pierrot lunaire German by Otto Erich Hartleben “Nacht”. Schoenberg’s attitude toward the performer.

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Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)

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arnold schoenberg 1874 1951

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)

Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (1912)

Thrice Seven Poems from Albert Giraud’s Pierrot lunaire

German by Otto Erich Hartleben


schoenberg s attitude toward the performer
Schoenberg’s attitude toward the performer

‘In this work, the performers at no time have the task of shaping the mood and character of the individual pieces according to the meaning of the words, but rather according to the music. To whatever extent the composer felt a tone-pictorial representation of the actions and feelings indicated in the text to be important, it is simply to be found in the music. Where the performer does not find such representation, he should refrain from adding anything that the composer did not want. In this instance he would not be adding, but rather detracting.”--forward to the published score

musical characteristics
Musical Characteristics
  • Free atonality (replaces tonality for organizing pitches)
  • Sprechstimme or Sprechgesang (speech-song). Notated pitches are touched upon and then slid away from.
  • Passacaglia form in “Nacht” based on a continuous variation of an E - G - Eb motive

Excerpted program notes by Charles WourinenNonesuch Records 1971released by Elektra Nonesuch on CD 1990

“How best should a listener today approach Pierrot? One way is internally--that is, by dealing with the work’s moment-by moment continuity, the shifting complex of pitch and rhythmic relations, he play of instrumental sonorities ad the progress of the text. Another is externally--the over-all shape of the piece, the balance of its three parts, the permutation of the instrumental combinations throughout it, and the form of the text itself”


Excerpted program notes by Charles Wourinen continued

“. . . At the time of its composition Schoenberg himself was searching, and hence many of the local decisions in Pierrot were obviously made intuitively, ad hoc. Thus it is impossible for the mind to draw from the work’s unfolding a sense of general law or pattern being observed, as one can when listening to tonal or twelve-tone music. Even through the phrase-shapes and other gestural entities in the work help to draw notes together, one can never know what will happen next--there is no principle by which the ear can predict. This is what still makes Pierrot, after sixty years, new, abrasive, exciting, and even frightening.”

nacht first verse
Finstre, schwarze Riesenfalter

Tötenten der Sonne Glanz.

Ein geschlossnes Zauberbuch,

Ruht der Horizont-verschwiegen

Sinister giant black butterflies

Eclipse the blazing disk of sun.

Like a sealed-up book of wizard’s spells

Sleeps the horizon--secret silent.

“Nacht” (first verse)