Pierrot Lunaire

Pierrot Lunaire
Melodrama by Arnold Schoenberg
Blaues Selbstportait.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
Date 16 October 1912 (1912-10-16)
Location Berlin Choralion-Saal
Performers Albertine Zehme (soprano)

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 Otto Erich Hartleben's German translation of the Belgian poet Albert Giraud's cycle of French poems of the same name. The première of the work, which is between 35 and 40 minutes in length, was at the Berlin Choralion-Saal on October 16, 1912, with Albertine Zehme as the vocalist.

The narrator (voice-type unspecified in the score, but traditionally performed by a soprano) delivers the poems in the Sprechstimme style. 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] The melodrama is in atonal form, yet does not use Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.

The composition is among Schoenberg's most celebrated and frequently performed works. The instrumentation of the piece, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano (with standard doublings and in this case with the addition of a vocalist) is referred to as a Pierrot ensemble.


External video
'Pierrot Lunaire' by Paul Klee, watercolor, 1924, Honolulu Museum of Art.jpg
Two Clowns: Pierrot Meets Petrushka, 3:50, IsraeliChambrProject, Morgan Library

The work originated in a commission by Albertine Zehme 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. Schoenberg began on March 12 and completed the work on July 9, 1912, having expanded the forces to an ensemble consisting of flute (doubling on a piccolo), clarinet (doubling on bass clarinet), 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". [3] 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". [4]

The show took to the road throughout Germany and Austria later in 1912. It was performed for the first time in America at the Klaw Theatre in New York City on February 4, 1923, with George Gershwin and Carl Ruggles in attendance.[ citation needed]