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Pierrot lunaire DVD


Film+ co. has released a live recording of Arnold Schönberg’s “Pierrot lunaire,” performed by Mitsuko Uchida, Barbara Sukowa and an international ensemble.

Arnold Schönberg’s contemporaries agreed that his Pierrot lunaire was an extraordinary masterpiece, a “miracle of sound and expression” (Anton Webern); Stravinsky called it “the solar plexus as well as the mind of early twentieth century music,” and Pierre Boulez added, “we are certainly indebted to him for his Pierrot lunaire.”

A diseuse and a small ensemble perform three times seven poems in which the
commedia dell’ arte figure Pierrot roams through fantastical nocturnal worlds, recounting experiences (some erotic-religious, some libidinous-ecstatic) before returning home to Bergamo and the “ancient scent from far-off days.”

Schönberg’s now-famous expressive technique of Sprechgesang and instrumentation specific to each poem characterize the 21 poems in a magnificence of Klangfarbe which was unheard-of until then. Comparison of this expressive music with the garishly coloured paintings of Schönberg’s friends Vassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc is almost as inevitable as with the contemporaneous Cubist work of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.

The 2011 Salzburg Festival hosted pianist Mitsuko Uchida, actress Barbara Sukowa and a hand-picked international ensemble, who performed the work for its centennial with exemplary energy and finesse, acclaimed as a climactic moment by the audience and critiques alike.

Along with the live concert recording, a documentary film called “Pierrot lunaire – Solar plexus of modern music” was made during the rehearsals at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria and in Salzburg on the work’s historical, contextual and musical exegesis. Uchida and the other musicians speak of the eclectic scoring for their instruments and the great emotionality they constantly encountered during the performance, while Nuria Schoenberg Nono, Lawrence Schoenberg and Schönberg Center director Christian Meyer present a variety of original materials from the time when Pierrot was written, retelling how Schönberg was commissioned to compose it in 1912 by elocutionist Albertine Zehme of Berlin.

Thanks to producers Matthias Leutzendorff and Christian Meyer, the live Salzburg recording and the documentary together illuminate this multilayered masterpiece of modern music in all its facets with state-of-the-art technology, preserving an epochal performance and unveiling backgrounds, revealing the beauty and expressive power of this controversial work to professionals and laymen alike. 

film+co. classics | Arnold Schönberg Center