Ensemble 360 & Claire Booth

Upper Chapel, Sheffield
Saturday 1 April 2023, 7.00pm

£14 DLA, UC & PIP
£5 Under 35s & Students 



Save £s when you book for 5 concerts or more at the same time 

Past Event

GRIME Seven Pierrot Miniatures (12’)
BRAHMS Clarinet Trio (25’)
SCHOENBERG Pierrot lunaire (40’) 

One of Arnold Schoenberg’s most celebrated works, Pierrot lunaire is a masterpiece of ground-breaking melodrama. The music, written for five instrumentalists and a reciter of Sprechstimme or ‘spoken-singing’, features poetry by Albert Giraud that explores an obsession with the wonders of moonlight.  

Helen Grime, who curated the 2022 Sheffield Chamber Music Festival, took the same poems by Giraud as the starting point for her own brilliantly eccentric miniatures, while Brahms’s soul-searching trio is a sublime and celebratory work. 

When Ensemble 360 performs Pierrot Lunaire, they’ll be joined by star soprano Claire Booth, whose many dramatic interpretations of Pierrot over the years have been lavished with praise. She’s become the go-to singer to take on this astonishing role, with her perfect understanding of the complex and ever-changing character of Pierrot’s obsession with the beauty of the moon. After a recent performance, The Guardian’s critic Andrew Clements was stunned by Claire’s ability to tread the line between cabaret and nightmarish extremes, but with her caricature staying just “on the right side of winsomeness”.

If Claire and the Ensemble’s performance will be your first experience of Pierrot Lunaire, then be prepared for a truly unforgettable evening.


BRAHMS Johannes, Clarinet Trio in A minor Op.114

Andantino grazioso – Trio 

When Brahms first heard the playing of Richard Mühlfeld, principal clarinettist of the Meiningen Court Orchestra, he had not written any chamber music involving the clarinet. But after a meeting in March 1891 he was inspired – following more than a year of creative silence – to write two major works for his new-found muse. On 24 November 1891, Mühlfeld, the Joachim Quartet and Brahms himself played both the Trio and the Clarinet Quintet at a private concert for the Duke of Meiningen. The first public performances followed on 12 December 1891, in the Berlin Singakademie. For the Trio Mühlfeld was again joined by the cellist Robert Hausmann and Brahms. 


The four movements of the Trio are concise and clear in design, without quite the mystery or the rapturous spirit that pervades the Quintet. However, the writing for the three instruments is unusually closely integrated, intertwined even – prompting Brahms’s friend Eusebius Mandyczewski to write in a letter to the composer that ‘it was as if the instruments were in love with one another.’ Brahms’s technical prowess can also be seen at its most ingenious: the second theme of the first movement is introduced as a canon in inversion, a procedure that can also be found in Haydn, and perhaps this was a nod from Brahms to one of the composers of the past he most admired. As well as the Trio and Quintet, Brahms went on to write the two Clarinet Sonatas Op.120 for Mühlfeld – all late masterpieces inspired by this great clarinettist.  


© Nigel Simeone 

SCHOENBERG Arnold, Pierrot Lunaire

  1. Mondestrunken (Drunk with Moonlight)
  2. Columbine
  3. Der Dandy
  4. Eine blasse Wäscherin
  5. Valse de Chopin
  6. Madonna
  7. Der kranke Mond (The sick moon)
  8. Nacht. Passacaglia (Night)
  9. Gebet an Pierrot (Prayer to Pierrot)
  10. Raub (Theft)
  11. Rote Messe (Red Mass)
    12. Galgenlied (Gallows Song)
  12. Enthauptung (Beheading)
  13. Die Kreuze (The Crosses)
  14. Heimweh (Homesickness)
  15. Gemeinheit! (Foul play!)
  16. Parodie
  17. Der Mondfleck (The Moon spot
  18. Serenade
  19. Heimfahrt (Journey home)
  20. O alter Duft (O ancient fragrance)

The first performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in Paris in May 1913 may have provoked the most famous riot in musical history, but it wasn’t the only one. A few months earlier in Berlin on 16 October 1912, some members of the audience at the premiere of Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire were enraged by what they heard. When Albertine Zehme – the actress who had commissioned the work from Schoenberg – appeared on the platform in a Pierrot costume, she was, according to one eyewitness ‘greeted by an ominous murmur from the audience. One could not help admiring her courage, as she went on from poem to poem, disregarding the hissing, booing and insults shouted at her and Schoenberg. There were also fanatical ovations from the younger generation, but the majority were outraged. A well-known virtuoso, his face purple with rage, shouted: “Shoot him. Shoot him,” meaning Schoenberg, not the poor undaunted Pierrot.’ 

What was it that caused such rage? While Schoenberg’s use of Sprechgesang (speech-song) was not new (both Schoenberg and Humperdinck had used it before), its other-worldly effect in Pierrot lunaire is something that must have been disconcerting. So, too, was the sense of disorientation (and unpredictability) of Schoenberg’s music. To listeners in 1912 it’s easy to see how this might have seemed downright peculiar, but to audiences today, Pierrot lunaire is a work of eerie beauty. 

© Nigel Simeone 

“Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire belongs alongside Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and a few other modernist masterpieces as one of the truly groundbreaking scores of the early 20th century”

The Guardian

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