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 


Support from individuals is vital to our work.
Your gifts help us engage the very best in UK and international talent in our concerts, and to run our annual Sheffield Chamber Music Festival.