Arnold Schoenberg and “Pierrot Lunaire” A New Way of Expression Davis Fulton
After the premiere of “Pierre Lunaire”, Schoenberg is third from left.
General Introduction: “I believe I am approaching a new way of expression,” wrote Schoenberg in his diary on March, 1912. After a period of hesitation, he had just found his way into composing Pierrot Lunaire. The work originated in a commission from Albertine Zehme for a cycle of pieces for voice and ensemble, setting a series of poems by the Belgian writer Albert Giraud to music. The verses had been first published in 1884 and later translated into German by Otto Erich Hartleben. Schoenberg began composing on March 12 and completed the work on July 9, 1912. The ensemble consisted of flute, piccolo, clarinet, bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, and voice. After twenty-five rehearsals, Schoenberg and Zehme, in a Columbine dress, gave the premiere in Berlin on October 16, 1912. Reactions were mixed, with some criticism of blasphemy in the text, 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". The show took to the road throughout Germany and Austria later in 1912. Among the composers who attended the early performances were Stravinsky, Ravel, and Puccini. Stravinsky later wrote that Pierrot Lunaire was “the solar plexus as well as the mind of early-twentieth-century music.” Pierrot Lunaire, with its combination of traditional forms and techniques, and the almost entirely new approach to the arrangement of sounds, became a window into the new century. Evolution of the melodrama: The melodrama evolved from the tradition of drama established during the Middle Ages in the mystery and morality plays, under influences from Italian Commedia Dell'arte as well as German Sturm und Drang drama, and Parisian melodrama of the post-Revolutionary period. The term originated from the early 19th-century French word melodrame, which is derived from Greek melos, music, and French drame. Beginning in the 18th century, melodramas combined the spoken recitation with short pieces of accompanying music. In such works, music and spoken dialog typically alternated, although the music was sometimes also used to accompany the actors. The earliest known examples are scenes in J. E.
Eberlin's Latin school play Sigismundus (1753). The first full melodrama was Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Pygmalion, the text of which was written in 1762 but was first staged in Lyon in 1770. The overture and an Andante were composed by Rousseau, but the bulk of the music was composed by Horace Coignet. A different musical setting of Rousseau's Pygmalion by Anton Schweitzer was performed in Weimar in 1772. Pygmalion is a monodrama, written for one actor. When two actors are involved, the term duodrama is used. Georg Benda was particularly successful with his duodramas in such examples like Ariadne auf Naxos (1775) and Medea (1778). The sensational success of Benda's melodramas led Mozart to use two long melodramatic monologues in his opera Zaide (1780), but he soon abandoned to work on Idomeneo. Other later and better-known examples of the melodramatic style in operas are the grave digging scene in Beethoven's Fidelio (1805) and the incantation scene in Weber's Der Freischütz 1 (1821). Incidental music is music written to accompany or point up the action or mood of a dramatic performance on stage. Incidental music is often "background" music, and adds atmosphere to the action. It may take the form of something as simple as a low, ominous tone suggesting an impending startling event or to enhance the depiction of a story-advancing sequence. It may also include pieces such as overtures, music played during scene changes, or at the end of an act, immediately preceding an interlude, as was customary with several nineteenth-century plays. It may also be required in plays that have musicians performing on-stage....
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