The Rite of Spring isn’t the only piece to turn 100 years old in the 2012-2013 concert season. One hundred years and three days ago, Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire premiered in Berlin. Let’s take a listen:
The revolution caused by Pierrot Lunaire was more small-scale than that of The Rite, but no less important. And, in a way, it retains some of the shock value that The Rite has lost — Schoenberg’s uncanny Sprechstimme, or speech-song, and his angular atonality still upsets a large swath of the classical music audience. One thinks of this:
As you’ll recall, Pierrot was actually the original vision for a centennial festival at UNC, as proposed by Professor Severine Neff.
Though interdisciplinary, combining cabaret with modernism, Pierrot doesn’t exactly easily create a season-long celebration. It has a mythic status among composers, musicologists, and fans, but lacks that Riot Story that keeps The Rite in the public consciousness. That said, it is a critical work of the early 20th century, and an astounding piece of music. Boulezian has more on the centennial, and I wrote an article for NewMusicBox on the history of the so-called Pierrot Ensemble, the combination of instruments created by Schoenberg in his piece that weaves its way through the rest of 20th century music.
Check back next week for a Spring Encounter by Proper Discord, and if we have time, finally an opportunity to parse out the Riot. But who knows? There’s also a gigantic academic conference beginning on Thursday, and the Mariinsky Orchestra is on its way.