SCHOENBERG: Pierrot Lunaire / Chamber Symphony No. 1 / 4 Orchestral Songs / Herzgewachse

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Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)

Herzgewächse Pierrot Lunaire Four Orchestral Songs Chamber Symphony No. 1


Herzgewächse, Op. 20 (1911), for coloratura soprano, celesta, harmonium and harp

Completed on 9 December 1911, Herzgewächse was not performed until April 1928, when Marianne Rau-Hoeglauer sang it in Vienna under Anton Webern's direction. The harmonium, the first instrument to sound, plays more continuously than the other two, having less than a single full beat of rest as against a total of six silent bars in the celesta and four in the harp. The stops employed are flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass-clarinet, bassoon, muted trombone, violin, viola, cello, and percussion (unspecified). They alternate according to the phrasing of the music. Curiously, no timbres are indicated in the nine next-to-last bars.

After a brief instrumental introduction and the first couplet of the vocal part, the music is harmonically dense: chords of nine, ten, and eleven pitches occur frequently. Schoenberg's setting of the text parallels the sense of the words; thus at " sink to rest " the pitches descend, quietly and without accompaniment, to the lowest vocal note of the piece, and those for " imperceptibly ascending " climb slowly and softly from a low note to C in alt. The vocal range is that of the Queen of Night in The Magic Flute and of Blonde in Abduction from the Seraglio.


Pierrot Lunaire

Schoenberg chose the 21 poems of his Pierrot Lunaire from the cycle of fifty by the Belgian poet Albert Giraud (Albert Kayenbergh, 1860-1929), published in 1884. The verse form is the same for all but one of them. They are rondeaux of thirteen lines, in which lines seven and eight repeat lines one and two. (Number thirteen, the exception, repeats line one only.) Schoenberg used the 1911 edition of the German translation made by Otto Erich Hartleben in the 1890s, which is more vivid in language and stronger in feeling than the French original. Hartleben also changes the tense from past to present, substitutes more colourful images of his own, and transforms a flat, even recitation in octosyllabic lines into an agitated, exclamatory, fragmentary style in a variety of metres with considerable use of enjambement. In Hartleben, the moon is a washerwoman, and not, as in Giraud, "comme une lavandière".

Schoenberg chose poems with related subject-matter and grouped them into three cycles of seven poems each. The subjects of the first are the poet's ecstasy--the moon is the symbol of poetry--and artistic rebellion; of the second, his frustration, weakness, and despair; and of the third his reconciliation with the past and tradition, and the return from Venice to his native Bergamo. The form of recitation is the Melodramen, in which the words are spoken with musical accompaniment. This genre seems to have originated with J. J. Rousseau's Pygmalion (1762), but the best-known examples are by Mozart and Schubert. In Schoenberg's case, the recitation, called Sprechstimme, is a combination of speech and song notated in exact pitches and rhythms. Despite the composer's insistence that the part should not be sung, clearly the pitch functions of the recitation are essential to the melodic-harmonic conception of the piece. In a few places the Sprechstimme is required to sing normally, but for only a very few notes.

Pierrot's most distant ancestor is the Commedia dell'Arte Pulcinella, but in France the farcical Neapolitan impostor and prankster became the harlequin, the prototype of the melancholy artist. Watteau called him Gilles; Théophile Gautier's play, Pierrot Posthumous, marries him to Columbine; Verlaine transforms him into a madman, blasphemous, and the "personification of the death-obsessed soul"; Théodore de Banville, publishing in the same year as Giraud, praises Pierrot's "joie", and Jules Laforgue introduces irony as a principal ingredient. Giraud's inspiration was the poetry of Les Fleurs du mal.

Part I establishes that the time is night, that Pierrot, a poet and dandy from Bergamo, is "moondrunk," and intends to present his beloved Columbine with blossoms of moonlight. He daubs his face with moonlight, and the moon washes clothes made of moonbeams. A "Valse de Chopin" evokes a drop of blood on the lips of a consumptive. Pierrot presents his verses to the Madonna "of all sorrows", and the poet is crucified on his verses. The moon is pale with lovesickness.

The images of Part II are morbid and violent. Night descends when the wings of a giant moth eclipse the sun. Pierrot becomes a blasphemer and a grave-robber whose life will end on the gallows, though between-times he sees the moon as a scimitar that will decapitate him.

The theme of Part III is homesickness, the nostalgia for the "Italian Pantomime of old", and eventual homecoming to Bergamo from, it seems, Venice, since the penultimate piece is a barcarolle, and since a moonbeam is the rudder of Pierrot's water-lily conveyance. Enacting bygone grotesqueries and rogueries, he drills a pipe bowl through the gleaming skull of Cassander, fills it with Turkish tobacco, inserts a cherry pipe stem in the polished surface, and puffs away. He interrupts his midnight serenade (cello) to scrape the instrument's bow across Cassander's bald pate. Then, discovering a white spot on the collar of his black jacket, he tries to rub it out, thinking it a fleck of plaster, only to discover, in the light of dawn, that it was the moon. In the final piece, the poet invoking the fragrance of a world long past, attains peace.

The musical content of Part I is comparatively simple. That of Part II is increasingly complex, while Part III, the most intricate of all, ends tranquilly. Eight instruments are required, but only five players, since the violinist also plays the viola, the flautist the piccolo, the clarinettist the bass clarinet. Piano and cello complete the ensemble. All eight instruments are used only in the last piece. Schoenberg's intent was to draw new sounds from traditional instruments, not to experiment with new instruments, as Stravinsky did with percussion in Histoire du Soldat.


Four Orchestral Songs, Op. 22

In a 1932 Frankfurt broadcast talk on the Four Songs, Schoenberg stated that "my feeling for form, modeled on the great masters, and my musical logic ... must guarantee that what I write is formally and logically correct, even if I do not realise it.... [The third and fourth songs] do not dispense with logic, but I cannot prove it." He goes on to say that he hears relationships in the work that he is unable to discern through the eye, and that "Only in this way is it possible to perceive the similarity between the first bar of the orchestral introduction [to No. 3] and the first bar of the voice part." Then, turning to the question of form--shapes and proportions--he concedes that "compositions for texts are inclined to allow the poem to determine their form, at least outwardly," and he identifies the "outward" as the correspondence of "declamation, tempo, and dynam
Disc: 1
Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 (original version)
1 Herzgewachse, Op. 20
2 Part I: No. 1. Moondrunk
3 Part I: No. 2. Columbine
4 Part I: No. 3. The Dandy
5 Part I: No. 4. An Ethereal Washerwoman
6 Part I: No. 5. Chopin Waltz
7 Part I: No. 6. Madonna
8 Part I: No. 7. The Sick Moon
9 Part II: No. 8. Night
10 Part II: No. 9. Prayer to Pierrot
11 Part II: No. 10. Theft
12 Part II: No. 11. Red Mass
13 Part II: No. 12. Gallows Song
14 Part II: No. 13. Beheading
15 Part II: No. 14. The Crosses
16 Part III: No. 15. Homesickness
17 Part III: No. 16. Vulgarity
18 Part III: No. 17. Parody
19 Part III: No. 18. The Moonspot
20 Part III: No. 19. Serenade
21 Part III: No. 20. Homeward Bound
22 Part III: No. 21. O Ancient Fragrance
23 No. 1. Seraphita
24 No. 2. Alle, welche dich Suchen
25 No. 3. Mach mich zum Wachter deiner Weiten
26 No. 4. Vorgefuhler
27 Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 (original version)
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