A Documentary by Matthias Leutzendorff & Christian Meyer
The 2011 Salzburg Festival hosted pianist Mitsuko Uchida, actress Barbara Sukowa and a hand-picked international ensemble, who performed the work for its centennial with exemplary energy and finesse, acclaimed as a climactic moment by the audience and critiques alike.
“A good performance needs to have heart and spirit, and that is what we try to achieve. The piano should sin! And the voice should speak. I should also play the piano in a way
that doesn’t sound like piano. I have to sound like the flute, the violin and so on. Everybody melts into one.” M. Uchida
Arnold Schönberg’s contemporaries agreed that his Pierrot lunaire was an extraordinary masterpiece, a “miracle of sound and expression” (Anton Webern); Stravinsky called it “the solar plexus as well as the mind of early twentieth century music,” and Pierre Boulez added, “we are certainly indebted to him for his Pierrot lunaire.” A diseuse and a small ensemble perform three times seven poems in which the commedia dell’ arte figure Pierrot roams through fantastical nocturnal worlds, recounting experiences — some erotic-religious, some libidinous-ecstatic — before returning home to Bergamo and the “ancient scent from far-off days.” Schönberg’s now-famous expressive technique of Sprechgesang and instrumentation specific to each poem characterize the 21 poems in a magnificence of Klangfarbe which was unheard-of until then. Comparison of this expressive music with the garishly coloured paintings of Schönberg’s friends Vassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc is almost as inevitable as with the contemporaneous Cubist work of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.
„A good performance needs to have heart and spirit, and that is what we try to achieve. The piano should sing and the voice should speak. I should also play the piano in a way that doesn’t sound like piano. I have to sound like the flute, the violin and so on. Everybody melts into one.”
“It creates an exciting togetherness that is always on the edge.”
Mitsuko Uchida: piano
Barbara Sukowa: Sprechgesang
Marina Piccinini: flute
Anthony McGill: clarinet
Mark Steinberg: violin
Clemens Hagen: cello