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Pierrot Centenary Project and the Lunar Ensemble

Posted In: Events and Programs, Your Library, State Library Resource Center, Video
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By Bill Jones, Assistant Manager of the Fine Arts and Music Department

Pierrot Centenary Project @ Peabody flyer for October 6 and 7, 2012 The Pratt Library will host a special afternoon concert and lecture on Saturday, October 6:
A Centenary Celebration of Pierrot Lunaire* with Paul Mathews and the LUNAR Ensemble (*Pierrot lunaire is a melodrama for voice and small ensemble by Arnold Schoenberg, based on 21 poems by Albert Giraud.)

You might say the modern world turns 100 this fall, at least from the standpoint of classical music. The Enoch Pratt Central Library/State Library Resource Center will celebrate the centennial anniversary on October 6th with a performance of a one-of-a-kind musical composition, Pierrot lunaire, featuring the Baltimore-based LUNAR Ensemble.

Back in 1912, Europe was just about to fall into the abyss that became World War I. Since the turn of the twentieth century, increased militarism, nationalism, and imperialism among great powers like Germany, France, England, and Austria-Hungary, had ratcheted up the tension to almost unbearable levels. The whole thing would explode less than two years later in 1914.

Contrary to stereotype, artists and musicians live in the real world, too. In reaction to the growing chaos around them, famous painters of that day created vivid, intense, and jarring images--twisted and distorted--characterized by violent colors and frenzied drawing.

Arnold Schoenberg photo by Florence Homolka, c. 1948
Arnold Schoenberg photo
by Florence Homolka, c. 1948

Classical music’s anxiety also bubbled over in 1912 with the premiere of the melodrama Pierrot lunaire ("Pierrot in the moonlight") by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951). Schoenberg creates a sense of eerie unreality to the piece in a couple of ways. First, the music is ‘atonal’ (meaning there are no ‘C Majors’ or ‘G minors’ to make the listener feel at home and comfortable). Second, the main character, Pierrot, does not really speak or sing his role. (Although Pierrot is male, the role is always sung by a woman). Instead, Pierrot performs a dramatic combination of speaking and singing at the same time which is both unsettling and unforgettable.

Classical music is an inheritance of human experience, offering a chance to understand something of how the world felt to the artist who created it. So go ahead and take that opportunity. Come see the upcoming performance of this unique work, Pierrot lunaire. After all, there’s plenty of anxiety around today, just as there was a hundred years ago, and you might discover that you have something in common with Pierrot, wandering around out in the moonlight.

Join us for A Centenary Celebration of Pierrot Lunaire on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. in the Central Library.You can also learn more about the Pierrot Centenary Project and the Lunar Ensemble at www.lunarensemble.com.


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