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Object #58 The Moon’s Pallid Blossoms

Arnold Schönberg: Pierrot lunaire, op. 21 (Colombine)
Text: Albert Giraud, German: Otto Erich Hartleben
Conducting score
1912

Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien

Arnold Schönberg’s Pierrot lunaire, op. 21, a key work of musical modernism, was written in 1912 in Berlin Zehlendorf for the elocutionist Albertine Zehme. A speaking voice and five performers were used in changing instrumentation, that is, in varying combinations: the flautist also plays piccolo, the clarinetist also bass clarinet, and the violinist also viola; additionally, there is a pianist and a cellist. In solos, duos, trios, quartets, and quintets of varying constellations, the composer created a cosmos of sounding colors around the speaking voice. The specific instrumentation of the texts and their poetic realms follows traditional models. The flute, for instance, is associated with the moon, while the piccolo accentuates Pierrot’s buffoonery and portrays light and brilliance with its bright tone color.
In the first fart of Schönberg’s opus 21, the dominant theme is that of the artist, whose world of thought and creative impulse is symbolized by the moon. The second part descends, after a “deathly ill” clouding of the moonlight, deeper and deeper into the shadow-world of death, and the “sun’s glow” is blotted out by giant black moths, the emissaries of the night.

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