Schoenberg : Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France

Music, Classical and opera
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
© JF Leclerc

Today, over a century after Schoenberg composed ‘Pierrot Lunaire’, the Western musical mind remains set as if by default to the comforting chords of tonal music. So the Orchestre philhamonique de Radio France’s performance of the Austrian composer’s macabre masterpiece is a timely occasion to remind ourselves just how revolutionary was this piece, and the wider serialist movement to which Schoenberg belonged. Doing away not only with our system of major-minor scales, but with the very conventions of singing (the composition’s vocal part is half-spoken, in a striking anticipation of slam poetry and rap), ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ represented a huge break away from the musical norms of the time – which proved too traumatic for most. Those unaccustomed to atonal music may find it a difficult listen at times; but there’s no denying the piece’s raw force and enduring influence.

The concert’s second half is composed of the no less progressive Richard Strauss’s symphonic poem ‘Don Juan’ and short opera ‘Salomé’.

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