Reinhold Friedl

Reinhold Friedl: Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Cheap Imitation

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Reinhold Friedl's distillation of Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire sounds like a misshapen but still recognizable reduction of the work, resembling a dimly recalled performance heard years before, perhaps, or bits and pieces of it called up in a dream. By taking essential phrases of the vocal line and fragments of musical accompaniment, usually derived from the first page or two of each song, then mixing them all up, Friedl creates a new, drastically abbreviated, and somewhat simplified version of the Expressionist masterpiece that he named Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Cheap Imitation, a wry title that points up the madness in his method. Inspired by an anecdote about the first performance of Pierrot Lunaire, when Schoenberg couldn't tell that his clarinetist was playing a clarinet in B flat rather than the clarinet in A specified in the score, Friedl extrapolates that it is not always essential that every instruction from the composer should be observed, or that we should hear every precise pitch, accent, dynamic, or rhythm written on the page. Instead, we should come away with a sense of the gestures, shapes, and expressions in the music, without obsessing over details. The ensemble Zeitkratzer, conducted by Franz Hautzinger, turns in a hallucinatory performance that has the looseness of form and content that Friedl seems to require; without a score, one cannot be sure how demanding or free it is. The grotesquely theatrical performance by Markus Weiser (identified on the package as a soprano, though his Sprechstimme is really in the tenor-alto range) is obviously in the tradition of Pierrot, even if it is distorted and disconnected from the actual part. The success or failure of Friedl's piece depends largely on whether one accepts or rejects his deconstructionist position; but many listeners who love the original may feel this is little more than an interesting postmodern gloss, or just an avant-garde joke that loses its punchline early on.

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