Schoenberg and Poetry presents two important works based on poetry, which span the development of composer, music theorist and painter, Arnold Schoenberg's musical style from late Romanticism to twelve-tone.
Barry McGovern reads the poems by Richard Dehmel and Albert Giraud which inspired both works in celebrated English translations by Stanley Appelbaum and Andrew Porter.
Schoenberg's early string sextet Verklrte Nacht explores the limits of tonality, taking Romantic chromaticism to its pinnacle. Dehmel's poem tells of two people walking in the night, the woman carrying a child by a stranger, having conceived the child believing she would never meet her true love, but "life has taken its revenge: now I have met you". The man replies that the child will be transfigured to be his own and with this the night scene is transfigured, represented by Schoenberg's miraculous harmonic shift into D major.
Written for mixed ensemble and narrator, Schoenberg's melodrama Pierrot Lunaire sets 21 poems by Albert Giraud in Hartlebens German translation to music in Sprechstimme (speaking-song) style, abandoning traditional tonality to instead embrace all twelve tones of the scale as equal. In three parts (three times seven poems), the drunken Pierrot sings of love, sexual longing and religion; experiences nightmares of theft, violence and blasphemy, before journeying home to Bergamo. Considered one of the twentieth centurys most groundbreaking works, Pierrot Lunaire continues to enthral audiences with a modernity, still felt today.