Drawing attention to contemporary masterpieces in which human voice takes the lead, the eighth International Pharos Contemporary Music Festival opens on Wednesday with the performance of one of the most emblematic works of the twentieth century.
Over a decade since the Pharos Arts Foundation presented the Cyprus premiere of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with the London Sinfonietta, the work which has changed the history of vocal music forever and which has never been performed in Cyprus since, will be heard again. This time by the legendary vocalist Marianne Pousseur, who will join forces with the exceptional ensemble Het Collectief under the direction of German conductor Robin Engelen. Collectief will also perform Schoenberg’s post-Romantic masterpiece Verklärte Nacht, as well as Alban.
Pierrot Lunaire is the keystone of contemporary chamber music – the work that fundamentally altered the course of composition. One of the most daringly original and profoundly influential works in music history, Pierrot Lunaire is the work that launched Modernism and pulled music away from the safe harbour of the past forever.
Schoenberg took his title from a volume by the Belgian surrealist / symbolist poet Albert Giraud, selecting 21 poems which he arranged in three groups of seven.
The poems are based on the naive character Pierrot, from the Italian Commedia dell’ arte tradition, and they present various perspectives on his main concerns, which are moonlight, love, religion and death.
The composer’s highly original music perfectly complements the changing moods of the poems: at times gentle and atmospheric, intensely anguished, wistfully nostalgic, or with ironic detachment.
Years after the composer’s death, Stravinsky pronounced the work “the solar plexus as well as the mind of early twentieth-century music.”
It is not surprising that after all these years, Pierrot Lunaire continues to shock audiences with its sheer originality, and like all great masterpieces, it is a work that sounds forever fresh.
The piece will be brought to life again by Pousseur and the ensemble Het Collectief.
Pousseur, who is one of the most iconic and celebrated performers of contemporary music, appears frequently with ensembles such as the Schoenberg Ensemble, Remix Porto, Die Reihe Vienna, and she has appeared numerous times with the Ensemble InterContemporain.
Her immense theatrical experience has allowed her to be the actress reciting in symphonic works such as Psyche by César Franck and Peer Gynt by Grieg.
The chamber music ensemble Het Collectief was founded in 1998 in Brussels. Working consistently from a solid nucleus of five musicians, the ensemble has created an intriguing and idiosyncratic sound, achieved by an unfamiliar mix of strings, wind instruments and piano.
Engelen, who has collaborated and led many fine orchestras around the world, will be conducting the evening.
Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire
The Pharos Arts Foundation presents a performance of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. October 5. The Shoe Factory, Nicosia. 8.30pm. €10. Tel: 22-663871