MITSUKO UCHIDA IN SALZBURG - Schubert / Schumann / Schönberg
A compelling rendering of a key work of early modernity with a dream cast paired with a declaration of love to Romanticism, with songs of passion and despair
One of the greatest innovators in 20th-century music was Arnold Schoenberg, who began to revolutionize the musical idiom around 1900 and, through his writings, teachings – he numbered Alban Berg and Anton Webern among his students – and works, made a lasting contribution to the emancipation of music from the heaviness of late-Romantic tonality. The most important, seminal work of his earlier career – and one of the key works of 20th-century music – is “Pierrot lunaire,” a cycle of three groups of seven songs from the poem “Pierrot lunaire” by Albert Giraud in Otto Erich Hartleben’s translation. Schoenberg wrote the work in 1912; its composition had been suggested by the actress Albertine Zehme, whom Schoenberg had met in the fall of 1911.
Written for a small chamber ensemble, the work stands out above all for its treatment of the voice, which half sings and half speaks (“Sprechgesang”) the lyrics. Stravinsky was so impressed by the work that he called it the “solar plexus” of 20th-century music. It ushered in a new style of short, lightly scored theatrical works such as Stravinsky’s own “L’histoire du soldat.” The use of atonality and Sprechgesang also presaged the later use of such techniques to express alienation and violence.
This recording was made at the Salzburg Festival and features world-renowned pianist Mitsuko Uchida – for whom “Pierrot lunaire” is one of her favorite pieces – and German screen star Barbara Sukowa as the recitalist. “She sighed, whispered and declaimed her way with a supple voice through the lyrical, lamenting, dream-like lyrics of the Pierrot poems,” wrote the Salzburger Nachrichten. And at the end of the Schoenberg work, “the audience’s frenetic cheers filled the Haus für Mozart” (Kronen-Zeitung). An ambitious and challenging program that departs from the mainstream!
Also available is a one-hour documentary on the rehearsals of the work for the Salzburg performance.
SCHUMANN / SCHUBERT
Internationally celebrated pianist Mitsuko Uchida has long been admired for her sensitive performances of the great composers of the classical and romantic eras, but also of Schoenberg and other 20th-century composers. In this concert recorded in the Haus für Mozart at the Salzburg Festival, she performs the piano part of two chamber works, Franz Schubert’s Trio for Violin, Violoncello and Piano in E flat major D 897 (“Notturno”) and Robert Schumann’s Lieder cycle “Dichterliebe” op. 48 with tenor Ian Bostridge.
Written in late 1827 and early 1828, Schubert’s Notturno was most likely originally intended as the slow movement of the Piano Trio D 898, but was replaced by an Andante there. Time seems to stand still as the quintessentially Schubertian piece unfolds a tapestry of contemplative ecstasy that is rendered particularly beautifully here by Uchida and her partners Mark Steinberg (violin) and Clemens Hagen (violoncello).
The tenor Ian Bostridge, who has performed in all of the world’s major concert venues with celebrated orchestras, conductors and chamber-music partners, is the “protagonist” of this Lieder cycle, which is laid out as a narrative of love – from the initial awakening of love through passion, disillusion, despair and resignation. Written in 1840 – three years after Schumann had become secretly engaged to the young Clara Wieck – the songs reflect the turbulent emotions experienced by the enamored composer. His “penetrating interpretation was utterly convincing,” wrote the Salzburger Nachrichten, adding: “Mitsuko Uchida accompanied him with a rich palette of expressions.”