Skip to main content
×
×
Home

‘A Multicoloured Alphabet’: Rediscovering Albert Giraud’s Pierrot Lunaire

  • ROGER MARSH
Abstract

Albert Giraud’s cycle of fifty rondels bergamasques, Pierrot Lunaire (1884), famously became, in Otto Erich Hartleben’s German translation, the basis of Schoenberg’s Op. 21 (1912). But for many decades the work of the Belgian poet was either straightforwardly denigrated for its anachronism and ‘mediocrity’ (Boulez), or at least declared inferior to its ‘vivid, Angst-filled transformation’ (Youens) in Hartleben’s hands. This article questions some widely held beliefs concerning the original Pierrot and its subsequent reworking. The claim that Schoenberg’s selection and reorganization of the poems imposed logic and order on an otherwise jumbled collection is found to be belied by the striking narrative coherence of Giraud’s original sequence, which is unified by a clearly defined set of symbols. Meanwhile, Hartleben’s putative ‘infidelity’ to Giraud is challenged by evidence both internal (his careful preservation of the rondel structure) and contextual (an esteem for his Belgian contemporary manifested in further poetic homages). While there is no doubt that Hartleben’s translations distance the poems from their background in Parnassian aesthetics – omitting crucial references to Brueghel, Shakespeare, Watteau, and the painter and lithographer Adolphe Willette – it is Giraud himself who deserves the credit for the most strikingly memorable images later absorbed into the expressionistic milieu of Schoenberg’s melodrama.

Copyright
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Twentieth-Century Music
  • ISSN: 1478-5722
  • EISSN: 1478-5730
  • URL: /core/journals/twentieth-century-music
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed