100 years Pierrot lunaire

Reading time: 2 min. Arnold Schönberg

Arnold Schönberg composed Pierrot lunaire, one of the benchmarks of modern music, in Berlin in 1912. Albertine Zehme, who commissioned the work, suggested Pierrot to Schönberg, who noted his initial impressions in his diary on 25 January, 1912: “I’ve looked at the poems; I’m very keen. Terrific idea, just what I’m after.”

The official première took place on 16 October 1912 in the Choralion Hall in Berlin, Eduard Steuermann wrote of that occasion: “The instrumentalists and the conductor, Schönberg, were behind a rather complicated screen – complicated because on a small stage it was not quite simple to build the screen so that the speaker should see the conductor but the audience not. […] And the success? There was, of course, a ‘scandal’ […], but also an intense ovation.” (Juilliard News Bulletin)

Pierrot lunairePierrot lunaire marks the high point of Schönberg’s expressionistic period, the essence of which he described as renouncing tonal centers and systematic relationships, replacing them with the twelve-tone method he was later to develop, with its dodecaphonic principles. In March 1912 Schönberg wrote in his diary: “And I am unconditionally approaching a new kind of expression – I can sense it. The sounds now are virtually becoming a bestially direct expression of sensual and intellectual feelings – almost as if everything had been directly propagated.”

Excerpt from the study score Arnold Schönberg: Pierrot lunaire from our new study score series


The Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Schönberg’s legendary melodrama cycle Pierrot lunaire with exhibitions in Vienna, Berlin and Banff, and also an anniversary concert.

The exhibition – with facsimile duplicates of the originals on display in Vienna – will be held almost concurrently in the Berlin Philharmonie and at the Banff Centre in Canada.

On Wednesday, 17 October 2012 – 100 years and 1 day after the first public performance of Pierrot lunaire in Berlin – members of the Berlin Philharmonic and the legendary Barbara Sukowa will perform Pierrot on stage in Vienna’s Konzerthaus.

Here you can find further information regarding performances of Pierrot lunaire.

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