My congratulations and thanks go to the faculty of the University of Delaware music department for the terrific performances of Pierrot Lunaire Friday and Sunday at the German Society of Pennsylvania. I attended both, because I figured, hey, how often do you get to hear Pierrot live? It was worth the extra trip, too, because, for whatever reason, I enjoyed the Sunday performance more. Maybe I was more alive to the sound, or maybe I was paying more attention to the performance than the words in the program, or maybe the ensemble was looser.
The music is like super-concentrated Wagner — extended recitative (and most of Wagner’s vocal music is extended recit) over a sensitive and arresting instrumental accompaniment.
Noel Archambeault, the soprano, was outstanding and expressive, despite a few balance problems. On Friday evening, she stood at behind the flutist and clarinetist on the German Society's shallow stage, and there were times I couldn't hear her at all. On Sunday, she stood further forward and off to the side, which helped — as did her tendency to hit the notes more strongly — through the problem persisted in some spots. (She also seemed to be tiring in the later sections.) I don't mean to cavil: the performance was too good to be ruined by an acoustic inconvenience.
Harvey Price conducted, ably and unobtrusively. Instrumentalists were Eileen Grycky, flute/piccolo; Marianne Gythfedlt, clarinet/bass clarinet; Timothy Swartz, violin/viola; Larry Stromberg, cello; and Julia Nishimura, piano. Cheers all around.
Only about 20 people showed up Friday evening, but the musicians put the best face on it. Tim Swartz said afterward he was happy there were more people in the audience than on stage. Sunday's attendance was better. I estimated the audience at fifty or more. The audiences may have been small, but they were knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Usually, in my experience, when a concert is devoted entirely to modern music and listeners arrive knowing what they are going to hear, they go home happy. The problem starts when the program is mixed, and half the audience is there to hear the Brahms. That's when the walk-outs occur.
Pierrot Lunaire is an extraordinary piece, and (as with most anything) even more effective live. Hard to believe it's 100 years old this year! It must have stymied many audiences when it first appeared. Great that you got to hear it - and twice.
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