A. Schönberg & M. Hyytiäinen: Pierrot Lunaire und drei Schattenträume

Premiere Cabel Fabric, Pannuhalli(2012)
Further performances
Kamarikesä, Ritarihuone (2012)
Wondersite Festival, Tokyo (2013)

Composer Miika Hyytiäinen composed shadow images to accompany Arnold Schönberg’s classic work, drawing inspiration from the dream diary of the soloist Annika Fuhrmann.

Miika Hyytiäinen, composer
Jaakko Nousiainen, director
Jari Piitulainen, light
Annika Fuhrmann, voice & libretto
Varjo Ensemble:
Turkka Inkilä, flute
Taavi Oramo, clarinet
Kari Olama, violin & viola
Johanna Tarkkanen, cello
Gaile Griciute, piano

© Johan Forström

“The Kamarikesä Festival for young talents, now in its eighth edition, challenges the conventional concert concept with increasing freshness each year. In Wednesday’s concert, poetry, music, musical dialogue, and visual drama merged into a beautifully rich dreamworld, at the core of which was Arnold Schönberg’s inherently multi-layered, beautiful, and eerie Sprechgesang cycle Pierrot lunaire, Moonstruck Pierrot. Bold young musicians, composer Miika Hyytiäinen, and director Jaakko Nousiainen had constructed layers around Pierrot, but the mysterious dreamlike quality and the sincerity of the execution maintained a delightful harmony.

Based on soprano Annika Fuhrmann’s miniature dream diaries, Miika Hyytiäinen had created three commentating interludes or shadow play, Schattenträume, to accompany Schönberg’s work. The shadow dreams gracefully emerge from imitating Schönberg’s musical language but gradually deviate, developing into a performative space. Tonal colors, however, remain within Schönberg’s and the decadent Pierrot text’s realm, and the unreal, even reverent nocturnal atmosphere remains unbroken.

The detachment of the shadow from its host and the liberation of the shadow-dweller can also be seen as an interpretation of Albert Giraud’s (and the German interpreter O. E. Hartleben’s) original poetry series. Pierrot, gazing at the waning moon, the innocent commedia dell’arte character, transforms in the poems into a symbol of outright psychosis. Only after a multi-stage execution does Pierrot return to his own dimension, and eventually, the speaker can freely gaze at the “beloved world framed by the sun.” At times somewhat detached, but in its understated elegance, the dramatization supported the text admirably: Fuhrmann, entirely masked in black, was the shadow of the white, moon-like Pierrot doll, gradually freeing herself from the lifeless burden and donning a white suit. The ensemble musicians were strongly present, alternately acting out their own tableau fragments.

However, Hyytiäinen’s shadow music does not find its own identity in the same way after the shadows but, after an impressively prolonged spoken imitating section, turns into a rather short-lived gestural series that still could have benefited from leading into some developed material. However, one cannot speak of any stagnation; the performers supported their interpretation so uniquely intensively and nuancedly. The ensemble breathed sensitively with the shifts in color between the text and the score, and Annika Fuhrmann’s metallic-clear, multifaceted soprano ranged from a delicate whisper to a naive grotesque bleat and powerful vocal accents – the nuances of Pierrot lunaire seldom come out so meaningfully.”

Auli Särkiö, Amfion (8.8.2012)

“Musically, the performance was excellent: Schönberg was, to a large extent, a colorist, a quality that often goes unnoticed amidst the 12-tone horror. Fuhrmann’s Sprechgesang was natural and free, avoiding the awkward straining between speech and pitch that opera sopranos sometimes exhibit.”

Jukka Isopuro, Helsingin Sanomat (10.8.2012)

“Arnold Schönberg’s nearly hundred-year-old Pierrot Lunaire (1912) is in many ways a significant and thoroughly expressionistic work. (…) How well, then, do Hyytiäinen’s additions differ from the original part? Very well, it can be stated. Hyytiäinen’s new sections are known as Schattenträume (Shadow Dreams) and serve as some sort of dramaturgical fermatas or cadenzas. If Schönberg’s music progresses dynamically in a steady beat, the events come to a halt in Hyytiäinen’s interlude; long tones and tremolos characterize the section. Towards the end, Schönberg’s and Hyytiäinen’s sections blend more and more into each other.

The text of the additions is based on soprano Annika Fuhrmann’s dreams written in the spring of 2010. The dreams give everything an intimate touch and act as a concrete counterpart to the profound content of the original work. Fuhrmann interprets both the original and additional sections with great empathy and human understanding. Her quick vibrato adds extra tension to the performance. The musicians also do commendable work. If Schönberg’s music has sometimes received unnecessarily stark interpretations and seemed difficult to understand, here it is shown how to perform it with sensitivity and beauty.

Pierrot Lunaire is usually presented straightforwardly in concert form, but this time it’s different. Jaakko Nousiainen’s direction is so full of influences that it’s impossible to grasp them all at first glance. Black and white dominate, but other colors like blue, gray, red, and orange also make an impression. The expression is strong, somewhat polemic, declamatory, and highly theatrical.

Wilhelm Kvist, HBL (15.9.2011)