Pierrot lunaire: Albert Giraud, Otto Erich Hartleben, Arnold Schoenberg: Une Collection D'etudes Musico-Litteraires.
Like many other musicologists, I have in the past dismissed Albert Giraud as a "minor Belgian poet" who required only an obligatory mention before I discussed what seemed to be more substantive issues in Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire. Belgians don't feel quite the same way, as I first
learned from reading press reviews of the Brussels premiere of the Schoenberg work: the French retranslation of Otto Erich Hartelben's German translation of Giraud's French original disgusted some Belgian critics, who saw such translation as an abuse of their countryman's poetry. Translation is in fact a primary theme of this collection of essays, which also serves as an important corrective to our sometimes shallow notions of interdisciplinary research.
Originating in an international literary and musicological congress on Pierrot lunaire held at the Katholieke Universtiteit Leuven--in Giraud's home town--this trilingual volume presents the work of German, British, French, American, and Belgian scholars on topics ranging from Pierrot's theatrical and literary antecedents, to the intertextual relationships among Giraud, Hartleben, and Schoenberg's versions, to Pierrot's translation, transmission, and reception.
Three essays in the collection pay particular attention to Hartleben's 1893 translation of Giraud's 1884 collection, Pierrot lunaire: Rondels begamasques (Jean-Michel Gouvard, "Metrique comparee de l'octosyllabe francais et allemand. Du Pierrot lunaire d'Albert Giraud a sa traduction par Otto Erich Hartleben"; Lieven Tack, "Transfert et traduction de Pierrot lunaire: une description sociosemotique"; Robert Vilain, "Pierrot lunaire: Cyclic coherence in Giraud and Schoenberg"). Each of these essays suggests that the process of translation is more than a rendering of the original in different words: rather, it is the creation of a parallel work in a new context. While Gouvard details the rich metrical palette Hartleben employed to accommodate German speech rhythms, Vilain shows that Giraud's cycle reflects his ambivalence about the Parnassian (formalist)/Symbolist debate in French poetry, using Parnassian form but showing "the Symbolists' concern for the careful, suggestive use of language and the power of the imagination to penetrate beyond the surface tension of the here-and-now" (p. 130). A significant difference in Hartleben's cycle is the absence of the poetic debate as a context, which shifts Hartleben's focus away from poetry and the poet--a focus reinstated by Schoenberg's selection and reorganization. Hartleben's translation, then, transforms Giraud's texts in several significant ways, preserving the rondel form and order of individual poems, but changing the sonic, syntactic, and semantic properties of the poems individually and as a set. Tack investigates the question of how Hartleben came by Giraud's texts, chronicles his interactions with Giraud, and details Hartleben's lengthy and painstaking process. Among the three essays we find a rich history of the whats, whys and hows of the Giraud-Hartleben translation that goes considerably deeper than the customary musicological narrative.
From a music analytical perspective, the most interesting discussion in the volume revolves around the relationship between the text, Schoenberg's musical setting, and the idea of cyclic unity (Jonathan Dunsby, "Schoenberg's Pierrot keeping his Kopfmotif"; Stephan Weytjens, "Text as a Crutch in Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire?"; Ethan Haimo, "Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire: a Cycle?"). In addition to their primary arguments, each of these essays touches on important issues in Schoenberg scholarship, including how literally we should interpret Schoenberg's pronouncements about compositional process, and Schoenberg's ambivalence toward texted music.
Weytjens argues that the formal, syntactic, and semantic properties of Hartleben's texts saturate even Schoenberg's "through-composed" settings of the Pierrot melodramas. Although "clear, transparent recaptitulations" (p. 112) appear in only a small number of the settings, Weytjens finds "affinities" between musical phrases at "pivotal moments" in the rondel form (p. 111). Somewhat less convincingly, Dunsby tentatively proposes that all twenty-one melodramas may be built upon the same Grundgestalt, or basic shape. Haimo's essay, whose conclusions, incidentally, are not endorsed by the editors, strikes me as the most compelling of these music-analysis essays: he argues that, although Pierrot lunaire is clearly a cycle from the perspective of the text, it is not a cycle from a musical standpoint, and for good reasons. Haimo addresses the motivic similarites among movements that have been asserted by other scholars as evidence of Pierrot's cyclicity and points out that the motives themselves are not significant enough nor their similarities perceptible enough to constitute cyclic integration. Moreover, Haimo points out, within Pierrot are "melodramas with hardly any traditional features of organization and [those] with the most obsessive degrees of organization" (p. 154). Thus Pierrot is emblematic of that "period of indecision" between Schoenberg's radically non-thematic works and the development of the twelve-tone method. Pierrot's "lack" of large-scale structure is not a failing, but rather a historical characteristic of the work, and one that provided Schoenberg opportunities for ironic uses of cyclic elements.
Two essays at the beginning of the volume locate the character Pierrot in the context of his theatrical origins (Francois Moureau, "Naissance du type de Pierrot en France: des Italiens aux Foires parisiennes du XVIIIe siecle"; Jean de Palacio, "Le recuil comme scene, ou la confusion des genres"), while two concluding essays round out the collection with accounts of Pierrot's reception (Helga Mitterbauer, "Der bleiche Mond uber dem Wiener Prater. Zur Pierrot-Rezeption in der deutschsprachigen Literatur um 1900"; Andreas Meyer, "Schonbergs Pierrot in Paris: Rezeption, Projektion und Einfluss"). Taking as his point of departure the paintings and engravings of Claude Gillot and Antoine Watteau, Moureau follows the artistic and theatrical representations of the character Pierrot through the eighteenth century to conclude that received notions of Pierrot's dominance on the stages of traveling theaters is largely a myth founded on his over-representation in visual art. Moreover, Moureau argues, Pierrot is a specifically French "type," in spite of his origins in the Italian comic theater (p. 22). An incidental point in Moureau's essay is suggestive: the Pierrot character frequently played travesti roles (a practice reversed by the customary performance of Schoenberg's Pierrot by a female reciter).
Pierrot's translation from theatrical to literary genres is the subject of Palacio's essay, and its suggestions on the performative aspects of Giraud's text bring to mind what is missing in this interdisciplinary colloquy: there is very little attention to performance beyond Pierrot's commedia dell'arte prehistory. The final two essays present interesting accounts of Pierrot's proliferation through, respectively, Franz Blei's 1911 reissue of Hartleben's translation and the Societe Musicale Independante's enthusiasm for Schoenberg between the two world wars. The latter of these does attribute significance to Marya Freund's performances of Pierrot lunaire in Paris (and in French), but primarily the essay is about texts, how Schoenberg's texts lead to other texts. Even Christian Martin Schmidt's essay on Sprechstimme ("Das Problem Sprechgesang bei Arnold Schoenberg") dwells mostly on Schoenberg's various notation systems for Sprechstimme and the composer's directions for performance without discussing any actual performances.
Although the research group at the Katholieke Universtiteit Leuven that organized the Pierrot conference is headed by both a musicologist and a literary scholar (the editors of the volume), it is clear from their introduction that their research agenda is heavily oriented toward texts--musical and literary analyses and contexts for authorship and publication. This emphasis on text to the near exclusion of performance is unfortunate because the unnotated performance practices of cabaret diseuses would seem to be an important type of translation that both forms a context for Schoenberg's Pierrot and completes the cycle of translations offered by this volume: from theater to literature; from French to German; from literature to composition; from composition to musical performance. Moreover, more attention to performance and performers would relieve the relentless paucity of women in these otherwise quite informative essays--a paucity that seems terribly strange when discussing a work so thoroughly dominated by female performers.
Taken together, the essays in this volume constitute a significant contribution to the literature on Pierrot lunaire, and both scholars and general audiences will find something valuable in these pages. A plurality of the essays appears in English (five), while four are in French and three in German. The introduction and conclusion--rather jarringly, I thought--change languages every paragraph or so. Still, there is enough in this volume that even "English-only" readers can deepen their knowledge and understanding of this complex of iconic modernist works.
ELIZABETH L. KEATHLEY
University of North Carolina, Greensboro