Review, Patricia Kopatchinskaja & Friends: Pierrot Lunaire, Purcell Room, London by James Ellis

Photo credit: Euishin Kim / Det Norske Kammerorkester

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Another piece I’m finally getting the chance to hear live. Patricia Kopatchinskaja is a multi-talented singer and violinist who both held the reins and let loose in a furious hour of weird music making.

Whilst I’d think most in the audience wanted to near Pierrot Lunaire by Arnold Schoenberg, we are treated to huge journeys with CPE Bach, Berio, Milhaud and more experiments. Personally, I like the piece to be played on their own and not during Lunaire. I was loving it all though, Patricia dressed as if the sad clown of Italian opera. Her Dada like happenings also added well to the broth. Her singing was furious and unwavering, more sing-talk as the composer intended. Her little improvisations on violin, were quirky, her comic timing also a thing of beauty. The stage is covered in newspapers, hanging coat tails, abstract paintings, and a metallic kettle.

Lunaire is a truly absurd piece. Even for early Schoenberg, the outrageous expression of each song bursts out, so many elements make it overwhelming. The verse by Albert Giraud paints surreal visions and appalling digressions. The band of musicians, with white make up (though more subtle on them then Patricia), also bought manic passions and a commanding presence. I imagine this is a nightmare to play and sing. I cannot begin to grasp it…

I love the extra elements of making this more accessible, also extra important today. Though I do wonder if this is the right piece for the job. The crazy, angular form of Lunaire and the floating, blasting words make it heavy load for most ears. Having said that, this was a fun hour which I will recall most fondly. 

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