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Schoenberg’s polyphonic tone poem Pelleas und Melisande is often compared to Debussy’s opera based on the same text by Maurice Maeterlinck.
According to the composer, “The first performance, 1905, in Vienna, under my own direction, provoked riots among the audience and even the critics. Reviews were unusually violent and one of the critics suggested putting me in an asylum and keeping music paper out of my reach. Only six years later, under Oscar Fried’s direction, it became a great success, and since that time has not caused the anger of the audience”.
The most innovative features of Erwartung, a “monodrama for soprano and large orchestra”, are the continual variation of orchestral textures, and the constantly changing tempi. Not only are the instrumental combinations new, but the instruments themselves are required to produce new sounds.
Arnold Schoenberg: Pelleas und Melisande, Op. 5
(Rehearsal No. 23)
Arnold Schoenberg: Erwartung, Op. 17
Scene 1: Hier hinein?
Scene 2: Ist das noch der Weg?
Scene 3: Da kommt ein Licht!
Scene 4: Er ist auch nicht da
23rd August 2008
“The two pieces couldn’t be more stylistically different. The luxuriant Pelleas is a whirlpool of emotions built tightly by Craft and the Philharmonia, balancing the robust core and lightness of this multilayered score with an emphasis on sinister undertow. It’s a similar story with Erwartung, as Craft’s orchestra mimic the emotions of the nervy soprano Anja Silja.”
“Anja Silja could hardly be more persuasive in Erwartung, Schoenberg's 1909 monodrama for soprano and large orchestra. Silja is magnificent at conveying the tortured intensity of Schoenberg's writing, and Craft accentuates those obsessive figurations that give the score its claustrophobic intensity.”