A harvest moon shone in Glasgow’s skies on Saturday evening, a celestial appetizer for an intoxicating performance of Pierrot Lunaire in the city’s west end.
It takes an intrepid ensemble to guide listeners through this unnerving melodrama, yet the new Auricle Ensemble has stepped up to the plate, giving audiences an all-too-rare opportunity to not only hear this work but to have it explained in a prosaic, even light-hearted manner.
Conductor Christopher Swaffer preceded the performance with a Charles Hazelwood-style introduction, striking up the band to play excerpts as he gave a lucid overview of the work. Swaffer then called on his players to deliver a delicate, technically impeccable and sensitive reading of Schoenberg’s detailed score, bringing to life the disjointed travails of our eponymous moonstruck clown.
Soprano Alexa Mason was brilliantly theatrical, demonstrating a stirring variety of psychological states and mastering the challenges of Sprechstimme, Schoenberg’s half speech/half song technique. Handsomely presented surtitles allowed the audience to correspond the quicksilver contrasts and depictive solos of the ensemble with Albert Giraud’s vivid and ghoulish text.
It is a thoughtful approach to Schoenberg’s complex, paradoxical musical ideas, one which receives its final airing in Edinburgh – without that atmospheric moon – in a lunchtime performance at the Reid Hall onTuesday October 20.