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Avior Byron will present a paper 'Huberman as Beethoven' in the 2010 Israel Musicology Conference.   

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Avior Byron

My name is Avior Byron and I am a musicologist, blogger and composer. I write books, articles and a blog about music, performance, research, and theory. Read more at my about page

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Early Performances of Pierrot Lunaire Op. 21 Research Proposal

Here is the research proposal I wrote for the Edison Fellowship in the British Library Sound Archive. The proposal was written during January 2008. Now I am actually starting to do the research.  

Early Performances of Pierrot Lunaire Op. 21: Recordings, Reception and Cultural Meanings



The great differences between the early recordings of Op. 21 imply that one should seek to understand them by coming to terms, not only with the score, but also with performance. Most of the literature on Schoenbergs Pierrot lunaire concentrates on compositional aspects of the score or on issues concerning the text of the songs.The few articles that were written on the performance of this piece focused on the voice producing the Sprechstimme. Almost nothing was written on the performance of the ensemble (and its relation to the Sprechstimme and text).   
This study will attempt to reduce the gulf between analysis and the listeners’ and performers’ experiences, by analysing recordings (see the discography below), performance reception and cultural history. The aim is to reveal the musical elements that are most relevant for performers and listeners, and to discuss the cultural meanings that they support.


I wish to spend one month in the Sound Archive in London (1 July 2009 - 1 August 2009, continuous residence with visits on a daily basis), in order to examine recordings and study relevant literature. I plan to study recordings from the 1940s-1960s (all of the recordings are present in the holdings of the Sound Archive), to find any deviations of the recordings from the score indications, the special characteristics of each recording, and also the similarities among them. I will use several computer programs in order to sharpen my listening and for presenting the data (as I did in my publications in MTO and JSMI).


This study is in many ways a natural continuation of my PhD and Postdoctoral research which are focused on Schoenberg performance aesthetics and practice. I plan to write an article as a result of this study, which might develop to be part of a chapter in a book about early performances of Schoenberg’s music.

Potential significance

Schoenberg’s Op. 21 is considered to be one of the most important compositions of the twentieth century. Placing this piece in its early performance context is significant for a more comprehensive and historical appreciation. I wish to contribute to a refined understanding of those early performances as various musical commentaries of both the composer and some of his interpreters on contemporary musical and social trends.    
An understanding of the performance legacy of performers from Schoenberg’s circle, and other performers mentioned in the discography, is important for appreciating the initial historical interpretation of this music. The research will touch upon the issue of the relation between performance aesthetics and practice, and the affects of performance circumstances and technology on the performing. These issues are discussed to various extents in my publications. This study has potential to reveal to performers and listeners, previously unexplored interpretive issues of this music, which may have a significant affect on their experience.  


1.       Erika Stiedry-Wagner, voice; instrumental ensemble (Leonard Posella, flute & piccolo; Kalman Bloch, clarinet & bass clarinet; Rudolf Kolisch, violin & viola; Stefan Auber, violoncello; Edward Steuermann, piano); Arnold Schoenberg, conductor (recorded: Los Angeles, CA, 24 September 1940)  *CBS MPK 45695 mono ADD (1989) CD
2.       Ellen Adler, voice; Paris Chamber Ensemble (Jean-Pierre Rampal, flute & piccolo; Ernest Briand, clarinet; André Dupont, bass clarinet; Francine Villers, violin; Colette Lequien, viola; Sean Barati, violoncello; Claude Helffer, piano); René Leibowitz, conductor  *Dial DLP 16 mono (1951?) LP  
3.       Ethel Semser, soprano; Virtuoso Chamber Ensemble (Edward Walker, flute & piccolo; Sidney Fell, clarinet; Walter Lear, bass clarinet; Lionel Bentley, violin; Gwynne Edwards, viola; Willem De Mont, violoncello; Wilfrid Parry, piano); René Leibowitz, conductor (recorded: 1954?)  *Argo RG 54 mono (1955?) LP
4.       Alice Howland, voice; Lois Schaefer, flute & piccolo; Donald Lituchy, clarinet; David Kalina, bass clarinet; Robert Koff, violin & viola; Seymour Barab, violoncello; Edward Steuermann, piano; Arthur Winograd, conductor *MGM E 3202 mono (1955?) LP
5.       Jeanne Héricard, voice; members, Sinfonie-Orchester des Südwestfunks, Baden-Baden (Kraft-Thorwald Diloo, flute; Otto Voigt, piccolo; Sepp Fackler, clarinet; Hans Lemser, bass clarinet; Günther Weigmann, violin; Ulrich Koch, viola; Anton Käsmeier, violoncello; Maria Bergmann, piano); Hans Rosbaud, conductor (recorded: Musikstudio, Südwestfunk, Baden-Baden, West Germany, 4-5 April 1957) *Wergo WER 6403-2 (286 403-2) mono AAD (1993) CD
6.       Patricia Rideout, soprano; Suzanne Shulman, flute; James Campbell, clarinet; Coenraad Bloemendal, bass clarinet; Adele Armin, violin; Peter Smith, violoncello; Glenn Gould, piano (recorded: CBC Studios, Toronto, Canada, 1974) (1st-7th songs) *Nuova Era 2310 mono ADD (1989) CD (recorded: 1960?/1962?/1967?!) (1st-2nd & 5th songs) (1:51; 2:20; 1:59) *Sony Classical SM2K 52664 mono ADD (1994) CD

Related posts

Review of The Glenn Gould Reader

Artur Schnabel and Schoenberg’s Performance Aesthetics and Practice

Listening to performance of Pierrot lunaire and Sprechstimme

Pierrot lunaire, Sprechstimme in video performance

Bjork singing Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire

Email interview with Schoenberg’s Children

Follow my research of Pierrot lunaire early recording live of Twitter



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