Pierrot Lunaire: Albert Giraud - Otto Erich Hartleben - Arnold Schoenberg: Une Collection D'études Musicolittéraires

By Keathley, Elizabeth L. | Notes, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Pierrot Lunaire: Albert Giraud - Otto Erich Hartleben - Arnold Schoenberg: Une Collection D'études Musicolittéraires


Keathley, Elizabeth L., Notes


Pierrot lunaire: Albert Giraud - Otto Erich Hartleben - Arnold Schoenberg: Une collection d'études musicolittéraires. Edited by Mark Delaere and Jan Herman. (La républiques des lettres, 20.) Louvain; Dudley, MA: Éditions Peeters, 2004. [204 p. ISBN 9042914556. $44.] Notes.

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, "Métrique comparée de l'octosyllabe français et allemand. Du Pierrot lunaire d'Albert Giraud à sa traduction par Otto Erich Hartleben"; Lieven Tack, "Transfert et traduction de Pierrot lunaire: une description sociosémotique"; 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. …

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