Patricia Kopatchinskaja - Schoenberg: Pierrot lunaire - Limelight


Seeing the piece as ‘close to life and the world of dreams’, she bites on the sprechgesang text with a deranged intensity that ricochets between the absurd and the grotesque, the mundane and the hallucinatory, with whirlwind gusts of howling vowels and slicing, razor-edged consonants. It’s a remarkable performance that leaps out of the speakers and provides a decidedly dislocating experience on headphones. She receives support of equally histrionic verve and fervour from a sextet who clearly relish Schoenberg’s shape-shifting rhetoric and feature in the assorted fillers of Second Viennese chamber music where Kopatchinskaja takes off the motley and picks up her violin.

Mischievously, they begin with Schoenberg’s sugar-sweet arrangement of Strauss’s Kaiserwalzer, his Phantasy a vinegary, crisply pointed dialogue with Joonas Ahonen’s alert and responsive piano. The pair are equally well-matched in Webern’s early, aphoristic Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, negotiating its lowering drama with concentrated deliberation. Their pleasure in each other’s company is delightfully self-evident in Kreisler’s infectiously playful Miniature Viennese March.

The unexpected, palette-cleansing coda is Ahonen’s crystalline take on Webern’s Op. 19 Six Little Piano Pieces, which he allows to glint and dance with will-o’-the-wisp delicacy before evaporating into the night air.

Well-judged and welcome bonuses though the instrumental pieces are, it’s Kopatchinskaja’s total absorption in Pierrot lunaire that commands attention here – a multi-faceted performance as electrifying as it is exotic.

20 April 2021