Schoenberg

COMPOSERS: Schoenberg
LABELS: Arthaus
ALBUM TITLE: Schoenbebg
WORKS: Pierrot lunaire
PERFORMER: Christine Schafer (soprano), Natascha Osterkorn (piano); Ensemble InterContemporain/Pierre Boulez
CATALOGUE NO: 100 330

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There's nothing new about the concept of filmed interpretations of musical classics, but these two weird and wonderful films by the German director Oliver Herrmann take the medium into more esoteric visual areas than most. Dichterliebe is presented as much as the making of a film as the film itself. Scenes featuring the crew preparing for their work, from pianist Natascha Osterkorn taking a bath to the director going over points with soprano Christine Schafer, are interspersed with the songs of Schumann's cycle performed to a devoted audience in a smoky Berlin bar, complete with seedy barman and prostitute. It's difficult to see what it's all trying to say about Heine's poetry as set by the composer, but Schäfer performs it all with alluring intimacy, successfully placing the old-style drawing-room recital into a frisson-filled updated context and giving new purpose to a female perspective for this traditionally male-dominated work. Pierrot seems more natural territory for filmic treatment and Herrmann's evocative, dreamlike visualisation captures plenty of the text's illusive and allusive imagery. Schafer mimes to her acclaimed DG recording under Boulez's direction, wandering around bizarre New York roofscapes and seedy hospital-like corridors with enough prurient nudity on display to keep the most Schoenberg-phobic watching. A 45-minute filmed interview with Schäfer by an unnamed tobaccoholic in a trendier bar provides a generous postlude and proves a self-revealing portrait of one of today's most versatile singer-actors.