Harlequin Redux (2012)
for soprano, Pierrot ensemble + percussion
Harlequin Redux is a return to the story of Pierrot Lunaire, but told from the point of view of the commedia character Harlequin, a flashy, confident, but ultimately dim-witted clown. In the first movement, “Arlequinade”, we meet the character carrying a rainbow and moving like a serpent. As the story progresses, the music moves away from a free atonal language and gradually incorporates more direct tonal constructs. The second movement, “Souper sur l’eau”, finds the main character on a “languorous yacht” with Pierrot and Columbine. The moon rises and Harlequin, like Pierrot, falls under its influence. Harlequin acknowledges this shared influence in “À mon cousin de Bergame”, yet quickly qualifies it as a warning to Pierrot not to interfere in his plans. These plans are ultimately realized in the final movement, “Arlequin” when Harlequin takes Columbine as his love and sings out, joyfully. The music, now far removed from the abstraction of the opening sound-world, concludes in a bittersweet, melodious B-flat minor. In many ways, this work pays homage to Schoenberg’s work and its subsequent influence. Listeners familiar with the original may notice specific references to motives and gestures; while the treatment of these elements in this work is certainly different than in Schoenberg’s, their appearance here is intentional. Harlequin Redux sets the original French poetry by Albert Giraud.
The work is dedicated to Gemma New and the Lunar Ensemble, for whom it was written in celebration of the centenary of Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire.
The composer wishes to thank Gemma and the Lunar Ensemble for their intrepid dedication to presenting new music, and also Gordon Root for his assistance in combing through Schoenberg’s music in preparing for the composition of Harlequin Redux.
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© 2018 Sean Doyle. All rights reserved.