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Adelaide Festival 2021: Pierrot Lunaire - Sex & Madness


Adelaide Festival 2021: Pierrot Lunaire - Sex & Madness

  • Date: Thursday, 4 March 2021, 7:30pm
  • Venue: Adelaide Town Hall — 128 King William St, Adelaide, SA
  • Series: This event is part of the Adelaide Festival 2021 series
  • Tickets: Adults: $69 - $89 | Concession: $55 - $72 | Under 30: $35 - $45 — Tickets can be purchased online or by phone on 131246

Event Details

Munch’s Scream, Klimt’s Kiss, Picasso’s Guernica, Dali’s melting clocks: aphantasiacs aside, most can summon the seminal works of ‘modern art’ to their mind’s eye as readily as an apple. But what about music to our mind’s ear? It’s OK. Haziness to total blank is the norm. All the more reason for you to attend this wonderful concert which will shed light and kaleidoscopic colour on to the relevant synapses of your brain.

Kim Williams is an outspoken advocate for Australian music. This year he’s curated a passionate retrospective of the last hundred years of composition here (see Incredible Floridas: Chamber Landscapes), and if you can’t make it to any of the concerts at UKARIA Cultural Centre, this city concert provides a snapshot.

The yin first half is all bright, hot colours but then the yang beckons us down a strange, moonlit path perfumed by sallow nocturnal flowers: Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire is an atonal “melodrama” (a strictly notated setting of poetry which is neither sung nor spoken but “sungken”) about sex and madness. From the moment it raised its wilfully weird head in 1912 it has shocked, and provoked listeners while thrilling and stimulating several generations of composers. Whether you don’t know it, or think you might, you must hear this amazing performance featuring internationally acclaimed Australian singer and actor Jessica Aszodi.

Oz composers Richard Meale, Ross Edwards and Elena Kats-Chernin all started under Schoenberg’s spell before they found themselves gasping for their own air. Meale’s Lumen, which achieves complexity over a single chord, is an homage to a very different piece written at the same time as Pierrot (Scriabin’s Vers la flamme), the potency of which lay dormant until post-modernism kicked in. Edwards’s saxophone quintet, rich with the sounds of the Australian bush, and Kats-Chenin’s radiant piano quintet are future classics from the last five years.


Jack Symonds, conductor & piano
Jessica Aszodi, mezzo & Sprechstimme
Michael Duke, soprano saxophone
Jacob Abela, piano
Flinders Quartet
Geoffrey Collins, flute
Jason Noble, clarinet
Claire Edwardes, percussion
James Wannan, violin
Blair Harris, cello


Richard Meale (1932-2009): Lumen (1999)

Judith Wright (1915-2000): ‘Age to youth’ from Five Senses (1963)  

Ross Edwards (b. 1943): Bright birds and sorrows for soprano saxophone and string quartet (2015 rev. 2019)  

Elena Kats-Chernin (b. 1957): Piano Quintet 'The Offering' (2015) 

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951): Pierrot lunaire Op. 21 (1912)

Featured non-Australian music: Arnold Schoenberg

Further information for this event is available online at the event's website or by email to stevp@adelaidefestival.com.au

Featured Australian Works

Digital sheet music sample Bright birds and sorrows : for soprano saxophone and string quartet (2015) by Ross Edwards
Lumen : sextet (1999) by Richard Meale
Digital sheet music sample The Offering : piano quintet (2015) by Elena Kats-Chernin

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