Monday, 1 June 2009

Berg Lulu, Third Act and a good article

A fragment of the palindrome in Act 2 of Lulu – perfect symmetry. Circles within circles, a multi ring circus, spiralling, dizzying, twisting vortices, these are all images I'd try to work into a Lulu staging to bring out the structure of the music.

There's an advance production shot of the new ROH Lulu with an interesting article by Philip Hensher. Read the whole piece HERE. Why can't more music writing be as sincere and thoughtful as this, especially in this once great paper? Hensher's original and perceptive. Writing of the Third Act's suppression, he says "If Lulu had been performed in its full glory, as it could have been in the late 1930s, we might have been spared a lot of ignorant diatribe against the 12-tone method. The three-act Lulu showed what could be done with it."

"Ignorant diatribe" is an excellent way to describe the new Readers Digest approach to music history that now prevails. Artists in real life don't operate in rigid school. But it's easier for those who don't understand to force things into artificial boxes.

Like Hensher, I believe the Third Act is integral to the opera as a whole. If nothing else it extends the dramatic narrative. So It was completed by Cerha rather than Berg himself? It's still fundamentally important to know. We don't reject Mozart's Requiem or Mahler's 10th because they aren't pure.

Besides, of the 1326 bars in the Third Act, 390 were scored by Berg - that odd first scene almost entirely. According to Douglas Jarman, "Of the 1326 bars only 87 were not fully notated in Berg's short score and with one exception, all these "problematic passages" could be completed with Berg's intentions either by following the indications provided in the score or by doubling the instrumental parts". The exception he mentions is the barrel organ music in scene two, but Jarman says "an indication to be found at the end of the Variation movement of the Symphonic Variations where the first four bars Berg's own orchestration". Please read the review HERE

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