Marene Elgershuizen (soprano) and Matangi Quartet play Schönberg and Fiumara
Arnold Schönberg: Second String Quartet opus 10 (1908)
Anthony Fiumara: Emily (2020, world premiere)
While it may seem that way at times, we are not the only ones in history dealing with isolation, quarantine and an uncertain future. Composer Arnold Schönberg himself opted for the recluse of the avant-garde, firmly convinced that his contemporaries were not yet ready for his progressive music. In the run-up to the Second World War, as a Jewish Austrian, he had to flee from the Nazis. His exile took him to America, the new world, where he had to reinvent himself.
In addition to being a composer, Schönberg was also active as a painter. Most famous was his series of "visions": portraits whose eyes seem to stare straight through the viewer, searching for the truth beyond the horizon.
This visionary spirit also exudes his Second String Quartet opus 10 from 1909. Schönberg seems to be searching for a new world of self-expression, beyond the boundaries of the art form. In the third movement, the composer even added a soprano, who sings words from Stefan George's poem.
The quartet delivered one of the most famous lines in music history, sung by the soprano: "I feel the air of another planet." Here the music changes into a satellite that is lonely being shot into space, in search of new ways beyond the field of view.
As befits groundbreaking music, the quartet's first performance caused a scandal: the screams from the audience drowned out the music completely. The fear of the new was too great.
Across the ocean, in Schönberg's future new homeland, Emily Dickinson had just lived a life of self-appointed splendid isolation. She chose to live her life within the walls of her family home in Amherst, Massachusetts. With her poems, which were only published after her death and against her will, she performed English-language poetry
single-handedly into modern times.
Especially for this concert, the Dutch composer Anthony Fiumara in Emily made a choice from Dickinson's poems — and set them in tone for the line-up that caused unrest in the concert hall over a century ago.