Compelling, hypnotic, sensual, disturbing, sublime, essentia
Steven Guy | Croydon, South Australia | 12/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One Night. One Life is one of the first DVD recordings of Classical music that uses this new medium in a creative and interesting way. Instead of merely plonking a camera in front of Ms. Schäfer, both the Dichterliebe and the Pierrot Lunaire are turning into short films. I like this approach and I have watched this DVD repeatedly and I see and hear something new every time I experience this marvellous product.
I loved Christine Schäfer's interpretation of Alban Berg's Lulu - also on DVD - and I have enjoyed her interpretations of Baroque music with period instrument orchestras. Ms Schäfer sings in clear and straight voice without vibrato. Her voice is perfect for modern/C20 music as well as Baroque music. She explains why she dislikes vibrato and the whole "diva scene" in the interview.
One Night. One Life is a disturbing and utterly compelling presentation. I have a recording of this work - Herreweghe's with the Marianne Pousseur singing, I like this recording, but I never engaged with it in the same way I do with Schoenberg's piano music and his beautiful Verklärte Nacht. When I first watched Schäfer's interpretation (with Pierre Boulez directing the Ensemble Intercontemporain) I was stunned - it was an epiphany for me. At last I really felt connected with this strange, weird, difficult and beautiful music. I think I needed to see it performed. The CGI and Matrix-like scenes are beautiful and exciting to watch.
"What is the colour of thought?", we are asked at the start of One Night. One Life, perhaps, Christine Schäfer, Arnold Schoenberg and Pierre Boulez offer us some suitable visions and speculations? I felt like I was taken deep into a very strange and dreamlike place - a place that asks us more questions than it answers. The poetry of Pierrot is full of visions and fantasies. You have simply got to see this thing!
The Schumann Lieder cycle is turned into a short film, too. Christine Schäfer presents the works in a small modern nightclub with a small audience drinking and smoking around her. I like this approach very much and it takes the music into a realm in which we don't normally expect to see or hear Lieder. As you know, the Dichterliebe was written from a male point of view and these songs are usually sung by a tenor or baritone. So the concept of an attractive young woman singing these songs accompanied by an attractive young woman on the piano, Natascha Osterkorn, offers us a chance for some sexual tension between the two women and subtle hint of repressed lesbianism - which adds a slightly disturbing element to the poignancy of the songs.
Warning: there is some nudity in both films.
However, if you are not bothered by this, and you shouldn't be, then you are in for some magical music and vision here."
The Great, the Brave and the Banal
Robespierre | New York | 03/07/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you're like me, you're considering buying this DVD because you love Schoenberg, Schumann, and Schaefer, in that order. You might also be partial to song cycles, expressionism, romanticism, Schoenberg's pivotal atonal work and Schumann's greatest art songs. You might also have heard Christina Schaefer's interpretations of Berg and Krenek, and be familiar with her unearthly tone and startlingly clear intonation -- rarities in the interpretation of twelve-tone, atonal and free-tonal early twentieth century music.
If so, you'll want to own this DVD if only to know more about Schaefer's performance style, development and milieu in Berlin, which seems more open to off-kilter (non-academic) ambition than classical music's rigid hierarchy in the States.
The great: The performance of Pierrot Lunaire is stellar. Additionally, Schaefer's rendition of Dichterliebe may be enjoyed without -- or with -- the imposition of non-music-related video footage (the DVD offers both options). Personally, I prefer seeing the performers without an imposed visual narrative.
Singing Pierrot, Schaefer is in her own lofty league; in terms of intonation, she even bests greats like Jessye Norman and Christa Ludwig. I still prefer Dichterliebe versions by Fritz Wunderlich and the incredibly literary Dietrich-Fischer Dieskau, but Schaefer's interpretation is well worth hearing (and seeing).
The brave: Schaefer deserves props for sheer courage. In her videos, the singer appears nude, soaks in unpleasant-looking viscous solids, caresses hanging meat and consents to several other potentially embarrassing scenarios that other acclaimed classical singers would never dream of trying (let alone, preserving on DVD). Aside from Charlotte Moorman (whom I love but who isn't as good), no other musician of Schaefer's caliber has ever risked so much dignity for work that's as likely to be ill-received.
Be advised, parents and sticklers for good taste: The videos aren't for children, but neither are they meant to titillate. Think of these vids as in the spirit of 60s experimental work -- Cage/Cunningham, Paik, Cornelius Cardew -- but with a 90s horror/Euro art film vocabulary.
The inclusion of these vids with Pierrot is entirely appropriate: vast numbers of listeners hated Schoenberg's song cycle in the early twentieth century, and his use of Sprechstimme was at *least* as suspect in 1912 as Schaefer's videos seem at present. Yes, Schoenberg's achievement was infinitely greater. But both musicians deserve respect for doing what they felt was important and not what audiences expected.
The banal: Watching Oliver Hermann's videos can be excruciating. If you've seen them once, there's little reason to watch again. While I appreciate their having been done in the first place -- in the sense that lesser films by Lars von Trier had to be made to allow for better work -- they distract from the rich ambiguities of the music itself. In a sense, they're reminiscent of bad Ken Russell.
If you're partial to the Schaefer-Boulez performance of Pierrot but can't stand the idea of gratuitous video content, then I suggest you pick up the Deutsche-Grammophon CD version instead of this DVD. The CD contains additional works by Schoenberg as well -- "Herzgewachse" (Op. 20), in particular, is exceptional.
The world of classical DVDs is filled with failed experiments: The release of Penderecki's Requiem, for example, which tries to allow us to read the score while watching the orchestra but prevents us from doing either. In certain ways, this DVD is another such failure.
Still, failed experiments are often suffused with promise and ambition, and can reveal more in fragments than they deliver on the whole. That's why I hope potential buyers and fans will support an effort like this: ambition leads to greater things. Schaefer's artistic choices are as unconventional as the arc of her career, but her gifts are undeniable."
Great music... bad taste films
Oscar | MEXICO, D.F. Mexico | 05/31/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this DVD mostly for Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. Arnold Schoenberg is a respected representative composer of 20th Century music and his Pierrot Lunaire can be considered a masterpiece of that century. It is an admirable combination of atonal music with Albert Giraud's decadent-style poems: they suit each other perfectly well. However, what we have in this DVD is not Pierrot Lunaire; instead it is a film "based" on it, and which consist of a sequence of video clips with scenes which supposedly interpret visually the surrealistic texts of Schoenberg's work. In my opinion this film does not present scenes of surrealism or decadence but vulgar images. I have the highest consideration about Christine Schafer's art (who besides being an excellent singer is a beautiful woman, although she doesn't look so much in this film), as well as about Pierre Boulez and the musicians of the Ensemble InterContemporain (and pianist Natascha Osterkorn in Schumann's work). I am not against the idea of extending the realm of the music to that of visual effects. My disagreement here refers neither so much to the "dirty" aspects of the film by themselves (a porn peep show, a bathroom with cockroaches, etc.), but to what I consider a bad taste constantly shown in the images of the film.
My feelings about Schumann's songs film are similar. On the whole my opinion is that there was a waste of both the great value of the music and the talent of the musicians involved. Buy this DVD at your risk.
Wonderful way to experience this masterpiece of modernity
scarecrow | Chicago, Illinois United States | 03/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We have a somewaht new genre here Schoenberg;s Pierrot Lunaire if you have ever experienced this work in a concert venue, kind of begs encourages its- as Jameson might say- "spatialization" and this happens here from the private introspective settings as a porn peep show to a bathroom with cigar shaped cockroaches inhabiting the white porcelein sink. Ms Schaefer is the one who inhabits these spaces and places, and is herself at times"spatialized" against a New York skyscraper at night,while singing. Schoenberg's conception of "Pierrot" was to scour through the endless variations of the imagery each contributing to the richness of the image the private ones from the more formal "passacaglia" "Nacht" to the Romantic "Sick""Kranke" Moon,visits are made also to Harlequin,Columbine, Madonna,visiting all these icons we think we know. This is high conception for 1912 and is like a boulder within the repertoire of modernity. The chamber orchestrations of timbre are indeed incredible,piano,flute,Bb Clarinet doubling Bass Clarinet, Violin and Cello; Schoenberg really has no follow-up to this,it is from his most riches period which includes the mono-drama "Erwartung", "Survivor from Warsaw", "Five Pieces for Orchestra" Schaefer plays wonderfully,the recitation or "sprechstimme" a pitched vocal,singing and speaking; declamation means you can convey more text; you really come to assume the music not experience it so much one of those enigmatic-isms Adorno was fond of, that a price is paid someplace for innovation, so we really are not drawn into the music and it is wisked away into the immediacy of the Video image,like it "melts" into it. It is wonderfully done as well,relying on the powers of pure abstraction,simple colour transformation(s) and long shots of white hexagonal tiled hallways, and dark bohemian existential New York lofts and cheap hotels,one nighters,as perhaps Twenties Berlin,this functions to propell the argument of the music forward,where the image relys on the music and vice-versa; we are left with "feels" fragments of imagery,like experiencing modern photographs as Nan Goldin, or Wm Eggleston; all this parallels Schoenberg's concept of the character piece, the miniature reduced to what we are seeing. The performance of the music is cyrtal clear, threadbare wonderful. There is also a nice interview with Ms.Schaefer in a cafe,she wears an enormous purple sweater smoking a cigarette. She speaks about her deep love of 20th Century expression, where her love for timbre and form in music began. The Schumann is also well interpreted she doesn't over romanticize this repertoire, with large swabs of vibrato,she goes for a cleaner threadbare timbre of the voice, and the Schumann, a problematic composer in all genres he wrote in is more compelling.There are no visual excitements here this is recital like with wonderful supportive accompaniment from the piano."