Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire has inspired discussion and debate among scholars and performers alike for over ninety years. In particular, his use of Sprechstimme, a unique combination of speaking and singing, has been examined from a variety of perspectives and continues to be a controversial subject. Though scholarly writings have attempted to address performance practice issues, there are substantial gaps in the literature regarding the specific, technical, vocal elements required to execute Pierrot's Sprechstimme. Additionally, though a few recordings have been cursorily cited and reviewed, a more thorough and comprehensive examination of the Pierrot discography and the interpretation of Sprechstimme has been lacking.
Contemporary performance practice often evolves through a work's sound recording legacy; Pierrot lunaire is no exception. Sprechstimme delivery varies greatly throughout the discography, and though a clear performance practice tradition has not emerged during the last sixty-five years (since Schoenberg's first recording in 1940), similar characteristics can be found among the recordings. This dissertation provides a thorough discussion of Pierrot's technical vocal requirements and how the sound recordings can assist the interpreter in her realization of the Sprechstimme, thereby contributing to the establishment of a performance practice tradition.
Chapter One provides an overview of the origins of Sprechstimme, Schoenberg's intentions for its delivery (as revealed through the score and various documents), and the vocal elements necessary for its execution. Chapter Two examines four important early interpreters of the work and the first recording. Chapter Three discusses the range of interpretational styles represented on the recordings. Chapter Four presents some of the interpretational problems encountered in several popular, benchmark recordings, and also provides an overview of the remaining recordings. Chapter Five addresses five specific recordings, provides a brief history of each singer, a stylistic overview of each singer's interpretation and delivery of the Sprechstimme, and a detailed study of four individual songs. Finally, Chapter Six provides conclusions regarding the benefit of the sound recording, drawn to help the performer establish clear interpretational guidelines which could aid in the establishment of a solid performance practice tradition.