However strenuously Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire portrays madness, the listener's reaction is often bewilderment and disorientation, mainly because this song cycle about a comedia dell'arte character becoming drunk on moonlight completely bypasses typical theatrical portrayals of madness. It's insanity from the inside out.
So on Tuesday at the Barnes Foundation, when art lovers hoped to catch up with the 101-year-old Schoenberg masterpiece alongside more readily apprehensible paintings of the same era, you wished them the best of luck, knowing that you can listen to Pierrot for decades and never feel on top of it.
The occasion was the Curtis Institute's debut at the Barnes, in what may be the first of many concerts there and one that played well off the foundation's art collection. Also, it was the authoritative modern music group eighth blackbird - in residence at Curtis this year - that taught the piece to this student sextet, soon to tour in South Korea. The performance was well-suited to those hearing the piece for the first or the 50th time.