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Rosen aus dem Süden, op. 388 für Klavier, Harmonium und Streichquartett (1921) >>> sources

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Lagunenwalzer, op. 411 für Klavier, Harmonium und Streichquartett (1921) >>> sources

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Kaiser-Walzer, op. 437 für Flöte, Klarinette, Streichquartett und Klavier (1925) >>> sources

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PUBLISHER: 
Belmont Music Publishers [Rosen aus dem Süden, Lagunenwalzer]
Schott [Kaiser-Walzer]

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“Schönberg once again has a wonderful idea: […] to establish a society whose mission it is to present weekly performances of music from ‘Mahler to the present’ to its members.” (Alban Berg to his wife Helene, 1 July 1918) This innovative concept of performance was the result of the success of the ten open rehearsals of Arnold Schönberg’s Chamber Symphony in Vienna. It was also a consequence of his teaching activities in his Seminar for Composition at the pedagogically advanced Schwarzwald School. The Board was established at the first general meeting of the “Society for Private Musical Performances” in December 1918. Its 19 members consisted of Schönberg’s Viennese students and friends, with Arnold Schönberg as President.
The Society set new standards by fostering new ideas and by its unconventional structure in order to “provide artists and art lovers a true and exact knowledge of modern music.”
The list of works to be presented was not disclosed beforehand (in order to “ensure regular attendance”). Works were repeated. The Society concerts were not open to the public. Displays of approval or disapproval were prohibited. Works were intended to speak for themselves – unpretentious, without vanity and carefully rehearsed by the concert committee. The primary goal was comprehensibility. Schönberg rejected the corrupting influence of the general public by not allowing advertising.
Originally the concerts took place in the festival hall of the Merchants Society (Kaufmännischer Verein) in Johannesgasse. The performances were held in the small Musikverein hall until May 1919 and in the Vienna Konzerthaus until mid 1920. After a brief residence in the Club of Austrian Railroad Workers (Club Österreichischer Eisenbahner) in Nibelungengasse, the concerts were then held from 1921 on in the Schwarzwald School
(designed by Adolf Loos) in Wallnerstrasse. The mostly youthful performers were selected through auditions. The financial backing for the concerts came from varying levels of dues.
A repertoire list of 27 contemporary composers was published in the Society’s November 1919 report after only one year of existence. Among those listed were Max Reger, Claude
Debussy, Richard Strauss, and Igor Stravinsky. From the autumn of 1920, as a result of growing inflation following the war, public propaganda concerts took place (intended to
bolster the Society’s treasury) along with the regular nonpublic Society evenings.
An “Exceptional Event” with four waltzes by Johann Strauß arranged by Anton Webern, Alban Berg, and Arnold Schönberg took place on 27 May 1921. This concert was a musically historic and legendary moment. After the concert, in which the composers also performed (Berg: harmonium, Schönberg: 1st violin, Webern: cello), the original manuscripts were to be auctioned in order to secure financial support for further Society evenings. The rehearsals were held in five sessions of five hours each. The admission tickets were sold by the performers in the form of program booklets. Both the curiosity of the stylistic opposites of Strauß vs. Viennese School and Schönberg’s humorous hosting of the event were intended to contribute considerably to the success of the evening. Alban Berg reported on 2 June 1921 to his colleague Erwin Stein: “The waltzes sounded fabulously good without exception […]! Schönberg’s instrumentation naturally towered far above mine. I, of course, would never have dared so much. For example, Steuermann,
who grinned at a comment by Schönberg that each performer was to peruse his score at home, received a wildly difficult piano part, which of course sounded magnificent.” Berg’s waltz arrangement was met with enthusiastic applause, which Schönberg, as an exception, permitted, in order to elevate the atmosphere and to increase the interest of potential purchasers for the manuscripts. In the requested encore of Webern’s “Treasure Waltz” from the “Gypsy Baron” Schönberg and his student switched stands and also instruments. In the ensuing auction Berg’s manuscript brought in 5,000 crowns, Schönberg’s score of “Roses from the South” 17,000 (parts used in the concert were reproduced by Hanns Eisler) and the “Lagoon Waltz” 14,000. In an attempt to elevate the price of Webern’s “Treasure Waltz” the president of the Society became the unintentional winner at 9,000 crowns.
The Society’s practice of producing arrangements arose primarily from economic considerations. It could not afford orchestral performances due to both personnel and financial considerations. Alban Berg commented on the practice of reducing for smaller ensembles, piano for four hands or two pianos in the brochure of the Society for Private Musical Performances: “In this manner it is possible to hear and judge modern orchestral works stripped of all sound effects that an orchestra produces and all of its sensory aids. Thereby invalidating the common criticism, that this music owes its effect solely to its more or less rich and striking instrumentation and does not possess all of the features which formerly were characteristic of good music: melodies, richness of harmony, polyphony, perfect form, architecture, etc.”
The individual composer’s voice in the Society’s arrangements could vary from work to work. The Strauß instrumentations are characterized by a polished and flawless technique, which emphasized the Viennese Espressivo. The harmonium was used to supply color, here as a substitute for the winds. Plans to have a personal harmonium built for the Society foundered due to the high cost (200,000 crowns). Therefore Schönberg’s own instrument (pitch tuned to 438 Hz) was used. It was transported from his home in Mödling to Vienna for rehearsals and concerts. The selection of the Strauß compositions was made by Schönberg and was based on an anthology of the most popular Strauß waltzes in a piano reduction published by Cahn in Leipzig.
The original manuscript of the “Lagoon Waltz” had disappeared after the first Society concert. According to Schönberg’s student Josef Rufer, the Society’s treasurer Arthur
Prager had purchased it at the auction. On 12 January 1958, the “Lagoon Waltz” arrangement was performed at an anniversary celebration of the North German Radio Station. In the series “The New Work” a cross section of Schönberg works from all compositional periods, organized by Josef Rufer, was presented with Hans Rosbaud conducting. Some of these works were being performed for the first time. Included was
the first performance of the “Jakobsleiter” fragment and the choral work “Israel exists again.” Schönberg’s widow Gertrud had sent the NDR (North German Radio) copies of the unpublished works. ( Josef Rufer had previously catalogued the manuscripts in a List of Works and based the program’s content on the results of this research.) The contemporaneous copies of the performance materials of the “Lagoon Waltz” were never located after the 1958 Hamburg Radio Station performance. In early 2005 the performance materials of the “Lagoon Waltz” from the Society’s library were discovered in
the estate of Herbert Hübner, one of the editors of the NDR in the field of new music. This hand copy ( Josef Waschaurek, Vienna) based on the original manuscript score, and which
carries the stamp of the “Society for Private Musical Performances,” is the basis for the first publication of Arnold Schönberg’s arrangement of Strauß’ “Lagoon Waltz,” published by Belmont Music Publishers, Pacific Palisades (2005).

Therese Muxeneder
© Arnold Schönberg Center