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1. Vorgefühle [Premonitions]

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2. Vergangenes [Bygone]

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3. Farben [Colors]

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4. Peripetie [Climax]

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5. Das obligate Rezitativ [The obligatory recitative]

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DURATION: ca. 16 Min.

VERSIONS:
Fassung für großes Orchester (1909) >>> sources
revidierte Neufassung für großes Orchester (1922)
Fassung für Kammerorchester (1920) >>> sources
Fassung für Standard-Orchester (1949) >>> sources

PUBLISHER: Edition Peters

>>> Online-Shop

1. Vorgefühle [Premonitions]

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2. Vergangenes [Bygone]

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3. Farben [Colors]

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4. Peripetie [Climax]

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5. Das obligate Rezitativ [The obligatory recitative]

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DURATION: ca. 16 Min.

VERSIONS:
Fassung für großes Orchester (1909) >>> sources
revidierte Neufassung für großes Orchester (1922)
Fassung für Kammerorchester (1920) >>> sources
Fassung für Standard-Orchester (1949) >>> sources

PUBLISHER: Edition Peters

>>> Online-Shop

Introduction

Schönberg spent the summer of 1909 in Steinakirchen bei Amstetten with his family, Alexander Zemlinksy, Alban Berg, Anton Webern and Max Oppenheimer. The freshness of summer proved to be very productive for him; apart from the Five Pieces for Orchestra Op. 16, which he had begun in May (the fair copy of the full score was completed on August 11), he also wrote the third piano piece of Op. 11 and the expressionistic monodrama Erwartung Op. 17.
Prior to completing Op. 16, Schönberg wrote to Richard Strauss on July 14, 1909, who had asked for orchestra pieces for the Berlin Hofkapelle concerts: "They are short orchestra pieces (between one and three minutes long), not cyclically related. I have finished three of them, a fourth will take at most a few days, and perhaps two or three more will be born later […] However, I am expecting colossal things of them, sound and mood especially. That is all they are about: absolutely not symphonic – precisely the opposite – no architecture, no structure. Merely a bright, uninterrupted interchange of colors, rhythms and moods."
Schönberg had not thought of giving the pieces programmatic titles until the Leipzig publisher C. F. Peters requested them when the work was being printed there in 1912. Schönberg’s entry in his diary for January 28, 1912 records that “Altogether, I don’t favor the idea – the wonderful thing about music is that one can say everything so that knowing people understand it, and yet one has one’s secrets that one confesses to oneself – one does not spread them around – but titles do.”
The first edition of the full score was finally published without the titles Schönberg had initially intended (I. Vorgefühle – “Presentiments,” II. Vergangenes – “Bygones,” III. Akkordfärbungen – “Chord Colorings,“ IV. Peripetie – “Peripeteia,” V. Das obligate Rezitativ – “The Obbligato Recitative”). After the world premiere (September 3, 1912 in London, conducted by Sir Henry Wood) and another performance under Schönberg’s baton, he decided to revise the work, which was then heard for the first time on December 7, 1922 in the Leipzig Gewandhaus; he made another revision, scored for reduced forces, in 1949.
“Every glance can be expanded to a poem, every sigh to a novel” – Schönberg’s foreword to the Bagatelles Op. 9 by his pupil Anton Webern (Schönberg paraphrased them with terms such as “gesture” and “sigh of relief”) is also a description of the language of his own compositions at the outset of a period in which his style “waived a tonal center” (Schönberg in Rückblick); the works from that time especially include the Three Pieces for Piano Op. 11, the Five Pieces for Orchestra Op. 16 (1909), the Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra (1910) and the Six Small Pieces for Piano Op. 19 (1911). “The characteristics of these pieces in statu nascendi were their extreme expressiveness and their extraordinary brevity. At the time, neither my pupils nor I were aware of the reasons for those characteristics. Later on, I discovered that our feeling for form was right when it forced us to balance extreme expressiveness with extraordinary brevity” (Schönberg, Composing with Twelve Tones).
The new structural concept of music as a reactive measure to schematisms and formulaic repetitions corresponds to the stylistic ideas of Expressionism; as Webern summarized in a 1932 lecture, “arriving somewhere else with every work – every work is something else, something new.” The expressive tendency towards compression is as valid from the musical viewpoint for the pieces as integral wholes as it is for the elements within the pieces themselves – indeed, ultimately for the individual pitch progressions – as Schönberg apostrophized it, “working with pitches.” The musical texture’s need for expression manifests itself in decentralization of the consonance, abolition of central-pitch orientation and cadence, as well as intensification of individual moments in a manner which increasingly avoids reprises and analogies.
The immediacy of musical events led to a dissolution of conventional formal principles and a questioning of formal unity itself in the traditional sense, now only evident as a reminiscence, such as in Vorgefühle, the first piece of Op. 16. The main parts of this orchestral miniature constitute an “expository field” and an “ostinato unfolding like a development” (Michael Mäckelmann), followed by a reminiscence of the “exposition” which can only be called a reprise in the widest possible sense, and ending with a coda.
The contemplation of Vergangenes, the second piece, forms the greatest possible contrast to the unruly full-orchestra ostinato in Vorgefühle; here, the sonic development is based on the most delicate shaping of lines.
The third piece – called Farben (Sommermorgen am See) (“Colors – Summer Morning at the Lake”) since Schönberg’s son-in-law Felix Greissle published an arrangement of it in 1925 – places the tone-color progression in the center of poetic expression as an “imagining of an atmospherically fulfilled moment” (Reinhold Brinkmann); the continuous motion of a certain chord forms the midpoint of formal development. Every one of the three inner parts of Farben emerges from its own differently orchestrated chordal ribbon, its point of orientation based on the initial chord, itself repositioned through its gradual progression.
The fourth piece, Peripetie (which Theodor Adorno called a “demonic scherzo”), absorbs the contrasting effect of the overall conception with regard to dynamics, orchestration, position, type of setting, motivic content and tempo into the work’s microstructure, bringing small building blocks into sharp juxtaposition, similar to the “hard edge” painting technique.
Das obligate Rezitativ exemplifies a kind of – “speaking music” – although it is not similar to recitative in the conventional sense. “One says the ineffable in free form,” as Schönberg noted in his Berlin diary after a lecture on January 22, 1912. He was also considering the formulation of a “carried out” or “endless” recitative as a variant of the “obbligato.” The syntax of this last piece in Op. 16 is symmetrical in every respect, the form atectonic, the melodic layout athematic; thus all the more weight is lent to the dynamically charged eloquently< individual pitches.  At a later date, Schönberg subsumed the stylistic criteria of this sonic speech with the term “musical prose.”

Therese Muxeneder
© Arnold Schönberg Center

Arrangements

No other of Schönberg’s compositions has been subject to as many arrangements for different instrumental combinations as the Op. 16 pieces for orchestra, written in the summer of 1909 at the behest of Richard Strauss, who had asked him the year before for some orchestra works for the Berlin Hofkapelle concerts. As he wrote to Strauss on July 14, 1909, "They are short orchestra pieces (between one and three minutes long), not cyclically related. I have finished three of them, a fourth will take at most a few days, and perhaps two or three more will be born later […] As I said, they are not interconnected, so it would be easy to perform only three or four of them. I think three will be necessary, so they won’t fall too flat as an entirety. […] I do think that this time it is impossible to read the full score; it might well be necessary to perform then “on a hunch.” However, I am expecting colossal things of them, sound and mood especially. That is all they are about: absolutely not symphonic – precisely the opposite – no architecture, no structure. Merely a bright, uninterrupted interchange of colors, rhythms and moods."
Shortly thereafter, Schönberg sent four of the pieces to Garmisch; but Strauss declined to perform them, saying, “Your pieces […] [are] such daring experiments in their content and sound, that for the moment I cannot risk giving them before a more-than-conservative Berlin audience” (September 2, 1909).
Since it turned out to be difficult to interest another conductor in the pieces and Universal Edition was also having trouble publishing them, Schönberg decided to have them rearranged; thus a version four two pianos, eight hands, was prepared and performed in Berlin in 1912 by the three Busoni pupils Louis Closson, Louis Grünberg and Eduard Steuermann, along with Anton Webern.
The rehearsals were not entirely without their problems; Schönberg noted in his diary on January 23, 1912: “It is difficult to rehearse such a thing. Often, I have real trouble saying whether it is together. I can’t tell the difference precisely until it starts to become clearer. I keep missing the sounds! The colors. After all, the piano is only one instrument.”
The performance was successful and, since Universal Edition was hesitant, the publisher C. F. Peters took the work on for publication in its original version. The premiere took place that same year, when Sir Henry Wood played it as part of his Promenade Concerts series in London. (Schönberg was very annoyed that he had learned of the performance too late to be able to attend). Two years later, Schönberg conducted the pieces himself in London and Amsterdam, and Peters even resolved to publish the eight-hands piano version as well, in which form it enjoyed a great reception in Schönberg’s circle; a performance at his Mödling home in 1918 featured the foursome of Alban Berg, Webern, Steuermann and Schönberg himself at the pianos.
By 1920, Schönberg had made a version for chamber orchestra for the Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen, a society founded in 1918 with the objective of presenting modern music of all styles in painstakingly rehearsed performances. A great many arrangements for piano and for chamber ensemble were prepared of orchestra works so that they could be given as well.
The chamber orchestra version of Op. 16 is remarkable in that it exists only as a printed full score with the subtitle “The basis for my chamber orchestra arrangement,” in which Schönberg struck out doublings and distributed the remaining voices between the piano (marked “K,” for Klavier) and the harmonium (marked “H”). No manuscript exists of this version; only the third piece, called Farben, survives on three, handwritten, inserted pages.
The Vienna society did not perform the pieces in concert in the chamber-orchestra arrangement; they were merely given in a rehearsal open to society members only; the actual performance took place in Prague as part of a concert series in March 1920, where a “subsidiary society” was founded sometime later. The parts for that performance would certainly be interesting; unfortunately, they are now considered lost.
In turn, Schönberg’s arrangement in the Peters edition became the basis of the chamber-orchestra arrangement by Felix Greissle, the composer’s pupil and son-in-law; Peters published it in 1925. There is one considerable difference between the two versions; Greissle’s calls for a horn, which plays many of the horn parts from the full-orchestra instrumentation, whereas Schönberg gives most of the horn music to the harmonium. (We must assume that he supervised Greissle’ version, since otherwise there are no appreciable deviations between the two). 1949 saw the appearance of another version, a reduction for standard orchestra – the most similar to the original and intended to make the work performable by conventional ensembles.
One more remark on the pieces’ titles – a practice quite unusual for Schönberg; his diary entry for January 27, 1912 reads: "Letter from Peters, giving me a rendezvous in Berlin for Wednesday, to meet me in person. Wants titles for the orchestra pieces, for technical publishing reasons. Perhaps I’ll give in, since I’ve found titles which are at least possible. Altogether, I don’t favor the idea – the wonderful thing about music is that one can say everything so that knowing people understand it, and yet one has one’s secrets that one confesses to oneself – one does not spread them around – but titles do. Besides which, the music has said what had to be said. What need for words, too, then? If words were needed, they would be in the piece. But art says more than words. The titles I’ll perhaps give, let nothing out, since some of them are very obscure, and some of them say technical things. Namely I. Vorgefühle (everyone has them), II. The Past (everyone has that, too), III. Chord Colorings (technical), IV. Peripetie (surely general enough), V. Das obligate (perhaps better than 'carried through' or 'endless') Rezitativ. But at all events, including the note that they are technical publishing things, and [do not regard] the 'poetic content.'"

Iris Pfeiffer
© Arnold Schönberg Center