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DURATION: ca. 22 Min.

VERSIONS:
Fassung für 15 Solo-Instrumente (1906/1912) >>> Quellen
Fassung für Orchester (1914/1922) >>> Quellen
Fassung für großes Orchester (Opus 9b) (1935) >>> Quellen
Auszug für Klavier zu vier Händen (1907) >>> Quellen
Fassung für Klavierquintett (Fragment, 1907)
I. revidierte Neuausgabe (1914)
II. revidierte Neuausgabe (1922)

PUBLISHER:
Universal Edition
Belmont Music Publishers (USA, Kanada, Mexico)
Schirmer (op. 9b)

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In his “Analysis of the Chamber Symphony” Arnold Schönberg singled out his op. 9 as a “true turning point” in his compositional style. Completed on 25 July 1906 in Rottach-Egern on Tegernsee, the symphony was “the last work of my first period that existed as a single through-composed movement. It has a certain similarity to my first string quartet op. 7, which also combined the four movement types of sonata form […].” Schönberg studied examples of single-movement forms with internal, latent multi-movement structures, that superimpose elements of sonata form and sonata cycle, in Beethoven’s “Great Fugue” (“Große Fuge”), Schubert’s “Wanderer Fantasy” (“Wanderer Fantasie”) and Liszt’s Sonata in B-minor (Schönberg had the scores of these works in his library). The multi-dimensional concept of a form in movements that dissolve seamlessly into another (Exposition – Scherzo – Development – Adagio – Reprise), a wealth of motivic-thematic material (Alban Berg extols 19 themes in his analysis of the “Kammersymphonie”) and a complex harmony (tonal major and minor, whole-tone and quartal harmony) reveal in op. 9 that multi-perspective which represents that “turning point” in the composer’s artistic development: the aversion to late-romantic orchestral sound and the ensuing ‘emancipation of the dissonance’. “After having finished the composition of the ‘Kammersymphonie’ it was not only the expectation of success which filled me with joy. It was another and a more important matter. I believed I had now found my own personal style of composing and that all problems […] had been solved and that a way had been shown out of the perplexities in which we young composers had been involved through the harmonic, formal, orchestral and emotional innovations of Richard Wagner” (“How One Becomes Lonely”, 1937). The first documentary evidence of the “Kammersymphonie“ is found in Schönberg’s sketchbook in chronological proximity to an orchestral work sketched at the end of 1905. His preoccupation with larger sound resources in this period is clear, although it cannot be shown how far the draft of the work with this exact scoring was bound to the plan for a symphony. One could, however, speculate – in contradiction of Anton Webern’s opinion that op. 9 bears the “character of a chamber music composition” – that the spirit of the work corresponds a priori to a concentrate of symphonic form that draws upon chamber-music techniques. Just a few weeks after the completion of op. 9 Schönberg drafted the first section of his Second Chamber Symphony, which, after many an interruption, was finally completed in 1939 as op. 38. The definition of the ‘symphonic’ lay for Schönberg in a “Panorama where one could indeed regard each image for itself, but in reality these images are securely connected and interwoven.” The superimposition of images at a musical level finds its parallel in the intertwining of formal sections, the conciseness and economy of which reflect an important progressive impulse in the formal arrangement of a symphonic work around 1906, since the acoustically dense instrumentation assumes a structural function within the composition. The premiere of the First “Kammersymphonie” (in the ‘Großer Musikvereinssaal’ on 8 February 1907, by the renowned ‘Ensemble der Bläservereinigung des Wiener Hofopernorchesters’ and the Rosé Quartet) provoked at that time an unprecedented number of controversial critiques. Richard Strauss, to whom Schönberg would offer the work for fifteen solo instruments the following year (however, without success, as even before the premiere), replied on 27 September 1908 that it was not suitable “for large orchestral concerts without soloists” and “must absolutely be played in a smaller hall.” Schönberg attempted to solve the practical dilemma by preparing new arrangements, the first in March 1913 for a concert by the Academic League for Literature and Music, which he himself conducted and for which he chose a more fully scored version for string orchestra and ten solo winds. Yet even at this performance in the ‘Großer Musikvereinssaal’ the acoustical balance would have proved unacceptable, prompting further “retouching and improvements, which contribute significantly to the improvement of the sound and the achievement of clarity” (letter to Artur Nikisch, 31 January 1914). From an invitation to a subscription series from the Heller concert agency it can be deduced that Schönberg presented his “Kammersymphonie” in “Ten public rehearsals” in an experiment to assist the uninitiated “to be able to follow from the very beginning the preparation of such a difficult work.” In 1922 the plan to publish the arrangement for orchestra failed. A year after his emigration to the United States Arnold Schönberg again took up the study score (issued 1923/24) and informed his Vienna publisher – Universal Edition – of the plan for yet another arrangement, which “(based on my experience) would greatly reduce the performance difficulties, so that the Chamber Symphony could finally take its place in concert life” (letter of 28 October 1934). In the spring of 1935 he sent his son Georg an author’s copy of op. 9, and, entreating him to tell “no one under any circumstances,” bade him to prepare for the printer a manuscript on transparent paper. Modifications in the treatment of the orchestra, aimed at the capabilities of American orchestras (for economical reasons a notation in C was selected) finally induced Schönberg to rearrange the work as op. 9b. Following the first performance in Los Angeles on 27 December 1936, under Schönberg’s direction, the composer reported to Anton Webern: “Now it sounds completely clear and lucid, perhaps a bit too loud, which may be because I have not weaned myself enough from the original.”

Therese Muxeneder
© Arnold Schönberg Center