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Grave – Più mosso – Meno mosso – Lento – Grazioso – Tempo I – Più mosso

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Scherzando – Poco tranquillo – Scherzando – Meno mosso – Tempo I

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DURATION: ca. 9 Min.

PUBLISHER: Edition Peters

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In March 1949 Arnold Schönberg, who had emigrated to the USA in 1933, composed a 'piece for violin solo, accompanied by the piano' at the behest of the violinist Adolph Koldofsky; at this time he was also composing the choral pieces  Dreimal tausend Jahre  and  Israel Exists Again. The method of composition, which can be clearly determined from the manuscript sources, reveals that the soloistic nature of the violin part – both conceptually and as indicated in the title – should be taken at face value: Schönberg first wrote out the complete violin part (which he completed on 22nd March 1949) before finishing the piano accompaniment a week later. For the first performance, in the context of his 75th birthday on 13th September 1949, Schönberg provided an alternative ending for Koldofsky, who performed the piece and whom the composer regarded as an ideal interpreter.

In Schönberg's book Structural Functions of Harmony, the fantasy as a genre was ranked among the 'so-called free forms', characterized by its opulent figuration, instrumental improvisation and spontaneous expression. Schönberg's dodecaphonic Phantasy has points of contact with its classical and neo-classical fore­bears insofar as its virtuosic writing can be compared to that in Schubert's Fantasy in C major for violin and its formal disposition can be likened with Mozart's Fantasy in C minor, KV 475. Research has shown that the kaleidoscopic sequence of mutually interrupting sections in Mozart's fantasy is also a pattern that is applicable to Schönberg's piece. The architectural structure of Schönberg's Phantasy still allows us to suspect an underlying major/minor mode of thought, as do the harmonic regions it explores, although these are based an dodecaphonic foundations. The weighting of rhythmical and metrical components in the music also indicates this and, moreover, the outline of a single-movement reprise structure within a sonata cycle is perceptible.

In coarse schematic terms the Phantasy is divided into four parts: a motif-forming section with transition (the main idea in the work is six bars long), a Lento section that could be compared to the slow movement of a sonata, a scherzando passage and a coda (each with transitions). The Phantasy undeniably possesses a certain classical, Viennese tone; this expressive aesthetic is, for instance, sometimes nourished by dance-like triple metres of which counterparts can be found in similarly violinistic writing from Schubert to Mahler. The technical variety of the delicate soundscape ranges from double­stopping of extremely large intervals, glissandi, pizzicati and harmonics to complicated tremolo effects and dynamically differentiated chord arpeggios.

Therese Muxeneder
© Arnold Schönberg Center