1. Erwartung (Richard Dehmel) >>> text | sources

2. Jesus bettelt (Richard Dehmel) >>> text | sources

3. Erhebung (Richard Dehmel) >>> text | sources

4. Waldsonne (Johannes Schlaf) >>> text | sources


Universal Edition
Belmont Music Publishers (USA, Kanada, Mexico)

Opus 1 – 3, which Schönberg had published between 1903 and 1904 by the Dreililien Verlag comprise vocal compositions which were all composed probably before 1900 and without being intended as a cyclic collection. They have one thing in common, their dedication to the mentor, friend and brother-in-law Alexander von Zemlinsky: Zemlinsky is the one “to whom I owe most of my knowledge of the technique and the problems of composing,” remarked Schönberg in 1949 in “My Evolution.” It was Zemlinsky who acquainted the autodidact Schönberg with the inner life of the music of Brahms and Wagner, to which also those four songs which Schönberg later gathered under the opus number 2, bear witness. Thus, until around 1897, the composer was specially influenced by Brahms (from whom he learned, as he said himself: “Economy, but at the same time, richness,” and from 1899 increasingly by Wagner (to whom he owed “the ability to turn themes around” by using expanded harmonies). A motival “knotting technique” (Heinrich Schenker) becomes evident with rich chords, thirds and sixths, as well as massive bass octaves brought into the theme structure, by virtually orchestrally employed tremolos or by chromatically altered harmonic connections. Also, Schönberg’s development was significantly stimulated by the literary models for his compositions. In 1897, a year after the publication of Richard Dehmel’s collection of poems “Weib und Welt” (“Woman and World”), the composer set first of all one poem “Mädchenfrühling” (“Maiden’s Spring”) to music; for his three Lieder op. 2 he took three more, and in subsequent years settings for more Dehmel poems and for a text by Johannes Schlaf followed. As Richard Dehmel described the strong impression in December 1912 made by a performance of Schönberg’s “Verklärte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night” also inspired by a poem from “Weib und Welt”), the latter admitted in answer: “Your poems have had a decisive influence on my development as a composer. They were what first made me try to find a new tone in the lyrical mode. Or rather, I found it without even looking, simply by reflecting in music what your poems stirred up in me.” (13 December 1912) In particular Dehmel’s linguistic density in representing colours inspired Schönberg to look for a new “sound.” Very similar to Kandinsky more than ten years later in “Über das Geistige in der Kunst” (“Concerning the Spiritual in Art”), in the poem “Erwartung” (“Expectation”), set by Schönberg as the first song in his cycle, Dehmel, for example describes the “antiethical” colour value red (as “warm and intensive”) and green as (“passive and calm”), black (referring to a “dead oak” – associated by Kandinsky with the stillness of death) and white (in connection with “pale moonlight” – according to Kandinsky as stillness that conceals possibilities for change). Schönberg attempts to reproduce the emotional effect of the thus-described colour values and relations with subtly-coloured sounds, as in the beginning with later-recurring altered appoggiatura chords and their harmonic resolution ornamented by arpeggi. Within the cycle, chords often seem to be freed of any function relative to the tonic; using incomplete cadences, a slowing of the harmonic tempo or repeated chords, the idea of sounds as “structure-forming” colour values (Walter Frisch) is encouraged. At the same time, the setting of the poems to music - similar to Dehmel’s models - is subject to strict, often symmetrical relationships.

Matthias Schmidt
© Arnold Schönberg Center


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