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Schoenberg, Arnold - Verklärte Nacht 1899

Identifier

021092

Type of spiritual experience

Background

Arnold Schoenberg was born into a lower middle-class Jewish family in the Leopoldstadt district (in earlier times a Jewish ghetto) of Vienna, at "Obere Donaustraße 5". His father Samuel, a native of Bratislava, was a shopkeeper, and his mother Pauline was native of Prague. Arnold was largely self-taught. He took only counterpoint lessons with the composer Alexander Zemlinsky, who was to become his first brother-in-law (Beaumont 2000, 87).

In his twenties, Schoenberg earned a living by orchestrating operettas, while composing his own works, such as the string sextet Verklärte Nacht ("Transfigured Night") (1899). He later made an orchestral version of this, which became one of his most popular pieces. Both Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler recognized Schoenberg's significance as a composer; Strauss when he encountered Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder, and Mahler after hearing several of Schoenberg's early works.

Strauss turned to a more conservative idiom in his own work after 1909, and at that point dismissed Schoenberg. Mahler adopted him as a protégé and continued to support him, even after Schoenberg's style reached a point Mahler could no longer understand. Mahler worried about who would look after him after his death. Schoenberg, who had initially despised and mocked Mahler's music, was converted by the "thunderbolt" of Mahler's Third Symphony, which he considered a work of genius. Afterward he "spoke of Mahler as a saint".

A description of the experience

Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht, Op.4 - Boulez

rnold Schoenberg (1874-1951): Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night / La Nuit transfigurée), Op.4 (1899)

Pierre Boulez: Membres de L'Ensemble Intercontemporain
Charles-André Linale: violin / violon
Maryvonne Le Dizès-Richard: violin / violon
Jean Sulem: viola / alto
Garth Knox: viola / alto
Philippe Muller: cello / violoncelle
Pieter Strauch: cello / violoncelle

Wikipedia

Beginning with songs and string quartets written around the turn of the century, Schoenberg's concerns as a composer positioned him uniquely among his peers, in that his procedures exhibited characteristics of both Brahms and Wagner, who for most contemporary listeners, were considered polar opposites, representing mutually exclusive directions in the legacy of German music.

The synthesis of these approaches reaches an apex in his Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (1899), a programmatic work for string sextet that develops several distinctive "leitmotif"-like themes, each one eclipsing and subordinating the last. The only motivic elements that persist throughout the work are those that are perpetually dissolved, varied, and re-combined, in a technique, identified primarily in Brahms's music, that Schoenberg called "developing variation." Schoenberg's procedures in the work are organized in two ways simultaneously; at once suggesting a Wagnerian narrative of motivic ideas, as well as a Brahmsian approach to motivic development and tonal cohesion.

 

The source of the experience

Schoenberg, Arnold

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

Observation contributed by: Henry Ibberson