Schoenberg's Chamber Music, Schoenberg's World.
A lively and continuing involvement with the music of Arnold Schoenberg has long characterized Canadian academic and artistic circles. This interest was evident in the July 2007 symposium "Schoenberg's Chamber Music, Schoenberg's World," sponsored by Carleton University in cooperation with the International Ottawa Chamber Music Festival and Austrian Cultural Forum. An international group of scholars lectured on Schoenberg, and thirteen articles--most originating at the symposium--make up Schoenberg's Chamber Music, Schoenberg's World. The volume begins with a foreword by Lawrence Schoenberg (the composer's youngest son) and preface by James Wright, organizer of the symposium. In a brief look at "The Young Arnold Schoenberg," Christian Meyer, Director of the Arnold Schonberg Center in Vienna, focuses on aspects of Schoenberg's life and music in the years before 1900. James Deaville's contribution, "Schoenberg's String Quartet No. 1 in Dresden (1907): Programming the Un-programmable," provides a history of Schoenberg's presence in the 1907 festival of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein in Dresden. The author draws upon hitherto unpublished correspondence from the Verein archive in Weimar to show that Richard Strauss, still in 1907, was an avid supporter of Schoenberg and his music. Deaville explains that the scheduling of Schoenberg's First String Quartet at the festival--a work of daunting complexity for the players--was the result of Strauss's intervention on Schoenberg's behalf.
Alexander Carpenter, in his article "A Bridge to a New Life: Waltzes in Schoenberg's Chamber Music," explores the significance of waltz-like passages in Schoenberg's String Quartets opp. 7 and 10; the Serenade, op. 24; and the Suite, op. 29. He interprets them as "meaningful personal signfiers that are connected to intimate and intense feelings" that "mark moments of crisis and change" (pp. 25-26) in Schoenberg's life. An example is the waltz-like folk tune "Alles ist hin!" in the Second Quartet, the unspoken text of which alludes to Schoenberg's feelings of alienation from his first wife, Mathilde. Schoenberg gazes in the opposite direction with the waltz tune "Annchen von Tharau," which he quotes in the Suite, op.29, to look ahead to his years of happiness with his second wife, Gertrud.
Aine Heneghan's contribution, "The 'Popular Effect' in Schoenberg's Serenade," develops a theory also found in Severine Neff's article, "Juxtaposing Popular Music in Schoenberg's Second String Quartet, Op. 10." Both authors point to Schoenberg's conception of structure in popular music, expressed in his Gedanke fragments, by which phrases are juxtaposed or strung together without hierarchical or organic interrelation. This type of structure is sometimes found in Schoenberg's artistic music when a relaxed tone is intended or for some other rhetorical purpose. Heneghan finds the phenomenon at work in the Serenade, where its loosening effect is reinforced by repetition and symmetry. Neff locates the "crossover" principal in the second movement of the Second String Quartet, where themes encroach upon one another in an unbalanced manner and thus prepare for the intrusion of the "Alles ist hin!" tune toward the movement's end.
In his article "A Chronology of Intros, an Enthrallogy of Codas: The Case of Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony, Op. 9," Don MacLean develops a new vocabulary for describing musical form. He begins by assessing the openings of several late-nineteenth-century works, dividing them into "bangs" and "whimpers." He moves then to Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony op. 9, and uses Alban Berg's thematic analysis of the work as a point of departure. MacLean dissolves Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony into a succession of moments that he terms bang-up variants, scumbling cadences, pell-mell figures, annunciating markers, false counter-expositions, breached recapitulations, moonrise fourths, and codetta enthralls. Berg's analysis is light reading by comparison.
Allen Forte--the guest of honor at the conference--contributes a study of "Schoenberg as Webern: The Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra, III (1910)." Forte stresses those elements in Schoenberg's post-tonal music that derive from Webern's somewhat earlier works. These include, Forte says, the use of a distinctively Webernesque pitch-class set (set form 6-z43) in Schoenberg's minuscule Piece no. 3 for Chamber Orchestra, which Forte considers to be a fragment of a longer composition whose continuation is unknown. Other Webern-inspired features of Piece no. 3 are its aphoristic brevity, tone color melody, and strategies for chromatic completion. In public, Webern invariably deferred to his teacher's leadership and paid tribute to Schoenberg; Forte finds this tribute expressed in Webern's embedding of Schoenberg's initials in his music. It might be added that, in private, Webern was ready to assert his own role in the innovations for which his teacher took sole credit. One such was the twelve-tone method. In a letter to Heinrich Jalowetz of V January 1922, Webern relates that Schoenberg was then lecturing his students about twelve-tone composition in its earliest stages. Schoenberg is speaking, Webern says to Jalowetz, "about a new type of motivic work ... and with it he goes into the entire development of--if I may say so--our technique (harmonic etc.). ... As you can well imagine, nearly everything that has occupied me for some ten years is being discussed. It is almost too exciting" (Anton Webern, Briefs an Heinrich Jalowetz, ed. Ernst Lichtenhahn [Mainz: Schott, 1999], 499, my translation).
In his article "Schoenberg's First Chamber Symphony, Formalism, and Adorno's Critique of Twelve-Tone Composition," Murray Dineen develops a notion of tonality, or "tonal perspective," based on intervallic relationships rather than on fundamental pitches or chords. Tonal coherence in this extended sense can be found in music from all phases of Schoenberg's career. The tonality of the Chamber Symphony, for example, could be perceived in terms of cycles of fourths and fifths and, as such, removed from the realm of hierarchy, directed motions, tensions-and-resolutions and other such functionalism implicit in the traditional concept of tonality. But this alternative tonality, says Dineen, is made from undifferentiated pitch materials that could easily be represented by abstract schema. Such formalism was at the heart of Theodor Adorno's critique of twelve-tone music, as expressed in his Philosophie der neuen Musik (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1949). Dineen explains Adorno's ideas in an especially concise and lucid manner. The notes of a tone row and the forms of a row, Adorno said, were undifferentiated; movement from one to another of them was the result of no compulsion or corollary. The forms of twelve-tone music were for Adorno thus empty illusions that could only mirror the empty values of bourgeois society.
Bryan Proksch, in "Precedents of Schoenberg's Compositional Practice in the Chamber Works of Joseph Haydn," stresses the high value that Schoenberg placed on Haydn's music and the solutions to basic compositional issues that Schoenberg found in it. Haydn's use of irregular phrases, enriched harmony, and developing variation anticipates the same features in Schoenberg's own works. Sabine Feisst, in her contribution "Echoes of Pierrot Lunaire in American Music," finds traces of the style of Pierrot in works by a large number of American composers from the teens to the present day. An example that Feisst cites is John Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer (a work that parodies many different musical styles). Toward the end of act 1, an Austrian woman, who has been hiding from the hijackers in her cabin, sings in Sprechstimme. Although there is an apparent allusion in her singing to works by Schoenberg or possibly by Berg, it is hard for this reviewer to see the character, as does Feisst, as "arrogant" or "an Austrian snob" or the musical allusion to be "anti-Semitic" (p. 185). Feisst stresses the works by seventeen American composers who participated in the Pierrot Project, organized by Leonard Stein in 1987.
In "Expressivity, Color, and Articulation in Schoenberg's Seventeen Piano Fragments," Yoko Hirota describes the fragments of piano music assembled by Rein-hold Brinkmann in the 1975 critical report for the volume of piano music in the Schoenberg Samtliche Werke. Hirota points especially to the manipulation of color, dynamics, and articulation in these pieces. Elaine Keillor, in "Critical Reception, Performance, and Impact of Schoenberg's Music and Thought in Canada Prior to 1960," summarizes performances of Schoenberg's music in Canada and the influence of Schoenbergian ideas on Canadian composers. The author concludes that this influence was relatively small until the 1950s.
The final article in the volume is James K. Wright's "Glenn Gould, Arnold Schoenberg, and Soviet Reception of the Second Viennese School." Gould played Schoenberg's music--in addition to works by Berg, Krenek, and Webern--during his 1957 tour of the Soviet Union, and the Russian audiences seemed unprepared for it, apparently disappointed that Gould was not playing Rachmaninoff. Still, the tour was a "pivotal turning point" in Russian postwar cultural history.
The volume is directed primarily at Schoenberg specialists, and for them it can be highly recommended since it contains hitherto unpublished documents and original thinking about the structure of Schoenberg's music and his historical standing. The absence of an index, however, makes the book less useful than it might have been.
BRYAN R. SIMMS
University of Southern California
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|Author:||Simms, Bryan R.|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2010|
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