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DURATION: ca. 15 Min.

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

Danish conductor and composer Paul von Klenau (1883-1946) wrote to Schönberg on July 31, 1922, informing him that he was planning to perform the Kammersymphonie Op. 9 in January of the following year; Schönberg was to conduct the concert, which took place on January 30, 1923, under his direction. By mid-November, the rest of the program was still not clear, as Schönberg said in a letter dated November, 1922: “We still need to decide whether to play something [along with the Kammersymphonie] and, if so, what.”

Shortly thereafter, Schönberg decided to prepare a chamber-orchestra version of the Song of the Wood-Dove from Gurre-Lieder for the Copenhagen concert; the autograph (completed in Mödling on December 14, 1922 reads that the arrangement was meant for “only mall halls [and to be played] after the Kammersymphonie.” The autograph contains other intriguing notes; he names the Second String Quartet Op. 10 for another item on the program, thinking of the French-Polish soprano Marya Freund (1876-1966) as the soloist (she had already sung the Wood-Dove in Paris in 1914).

Ultimately, however, at the singer’s suggestion (letter dated December 30, 1922), the Eight Lieder Op. 6 were performed instead of the Op. 10 string quartet. According to the program booklet, the Kammersymphonie was played twice – at the outset and at the end of the concert, after which Schönberg added an improvised speech as an introduction to his music theory. (The speech is mentioned in a newspaper article about the concert and on a postcard Schönberg sent to Alban Berg on January 29, 1923).

The Song of the Wood-Dove closes Part I of the Gurre-Lieder; the work was written in 1900-1911, based on the Gurresange poems by the Dane Jens Peter Jacobsen. The theme of Part I is the love-story of King Waldemar and Tove, the Wood-Dove singing in ballad-style of Tove’s death at the hands of jealous Queen Helwig, Helwigs Falke war’s, der grausamen Gurres Taube zerriß” (“It was Helwig’s hawk who tore cruel Gurre’s dove apart”).

Motifs of reminiscence from the first nine previous songs of Part I provide the work’s structural material and another semantic layer in this section. The version for chamber orchestra seems to free the motifs from the context of their logical coherence, shifting the focus onto the motivic work of variation and combination, the short, succinct motives interweaving with the song-like element of symmetrical bar groupings. In terms of form, Schönberg thus achieves a quasi-sonata shape, in which he integrates strophe-like complexes, introduced by the recurring refrain melody, Weit flog ich, Klage sucht’ ich (“I flew afar, seeking lamentation”).

Stefanie Rauch
© Arnold Schönberg Center