Sunday, March 29, 2015

Schoenberg pre-atonality

As I said in class, Schoenberg had a period toward the beginning of his composing career and toward its end in which he composed tonal music. Before researching and really listening to modernist music, I could only stand the music that Schoenberg generated during these two periods; however, some of his modernist pieces strike my fancy having finished the project (hat tip to Mrs. Quinet, thank you!). One aspect that remained constant throughout his career, though, was the source from which he drew inspiration: poems. For instance, we listened to part of Pierrot Lunaire, his Op. 21, which was inspired by the poems of Albert Giraud (link for convenience). Before he jumped ship from the traditions of music to embark on his trailblazing quest for atonal music, he wrote Verklärte Nacht ("Transfigured Night"). It is a work for a string sextet (two cellos, two violins, two violas) and was inspired by the poems of Richard Dehmel. Schoenberg also incorporated his own emotions, as he had just met his soon-to-be wife Mathilde von Zemlinsky. The poem depicts a man and a woman walking through a forest, the woman telling the man that she is pregnant with another man's baby, the man's contemplation, and the man's acceptance. The music reflects these plot points with obvious themes; however, thought these themes seem simple, Schoenberg interweaves chromaticisms (going up and down the chromatic scale) and other complex harmonies and musical metaphors that made the piece controversial when it was released in 1902. Though it is technically written in D minor, even this piece shows the earliest signs of Schoenberg's willing departure from musical tradition. Here's Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht. Enjoy!

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