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Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 123 (1998)

Royal Musical Association

The 'Skeleton in Schoenberg's

Musical Closet': The Chequered
Compositional History of
Schoenberg's Second Chamber
REFLECTING on the composition of his First Chamber Symphony, op. 9,
in the essay 'How One Becomes Lonely' (1937), Schoenberg wrote:
I had enjoyed so much pleasure during the composing, everything had gone
so easily and seemed to be so convincing, that I was sure the audience would
react spontaneously to the melodies and to the moods and would find this
music to be as beautiful as I felt it to be.

But, he continued in the same essay, 'it was not only the expectation of
success which filled me with joy. It was another and a more important
matter, I believed I had now found my own personal style of composing',1 and he reaffirmed this view 11 years later in the essay 'On Revient
Toujours': 'Now I have established my style I know now how I have to
compose.'2 He immediately sought to capitalize on this style and began
a second Chamber Symphony on 1 August 1906, only one month after
completing the first. By the autumn of 1907 he had produced a still fragmentary continuous draft in short score of bars 1-143 and 166-251 which
is retained almost intact in the final version, with the exception of some
modifications in the orchestration and a few minor revisions in the inner
parts. In spite of his initial enthusiasm for the project, however,
Schoenberg found himself unable to complete this or any other largescale work for two years, and although he had begun to copy a full score
he had laid this aside in August 1908, shortly after the completion of
the Second String Quartet.
The compositional history of the Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38,
is thus bound up with at least four phases in Schoenberg's development:
its conception and fragmentary working out in 1906-8, two further abortive attempts to complete it in 1911 and 1916, and its completion in 1939.
In the 1906-8 phase, however, the tonal beginnings of the Second
Chamber Symphony lay at a tangent to Schoenberg's atonal preoccupations, and from the winter of 1906-7 its composition was largely supplanted by that of several other works,_notably the beginnings of
' Arnold Schoenberg, Style and Idea, ed Leonard Stein (London, 1975), 30-53 (p 49)
* Ibid., 108-10 (p 109)



several songs to verses by Dehmel, C. F. Meyer, Goethe and Hermann

Lons, sketches for a chorus Des Fnedens Ende (The End of Peace) to a text
by Gottfried Keller, 50 bars of Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen bliihn?
(Know'st thou the land where the citrons bloom?), four pages of sketches for

an opera based on Gerhard Hauptmann's Und Pippa tanzt, the Second

String Quartet, op. 10 (Stefan George), begun on 9 March 1907, the Two
Ballads 'Jane Grey' (Heinrich Ammann) and 'Der verlorene Haufen'
(Viktor Klemperer), op. 12 (1907), the chorus Friede auf Erden, op. 13
(C. F. Meyer), completed in March 1907, trie Two Songs 'Ich darf nicht
dankend' and 'In diesen Wintertagen', op. 14 (1907-8), and some of the
songs from Das Buck der hangenden Garten, op. 15 (Stefan George), begun
in March 1908. It was indeed the language of these works and particularly
that of the Second String Quartet and the op. 14 songs that spoke for
Schoenberg now and demanded to be followed up. Table 1 illustrates
the way in which the sketches for the Second Chamber Symphony interact chronologically with those for several of these works in Sketchbook
The precise means by whicrrSchoenberg arrived at atonality have been
described in numerous ways in the critical literature, ranging from a shift
from harmonic progression to voice-leading by Edward Cone4 to an increasing consciousness of pitch-class set structure on the part of the composer, particularly through the discovery of the musicar counterpart of
his signature, the six-note set El?, C, B, Bb, E, G, by Allen Forte.5
Schoenberg himself maintained that it was an intuitive process that
occurred directly under the influence of the poetry of Stefan George,
and he wrote in 'How One Becomes Lonely':
I had started a second Katnmersymphonie But after having composed almost
two movements, that is, about half of the whole work, I was inspired by poems
of Stefan George, the German poet, to compose music to some of his poems
and, surprisingly, without any expectation on my part, these songs showed
a style quite different from everything I had written before And this was only
the first step on a new path, but one beset with thorns It was the first step
towards a style which has since been called the style of 'atonality'.6

In comparison with the works in which Schoenberg embarked upon

this new path towards atonality, the 'established style' of the Second
Chamber Symphony indeed seems regressive within the context of
' Sketchbook III was begun in April 1906 and originally belonged to the legacy which was
in the possession of Schoenberg's widow, Gertrud, together with all musical and literary
manuscripts in Schoenberg's own handwriting (including first drafts and fair copies), sketches,
sketchbooks and all paintings and drawings unless another owner is specified (see Josef Rufer,
The Works of Arnold Schoenberg' A Catalogue of his Compositions, Writings and Paintings, trans Dika

Newlin, London, 1962) It is currently housed at the Arnold Schonberg Center, Vienna, to which
grateful thanks are due for the loan of all sketch material The sketchbook is bound in a black
cover with the inscription 'Skizzen' and consists of 175 numbered pages in oblong format,
19 x 36 5 cm, which have been written on up to p 132, between pp. 139 and 156 eight leaves
have been cut out Where dates of sketches are available they are given in Table 1
Edward T Cone, 'Sound and Syntax An Introduction to Schoenberg's Harmony', Perspectives of New Music, 13 (1974), 21-40
Allen Forte, 'Schoenberg's Creative Evolution The Path to Atonality', Musical Quarterly, 64
(1978), 133-76
Schoenberg, Style and Idea, 30-53 (p 49)




58, 71


op. 38/1, sketches
op 38/1, continuation of sketches with the note
'angefangen 14.8.1906 in Rottach'
op. 38/1, draft of bars 1-57
Und Pippa tanzt (Gerhard Hauptmann)
op. 10/11, sketches
op. 10/1, sketches
opp 12 and 14, first drafts
op 10/1, draft of bars 17-84
op. 38/1, continuation of sketches
op 38/1, draft of bars 57-143
op 38/11, drafts of bars 3-41, 43-55,
53-158, 86-105
op 10/11, sketches
op 38/11, sketches
op. 10/1, drafts of bars 143-5, 159-end
op. 10/11, sketches
op 10/II, drafts of bars 53-62, 65-94
op 10/11, sketches; op 10/111 (?), partial draft in
Eb minor
op 10/11, sketches
op 10/11, drafts of bars 1-52, 98-132, 160-76
opp 12 and 14, first drafts
op. 10/IV, sketches
op. 10/111, partial draft with a Bb major key
op. 10/111, sketches
op. 10/111, draft of bars 1-25
op. 10/111, sketches; op. 10/11, drafts of bars
132-60, 177-99
op. 10/11, draft of bars 200-end
op. 38/11, continuation to bar 257
'Fortsetzung der II Kammersinfonie angefangen
am 23./11.1911' ('continuation of the Second
Chamber Symphony begun on 23 November
op. 38, 'Fortsetzung begonnen am 6./XII.1916'
('continuation begun on 6 December 1916')
A slip of paper pasted to p 119 contains the
beginning of a text for the Second Chamber
Symphony (recitation) with the title Wendepunkt
[Turning Point], Orchesterwerk von Arnold Schonberg

1 August 1906
14 August 1906

9 March 1907

8 July 1907

1 September 1907

27 July 1908
23 November 1911

6 December 1916



Schoenberg's development, particularly in view of its ternary-form first

movement and sonata-form second, and Christian Schmidt observes in
the Preface to the Philharmonia score:
Op. 9 opened up new paths: its harmony, with its extremely tight-knit relation to the motivic-thematic occurrences, thrusts out to the very limits of the
tonal system. In this respect the Second Chamber Symphony represents a
regression neither can its harmony be regarded as a further step towards the
dissolution of tonality, nor are its harmonic formations so organically rooted
in the structure of the musical substance as is the case in Op. 9.7

The Second Chamber Symphony, in contrast to the First, accepts its terms
of tonal reference rather than constantly seeking to overthrow them, but
although its rate of harmonic change appears slower and its harmonic
language more conservative than those of op. 9 as a result of its more
lyrical, homophonic style, the dissonance in this work results not so much
from the use of conventionally dissonant intervals (as was the case with
the whole tones and fourths of op. 9), although these do exist, or from
a proliferation of appoggiaturas and suspensions with delayed resolutions, as from the juxtaposition of distantly related tonal triads modified
by dissonant additions and arrived at by means of uncompromising
semitone movement in the parts. This conjunction of triadic forms is
similar in principle to Bruckner's juxtaposition of entire phrases in tonal
areas that would normally require considerable preparation and linking. In Schoenberg, however, it is telescoped to form a vocabulary of adjacent chords exemplified by the theme in bars 62-7 of the first movement,
in which the movement of the parts by step leads away from and returns
to a C major triad, followed by A major and a seventh chord on C in
third inversion, as shown in Example 1.
This semitone voice-leading had tended to give rise in the First Chamber
Symphony to the fourth chords that featured so prominently in this earlier
work and now constituted an integral element of the 'settled style' that
Schoenberg wished to maintain in his Second Chamber Symphony. Contrary to Schmidt's assertion that the work's 'harmonic formations' are
not so 'organically rooted in the structure of the musical substance as
is the case in Op. 9', however, both the perfect fourths (together with
their inversion to the perfect fifth) and the semitone steps are in fact
projected in both a horizontal and a vertical dimension. Indeed, Klaus
Velten maintains that 'while the fifth leap stresses the tonic and thereby
suggests the tonality, the chromatic step oversteps the tonal boundaries',8 and the opening theme (bars 1-11), shown in Example 2,
demonstrates its derivation from these two intervals, the perfect fifth (a)
and the minor second (b). The third statement of the perfect fifth is contracted to the perfect fourth (c) in bar 4 and is succeeded by the semitone
e\>'-f\>'. The direction of the semitone (b) is reversed on the final beat
of bar 3, where it is followed by the perfect fourth. The descending form
of the semitone is designated as '(>)' in Example 2. This three-note
' Schoenberg, // Kammersymphonie, op 38, ed Christian M Schmidt, Philharmonia score No
461 (Vienna, 1952), 3-11 (p 6)

Klaus Velten, Schbnbergs Instrumentation Bachscher und Brahmsscher Werke als Dokumente semes
Traditions Verstandnisses (Regensburg, 1975), 91.



Example 1. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bars



Example 2. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bars


. |










figure (b)-(c) becomes an independent motive: the initial chromatic descent is protracted through two descending semitones (b) in bars 4-5; it
is restated in bars 5-6 and then again in bars 6-7, where the perfect fourth
is expanded to a minor sixth (d). The minor sixth (d) is detached from
the complete motive in bars 7-8, where it is subdivided" by "the semitone
d\"-c%". This three-note cell thus creates a contracted form of the
preceding motive in bars 6-7 which serves to restore the original interval, the perfect fifth (a), in bar 8. The vertical projection of these horizontal
motivic forms is expressed throughout the opening paragraph. These
11 bars form three complementary pairs of phrases in which the second
of each pair unfolds by means of the successive reinterpretation of the
harmonic and motivic material of the first in such a way as to lead to
a new harmonic area a tone or a semitone away from its predecessor.
The root relationships between the chords thus reflect the motivic identity of the semitone (b), rising from Ab minor to A minor in bar 1 and
continuing to a half-diminished seventh chord on Bb in bar 3. The first
phrase of the second pair returns to A minor in bar 5 and its transformation in bars 5-7 unfolds a semitone bass progression clj-cb-.BlJ-.8li,
reaching a chord of B minor in bar 7. The final pair of phrases liquidates
the material and leads towards the final cadence. Beginning in B minor,
it moves through the related keys of Fit minor and D major in bars 8
and 9; the/S' of the D major chord is reinterpreted enharmonically as
g\>' in bar 9 beneath which the Bb half-diminished seventh chord from
bar 3 returns. Thisgb' resolves t o / ' , which forms part of a dominant
chord in bar 10 and leads to the final cadence in the tonic key, Eb minor,
in bar 11.
In the Second Chamber Symphony there are none of the six-part fourth
chords of the type that occur in the First, and neither do the quartal
elements function as self-sufficient referential sonorities. Rather, in the
passages that date from 1906-8 they resolve consistently to tonal triads,
often serving as dominant substitutes or appoggiaturas onto dominant
chords. They nevertheless continue to function as a means of articulating
,the principal structural divisions and new thematic statements in the work,
although not as consistently as in op. 9.
The first statement of the fourths occurs harmonically in bar 9 in the
approach to the cadence in Eb minor that articulates the end of the first
theme and the start of the second iri^bar 11. The chord consists of d\>'
and a\> in the violas beneath the flute gi', which serves as an appoggiatura
onto t h e / ' of the dominant chord in bar 10. The fact that it is underpinned by a b\> root indicates its function as a dominant substitute and
demonstrates that the quartal elements are merely dissonant additions
to a functional triad (see Example 3).
The fourths are exploited at three further junctures in the 1906-8 draft
as a means of articulating the form. In bar 22 (see Example 4) they mark
the progression from the second to the third theme (B\>-e\>"-ab/ab',
$'Ifi* ' -(d\>')), but again the final B\> in the cello, although motivic in its
derivation, indicates the dominant function of the chord. In bar 35 (see
Example 5) the fourths e\le\'-a\-d\"I6\'"-g\'lg\
" punctuate the return
of the second theme, and in bar 47 (see Example 6) the same chord



Example 3. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bars


Vcs., Cbs. [,

Example 4. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bar 22.


Vc. I (theme 2)

Example 5. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bar 35.



Example 6. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bars






articulates the codetta, progressing by step to an Eb minor triad. In both

instances the resolution of the fourth chords onto tonic triads emphasizes
their function as dominant substitutes. As in bars 1-11 (see Example 2
above), the fourths are integrated into the motivic substance of the movement through their linear and harmonic projection in bars 18 and 43.
In bar 18 (see Example 7) the fourths complex ab-d\>-g\>-c\>' -j\>" reflects
the melodic fourths/b"-cb", b\>'-fl\' in violins I and resolves by semitone
step onto a dominant chord in first inversion. In bar 43 the motive is
extended and the chord progresses by semitone motion to a first-inversion
triad of C major on the final quaver of the bar, as shown in Example 8.
Example 7. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bar 18.

Example 8. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bar 43.

The musical and emotional conditions that obtained in 1908 impelled

Schoenberg in a direction that led him away from the language of triadic
tonality into the atonal world of his second period. The sketches of the
first draft indicate clearly the precise points at which Schoenberg, unable
to reconcile the style of the work with his current preoccupations, laid
it aside to await a solution only in the 1939 phase of composition. Sketch
1298b, transcribed in Example 9, shows Schoenberg halting on a dominant seventh in Eb minor in bar 140; bars 141-3, although marked out
in the sketch, remain blank, however, only to be completed in the full
draft to bar 145 in sketch 1257 (see Figure 1). In the latter sketch
Schoenberg continues with a restatement of the first five bars of the first
theme combined in counterpoint with itself in clarinets and bassoons
and the opening motive of the second theme in oboe I. In these bars
Schoenberg appears to be beginning a full restatement of the theme, but
as the reprise has already occurred in trumpet I in bar 95 he clearly wished
to avoid a further restatement and broke off in bar 145 with the note



Example 9. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bars

138-43; transcription of sketch 1298b, Sdmtliche Werke, IV, Series B, xi/2,
ed. Schmidt, 170.




142 143

f- Cls. {
Col t


Figure 1. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, sketch 1257,

bars 141-5.


/ /

'there follow ms. 146-165' and a calculation of the timing as 7' 30". When
Schoenberg resumed work on the Second Chamber Symphony in 1939,
the bars that date from this period became much more fragmentary and
contained a larger incidence of dissonance and pointillist interjections.
Lacking a solution to these specific problems in 1906=8, however, the
work remained 'a disturbing skeleton in Schoenberg's musical closet' for
some three decades.9 For the time being the increasing pressure
towards atonality led him to regard composition as a duty rather than
a pleasure, and he maintained in an interview with Merle Armitage:
I was content as I wrote in the period of the Chamber Symphony . .. Then
to compose was a great pleasure. In a later time it was a duty against myself.
It was not a question of pleasure. I have a mission - a task . . I am but the
loudspeaker of an idea.10
On 12 December 1916, however, Schoenberg declared his intention
to resume work on the Chamber Symphony in a letter to his friend and
former teacher, Alexander von Zemlinsky:
I have decided to complete my Second Chamber Symphony, which I began
in 1907 and which has been untouched up till now. Two movements have
been written one is complete with the exception of the final bars and the
other is half-finished. I shall merge these into one movement. This is the first
part, because I plan a second part
but it is still possible that I shall abandon this plan."
Schoenberg evidently did abandon it, for there is no suggestion in the
sketches of an attempt either to fuse the first two movements into one
or to write a second part. He continued in the same letter: 'I shall not
compose the work for solo instruments but shall immediately write an
entirely new score for (medium-size) orchestra.... I hope to complete [the
work] in a few days - if nothing gets in the way!'12 Schoenberg's projected 'few days' turned into 23 years, however, for it was not until 21
October 1939 that the Second Chamber Symphony was finally completed.
So precisely what were the circumstances that prevented its completion
in 1911 and 1916? What, in Schoenberg's words, 'got in the way'?
Glenn Gould, record notes for Schoenberg Works (conducted by Pierre Boulez), CBS
Masterworks 79349 (1982)
Arnold Schoenberg, 'Affirmations', cited in Schoenberg, ed Merle Armitage (New York,
1977), 251-2
" Arnold Schoenberg, letter to Alexander von Zemlinsky dated 12 December 1916 The

original German, cited below, is given in Zemhnsky's Bneftoechsel mil Schonberg, Webern, Berg und

Schreker, ed Horst Weber (Darmstadt, 1995), 158-9, and is translated here by the present author
'Ich habe mich entschlossen, meine II Kammersymphonie, die ich 1907 (I) angefangen habe
und die bisjetzt liegen gebheben ist fertig zu machen Es sind 2 Satze da Der eine fertig bis
auf die SchluBtakte, der andere zur Halfte fertig Die verschmelze ich zu einem Satz. Das ist der
erste Teil Ich plane namhch einen 2 "" Teil
aber es ist moghch, daB ich den doch nicht
Schoenberg, letter to Alexander von Zemlinsky dated 12 December 1916. The original
German is given ibid, 159-60, and is translated here by the present author 'Ich werde aber
das Stuck nicht fur Solo-Instrumente schreiben, sondern sofort eine ganz neue Partitur fur
(mittelgroBes) Orchester schreiben
Mit der II hoffe ich in wenigen Tagen fertig zu sein wenn nichts dazwischen kommt1' Schoenberg's reference to the initial conception of the work
for solo instruments emphasizes the relationship between the 1906 draft of the Second Chamber
Symphony and the First Chamber Symphony, op 9. To the 15 solo instruments of the latter
he added a second flute, a second viola, a second cello and a double bassoon



The harmonic problems that obtained in 1911, although different in

kind, were not so in degree from those of the crisis years of 1906-8, and
by 1916 they had found no real solution either. By 1911 the language
of post-Wagnerian chromaticism in which the Second Chamber Symphony was conceived had become a 'petrified symbol of "feeling" ', n
a moribund gesture from a bankrupt past, and the only possible alternative, it seemed to Schoenberg at that time, was atonality. Schoenberg
having freed himself from the shackles of diatonic tonality, his creativity
rose to prolific dimensions in 1909 with the completion of the song Am
Strande on 28 February, Das Buck der hdngenden Garten, op. 15, on 28
February, the Three Piano Pieces, op. 11, in February and August, the
Five Pieces for Orchestra, op. 16, between J u n e and August, and the
monodrama Erwartung, op. 17, in a mere 17 days between 27 August and
12 September, although the full score of the work was not completed
until 4 October. The intense emotional feeling and atonal, athematic style
of the latter work had led Schoenberg into a compositional cul-de-sac,
however; its expressionist language provided only a temporary solution
to a specific artistic problem that Schoenberg would have found impossible to repeat. No creator can develop by drawing exclusively on the depths
of his own subconscious, and in the decade that followed the composition of Erwartung Schoenberg consciously sought to withdraw from the
confines of personal feeling.
As if to encapsulate the creative dilemma in which he found himself
when he resumed work on the Second Chamber Symphony, Schoenberg
considered completing the work as a melodrama based on a spoken text
entitled 'Wendepunkt' ( T u r n i n g Point') which is quoted below. 14
Text zur II Kammersymphonie
(Melodram) Titel 'Wendepunkt' Orchesterwerk v AS
Auf diesem Weg weiterzugehen war mcht moglich.
Ein Lichtstrahl hatte eine Trauer sowohl allgemeiner, als
auch besonderer Natur erhellt. Abhangend [von der Laune] mcht
nur von lhrer [seiner inneren] Konstitution, sondern auch von den
Launen auBerer Zu[GIucks]falle, kann eine Seele gegen den
Gliicksfall sich sowenig unempfindlich verhalten, wie vorher
gegen das Ungluck. [und antwortet ln/mit/einem zunachst]
In plotzlichem Umschlag antwortet sie mit [einer] frohlichem
Behagen, erhebt sich dann mit machtigem Aufschwung,
traumt von seligen Erfullungen, sieht sich als Sieger,
sturmt weiter, fuhlt lhre [seine] Kraft immer mehr wachsen, und
lm Wahn eine Welt besitzen [erobern] zu konnen, die sie schon
fur die lhre halt, alles was in lhrer Fahigkeit liegt, um
in einem machtigen Anlauf eine libenrdische Hohe zu erreichen.
"14 Donald Mitchell, TTie Language of Modern Music (London, 1963), 71
Passages that have been crossed out are placed in square brackets
'Text for the Second'Chamber Symphony
(Melodrama Title 'Turning Point' Orchestral Work by AS
To continue further along this path was not possible
A ray of light had lit up a sadness of both a general



Was notwendigerweise geschehen muBte, besorgt der Zufall:

wie die angesammelte Kraft ausbrechen soil, versagt sie;
ein kleines aber hinterlistiges Ereignis - ein Staubchen lm Uhrwerk - ist
imstande, sie an lhrer Entfaltung zu hindern.
Dem Zusammenbruch folgt Verzweiflung, danach die Trauer. Sie ist
erst [allgemeiner]
[wieder allgemeiner und besondrer Natur. Dann auch besond]
besondrer, dann auch allgemeiner Natur Vom auBeren
Ereignis ausgehend glaubt die Seele [lhren Ab] den Grund zuerst
in diesem zu linden, sucht ihn dann in ihrer Konstitution
Das ist die eigentliche Vollendung dieses [des] Zusammenbruchs. Aber
das bedeutet kein Ende, ist lm Gegenteil ein Anfang, ein neuer
Weg zum Heil zeigt sich, der einzige, der ewige. Ihn
zu finden war der Zweck alles vorhengen Erlebens.

Although this text is most frequently associated with the 1916 phase of
composition owing to the fact that this is the latest date of composition
that precedes it in the sketchbook, the folio on which the text is written
(1181-4), like f. 1185-8, has been inserted and, since parts of the music on
these sheets date unquestionably from 1911, it is possible that the text
may also have been written before 1916.^ It begins with the symbolic
words 'To continue further along this path was not possible', and it charts
the progression of the soul from sadness through contentment to despair
and sorrow. The cause of this sorrow does not lie in external phenomena,
however, but within the soul itself, and may be perceived not as an end
but as a new beginning, a means of salvation, towards which all previous
experience was directed.
The impossibility for Schoenberg of continuing further along his particular path was apparent not only in the case of the Second Chamber
and a particular kind Dependent [on whim] not
only on its [inner] constitution, but also on the
whims of external coincidences [strokes of good fortune], a soul can
respond to the stroke of good fortune with no less sensitivity than
it did previously to misfortune [and responds in/with/an initially]
In a sudden reversal it answers with [a) cheerful [elation]
contentment, then rises with a mighty, soaring movement,
dreams of blessed fulfilments, sees itself as victor,
rushes on, feels its [its] power grow more and more, and,
in the illusion that it can possess [conquer] a whole world, which it already
considers its own, gathers together all that lies within its capability, to
reach a heavenly height in one mighty charge
Chance provides what ought to come about through necessity
just when the accumulated power should burst forth it fails,
a small but perfidious incident - a speck of dust in the clockwork - is capable of
hindering its development
After the collapse comes despair, then sorrow The sorrow is first [of a general]
[again of a general and particular kind Then also panic]
of a particular, then also of a general kind. Starting from
the external incident, the soul first believes the cause [its abyss]
lies there, then seeks it in its own constitution
That is the real completion of this [the] collapse. But that
does not mean an end, it is on the contrary a beginning, a new
way to salvation appears, the only, the eternal way To find this
was the purpose of all previous experience
See Arnold Schonberg, Sdmlliche Werke, IV. Orchesterwerke Kammersymphonien, Series B,
xi/2, ed Christian M Schmidt (Vienna, 1979), 202.



Symphony, but also in the fact that his only completed original composition in the period between the completion of Pierrot lunaire in 1912 and
Die eiserne Brigade, a spoof march for piano quintet, in 1916 was the Four
Orchestral Songs, op. 22 (1913-16), a work of a mere ten-minutes' duration which had taken Schoenberg almost four years to complete. Its
lengthy compositional history, like that of the Second Chamber Symphony, testifies to the obvious difficulties Schoenberg was experiencing
at this time and should be compared with the rapid rate at which he had
composed the 30-minute Erwartung under the influence of a kind of
'streamof-consciousness' outpouring of spontaneous creativity. Apart
from op. 22, the only other works of this period remain incomplete or
are arrangements of works by other composers; they include an unfinished
symphony for soli, chorus and orchestra (1912-14), arrangements for
voice and orchestra of Carl Lowe's Der Nock, Beethoven's Adelaide and
three songs by Schubert, and an arrangement for cello and piano
of G. M. Monn's Cello Concerto in G minor with a cadenza by
The period between 1916 and the emergence of the first serial works
in 1923 was marked by a similar dearth of original compositions, and
Schoenberg occupied himself instead with arrangements of his own
works16 and those by other composers, including Johann Strauss,
Schubert, Busoni and Bach. The only original compositions dating from
this period were a handful of short or incomplete works written for special
occasions, such as the Weihnachtsmusik for two violins, cello, harmonium
and piano (1921); Schoenberg's major project, the oratorio DieJakobsleiter,
was left unfinished in 1922 and was resumed only later in 1944, when
it still remained incomplete
Schoenberg's failure to bring works to completion in this period may
not have been entirely due to musical reasons, however. During the 1908
period in which progress on the Second Chamber Symphony had faltered
initially, Schoenberg had sought to express his intense inner emotion
through a second creative medium, that of painting. His subsequent involvement with the artist Richard Gerstl, which led to his wife's liaison
with the latter,17 devastated him. This event, coupled with financial
hardship which obliged him to write to Mahler begging assistance,18 the
demands of teaching, touring and conducting, his declining health and
the interruptions to his work caused by two periods of active service during the war, impeded Schoenberg's creativity.
The problems were greater than these, however, as Schoenberg also
" These include the string-orchestra versions of Verklarte Nacht and the Second String
Quartet, op 10, in 1917 and c 1919 respectively, an arrangement for chamber ensemble (with
Felix Greissle) of op 16, nos 1, 2, 4 and 5 in 1919, the full-orchestra version of op 9 and an
arrangement for mezzo-soprano, 17 instruments and percussion of'Lied der Waldtaube' from
Gurreheder in 1922
" See Michael Graubart, review of Stuckenschmidt. Arnold Schoenberg His Life, World and
Work, Tempo, 111 (1974), 44-9, MacDonald, Schoenberg (London, 1976), 6-7, and H H
Stuckenschmidt, Arnold Schoenberg His Life, World and Work, trans Humphrey Searle (London,
1974), 93-7
" Schoenberg, letter 264 to Gustav Mahler dated 2 August 1910, Arnold Schoenberg Letters,
selected and ed Erwin Stein, trans Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser {London, 1964), 297



lacked the technical means to continue. Musically as well as spiritually,

this was a time of intense searching for him. The abandonment of functional tonal harmony had led him to the dissolution of the large-scale
symmetries on which the recognition of musical form depended, and
Schoenberg sought to restore to his music a logical,- constructive basis
that would allow him to escape the expressionist world of Enuartung and
reinstate a link with musical tradition. In Pierrot lunaire his retreat into
a distant, cooler, more ironic style of composition provided his music
with a self-sufficient framework once more through a return to abstract
forms and counterpoint.
The sketches and reworkings of the Second Chamber Symphony that
Schoenberg made in 1911, shortly before the composition of Pierrot,
demonstrate the beginnings of this tauter, more imitative style, whilst
those that date from the 1916 phase of composition reflect the contrapuntal dexterity of Pierrot. The various stages of evolution of the second theme
(from bar 11) of the Chamber Symphony from a repetitive, somewhat
circuitous theme in the 1906-8 sketches, shown in Examples lOa-h,
through the more concise version in the 1911 sketches (see Examples
lOi-j) to its final form (see Example 10k) clearly illustrate this more concise style. In the 1916 working the contrapuntal dexterity of Schoenberg's
later style is apparent in his attempt to combine not only the same motive
in imitation with itself (see Examples lla-b) but also different motives
in counterpoint with one another (see Examples llc-d).
Once again the tonal beginnings of the Second Chamber Symphony
lay at a tangent to his compositional concerns at this time, however, for
Schoenberg now sought a rational basis on which to construct his works
that would replace the structural support of the tonal system and enable
him to integrate the stylistic advances of his atonal music with the formal legacy of the past. Lacking the technical means to proceed, however,
he fell silent for the remaining years of the decade, and it was not until
1921 that he felt able to announce the discovery of the 12-note method.
By 1939 Schoenberg's music was once again approaching a turningpoint, even if a less acute one than in 1908 or 1920. He maintained in
the essay 'On Revient Toujours':
I was not destined to continue in the manner of Transfigured Night or Gurrelteder
or even Pelleas and Melisande The Supreme Commander had ordered me on
a harder road
But a longing to return to the older style was always vigorous in me; and
from time to time I had to yield to that urge.19
He had 'yielded' initially in the late 1920s with a series of transcriptions
or arrangements of pre-existing tonal material, beginning with the
orchestration of Bach's 'St Anne' Prelude and Fugue in Eb major (BWV
552) and continuing with the arrangements of G. M. Monn's harpsichord
concerto in D major for cello, Handel's Concerto Grosso op. 6, no. 7 in
Bk major for string quartet and orchestra, and the orchestration of
Brahms's Piano Quartet no. 1 in G major, op. 25. There followed a number

Schoenberg, Style and Idea, 108-10 (p 109)



Example 10. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1: (a)(h) transcriptions of sketches of theme 2, bars 1 Iff. (1906-8), Sdmthche
Werke, IV, Series B, xi/2, ed. Schmidt, 122-6; (i)-(j) transcriptions of
sketches of theme 2, bars llff. (1911), ibid., 137; (k) final form of theme
2, bars 11-19 (1939).

M U L H J 5 ^ 5 M * / tmm ^^m






Example 10 (cont.)


ii-TbJ IwT

r ^r

iJ jg


Example 10 (cont.)




Example 10 (com.)











Example 10 (cont.)



r'ri q rj-'rry j
poco pesante


Example 11. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, sketches

(1916), Sdmtliche Werke, IV, Series B, xi/2, ed. Schmidt, 156, 165.


r r r=^r rr





Example 11 (cont.)




t>r- -

of original compositions in a tonal idiom, such as the Suite for String

Orchestra (1934) and Kol Nidre (1938), and it was within the context of
this more consonant style that Schoenberg turned, now for the last time,
to the incomplete tonal beginnings of the Second Chamber Symphony.
Indeed, he had often expressed regret at not being able to spend longer
exploring the expanded tonal style of the First Chamber Symphony, and
in a letter to Rene Leibowitz he noted the 'many unused possibilities'
it contained.20
The opportunity came for Schoenberg to return to the sketches of the
Second Chamber Symphony when he received a commission from the
conductor Fritz Stiedry for a work for the Orchestra of the New Friends
of Music he directed in New York. In spite of his initial enthusiasm for
the project, the task of returning to a work whose beginnings were in
a style that had long since become irrelevant to him appears to have been
a more daunting one than he had originally anticipated, and the difficulties he experienced in reconciling this earlier language with his present stylistic concerns are documented in an undated letter to Stiedry:
For the past month I have been working on the Second Chamber Symphony.
I spend most of my time trying to find out: 'What did the author mean here?'
After all, in the meantime my style has become much more profound and
I have much difficulty in making the ideas which I wrote down years ago
without too much thought (rightly trusting to my feeling for design) conform
to my present demand for a high degree of 'visible' logic. This is now one
of my greatest difficulties, for it also affects the material of the piece. However,

Schoenberg, letter 216 to Rene Leibowitz dated 4 July 1947, Arnold Schoenberg Letters, 248



this material is very good; expressive, rich and interesting But it is meant
to be carried out in the manner which I was capable of at the time of the
Second Quartet.21

Schoenberg's musical language had indeed changed so radically in the

intervening years that the bars he had drafted in 1906-8 required extensive and far-reaching revision. The projected chamber scoring of the initial version was expanded in accordance with the constitution of Stiedry's
orchestra: 28 strings, 8 woodwinds, 2 horns and 2 trumpets; the resulting
modifications were by no means simply an expansion of the original
scoring by instrumental doublings, however, but were evidence rather
of a whole new conception of orchestration that clearly reflected the
experience of the serial works and the concertante writing of the Monn
and Handel arrangements.
The 1939 version reveals a far greater tendency to contrast the string,
wind and brass sections in distinct instrumental groupings rather than
the heterogeneous groupings of the earlier draft which in virtually every
instance combined the first violins with the flutes, first oboe and first
clarinet, and the second violins with the second clarinet and lower strings.
The final version also tends to avoid octave doublings in favour of more
sharply defined, single instrumental lines, and to extract chamber groupings from the enlarged orchestral ensemble. The first significant example of Schoenberg's modification of his initial conception occurs in bars
32ff., in which the woodwind section play a repeated chromatic rising
motive in octaves and thirds against the bar 1 Hauptstimme in the horns
and repeated octave c'/c"s and cb'/cb"s in violins I and II (see Example
12). Sketch 1244 (see Figure 2) shows that the violins were originally
doubled by oboes and cor anglais, however, and this doubling was maintained through bar 35 with the entry of the second theme which, in the
final version, is in violins I and II and violas only, thus creating a distinct
separation between woodwind and string material. Similarly, in bar 78
(see Example 13) the Hauptstimme is transferred from the heterogeneous
string/wind combination of violin I and clarinet I in sketch 1249 (see
Figure 3) to a solo trumpet line, creating a sharper contrast and a more
clearly defined line. The point at which Schoenberg broke off work on
the second movement (bar 251) in the 1906-8 draft is illustrated in sketch
1269 (see Figure 4). It reveals a number of additions, deletions and a
date (15/11) in a different ink from the rest of the sketch. The cello
doubling of the clarinet and bassoon is crossed out in bars 245-8, and
in bar 249 a semiquaver countermelody is inserted into violin II with
an indication that it should be doubled in viola and cello an octave lower.
This semiquaver motive is inserted into flute II in bar 250 also. In the
1939 version (see Example 14), however, the passage is rescored to reveal
a distinct separation between the two ideas and the two instrumental
sonorities: the Hauptstimme, which occurred initially in violin I, viola I,
oboe and clarinet II, is now given exclusivelyto the upper strings, whilst
the semiquaver countermelody is transferredtothe oboes, clarinets and
" Schoenberg, letter to Fritz Stiedry (undated), cited in Rufer, The Works of Arnold
Schoenberg, 64



Example 12. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bars














L , . eet-_
B ' b'ri> ^ ;

r# "r r r r



Example 12_ (cont.)















Figure 2


Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op 38/1, sketch 1244, bars 30-7

It was not only the orchestration of the work that was revised when
Schoenberg returned to his earlier sketches in 1939, however, but also
its overall structure. An undated letter to Stiedry indicates that Schoenberg
had not only considered writing a third movement (Adagio), but that
a fourth and fifth were not entirely out of the question. Schoenberg's
solution was to abandon the projected third movement and to replace
it with the return of first-movement material to form an epilogue at the
end of the second. The cyclic return of first-movement material in this
way thus connects the work with the one-movement double-function forms
of its immediate predecessors, the First String Quartet and First Chamber
Symphony. In another letter to Stiedry dated 2 April (?), Schoenberg notes:
The last movement is an 'epilogue', which does bring thematically new material
(developed from preceding material) but which, nevertheless, is not unconditionally necessary. The musical and 'psychic' problems are presented exhaustively in the two completed movements; the final movement merely
appends, so to speak, certain 'observations'.22
There nevertheless exist a number of sketches for the rejected third
movement and a draft which consists of 127 bars in short score, the first
page of which in sketch 1284 (see Figure 5) bears the note 'XI/5.1939.
" Schoenberg, letter to Fritz Stiedry dated 2 April Q), cited in Rufer, The Works of Arnold
Schoenberg, 65.



Example 13. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op 38/1, bars


Ob. 1





Example 13 (cont.)







Figure 3

Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op 38fl, sketch 1249, bars 73-80

After 536 pause of more than 10 weeks - changed and started anew
January 27 1940'.2'1 The harmonic language of this draft reflects the
principal concerns of movements I and II in its juxtaposition of unrelated
triads, voice-leading by step and converging and diverging chromatic progressions. Sketch 1293 (see Example 15) presents a harmonic reduction
of the sequence of triads that harmonize the opening motive in bars 490-5
of the first draft; it progresses from B major through G major, B major,
G major, C major, A minor and Eb minor back to B major. In the January
revision (sketch 1294; see Example 16), however, Schoenberg progresses
directly from the G major chord in bar 494 to A minor in bar 495, thus
replacing the functional dominant-tonic progression G-C with voiceleading by step. This final phase of composition reveals a greater degree
of dissonance through tntone progressions in the bass and of timbral
variation through the use of pizzicatos, string tremolandos, violin harmonics and flutter-tonguing in the flute. The experience of the serial
period is reflected in Schoenberg's experimentation with different
permutations of motive forms and their contrapuntal combinations,
demonstrated in sketch 1293 (see Example 17), in which inversions
" Five sketch-sheets, one of which bears the date 5 November 1939, and the draft written
in short score on loose sheets were originally contained in the legacy and are currently housed
at the Arnold Schonberg Center In the draft-the composition is completely carried out, on
three or four staves, to bar 542 From bar 542 the principal voice continues to bar 618 but
countermelodies and harmonization are only partially carried out. There also exists a separate
sheet containing another version of bars 534-5


Figure 4


Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op 38/11, sketch 1269, bars 244-51

appear in imitation of the 'original', and in which in particular these

motive forms are notated as abstract groups of notes in the manner of
note rows. In sketch 1298d a sequence of 12 notes is stated in which the
only two notes to be repeated, F and Eb, are stemmed (see Example 18).
The stylistic changes that occurred between Schoenberg's early and
late periods become most apparent if the harmonic language of the first
movement drafted in 1906-8 is compared with that of the 1939 version,
particularly that of the Eb minor epilogue in which first-movement
material returns. Although the tonal triads of the first period reappear
in this final phase, they are no longer governed by traditional tonal hierarchies. Connections between adjacent triadic forms are created rather
by means of voice-leading by step, and a single tonal triad becomes sufficient to suggest tonal associations. Schoenberg's harmonic vocabulary
in both the late neotonal and the serial works of the 1930s and 1940s
thus became one of triadic harmony that existed independently of the
hierarchical structure of key-centred tonality, and he wrote in the essay
'Opinion or Insight?' (1926) of the 'paralysing' of the traditional formal
claims of the tonal triad:
My formal sense .. tells me that to introduce even a single tonal triad would
lead to consequences, and would demand space which is not available within
my form. A tonal triad makes claims on what follows, and, retrospectively,
on all that has gone before; nobody can ask me to overthrow everything that



Example 14. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/11, bars


n. I







Example 14










Lfc t . T T l ^ Mir,r.W!

r7t--^a=T f- .

- " V i *

i. i

. f








Figure 5. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/111, sketch 1284, bars

Example 15. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op 38/111; transcription of sketch 1293, Sdmtliche Werke, IV, Series B, xi/2, ed. Schmidt, 189


a ia


Example 16. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/111; transcription of sketch 1294, Sdmtliche Werke, TV, Series B, xi/2, ed. Schmidt, 188.

3 -



Example 17. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/111; transcription of sketch 1293, Sdmthche Werke, IV, Series B, xi/2, ed. Schmidt,




[ 1J

141 *#p'-V


i j " - ^ j -jpj




- ^

has gone before, just because a triad has happened by accident and has to
be given its due On this point I prefer if possible to start right and continue
in the same way, so far as error is avoidable. Every tone tends to become a
tonic. Every triad to become a tonic triad. If I were to draw even this one
conclusion from the appearance of a triad, then the idea could inadvertently
be forced aside on to a wrong track; but sense of form and logic have so far
saved me . . . I believe that to use the consonant chords, too, is not out of
the question, as soon as someone has found a technical means of either satisfying or paralysing their formal claims.24

In the later period the motion by step becomes more uncompromisingly dissonant and the texture more fragmentary; a comparison between
the harmonization of the motive in bar 1 with its return in the coda in
bars 141-4 (see Example 19), for example, reveals that in the latter instance each note is harmonized with a distinct chord which progresses
to the next by means of movement of the parts by step, and the motive
is reworked in imitation both with itself and with the initial two notes
of the second theme. The more fragmentary texture in the later portion
of the work is illustrated by the harmonization in bar 467 (see Example 20).
In the 1939 revisions fourth chords continue to function as dominant
substitutes resolving onto tonal triads; in bar 149 of the first-movement
coda, for example, a five-part fourth chord resolves onto an E\> minor
triad in second inversion as a means of articulating the statement of the
" Schoenberg, Style and Idea, 258-64 (p 263)



Example 18. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/111; transcription of sketch 1298d, Samtliche Werke, IV, Series B, xi/2, ed. Schmidt,

opening motive (see Example 21). Consonant resolutions nevertheless

become much less frequent and the fourth chords occur as dissonant
entities in their own right, progressing directly from one to another
without tonal resolution. At the end of the first-movement coda a sequence
of fourth chords beginning in bar 159 proceeds by means of voice-leading
by step from an A minor chord in bar 159 to a four-part fourth chord
on B\> and a five-part fourth chord on jBlj back to A minor through a restatement of the same four-part fourth chord on B\> (see Example 22). This
movement establishes semitone voice-leading as the rule of progression
and creates 'unity of musical space' through the horizontal and vertical
equivalence of the melodic and harmonic fourths. In the more fragmentary epilogue, the fourths occur not so much as chords but as pointillist
motivic gestures that alternate between trumpets and flutes.
In all Schoenberg's works dating from this final period, serial and tonal
modes of thought freely inform and enrich one another: the 'tonal' Kol
Nidre, op. 39 (1938), and Variations on a Recitative for Organ, op. 40 (1940),
exploit aspects of serial organization whilst the 12-note Ode to Napoleon
Buonaparte, op: 41 (1942), and Piano Concerto, op. 42 (1942), assimilate
features of triadic tonality. In these works in which the return to tonality is either overt or in which it plays a constructive if strictly delimited



Example 19. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bars

1-3 and 141-3.



role within the serial language, there occurs a synthesis of styles which
creates an entirely new one and is not simply a return to a 'bygone
If the First Chamber Symphony may be held to be prophetic of the
'emancipation of the dissonance', the Second may be regarded as an
'emancipation of the consonance'. Indeed, it was only with this work that
Schoenberg once again became prepared to ascribe to a tonal composition the status of a major work by assigning it an opus number. How
else is one to explain the fact that it was not until after the composition
of the Chamber Symphony that KolNidre, written a year earlier, received
the opus number 39? In the essay 'On Revient Toujours' Schoenberg compared his own returns to tonality with the way in which the 'classic composers - Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann,
Brahms and even Wagner . . . so often interpolate strict counterpoint'
into their essentially homophonic style, and argued that the combination of styles - and, by implication, his own combination of tonality with
serialism - increased the expressive range of the music, for
these great masters possessed such an eminent sense of the ethical and
aesthetical requirements of their art that the problem whether this is wrong
can simply be disregarded. I had not foreseen that my explanation of this
stylistic deviation might also explain my own deviations.26
" Schoenberg, cited in Wilh Reich, Schoenberg A Critical Biography, trans Leo Black
(London, 1971), 49
* Schoenberg, Style and Idea, 108-10 (pp 108-9).



For, as Schoenberg explained to his advanced composition class at UCLA

around 1940: 'There is still plenty of good music to be written in C
University of Hull
*' Schoenberg, cited in Dika Newhn, 'Secret Tonality in Schoenberg's Piano Concerto',
Perspectives of New Music, 13 (1974), 137-9 (p 137)



Example 20. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/11, bars

Molto adagio (J>=69)









Molto adagio (j> =69)





VTnsI 2




it?I 1



Example 21. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bars



Example 22. Schoenberg, Second Chamber Symphony, op. 38/1, bars