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Having the Last Word: Schoenberg and the Ultimate Cadenza

brian alegant and andrew mead

In this essay we examine the ultimate cadenzas of Arnold Schoenbergs Violin Concerto, Op. 36, and
Piano Concerto, Op. 42, and summarize the main partitioning strategies in these compositions,
including two constructs we refer to as dyadic and trichordal complexes. The analysis details the
structure and rhetoric of the cadenzas and concludes with a brief reconsideration of the universe of
dyadic complexes.*
Keywords: cadenza, dyadic complex, Op. 36, Op. 42, Schoenberg, triadic complex

his study analyzes the ultimate cadenzas of Arnold

Schoenbergs American-period concertos. The initial cadenzas of the Violin Concerto, Op. 36, and
Piano Concerto, Op. 42, have been the focus of several analytical
studies. David Lewin and Andrew Mead have each shown that
the cadenza of the rst movement of the Violin Concerto serves
as a focal point, or perhaps even nexus, for the movements
primary motives and partitioning strategies. Brian Alegant has
argued that the solo cadenza in the Adagio (movement III) of
the Piano Concerto is the most extended and sophisticated
trichordal passage in Schoenbergs oeuvre.1 But the initial cadenzas in these serve merely as previews for these cadenzas,
which are even more expansive and elaborate in terms of compositional technique, motivic development, and rhetorical
ourish. With this in mind, it is surprising that scholars have
virtually ignored these nal cadenzas.
This essay attempts to remedy the oversight. We argue that
the nal cadenza of the Violin Concerto serves as a summary for
the entire work, just as the opening cadenza encapsulates the
events of the rst movement. We also argue that the second
cadenza of the Piano Concerto functions in a similar manner:
the orchestral tutti recasts the events of the solo piano cadenza
and brings to a culmination several other partitioning strategies
that pervade the work. We begin by reviewing some basic
procedures of Schoenbergs mature twelve-tone praxis. We then
examine the nal cadenzas of these concertos in turn, paying
particular attention to the partitioning strategies and aggregate
realizations on the surface, and the larger-scale associations
among the constituent elements of different harmonic regions.
We conclude with a few thoughts on the articulation of cadenza
space, which are followed by an appendix that reconsiders
a construct we refer to as the dyadic complex.

* An earlier version of this essay was delivered at the annual Music Theory
Society of New York State Meeting, held at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New
York, in April 2008.
1 Analyses of Op. 36 include Lewin (1962) and Mead (1985) and (1993);
analyses of Op. 42 include Rothstein (1980); Mead (1989); Alegant and
McLean (2001); and Alegant (20023). A sampling of other twelve-tone
analyses that invoke partitional approaches includes Kurth (1992); Mead
(1985) and (1989); Morris and Alegant (1988); and Peles (198384) and

initial considerations
The foundations of Schoenbergs harmonic praxis are well
known and long understood.2 Example 1(a) illustrates the
procedure of hexachordal inversional combinatoriality with the
home rows of the Violin Concerto, P9 and I2.3 These rows
form a combinatorial array containing two aggregates, each
aggregate comprising six dyads sharing the same order position
in the rows: f2,9g, f1,Ag, f3,8g, fB,0g, f4,7g, and f6,5g. (The
dyads are the cycles of index number 11, or B.) The array can be
partitioned in various ways to generate row harmonies. One
harmonization combines the non-overlapping dyads of the rows
into tetrachords, with the rst one containing the elements at
order positions 0 and 1, the second having the elements at order
positions 2 and 3, and the remaining tetrachords combining the
elements at order positions 4 and 5, 6 and 7, 8 and 9, and A and
B. Example 1(b) shows that the resulting tetrachords belong to
set-classes 4-1[0123], 4-7[0145], and 4-17[0347]; note that, in
this array, tetrachords of the same set class are related by T6. We
call this set of six tetrachords the dyadic complex, and we label its
tetrachords [1] through [6].4
Example 2 shows the combinatorial array of the Piano
Concertos home rows, P3 and I8. Example 2(a) shows the
dyadic complex. The complex of Op. 42 shares two tetrachordal
2 Babbitt (1960) and (1961) and Lewin (1962), (1967), and (1968) are
among the earliest analyses to address the use of inversion in
Schoenbergs twelve-tone music.
3 Some conventions: We use C0, C 1, . . . , BA, and B  B. We
identify P and I rows by their initial pitch class and R and RI rows by their
nal pitch class. Thus, any P9 opens with A natural; any RI2 ends with D.
Set classes are identied with labels from Forte (1973) and Rahn (1980).
Ordered collections are indicated with angled brackets, h i, and unordered
collections are designated by accolades, f g. Order numbers are denoted by
the italics 0 through B.
4 Babbitt (in Dembski and Straus [1987]) discusses the pairing of
inversionally related dyads in Schoenbergs Opus 33a; his combinatorial
array closely resembles our Example 1. Babbitt remarks: The essential
question in Opus 33a is how you regard these two sets when theyre
taken in dyads and when those dyads are regarded as making tetrachords,
not linearly but in groups of twos (7779). Peles (2000, 12729) shows
how the pitch symmetry of the opening violin tune of the Fourth Quartet
pregures its array of dyads.



music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

example 1. Characteristics of the row of Op. 36.

example 2. Characteristics of the row of Op. 42.

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

set classes with that of Op. 36 (4-7[0145] and 4-17[0347]), but
its prole is different. Specically, the Piano Concertos array
yields tetrachords from ve set classes; additionally, its third and
sixth sonorities are identical. Example 2(b) shows another
partitioning strategy for generating row harmonies. Here, the
rows non-overlapping trichords, which belong to set-classes
3-4[015], 3-9[027], and 3-6[024], are grouped into four hexachords. The rst one combines the elements at order positions
02; the second combines them at order positions 35. These
yield the Z-related pair 6-Z6[012567] and 6-Z38[012378].
The third and fourth hexachords combine the elements at order
positions 68 and 9B; these conjoin to form all-combinatorial,
diatonic collections that belong to set class 6-32[023457]. We
refer to the collection of these hexachords as the trichordal
From a labeling standpoint, the trichordal complex contains
four partitions that belong to three distinct mosaics.6 A partition
is a collection of non-overlapping, unordered pitch-class sets
that form an aggregate; a mosaic is the set of partitions that are
related by transposition and inversion. One mosaic includes the
segmental trichords of P3 and I8; this mosaic houses two partitions, which we designate fp1,p2,p3,p4g and fi1,i2,i3,i4g.
The trichords of these partitions generate a pair of 6-9[012357]
hexachords, a pair of 6-16[014568] hexachords, and a Z-related
pair, 6-Z26[013578] and 6-Z48[012579]. The rst half of the
complex contains another trichordal partition from another
mosaic; we represent this partition as fp1,p2,i1,i2g. Partitions of
this mosaic yield pairs of 6-9 and 6-20[014589] hexachords and
another Z-pair, 6-Z6[012567] and 6-Z38[012378]. Finally, the
second half of the complex contains another partition that belongs to a third mosaic, fp3,p4,i3,i4g. The constituent trichords
of this partition create pairs of 6-9, 6-22[012468], and 632[024579] hexachords. This latter set class, the diatonic allcombinatorial hexachord, plays a signicant role in the ultimate
The dyadic and trichordal complexes in Schoenbergs twelvetone compositions yield a unique set of tetrachords and hexachords. (By denition, all of these collections are inversionally
symmetrical under an odd index number.) Depending on the
properties of the source row, the tetrachords and hexachords in
the complexes may or may not match those that are found as row
segments. In practice, Schoenberg tends to project the elements
of the dyadic complexes in a linear fashion, moving incrementally from [1] through [6] or from [6] through [1]; moreover,
he takes pains to exploitor avoidtheir characteristic

5 Martino (1961) discusses at length the phenomena of dyadic and trichordal

complexes in the twelve-tone system, and categorizes the harmonies that
arise in all two- and four-part arrays. Starr (1984) further extends the
theoretical implications of Martinos study.
6 See Morris and Alegant (1988). The relation between a partition and
a mosaic is analogous to that between a pitch-class set and a set class. Mead
(1988) and Kurth (1992) use mosaic and mosaic class instead of partition and


properties.7 Through the technique of varied repetition, these

collections come to function as referential sonorities.
A cross partition is another strategy commonly found in
Schoenbergs twelve-tone music.8 In simplest terms, a cross
partition arranges the pitch classes of an aggregate (or row) in
a two-dimensional rectangular design. Typically, the vertical
columns of a cross partition are derived from a rows segments,
while the horizontal rows of a cross partition contain nonadjacent elements of the row. The vertical pitch classes of a cross
partition are often realized as chords, while the horizontal
pitch classes are differentiated from one another by registral,
timbral, or other means. Below we show the even cross
partitions, which we designate 62, 43, 34, and 26, respectively.
(The rst integer species the number of vertical elements;
the exponent species the number of horizontal elements.
Thus, a 62 cross partition is essentially a presentation of two
simultaneous hexachords.)




Although many other irregular congurations are possible,

twelve-tone composers (notably Schoenberg and Dallapiccola)
tend to gravitate to the four even congurations. Once constructed, the pitch classes in the columns of the cross partition
can be permutedas if subjected to slot-machine transformations. These permutations preserve the elements in the vertical
dimension while varying the material in the horizontal dimension,
in a sense, maintaining the original rows harmonies and generating different melodies. To illustrate, the congurations
below are some of the many slot-machine variations of a single 34
cross partition.9




7 For instance, the trichordal complex of the Violin Concerto yields two
pairs of Z-related hexachords: 6-Z42[012369] and 6-Z13[013467], and
6-Z6[012567] and 6-Z38[012378]. The latter pair also appears as the front
half of the complex of the Piano Concerto. The Violin Concertos trichordal
complex appears only on rare occasions; it is not a feature of the cadenza
under discussion.
8 This construct is discussed in Martino (1961) and explored further in
Alegant (1993), (2001), and (2010). The cross-partition is a remarkably
exible device. A familiar example is the opening of Op. 33a, in which the
disjunct tetrachords of the P and RI rows are presented as chords; over time
the tetrachords are unraveled and the row as a string is revealed.
9 Such slot-machine transformations can generate many variations of the
original design. The number of distinct congurations (those unrelated
by Tn or TnI) is determined by the properties of the pitch-class sets in
the columns.


music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

example 3. Prominent tetrachords in the opening of Op. 36.

Like the dyadic and trichordal complexes, cross partitions
offer an easy and organic way to generate non-segmental
material. However, it is important to remember that cross partitions are derived from a single row, whereas dyadic and trichordal complexes are derived from pairs of rows.

the violin concerto

Schoenbergs Violin Concerto is in three large movements
following the traditional model for the genre. While each
movement has its own form and character, several strands of
motivic continuity run through the entire work. These strands
are summarized in an extended notated cadenza toward the end
of the last movement, in which the soloist revisits the primary
materials of all three movements. Unlike the cadenza (also
notated) in the rst movement, the nal cadenza includes
interjections from the orchestra. The following discussion traces
some of the connections between the nal cadenza and the rest
of the work, paying particular attention to motivic associations
and the return of combinatorial row pairs that appear at
important junctures.
One signicant feature of the Violin Concerto is the preponderance of tetrachordal motives containing discrete pairs of

half steps. There are ve such tetrachords; three invert onto

themselves under an odd index number while the other two
invert into themselves under an even index number. Of these, set
classes 4-1[0123], 4-7[0145], and 4-17[0347] are found in the
dyadic complex, while 4-8[0156] and 4-9[0167] are segments of
the row. In addition, a sixth tetrachord, 4-3[0134], the emblematic
motive of the concerto, combines the rst dyads of the rst
hexachords of all P and I rows (and the nal dyads of the second
hexachords in all R and RI rows). Each tetrachordal set class is
prominently realized in the opening, shown in Example 3.
These tetrachords can be derived in a variety of waysfrom
single rows or pairs of rows, and from adjacent or non-adjacent
order positions. Throughout the concerto Schoenberg consistently evokes the same handful of partitioning schemes, each of
which is characterized by specic sonorities. The ensuing discussion traces the history of one such scheme.
Example 4(a) shows a passage from the opening of the rst
movement. Its material is based on the P9/I2 complex, which
appears at the bottom of the example. Of particular signicance
are sonorities [2] and [6], which belong to set-class 4-17[0347];
note that these (unordered) tetrachords are related by T6.
Example 4(b) shows a recapitulation of this passage later in
the movement; the pitch-class material for this return is based
on the P3/I8 complex, which is a tritone removed from the

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

example 4. Invariant [0347] sonorities among T6-related complexes.



music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

example 4. [Continued]
previous one. Applying the same partitioning scheme to T6related complexes exchanges the tetrachordal collections of the
combinatorial arrays. At the same time, while the row pairs in
the passages are related by transposition, the surface realization highlights the inversional relationships between the row
pairs. In this way the passage in Example 4(b) is able to evoke
the initial gesture of the concerto through the utes fA,Bg
The handling of these [0347] motives is vivid and memorable. The passage in Example 4(a) is marked by the rst use of

double stops and octave shifts within aggregates. The oboes half
step echoes the rhythm of the movements opening motive,
while at the same time employing a new dyad for that motive;
nonetheless, the fG,Ag dyad is not entirely unfamiliar: in an
earlier passage it was played by the winds, in the same register,
and with dynamic emphasis. The return of the violin guration
in Example 4(b) is noteworthy not only for its octave leaps
(which are reserved for these two passages), but also because this
passage immediately follows a varied recapitulation of the
measures leading to its rst occurrence. Transforming the oboes

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza


example 5. Another scheme involving the tetrachords of the complex.

familiar half step motive into the opening fA,Bg dyad further
underlines the sense of return.
Example 5 highlights another facet of the dyadic complex.
Each passage in this example unfolds the tetrachords of

a complex from [1] through [6] or vice versa. The excerpts in

Examples 5(a) and 5(b) occur a mere seven measures apart,
toward the end of the rst main section of the rst movement. In
Example 5(a) the solo violin leapfrogs through [6] and [3], while


music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

the orchestra combines [5] and [4], and [2] and [1].10 The entire
passage unfolds thus:

h B,2
h 6,3





7,6 i
A,B i

Examples 5(b) and 5(c) show the results when the partitioning scheme in 5(a) is applied to different regions. Despite
variations in the violins contour and content, the partitional
correspondences between these events are quite recognizable.
The passage in Example 5(d) anticipates the complex that appears near the end of the rst movements cadenza. The violin
moves through the complex in rapid-re succession, squeezing
all six of its tetrachords into the span previously reserved for [6]
and [3]. As a result, Example 5(d) can be heard as a summary or
reection of the passages in (a), (b), and (c).
We now turn to the vast cadenza that concludes the third
movement of the work and recapitulates, both by motive and by
row pair, music from the entire concerto. Example 6 shows the
lead-in and the rst section of the cadenza (mm. 64060). The
lead-in employs the home rows that open the work, articulated
in the rhythmic and motivic contours of this last-movement
rondos refrain. The cadenza brings a signicant rhetorical
change: the orchestral accompaniment seems to dissolve, leaving the violin to play a very broad and dramatic gure. The
following passage (not shown) features a shift to the lowest
register, a change of dynamic and tempo, and a kind of musical
regroupinga pulling back from the driving march that has
dominated the last movement.
The cadenza brings back in order the row pairs from the
opening of the rst movement (P9 and I2, m. 647), the opening
of that movements recapitulation (P0 and I5, m. 661), and the
re-entrance of the violin in the recapitulation (P7 and I0, on beat
three of m. 671). (These are discussed below.) At the beginning
of the cadenza, the soloist returns to the atmosphere of the very
opening of the rst movement, accompanied by gures found
in the winds. At the same time, the upper strings shape the
combinatorial counterpart of the row of the opening so as to
bring back a motive introduced in the third movement (see, for
example, mm. 492ff. in the example). The passage reprises many
of the collections we have been discussing, including several
identied in the complex of Example 1(b).
Example 7 shows the cadenzas second subsection, which
recalls motives from several earlier passages. Measures 66164
recapture a melody from the middle of the third movement (see
mm. 572ff.). In m. 666, the orchestral strings rejoin the soloist,
thus recalling the opening of the second movement, which itself
recalls the rhythmic guration of mm. 67 of the rst movement
(shown in Example 3). Measures 66668 are based upon the
10 The content of the solo violin is based entirely on [3] and [6], which
together form pitch-class set fB,1,2,3,4,6g, a member of the allcombinatorial 6-8[023457].

latter half of the dyadic complex. The solo violin combines ic-3
dyads to form sonority [6], while the orchestral strings project
[5] and [4] in imitation. (This complex is a T6-transposition of
the design shown in Example 5[a].) The remainder of this
subsection recalls the opening of the second movement,
including an extensive portion of its lyrical opening melody.
The third subsection deals primarily with references to
material from the third movement; at the same time, it relates
to the motive that had opened the cadenza of the rst movement. (See Example 8.) This same material, realized in a variety of ways, also concludes the cadenza. An interesting feature
of mm. 676ff. is the way in which the variations of the primary
motive retain its rhythmic prole and its pairing of discrete half
steps. The overall effect from m. 677 through the winds
presentation of the motive in m. 681 is a chromatic ascent from
D to F . Measures 686ff. also include chromatic strings of
pitch classes, here derived from a partitioning scheme that is
introduced in the rst movement.11 This partition yields the
emblematic motive of the entire work, h9,B,0,1i; this tetrachord is projected in the upper orchestral strings. Measure 692
brings yet another allusion to the opening motive. Here,
however, the half steps fA,Gg and fD,C g are related by
transposition (not inversion), and combine to form a member
of 4-9[0167].
It is intriguing that this passage articulates precisely the tritone transposition linking the complexes of two regions, while
bringing forth two specic pitch-class dyads associated with the
opening passages of the rst movement. (See, for instance, the
fA,Gg dyad in Example 4 and the fD,C g dyad in the solo
violins opening line in Example 3.)
Schoenberg takes a different approach to row presentation
and articulation in the next subsection, which is illustrated in
Example 9. Here, a sequence of single rows, presented without
their combinatorial counterparts, projects the segmental dyads
found by pairing order numbers with an odd number rst,
leaving the ends of the rows as singletons. (This procedure
contrasts with the manufacturing of segmental dyads in the
dyadic complex, which pairs order numbers with an even
number rst.) Several interesting features emerge in the realization. First, this partitioning strategy emphasizes the single
elements at the beginnings and ends of the rows. Looking at the
rst two parallel gestures in the passage, we can see that the four
notes marked with asterisks, hD,B,C ,Ai, replicate the rst
tetrachord of the opening dyadic complex (shown in Example 6).
Second, we can read the sets of segmental dyads framed by the
rows end-notes as three tritones and two perfect fths, and
observe the wealth of invariance patterns shared among the rows
in this passage, some partial and some complete. Some of these
commonalities are noted in the pitch-class representations at
the bottom of the example. Lastly, we can appreciate how
Schoenberg combines a desire for segmental invariance with
a desire to bring out the open-string dyads of the violin fG,Dg
and fA,Eg, articulated here by left-hand pizzicati. These dyads
11 See Mead (1985).

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

example 6. The lead-in and Part 1 of the cadenza (mm. 64060).



music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

example 6. [Continued]

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

example 7. Part 2 of the cadenza (mm. 66175).



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example 8. Part 3 of the cadenza (mm. 67694).

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

example 8. [Continued]



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example 9. Part 4 of the cadenza (mm. 694704).

are found in virtually every measure of Example 9, and are easily
identied with the traditional symbols that indicate this
mode of articulation.
The cadenza then makes one more overt reference to earlier
material. As Example 10 shows, the pickup to m. 705 recalls the
opening of the rst movement, derived from the member of the
row class used at that point. Two specic details deserve mention: the accompanimental gures in the violin articulate the
segmental [0156] and [0167] tetrachords featured in the previous example, while the clarinet sustains the notes that form the
opening dyad of the solo part in the second movement. What
follows is a return to the motive from the third movement that
accompanies the opening of the cadenza.
Example 11 shows the close of the cadenza and the return of
the full orchestra. Measure 715 is based on a remarkably
compact realization of a dyadic complex, one that articulates
the set of tetrachords both by timbre and by rhythm. It is also
worth pointing out the material played in the lowest register by
three trombones and tuba in unison: the dyads fA,Bg and
fE,Eg (boxed on the lower winds staff of the second system
of the example). These dyads fulll two functions: they refer

to a motive in the third movement and they recall the precise

dyads found in the very rst measures, as part of a call and
response between the soloist and the orchestra (shown in
Example 3).
Obviously, the above analysis only scratches the surface of the
Violin Concerto, which entails a wide variety of invariance relations based not only on symmetrical tetrachords but also on
collections of many sorts derived in a variety of ways. But the
motivic presence of repertories of symmetrical tetrachords, and
their tendency to engage inversionally related rows, invites this
particular perspective on the work. As a nal gloss on the
concerto, Example 12 summarizes the cadenzas motivic and
harmonic structure, noting some of the connections with other
parts of the work.
the piano concerto
Schoenbergs Piano Concerto is in many respects traditional and nostalgic. Its cantabile melodies, lilting rhythms,
and tonal artifacts (such as trills and perfect-fth bass
motions at points of arrival) have much in common with its

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

example 10. Part 5 of the cadenza (mm. 70512).



music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

example 11. Part 6 of the cadenza (conclusion, mm. 71319).

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza




P9/I2 (home) I, 1; III, 492

III, 572

I, 6; II, 266

II, 266
II, 270
III, 492
PB /I4

P9/I2 (home) I, 1
III, 492
P9/I2 (h2 of home)



example 12. Summary of the cadenza.

eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Viennese predecessors.
At the same time, several aspects of the work are atypical of
Schoenbergs praxis. The rst, and most conspicuous, is the
wealth of octave doubling (and even tripling); the thick
orchestration is much closer in spirit to turn-of-the-century
works such as Gurrelieder or Verklarte Nacht than to the Violin
Concerto.12 A second innovation in the work is the organization
of hexachordal regions in the rst movement. As William
Rothstein, Andrew Mead, and others have noted, the sequence
of hexachordal regions is based upon the succession of pitch
classes in the source row, P3. One way to understand the
progression is to consider each note of the row as a token
representative of a specic region. Thus, pitch class 3 can be
interpreted as a token for the quartet that includes rows P3 and I8,
and their retrogrades, R3 and RI8. The rst four notes of P3 are
E, B, D, and F; and the rst four regions include rows drawn
from the regions that include rows P3, PA, P2, and P5. The arrival
of the rows last note (which is commensurate with the twelfth
harmonic region) heralds a dazzling and intricate recapitulation
in which the opening P3 row is nested on two temporal levels.13
12 The preceding work, the Ode to Napoleon, Op. 41, also makes heavy use of
octave doublings.
13 Rothstein (1980), Mead (1989), and Alegant and McLean (2001) discuss
the relationship between the rows intervallic prole and the succession of
regions in the rst movement; Alegant and McLean discuss the

A third dening aspect of the concerto is its program; the following brief descriptions of the movements are written clearly on
a manuscript page: Andante, life was so easy; Molto Allegro,
suddenly hatred broke out; Adagio, a grave situation was
created; Giocoso, but life goes on.14
The cadenzas play vital roles in this grave situation.
Structurally, the rst cadenza for solo piano is the saturation
point of trichordal structuring not only in this work, but in
Schoenbergs oeuvre: its pitch-class material is generated entirely
from trichordal complexes. The ultimate cadenza, which combines the piano and full orchestra, serves as the culmination rst
of the trichordal complex and then of the dyadic complex.
Signicantly, neither of these appears in the fourth movement,
save for a ashback of the dyadic complex in the nal measures.
It will be helpful to trace the history of the dyadic complex. It
appears in each of the rst three movements; through sheer
repetition, its tetrachords come to serve as referential sonorities.
The rst hint of the complex occurs near the end of the rstmovement exposition, which presents each row of the home
region, in the order P3, RI8, R3, and I8. Example 13(a) shows
the concluding measures of the realization of row I8. The nal
enlargement schemes in the movement; Mead offers a close reading of
the exposition and the nestings in the recapitulation.
14 The String Trio is thought to have a program as well, one with references to
Schoenbergs near-fatal heart attack.


music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

dyad, {C,E}, is accompanied by three tetrachords, which we

label [1], [2], and [3]. As Example 13(b) shows, these same
tetrachords return in the nal measures, fortissimo and resonant.
Here, the piano projects the initial (h1) hexachords of P3 and I8
in strict inversion, combining their nal dyads in an instance of
set class 420[0158]. The hexachords are punctuated by
orchestral realizations of [1] and [2] that are enhanced by octave
doublings. Midway through the rst movement, the dyadic
complex is realized with a specic rhythmic motive with a shortmedium, short-long pattern, which we call motive x. The many
repetitions of x throughout the rst three movements lend it the
status of a leitrhythm. Example 13(c) shows an early manifestation of x; Example 13(d) shows x harmonized by the tetrachords in the second half of the PA/I3 complex; and Example
13(e) shows x applied to the P6/IB and P1/I6 complexes in the
passage immediately prior to the orchestral cadenza. As was the
case in the Violin Concerto, Schoenberg typically moves in
a linear fashion through either a half or a whole dyadic complex.
The passage in Example 13(e) realizes a palindromic design,
punctuating statements of [1], [3], and [5] with tremolos of [2],
[4], and [6]. With the re-articulation of [6] the progression is
reversed, as follows:





The second half of m. 315 is a variation of material in m.

313. Schoenberg modulates to another complex, inverts the
melodic presentation of x, and repositions the tremolos in the
bass register. Observe the subtle variations of like sonorities
[3] and [6]: the realization of [3] articulates two ic 4s, BD
and FA, and then crescendoes, whereas the realization of
[6] highlights ic 1 (BA) and ic 3 (DF) and fades away
to ppp.
The trichordal complex follows a trajectory similar to its
dyadic counterpart: it is introduced in the rst movement,
developed in the second, and brought to a culmination in the
third. It also assumes a wide variety of congurations. Example
14(a) shows an early formation of the trichordal complex:
a condensed realization, pitting the trichords of IA in the piano
against the trichords of P5 in the orchestra. Example 14(b)
shows a later episode in the same movement. Here, the piano
journeys through the entire complex in a sentential design, exploiting the rhythms of x. A signicant aspect of this passage is
the presence of 6-32[024579] hexachords. These diatonic, allcombinatorial sonorities are produced by the conation of p4
and i4 in the right-hand trills and the pairing of p3 and i3 in
the left-hand statements of x. Example 15(c) skips ahead to
a codetta passage in the second movement (Molto Allegro). The
pitch-class material of this excerpt incorporates the latter halves
of two complexes. Measures 25961 unfold the elements of the
PA/I3 complex, with p4 and i4 in the piano and p3 and i3 in the
orchestra. A textural change in m. 262 announces a modulation
to the P4/I9 complex, which lies a tritone away from the previous

complex. Here, too, the diatonic hexachords are clearly exposed.

Example 14(c) highlights the invariant 6-32[024579] hexachords of the T6-related complexes.
Example 15 traces the histories of x and the complexes in the
rst three movements (there is little to mention about them in
the fourth movement, Giocoso, save for a nal presentation of
the dyadic complex in the nal measures). The example
(though not drawn to scale) is designed to show the frequent
pairings of motive x with the elements of the dyadic and trichordal complexes, and the two-part design of the Adagio,
each part comprising an interlude, an intensication, and
a cadenza.
There is one more passage to consider before turning to the
orchestral cadenza. Example 16 shows the opening of the solo
piano cadenza (mm. 28687). The pitch-class material for this
explosive outburst is based on the trichords of the P2/I7 complex.
Three features of the pianos cadenza are directly imported into
the orchestral cadenza. The rst of these is the tempo marking
Piu` largo (quarter44); this tempo is reserved exclusively for
the two cadenzas. The second feature is the trichordal and
hexachordal structuring on the surface, courtesy of the trichordal
complex. The third feature is the melody projected by the highest
pitches of the trichordal cross partition: hA6,F6,A5,B5,B5, . . . i.
The orchestral cadenza divides into two sections on the basis
of partitioning schemes, dynamics, texture, and orchestration.
We examine each section in turn, paying particular attention to
the set-class and pitch-class congurations of the aggregate
partitions. Example 17 provides an annotated reduction of the
initial two measures, which are based on the P7/I0 complex. In
the lower staff, the cellos and basses restate the initial tune of the
pianos cadenza, transposing it down three octaves and a perfect
fth. In terms of derivation, the tune takes one note from each of
the segmental trichords of I0; the remaining notes of the trichords are distributed to the bassoons. The pitch classes of the
melody are highlighted in the reduction at the bottom of the
example. In the upper system, the trombones and lower strings
project the segmental trichords of P7 as simultaneities; the added
percussion suggests a military topic and a sense of the macabre.
The next passage, shown in Example 18, brings a change in
character, texture, and hexachordal region. The soundscape
becomes introverted and dolce, despite the increased rhythmic
activity and the octave doublings. The pitch-class material for
this subsection is derived from the P1/I6 complex, which is reproduced at the bottom of the example. At rst the horn develops the Hauptstimme by taking single notes from different
trichords; then it articulates segments of the complex, projecting
i4 and p4 in retrograde inversion. The ute, clarinet, horn, and
one set of strings combine i1 and i2, and i3 and i4, while the
piano, whose left hand is reinforced by the other group of
strings, alternates p1 and p2, and p3 and p4.
Example 19 shows the third part of the rst section. The
energy builds dramatically: the harmonic rhythm further accelerates, the texture becomes thicker still, and the diatonic [027]
trichords and [024579] hexachords come to the fore. The sustained chord before the fermata is the climax of the entire

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

example 13. A brief history of dyadic complexes in Op. 42.



music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

example 13. [Continued]

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

example 14. A brief history of trichordal complexes.



music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

Andante (mm. 1175)

DC * *







Molto Allegro (mm. 176263)

176 182 186 190 193
Adagio (mm. 264329)


* *







Piano cadenza
286 301



235 245
*** *

160 163 166

249 263


Catastrophe Orchestral cadenza

319 32529

example 15. Summary of the dyadic and trichordal complexes and motive x.

example 16. Opening of the solo piano cadenza (mm. 28687).


having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

example 17. Section 1, Part 1 of the orchestral cadenza (mm. 31920).

example 18. Section 1, Part 2 (mm. 32122).



music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

example 19. Section 1, Part 3 (mm. 32325).

concerto. A closer look at the pitch-class and set-class structure
reveals that each quarter note projects the 6-32[024579]
sonorities from the second halves of different trichordal complexes. The piano, brass, and strings combine p3 and i3 while
the woodwinds combine p4 and i4. As we can see from the
bottom of the example, the pairs of complexes are related by T6,
which preserves the (unordered) hexachords. To designate this
invariance, we use the labels h1 and h2 to denote the [024579]
collections of the P1/I6 and P7/I0 complexes, and the labels h3 and
h4 to denote the collections of the P2/I7 and P8/I1 complexes.
The surface changes dramatically after the diatonic outburst.
Example 20 shows the rst part of the second section of the
cadenza. Having exhausted the materials of the trichordal complex, Schoenberg now fashions a mini-cadenza for solo piano. But
unlike the earlier solo cadenza, which was extroverted, angular,

and trichordal, this mini-cadenza is introverted, grazioso, and

dyadic. It is an escape from reality, and a respite from the angst
saturating the Adagio. The soft dynamics and thin textures
suggest an air of fragility and delicacy; the rapid shifts in tempo
and free-owing, unmeasured rhythms have the feeling of
improvisatory fantasy. Tremolos alternate with written-out bursts
of guration that often exhibit horizontal or vertical symmetry
(palindromic pitch structures or axial inversion). But, uncharacteristically, the elements of the dyadic complex do not unfold in
a linear fashion; rather, the almost haphazard progression of
sonorities partially obscures the complexs tetrachordal harmonies.
It is only in the nal section of the cadenza that the dyads are
realigned and a sense of linearity is restored.
Example 21 gives the conclusion of the orchestral cadenza.
As before, the example provides the pitch-class contents of the

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

example 20. Section 2, Part 1 (mm. 32526).

example 21. Section 2, Part 2 (conclusion, mm. 32729).



music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

First section: trichordal complexes









P1/I6, P7/I0
P2/I7, P8/I1

Tune of the piano cadenza III, 28687

Cross partitions
I, 12631; 13336
I, 14243; 15557; 16364
II, 17679; 18485
III, 28485
III, 28588; 29596
Tune of the piano cadenza III, 28889
[027] and [024579]
III, 25152; 25563


Second section: dyadic complexes






P8/I1, P6/IB

Fantasy (new material)

Rhythmic motive x

I, 8690; 97100; 11731; 16062; 16467
II, 17683; 192; 21519
III, 31112
III, 31318
Dyads, x
I, 3639; 62; 132
II, 18283; 19192; 23542
IV, 49092 (end)

x, harmonized
Complex as chorale

328.5 29


P3/I8 (home) Dnouement, retransition

example 22. Formal overview of the cadenza.

complex; a dotted line separates the discrete complexes. The

reappearance of motive x heralds a return to reality (see the rst
two gestures in m. 327), recapitulating music heard immediately
before the cadenza. At the same time, the dyadic complex resurfaces, with note-against-note presentations of [6] and [5], and
[4] and [3] in strict pitch inversion. The inversional symmetry
dissolves at the fB,D g dyad in the left hand, and the dyads are
subsequently staggered. The fC,Eg dyad, which belongs to the
P8/I1 and P3/I8 complexes, functions as a kind of pivot. Below
repetitions of this fC,Eg dyad in the right hand, the left hand
leisurely unfolds the elements of row RI8. In what is admittedly
a subtle instance of hidden repetition, the tail of the left-hand
melody is retrograded to begin the Giocoso.15
By way of summary, Example 22 models the formal structure
of the ultimate cadenza. It shows the T6-related regions of trichordal complexes and cross partitions in the rst part, the
dyadic complexes and note-against-note presentations in the
second part, and the pervasive inuence of x. The outer-right
15 Those concerned with twelve counting the surface will detect an
irregularity in the ultimate dyad of the cadenza: the D should be an A.
Regardless of whether this is a ledger-line error, we can offer no compelling
reason as to why D is paired with F  rather than A.

column traces the history of several partitioning strategies that

are integrated into the cadenza.

final considerations
It should come as no surprise that both of Schoenbergs
twelve-tone concertos have strong ties to the Romantic and
Classical traditions, despite their serial language. The Violin
Concerto clearly echoes the models of the past, with its threemovement structure, while the Piano Concerto bears a close
resemblance to Liszts Piano Concerto No. 2, with its cyclic
themes that transform from a lyrical presentation to a march
over the span of the work. Orchestral interjections in cadenzas,
especially ultimate cadenzas, are found in the last movement of
Schumanns Cello Concerto and Brahmss Violin Concerto.
Perhaps the most vivid precursor to Schoenbergs nal cadenza
in Op. 36 is the nale to Elgars Violin Concerto, in which an
extended summary and review of the entire work is presented as
a cadenza with orchestral accompaniment. A striking feature of
both compositions is the way in which the action of the last
movement grinds to a halt in order to recall the more contemplative moments of previous movements.

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

example 23. Dyadic complexes in selected works.

Pitch classes (unordered)





Prime forms (ordered)










example 24. The universe of the dyadic complex.

T6, M, OZ



music theory spectrum 34 (2012)

Set class


Degree of symmetry



example 25. A closer look at the tetrachords in the dyadic complex.

Concertos offer particularly vivid ground for studying the

relationship between our immediate experience of the music and
our sense of its dramatic structure. Our appreciation of the
drama in a concerto involves many factors, including the
interaction of the soloist and orchestra, the handling of solo
entrances and departures, the placement of orchestral tuttis, and
the incidence and content of cadenzas, both solo and accompanied.16 Larger questions regarding dramatic structure arise
when we consider the ways in which motives emerge and recur
in solo or orchestral passages. In this light it is interesting to
consider the aftermath of the cadenzas.
The nal cadenza of Op. 36 is vastand necessarily so,
because it integrates the main tunes of each movement with
a large cast of tetrachordal motives.17 But the dyadic complex
and its 4-1[0123], 4-5[0145], and 4-17[0347] tetrachords play
only subsidiary roles. In contrast, the nal cadenza of Op. 42 is
a mere eleven measures long, yet still manages to place a spotlight on the dyadic and trichordal complexes. In Op. 36, the
passages immediately following the nal cadenzas of the rst
and third movements are quite brief; thus they function as
codasto the rst movement and to the work as a whole. In Op.
42, the orchestral cadenza occurs at the juncture between the
third, slow movement of the work and the nale. As a result, the
piano concertos concluding movement does not carry the same
kind of musical or dramatic weight as the earlier movements;
it serves as a coda to the entire work rather than as a new
departure.18 The point is that in both of these compositions, the
act of summing up is essentially done. All that is left is rhetorical

appendix: reconsidering the dyadic complex

The Violin and Piano Concertos are not the only Americanperiod compositions to evoke dyadic complexes; we can also nd
them in the Fourth Quartet, Op. 37, and the Phantasy for Violin
and Piano, Op. 47. Example 23 compares the dyadic complexes
of these works. The complexes in Opp. 36 and 42 appear in (a)
and (b); the complexes of Opp. 37 and 47 appear in (c) and
(d).19 Note that each complex generates a unique collection of
tetrachordal set classes, all of which are distinct from the discrete
segments of the source rows. Additionally, note that the complexes in (a) and (c) generate three set classes and are invariant
under T6, while the complexes in (b) and (d) produce ve distinct set classes.
It is an easy task to enumerate and classify the universe of dyadic
complexes. Let us take as a point of departure the dyads of index
number 3. Every odd index number has six pairs of odd interval
classes; we represent these with the letters a through f:





Any inversional setting that is based on an odd index number

will (by denition) project certain pairs of these dyads. To
illustrate, the pitch-class representation below shows a design
from the Violin Concerto using these dyads. The rst three
tetrachords combine dyads ac, bd, and ef; the second three
tetrachords combine ab, de, and cf.

16 They further involve considerations of the presentational role of the soloist

in a given passage: a soloist may lead, comment, add guration, or
accompany. Timbre and register are other factors: the violin only
occupies the musics upper register, but can claim timbral membership in
the ensemble; conversely, the piano can compete with the orchestra
throughout its full range, although it remains a timbral outsider.
17 By vast we mean that the cadenza is sixty-one measures in length:
precisely one-twelfth of the whole.
18 This makes sense in light of the programmatic inscription: but life goes


h B,0
h 4,3





4,7 i
B,8 i

But if we reorder these rows we obtain different tetrachordswhich leads us to ask: How many distinct tetrachordal
19 Most of the Phantasy is based on the presentation of unordered hexachords
and trichordal complexes. Measures 11016 represent the only clear
assertion of the dyadic complex in the work. The analyses by Lewin
(1967) and Lester (2000) mention neither this passage nor the inuence
of the dyadic complex.

having the last word: schoenberg and the ultimate cadenza

arrangements are possible? Below are listed the fteen ways to
divide six elements into groups of three.20









As it turns out, four of these arrangements relate to each other

under Tn/TnI, which leaves eleven distinct formations. Example
24 lists these congurations along with their (unordered) pitchclass collections, set classes, and invariance properties.21 From this
perspective, the complex in the Violin Concerto contains two
versions of #2, the complex in the Piano Concerto contains #5
and #11, the complex in the Fourth Quartet combines #1 and #8
(both of which are invariant under T6), and the complex in the
Phantasy combines #1 and #11.
We can generalize further and consider the universe of
symmetrical tetrachords arising in complexes that are not
hexachordally combinatorial. In any design that is based on an
odd index number, only eight symmetrical tetrachords can
ensuewhether the underlying harmonic context is twelvetone, atonal, or octatonic. Example 25 provides a closer look at
these tetrachordal set classes. Each tetrachord contains pairs of
the same interval class, and can map into itself under at least one
odd index number. (The Degree of Symmetry reects the
number of T and I operations that map a collection into or
onto itself; M invariance indicates the ability of a collection to
map onto itself under the multiplicative operators, M5 or M7.
M-invariance occurs when a collection has the same number of
interval-class 1 and 5 in its ICV.) Along with the ve symmetrical trichords ([012],[024],[027],[036],[048]), and the six
dyads ([01], [02], . . . ,[06]), these collections dene the harmonic universe of odd index numbers.22
works cited
Alegant, Brian. 1993. The 77 Partitions of the Aggregate:
Analytical and Theoretical Implications. Ph.D. diss.,
University of Rochester.
20 Alegant (1999) enumerates the inventories of even and odd index numbers
in a similar bottom up fashion.
21 Two points: rst, OZ, discussed in Mead (1988), rotates the pitch classes
of a collection through either the even or the odd whole-tone scale, leaving
the pitch classes of the other scale untouched. To illustrate, an odd
application of OZ on f0,1,2,3g yields f0,2,3,5g: 1 moves to 3, 3 moves
to 5, and 0 and 2 are unchanged. Second, this view of the dyadic complex
highlights the ways in which a whole-tone collection can be partitioned into
discrete ic 2, ic 4, and ic 6 dyads: we can have two ic 2s with an ic 6; two ic 4s
with an ic 6; three ic 6s; three ic 2s, and two ic 4s with an ic 2.
22 These set classes are a subset of a larger class of tetrachords generated by
pairs of interval classes. These in turn are themselves a non-trivial subset of
all those types whose constituent tetrachords can map onto themselves
under inversion by some index number, even or oddbut such an
inquiry is beyond the scope of this essay.


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Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 34, Issue 2, pp. 107136, ISSN 0195-6167,
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