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Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

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Pro Mundo—Pro Domo
The Writings of Alban Berg

B RYA N R .   S I M M S

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Berg, Alban, 1885–1935.
[Literary works. English]
Pro mundo–pro domo : the writings of Alban Berg / edited with commentaries by Bryan R. Simms.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978–0–19–976406–8
1. Berg, Alban, 1885–1935. 2. Composers—Austria. I. Simms, Bryan R. II. Title.
ML410.B47A513 2013

1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2
Printed in the United States of America
on acid-free paper

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Acknowledgments ix
Abbreviations xi
About the Companion Website xiii

Introduction 1


Arnold Schoenberg, Gurrelieder: Guide 11
Arnold Schoenberg, Chamber Symphony, Op. 9: Thematic Analysis 106
Pelleas and Melisande (after the drama by Maurice Maeterlinck). Symphonic
Poem for Orchestra, by Arnold Schoenberg, Op. 5: Thematic Analysis 120
Pelleas and Melisande (after the drama by Maurice Maeterlinck). Symphonic
Poem for Orchestra, by Arnold Schoenberg, Op. 5: Brief Thematic
Analysis 142
Commentary on the Schoenberg Guides 155


The Musical Impotence of Hans Pfitzner’s Die neue Ästhetik 167

Vienna’s Music Criticism: Two Feuilletons 177

The Musical Forms in My Opera Wozzeck 181
Why Is Schoenberg’s Music So Difficult to Understand? 183
Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto: An Open Letter 195
Committed Response to a Noncommittal Survey 199

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vi Conte nt s

Two Analyses of the Lyric Suite 203

Composition with Twelve Tones 203
Nine Pages on the Lyric Suite 206
Introducing Ernst Krenek 214
The “Problem of Opera” 215
Pro Mundo 215
Pro Domo 216
The Voice in Opera 218
What Is Atonal? A Dialogue 219
Lecture on Wozzeck: The “Atonal Opera” 228
Credo 260
A Few Remarks on Staging the Opera Wozzeck 261

Commemorative Address for Emil Hertzka 265

Commentary on Essays, Lectures, and Analyses 269

The Teacher 305
On Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra 306
On the Hundredth Anniversary of Franz Schubert’s Death 306
For Adolf Loos: Double Acrostic Distichs for the Tenth of December 307

On Winfried Zillig 307

To Karl Kraus 308
Handel and Bach 309
Faith, Hope, and Love: For Schoenberg’s Sixtieth Birthday 309
Commentary on Tributes 310

With the Composer of Wozzeck: A Conversation with Alban Berg, by Carl
Marilaun 319
A Chat with Alban Berg, by Oskar Baum 321
Conversation with Alban Berg: Impressions from a Wozzeck Performance in
Leningrad, by “Iron” 323
Berg’s Wozzeck in Leningrad: Remarks by the Composer 324

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Contents vii

A Conversation with Alban Berg, by Oskar Jancke 326

Critique of the Critique: Conversation with Alban Berg and Clemens Krauss, by
Otto König 329
“We Spoke Today with Alban Berg . . .” 331

Commentary on Interviews 332

Hanna 337
A Mining Drama 348
Night (Nocturne): Preliminary Plan, Notes for the Monodrama 368

Commentary on Fictional Works 371


An Appeal for Schoenberg 377
On Mahler’s Ninth Symphony 377
Two Prospectuses for the Society for Private Musical Performances 378

Letter from Vienna 386

Questions about Jazz 390
Opera Theater 391
On Reopening the Vienna Volksoper 391
Should Wagner Stagings Be Modernized? 392
Composition with Twelve-Tone Rows 392
Commentary on Miscellaneous Writings 393

Notes 401
Bibliography 431
Index 437

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I am deeply grateful for the assistance of many colleagues who have helped me in the
completion of this volume. Regina Busch provided valuable critiques of the project
and information on several of Berg’s writings. I am indebted to Mark DeVoto, who
allowed his translations of Berg’s Schoenberg Guides to be reused here. Walburga
Litschauer generously provided me with a transcription of Berg’s poem “Hanna.”
Rosemary Hilmar warmly greeted me in Vienna and took a lively interest in the
project. The staff of the Musiksammlung of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
was invariably supportive in research that I  did there in 2010 and 2011, and the
assistance of Dr. Andrea Harrandt was especially important. The excellent online
catalog of the Berg Collection at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek has proved
invaluable, as have volumes of the Quellenkataloge zur Musikgeschichte prepared
by Herwig Knaus and Thomas Leibnitz. The archivists of the Arnold Schönberg
Center, Vienna, were helpful and generous in sharing items from that collec-
tion. The librarians and collections at the Library of Congress; the University of
California, Los Angeles; the Houghton Library of Harvard University; and my own
institution—the University of Southern California—were of great assistance. The
work of earlier translators of Berg’s writings—including Juliane Brand, Cornelius
Cardew, Mark DeVoto, Christopher Hailey, M. D. Herter Norton, Eugene Hartzell,
Douglas Jarman, Anna Maria Morazzoni, George Perle, Henri Pousseur, and Gisela
Tillier—has been of great value, as has the assistance with Berg’s texts provided by
Eva Beneke, Patricia Hall, and my wife, Charlotte Erwin.


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ABS. Alban Berg Studien. Vienna:  Universal Edition and the Alban
Berg Stiftung, 1980–.
BLW. Alban Berg: Letters to His Wife. Edited, translated, and annotated
by Bernard Grun. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1971.
BSC. The Berg-Schoenberg Correspondence:  Selected Letters. Edited
by Juliane Brand, Christopher Hailey, and Donald Harris.
New York: Norton, 1987.
BSW. Alban Berg sämtliche Werke. Published by the Alban Berg
Stiftung; general editors:  Rudolf Stephan and Regina Busch.
Vienna: Universal Edition.
HAB. Hilmar, Rosemary. Alban Berg: Leben und Wirken in Wien bis zu
seinen ersten Erfolgen als Komponist. Vienna:  Verlag Hermann
Böhlaus, 1978.
ÖNBM. Vienna, Austrian National Library, Musiksammlung.
QMG 29, 34, 35. Quellenkataloge zur Musikgeschichte, vols. 29, 34, 35.
Wilhelmshaven: Florian Noetzel, 2004–2006.
RAB37. Willi Reich. Alban Berg. Mit Bergs eigenen Schriften und
Beiträgen von Theodor Wiesengrund-Adorno und Ernst Křenek.
Vienna: Herbert Reichner Verlag, 1937.
RAB65. ———. Alban Berg. Translated by Cornelius Cardew.
New York: Vienna House, 1965.
SSI. Arnold Schoenberg. Style and Idea: Selected Writings. Edited by
Leonard Stein. Translated by Leo Black. Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1984.


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The companion website, found at

websites/9780199764068/, contains the original German-language texts of the
forty-seven writings by Alban Berg that are translated in this volume. These sources
will allow the reader to examine Berg’s writings in their original form, to study his
revisions, to see the many idiosyncrasies of his handwriting, and to compare his
own language with that of the translations.
Berg personally oversaw the publication of thirty of the writings and interviews
presented here. Most of these are given on the website in facsimiles of their original
published versions, although in a few instances, when a clear copy of the original
could not be obtained, a typed transcription of the original, or Berg’s own original
typescript, has been substituted. Eight of the writings—most intended by Berg for
publication—are given as facsimiles of Berg’s handwritten fair copies. These valu-
able items come from originals located at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek,
Arnold Schönberg Center (Vienna), and Library of Congress, although in one
instance (Berg’s poem “Hanna”) the location of the original is unknown and the
work is presented here in a transcript made by Professor Walburga Litschauer
(Vienna). Berg’s own typescripts are seen for seven of the writings, including his
lecture texts on Ernst Krenek, Emil Hertzka, and the opera Wozzeck. These sources
show Berg’s careful annotations made to guide his inflections of voice while deliver-
ing a lecture. The two remaining writings—“A Few Remarks on Staging the Opera
Wozzeck” and “We spoke today with Alban Berg”—appear in the form of contem-
poraneous typescripts the origins of which are unknown.


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Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

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The writings of Alban Berg constitute an indispensable resource for understand-
ing this composer’s creative life and his interpretation of the culture of his time.
Writing was a lifelong occupation for Berg, and he devoted much of his time
and energy to it. In his literary works he called upon his considerable autho-
rial skills, his broad familiarity with and insight into literature, and his expertise
in analyzing musical structure and compositional technique. He brought all of
these resources together to express his artistic ideology.
Despite his lack of a university education, Berg rose to a leading position
within his circle of musicians, a group distinguished by superior academic and
intellectual credentials. The standards for argument and verbal expression in
the Second Viennese School were very high, and the advancement of its music
came, to a significant extent, from the powerful and insistent reasoning forged
in the published essays by Berg, Egon Wellesz, Heinrich Jalowetz, Erwin Stein,
Paul Pisk, and Theodor Adorno, among others. Writing was not a sideline for
those in Arnold Schoenberg’s circle; it was basic to the advancement of their
standing and prospects in the world of modern music.
Berg’s interest in writing was awakened during his student years in Realschule.
Prior to his graduation in 1904 he independently read an astounding range of
literature and philosophy and contemplated a career as writer. In a 1924 letter
to Anton Webern he recalled these aspirations: “Before I composed, I absolutely
wanted to be a writer and I recall entire epics that the school literature of the
time inspired in me.”1 Between about 1902 and 1908 he compiled notebooks,
to which he gave the heading “Von der Selbsterkenntnis” (On Self-Awareness),
which he filled with quotations from his reading, sorted by topic and systemati-
cally indexed for future reference.2 The authors he most often cited were Goethe
and Henrik Ibsen, with Peter Altenberg, Franz Grillparzer, August Strindberg,
and Frank Wedekind also heavily represented.
Drama attracted Berg the most strongly of any type of literature. In the dramatic
works of Ibsen, Strindberg, Wedekind, and others, he encountered a paradigm for
his life, one that ultimately affected his personality, his writing, and his music.
In the theater there was artifice, playacting, rhetoric—Berg relished these—and
most of all a calculated dissembling. As will be seen in the essays in this volume,
an affinity for the theatric mask runs through virtually all of Berg’s writings.

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2 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Only two original fictional writings by Berg from this time (ca. 1903–4) are
known still to exist: the poem “Hanna” and an incomplete and untitled “Mining
Drama,” both translated into English for the first time in this volume. Berg at
about this time also revised one act of Franz Grillparzer’s five-act play Die Ahnfrau
(The Ancestress) as an opera libretto.3 The libretto seems to have been mainly a
literary exercise. Berg largely preserves Grillparzer’s text, although he extensively
abbreviates it and occasionally rewrites lines to promote continuity. In this work,
Berg bypassed traditional operatic adaptation of a literary source in favor of a
direct use of the text of a play in a shortened form, creating a libretto for a “lit-
erary opera” of the type that Claude Debussy had used in Pelléas et Mélisande.
Abbreviation rather than adaptation would also be Berg’s approach to Georg
Büchner’s play Woyzeck when the composer turned it into an operatic text.
The three early fictional works are interrelated. The title character in
Grillparzer’s play is a ghostly ancestress, slain by her jealous husband when he
finds her in the arms of another man; she haunts his heirs in order to see their
line extinguished. The theme is related to Ibsen’s play Ghosts, which was in turn
Berg’s model for his “Mining Drama.” In Ibsen’s play, patterns of behavior and
attitudes toward morality are passed from one generation to another, haunting
those in the present day like ghosts. In his early fictional works Berg was evi-
dently alert to the technical art of poetics in the literature that he read and keen
to try his hand at such techniques. Grillparzer’s play Die Ahnfrau is written in
strict, unrhymed trochaic tetrameter—the so-called Spanish trochees—which
Berg then used in his “love epic” “Hanna.” Later he displayed his considerable
skills in intricate verse forms in his poems “For Adolph Loos” and his late trib-
ute to Schoenberg, “Faith, Hope, and Love.”
Berg put little store by his student efforts as an author. Still, his insight into
modern literature remained keen after he made music his profession. During
his period of service in the Austrian military during World War I, Berg made
another effort at fictional writing in a fragmentary text titled “Night (Nocturne).”
Although this did not progress beyond the stage of a preliminary draft, it again
uses as its model existing dramatic sources, mainly drawn from the plays of
Strindberg. Berg seems to have contemplated “Night (Nocturne)” as a text for
an opera, along the lines of Schoenberg’s Erwartung and Die glückliche Hand.
Given Berg’s interest in creative writing, it is surprising that he did not write
poetry to set to his own music. The only exception is a simple poetic tribute to
the Frankfurt Opera on its fiftieth anniversary in 1930, which coincided with the
premiere there of Schoenberg’s opera Von heute auf morgen. Berg’s poem says that
things of value retain that value permanently, and he cleverly chooses the form of
a perpetual canon to capture this idea musically in his setting of the poem, which
uses a version of the tone row from Schoenberg’s opera. The text reads:

In deines Lebens In your life’s

fünfzig Jahren fifty years

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Introduc tion 3

hast du erfahren you’ve witnessed

viel Freude und Sorgen, much joy and care;
’s war nicht vergebens, ‘twas not in vain,
denn was wert war, for things with value
bleibt, wie’s beschert war, remain as when bestowed,
von heute auf morgen— from one day to the next—
in aller Ewigkeit. to eternity.4

After directing his career toward music, Berg found an outlet for his literary
ambitions in musical analysis. The works of Schoenberg, about which Berg
was recognized as an authority, played a central role. He established his reputa-
tion as an analyst with three studies of works by Schoenberg—Gurrelieder, the
Chamber Symphony op. 9, and Pelleas und Melisande—about which Berg wrote
between 1913 and 1920. Although these analyses were ostensibly intended for
general readers and concert audiences, in them Berg went far beyond the typical
concert Führer in the thoroughness of his presentation. In these analyses Berg
concentrates single-mindedly on musical materials—primarily themes—as they
arise and return at or beneath the surface of Schoenberg’s music. Berg makes no
concessions to poetic interpretation or the hermeneutic analysis much in vogue
at the time.
After World War I, when Berg’s career as a composer still showed few signs
of advancing, he sought employment as an editor and essayist on musical topics.
He was briefly an editor of the Musikblätter des Anbruch, published by Universal
Edition, and he began a book-length study of Schoenberg’s music, although this
was destined to remain incomplete when he turned his attention more fully to
completing his opera Wozzeck.5 He quickly found that the life of an editor or
publisher was not suited to him, but he continued to be enthusiastic about writ-
ing essays on music.
These essays from the 1920s merge musical analysis with criticism and
polemic. In the first of them (1920) he vigorously attacked the ideas expressed
by Hans Pfitzner in Die neue Aesthetik der musikalischen Impotenz (The New
Aesthetic of Musical Impotence). In his 1924 essay “Why Is Schoenberg’s
Music So Difficult to Understand?,” Berg used an analysis of Schoenberg’s String
Quartet no. 1 to attack the burgeoning neoclassic movement in recent European
music. In his “Vienna’s Music Criticism” he assailed the standards of contempo-
rary musical journalists, and in his “Committed Response to a Noncommittal
Survey” he questioned the ability of contemporary authorities to judge impor-
tance in music or to foresee its future directions.
With the completion of Wozzeck in 1922 and its successful premiere in
Berlin in 1925, Berg’s writing took a new direction. After this time he dispensed
with the writing of essays and focused instead on lectures, discussions, inter-
views, and a variety of short statements—tributes, articles about his own works
(mainly Wozzeck), and responses to journalistic surveys. Berg had a reputation

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4 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Figure 1 Alban Berg, from the Commemorative Address for Emil Hertzka, Austrian
National Library, F21.Berg.110/ii, 4r.

as a skillful lecturer, a context where his instincts for drama and rhetoric could
take wing. These qualities are evident in the texts of his three main lectures: one
concerning his friend Ernst Krenek (1928), the “Lecture on Wozzeck” (1929),
and a commemorative tribute to his publisher Emil Hertzka (1932). Unlike his
concert guides to Schoenberg’s music, Berg made his lectures easily understood
by and engaging to his audience. He worked out their texts through numerous
drafts, and his typescripts are laden with markings for the degree of stress that
he intended for important words. He evidently practiced their delivery, even
entering musical dynamics to guide his inflections of speech. A passage from the
typescript of his lecture on Hertzka with such markings is shown in Figure 1.
The thoughts that Berg communicated in his interviews, which began to
appear in newspapers following the premiere of Wozzeck in 1925, are closely
related to the ideas in his writings. The interviews were not conducted extem-
pore, and their texts were apparently reviewed and revised by Berg before their
publication. In them Berg was careful to be quoted in a way that conformed to
his basic musical ideology, and the interviews were calculated to promote inter-
est in his music.
Berg’s mature literary oeuvre is held together by recurring themes and by a
unified narrative concerning the history and evolution of music. Modernism in
music, Berg asserts repeatedly, was first characterized by harmonic innovations
that had their origins in music composed toward the end of the nineteenth cen-
tury. This modernism was essentially a German phenomenon whose roots went
back to Bach; only one non-German, Claude Debussy, participated in the early
stages of the movement. The innovations of the modernists coalesced into a
single movement, of which Mahler and Schoenberg were the leaders and great-
est representatives. Berg saw no possibility that other significant modern styles
could coexist with this German modernism. There could be no competition

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Introduc tion 5

among differing branches of modern music. Berg considered the neoclassicists,

for example, who in the 1920s seemed to threaten Schoenberg’s leadership in
the new-music movement, to be only flawed and imperfect representatives of
German modernism. One of the outstanding characteristics of modern music
stemming from the German movement, according to Berg, was its difficulty and
complexity, its intricate deep structure, and its forbidding surface, which could
not possibly be understood or embraced by contemporary audiences. The valid-
ity of his narrative, Berg wrote in “Committed Response to a Noncommittal
Survey,” could not be proved, only accepted as a matter of faith and principle.
This idea of “commitment” is strongly evident in Berg’s writings. His central
ideology is often at odds with his more spontaneous thoughts, as he expressed
them in his letters, and those that emerge in the recollections of his friends.
Berg’s writings, in other words, are not usually statements of personal taste or
disinterested analysis, but professions of his faith and creed. The commitment
that he expressed in them is directed primarily to the person of Schoenberg, who
is mentioned in nearly every essay and treated as a godlike figure to be loved,
honored, and obeyed. Berg’s artistic philosophy also derives from Schoenberg’s
ideas, which Berg takes to a more dogmatic, outspoken, and universal level than
Schoenberg did himself.
Berg’s own private viewpoints were considerably more flexible than those
expressed in his writings. The difference is seen, for example, in his evalu-
ation of the works of contemporary composers outside of the German mod-
ern movement. After hearing Igor Stravinsky’s neoclassical Piano-Rag-Music
played by Edward Steuermann at a 1921 concert of the Verein für musikalische
Privataufführungen (Society for Private Musical Performances), Berg exclaimed
in a letter to his wife, “Something really very fine.”6 Such enthusiasm is nowhere
found in Berg’s writings for publication, where Stravinsky’s neoclassical works are
ignored or lumped together with the music of other neoclassicists and rejected
as such. Schoenberg’s professional rivalry with Stravinsky by the mid-1920s is
plainly reflected in Berg’s approach to this subject.
At the time of Berg’s death in 1935, the extent of his writings, beyond a
modest number of published essays and his Schoenberg guides, was not widely
known. Editors since this time have continually attempted to expand his corpus
of known writings. The first and most important person to do so was his stu-
dent and biographer Willi Reich (1898–1980). Reich had studied privately with
Berg from 1927, and, in addition to his intimate firsthand knowledge of and
devotion to the legacy of his teacher, he had a special interest in Berg’s writings,
to which he attached great importance. Toward the end of his life Berg approved
of Reich’s desire to publish a number of Berg’s hitherto unpublished writings,
first in Reich’s journal 23: Eine Wiener Musikzeitschrift (1932–37). Berg turned
several of his letters and manuscripts over to Reich for this purpose, and it was
in the journal’s brief run that Berg’s “Handel and Bach,” “On Mahler’s Ninth

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6 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Symphony,” and a version of “What Is Atonal?” were first published. Behind the
scenes, Berg took a lively interest in Reich’s journal and provided commentary
on most of its articles.
Berg’s longer unpublished writings that Reich had in manuscript could not
be brought out in his journal, but Reich continued to publish them—and to
republish existing essays—in his three documentary studies of Berg.7 In his pio-
neering 1937 book, Reich included Berg’s “Einige Bemerkungen zum Studium
der Oper ‘Wozzeck’ von Alban Berg” (A Few Remarks on Staging the Opera
Wozzeck), which Reich retitled “Praktische Anweisungen zur Einstudierung des
‘Wozzeck’” (known to English readers thereafter in a translation by George Perle
titled “The Preparation and Staging of Wozzeck”) and the text of Berg’s lectures
on Krenek (1928) and Hertzka (1932). In his 1959 volume, Reich included
Berg’s “Nine Pages on the Lyric Suite,” whose manuscript he had obtained from
Rudolf Kolisch; and in the 1963 volume, “Vienna’s Music Criticism,” which
Reich titled “Two Feuilletons: A Contribution to the Topic ‘Schoenberg and
Music Criticism.’” Following Reich’s emigration from Austria to Switzerland
in 1938, he seems to have made no further attempts to publish material from
Berg’s library, although he remained on good terms with Berg’s widow, Helene.
In addition to expanding the number of Berg’s writings available in print,
Reich was also the author of essays and program notes on Berg’s music that
he based on conversations with the composer, often using musical examples or
notes that Berg had provided. Reich considered these to be virtually authentic
writings by his teacher. They include Reich’s discussions of Wozzeck, Der Wein,
Lulu, the Lulu Symphony, and the Violin Concerto, of which Reich’s article on
Wozzeck is the longest and most substantial.8 In his 1937 study of Berg, Reich
spoke to the reliability of these writings:

My analysis of Wozzeck, which during [Berg’s] lifetime was excerpted in

a special issue of Modern Music (New York) in 1931, can be regarded
as authorized. For the analysis of Lulu I could rely on Berg’s numerous
written and oral statements; for the Violin Concerto, Rita Kurzmann,
who prepared the piano version, gave me valuable advice.9

After World War II other scholars continued to expand Berg’s corpus of pub-
lished writings. At first this was done by those who had a measure of access to
manuscripts in the composer’s library. In his 1957 study of Berg, Hans Redlich
published a version of the text of Berg’s “Lecture on Wozzeck” (1929), one of the
composer’s most important writings and one that Reich had hesitated to publish
because—so Reich said—Berg did not wish it.10 The version that Redlich made
known most likely came from an annotated typescript in Berg’s library. At about
the same time that Redlich was editing the “Lecture on Wozzeck,” Josef Rufer,
a student of Schoenberg but well acquainted with Berg and his wife, published

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Introduc tion 7

a version of Berg’s radio dialogue “What Is Atonal?” based on a typescript in

Berg’s library that the composer had extensively revised, considerably changing
its content from the reading that had been published by Reich in 1936 in the
journal 23.
In the 1960s English-speaking readers received their first broad introduc-
tion to Berg’s writings in the precise translations of Cornelius Cardew in his
English-language edition of Reich’s 1963 Alban Berg. A collective and retrospec-
tive German edition of thirty of Berg’s writings, titled Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe:
Schriften zur Musik, was edited by the East German scholar Frank Schneider and
published by Philipp Reclam in Leipzig in 1981. Schneider did not attempt to
add new items by Berg beyond those already published, nor did he compare
sources, and for some titles he did not have access to the original documents.
Still, his edition remains the most complete one-volume source of Berg’s writings
for the German-speaking reader. A selective French edition of Berg’s writings
appeared in 1957, Écrits d’Alban Berg, translated and edited by Henri Pousseur.
This was expanded and made to conform in general to Schneider’s German col-
lection in an edition of 1985 overseen by Dominique Jameux.11
Following the transfer of Berg’s manuscripts to the Austrian National Library
in the 1970s and the publication of catalogs of the Berg Collection there,
additional writings by Berg became known and were published.12 Anna Maria
Morazzoni’s 1995 Italian edition of Berg’s writings, Suite Lirica: Tutti gli scritti,
contains forty items—a considerable expansion in numbers beyond any earlier
edition.13 Morazzoni uncovered published writings, such as Berg’s “Letter from
Vienna” (1925), that had been overlooked hitherto in the Berg literature, and
she also includes a “Replica ad Alfredo Casella” (Reply to Alfredo Casella)
that she reconstructed from notes that Berg made on Alfredo Casella’s article
“Scarlattiana: Alfredo Casella über sein neues Stück” in Anbruch ( January 1929).
Casella’s article contains a barely concealed repudiation of the relevance of
Schoenberg’s school for musical culture of the 1920s and beyond. “The present
musical situation,” he begins, “is characterized by a forceful reaction against the
tendencies of romanticism and a full resurrection of the laws of construction
and order that during the last century were thought to have been eliminated.”
Casella then draws an approving parallel between the return to orderly structure
in music and the rise of fascism: “It is tempting (although unfortunately there is
no space here to explore in greater detail the interesting and valuable parallels)
to compare this rebirth of older musical principles of form with modern politi-
cal developments, which have limited many individual freedoms—seemingly
guaranteed to mankind in the last century for eternity—in favor of an abstract
civil authority.”14
These were fighting words for Berg, and the editors of Anbruch planned to
print rebuttals in future issues (of which only Adorno’s “Atonales Intermezzo?”
appeared). Berg began to take notes for a reply refuting Casella’s ideas, much

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8 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

as he had done with Pfitzner’s Die neue Aesthetik der musikalischen Impotenz.
In his notes Berg goes through virtually every sentence of Casella’s article,
contesting his generalizations as factually false. But, for practical reasons, Berg
did not go forward with a rebuttal and he partly destroyed his still valuable
notes. Morazzoni’s edition is also distinguished by its commentaries, which
were the first to show an extensive knowledge of the primary sources for Berg’s
A great step forward in the understanding of the sources of Berg’s writings
was made by Herwig Knaus and Thomas Leibnitz in their installments to the
Quellenkataloge zur Musikgeschichte (2004–6).15 These scholars painstakingly
transcribed Berg’s scarcely legible drafts of essays and correspondence in the
Berg Collection at the Austrian National Library, and they reproduced many of
Berg’s typescripts in facsimile. The text of Berg’s early “Mining Drama” was first
published in these collections.
The appearance in 1994 of a critical edition of Berg’s guides to Schoenberg’s
Gurrelieder, Chamber Symphony, and Pelleas und Melisande—edited by Regina
Busch and Rudolf Stephan on behalf of the Alban Berg Stiftung as part of the
Alban Berg sämtliche Werke—opened a new chapter in the philological study of
Berg’s writings and advanced the prospect of establishing their most authorita-
tive texts. At least one additional volume of Berg’s “Collected Essays, Lectures,
Poems, and Interviews” (to be edited by Werner Grünzweig, Berlin) is antici-
pated. In his 2000 dissertation Ahnung und Wissen, Grünzweig described its pro-
spective contents:

The second volume of writings (in preparation) contains, in addition

to the essays published during Berg’s lifetime, a number of hitherto
unknown texts. These include the “completed” [hergestellte] beginning
of the music section of the Schoenberg book in F21.Berg.101/iv (2),
as well as the unpublished middle section of “Zwei Feuilletons/Wiener
Musikkritik” from folder 101/vi. The sketches for the Schoenberg book
in F21.Berg.101/ii, and those for the essay “Why is Schoenberg’s Music
So Difficult to Understand?” from folder 101/iv (1), which will not be
included in the second volume of writings on account of their fragmen-
tary nature, are published only in the present work.16

The continual expansion in the number of items that constitutes Berg’s literary
oeuvre suggests that there will never be an edition of it that is definitively com-
plete. The present volume contains English translations of all of Berg’s writings
published during his lifetime and all of those known to have been submitted for
publication or brought into publishable form. This volume also contains virtu-
ally all of Berg’s additional writings included in the editions of Reich, Schneider,
and Morazzoni. A few valuable fragmentary documents from Berg’s legacy that

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Introduc tion 9

had progressed to a reasonably finished, coherent, and publishable form are

also included. There is a far more limited number of such items in the Berg
Collection than, for example, in the legacy of Schoenberg. Schoenberg for most
of his life did much of his writing for posterity rather than for publication. He
left behind more than a hundred short essays—these written in fair copy or
typed, dated, and signed—which he plainly wished future generations to read
when studying his life. Although there is nothing comparable in Berg’s legacy,
Berg wrote out enclosures to letters that are sometimes similar to short essays.
Two of these are included in this volume—“On Mahler’s Ninth Symphony” and
“Composition with Twelve Tones” (concerning the Lyric Suite). An additional
one—not included in this volume but readily available—is an untitled chart of
interval cycles (Berg called it a “theoretical trifle”) that he enclosed in a letter to
Schoenberg of 27 July 1920.17
For the sake of consistency in English-language readings, new translations by
the editor of this volume have been used; Mark DeVoto’s skillful translations of
Berg’s guides to Schoenberg’s works have also been preserved. For each item,
the translation is based on a single best source, the original German of which
is available on the companion website for this book. Important revisions and
addenda made by Berg to these fundamental sources, as well as variant readings
in collateral sources, are cited in the annotations. Berg’s own annotations are
treated as footnotes; those made by the editor are found in the endnotes.
An especially complex issue for the translator and editor of Berg’s writings
is the handling of his rhetorical style. On a simple level this style is encoun-
tered in Berg’s choice of terms. For example, he usually preferred the word
Autor (author) for a creator of music, rather than Komponist (composer). Like
Karl Kraus, his favorite writer, Berg looked for opportunities to juggle related
German words, these having no direct equivalents in English. For example, at
the end of his “Vienna’s Music Criticism” he brings together the words kommen
(to come), Einkommen (income), and umkommen (to perish) to make a witty
point. Berg’s sentences are often labyrinthine and require a degree of untangling.
Berg usually did not express himself in simple sentences, but he took great pains
to make these precise in meaning, although often so ironic as to stretch German
syntax to its limits.
Even more problematic is the handling of Berg’s frequent changes of font and
his penchant for running headings and musical illustrations into his text. Berg’s
changes of font—from roman to italic to expanded to underscored to boldface
to quoted—bring the spoken inflections of a stage actor into his writings, and
he insisted that these typographic distinctions be preserved in print. In his early
writings he normally included detailed and highly specific instructions for the
typesetter, and in some of his later writings he admonished editors that his style
had to be observed if the item was to be published at all. “Publication is permit-
ted,” he wrote on the typescript of “Should Wagner Stagings Be Modernized?,”

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10 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

“only with the punctuation and expanded type as I have given it.” But, espe-
cially when translated, Berg’s typographic distinctions lose meaning and become
an affectation that only distracts the reader. As with the editions of Reich and
Schneider and the translations of Cardew and Morazzoni, in the present volume
Berg’s font changes are reduced and consolidated into the single form of italics.
Berg never had the advantage of working with a professional copy editor, who
might have talked him out of his eccentric stylistic habits.
The title of this volume, Pro Mundo—Pro Domo, is taken from the two sub-
headings in Berg’s best-known and most often reprinted essay, “The ‘Problem
of Opera’” (1927–28). The Latin term pro domo (for one’s own house) is often
encountered in German literature, although almost never in English. It is used to
introduce an observation made in the writer’s own behalf or interest—as Berg
does in “The ‘Problem of Opera’” concerning the structure of Wozzeck. The term
pro mundo (for the world) is far less common in any language except Latin, but
when used in German it suggests a perspective opposite that of pro domo, to
designate an observation with general significance or universal applicability.
It is under this heading in Berg’s “The ‘Problem of Opera’” Berg’s generalizes
about opera. At any period, he concludes, it will flourish when beautiful music
is joined with great theater.
Berg unquestionably took the two Latin terms from Karl Kraus, who occa-
sionally used them as a pair in his journal Die Fackel and again as the title of a
1912 collection of aphorisms, Pro domo et mundo. The two terms point to the
opposing perspectives that alternate in Berg’s literary oeuvre. In some writings
he speaks forcefully for himself, for the intentions in his music, for its accep-
tance, and for the way that he wanted it to be understood. In other writings he
speaks to the world—on the importance of Schoenberg, on the supremacy of
German modern music, and on the unbridgeable divide that he believed sepa-
rated art from commerce and high art from the popular taste.
What do we learn from reading Berg’s essays? His achievement in his respect
is different from that of most other leading composer-essayists of the twentieth
century. Unlike a professor such as Roger Sessions, he did not write textbooks
or for academic journals; unlike Schoenberg, he did not write to guide future
assessments of his life and work; and unlike Aaron Copland, he did not write
to increase the general knowledge of music history or aesthetics. In Berg’s writ-
ings we instead encounter the composer onstage, playing the roles that he cast
for himself throughout his artistic life—often the acolyte for Schoenberg, some-
times the promoter of his own interests, always the idealist. Above all we see
Berg as an optimist. The impediments to art, which he often identifies with a
trenchant irony, can be overcome, he insists, provided that art reaches an audi-
ence imbued with faith and commitment.

01_Simms_Intro.indd 10 12/14/2013 4:47:05 PM

The Schoenberg Guides
Arnold Schoenberg, Gurrelieder: Guide
Gurre-Lieder. Text by J. P. Jacobsen. German translation by Rob[ert] F. Arnold1

This Guide makes no claim to completeness. Completeness would be unattain-

able anyway, even had I not been compelled by space limitations in such an essay
to be brief, to suppress much that should have been said. I was thus left with
the choice between a uniformly superficial treatment and a detailed discussion
of at least a few passages. In choosing the latter course, I renounced from the
beginning the formal slickness and oversimplification that usually characterize
such guides and calmly took the risk that my discussion might not be commen-
surate, in either length or scope, with the subject discussed. I felt the risk to be a
justifiable one, since the task of my Guide is different from that of the usual the-
matic analyses. It was not my purpose to accompany the music of this work with
words, to find at least one decorative adjective for each mood, or to point out
intensifications and climaxes. On the other hand, it did not satisfy me—when
I was analyzing—to quote just the themes, as though a harmonic succession, a
chord, or even a tone were not just as much the actual music, nor the conse-
quences and developments of a theme at least as important as the theme itself. It
is much more important that, avoiding all poetry and psychology, I have tried to
speak with cool objectivity about the different things in the music as they appear:
in one place about harmonic structure (as in the discussion of the Prelude), in
other places about the construction of motives, themes, melodies, and transi-
tions; about the form and synthesis of large musical structures, about contrapun-
tal combinations, choral writing, voice leading, and finally about the nature of
the instrumentation. Treating all these in detail at least once and supporting the
discussion with examples from the work provide a conception, even if incom-
plete, of Arnold Schoenberg’s art, which is comparable only with the highest. If
I have succeeded in this, then this little essay has served its purpose, and I need
not regret that I have sought and found words—even if only theoretical words—
where the immeasurable beauty of this music commands reverent silence.

Alban Berg, A. Schönberg Gurrelieder Führer (Vienna and Leipzig: Universal-Edition, 1913).
Adapted from the translation by Mark DeVoto, Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 16 (1993):
25–235, with reference also to the Critical Edition: Alban Berg, Sämtliche Werke, part 3, vol. 1
(Musikalische Schriften und Dichtungen), ed. Rudolf Stephan and Regina Busch (Vienna: Alban
Berg Stiftung in Universal Edition, 1994).


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12 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo


Waldemar (tenor) Peasant (bass)

Tove (soprano) Klaus the Fool (tenor)
Wood Dove (mezzo-soprano or alto) Speaker

Waldemar’s Vassals (3 four-part men’s choruses)
Eight-part mixed chorus

Clarinets in B♭ or A (Clar)
T 8 Flutes
4 Piccolos (Picc) 3
4 Flutes (Fl) 2 E♭ clarinets t 7 Clarinets
Bass clarinets in B♭ (BClar)
T 5 Oboes
3 Oboes (Ob) 2
2 English horns (EH) 3 Bassoons (Bsn)
2 Contrabassoons (CBsn)

10 Horns in F (Hn, Hns; + stopped) (4 Wagner tubas) 4 Tenor-bass trombones (Trb)
6 Trumpets in F, B♭, and C (Tpt) 1 Bass trombone in E♭ (BTrb)
1 Bass trumpet in E♭ (BTpt) 1 Contrabass trombone
1 Alto trombone 1 Tuba (Tba)

6 Timpani (Timp) Xylophone (Xyl)
Large snare drum (TDrum) Cymbals (Cym)
Triangle (Trg) Ratchet
Glockenspiel (bells) Several heavy iron chains
Small snare drum (SDrum) Tamtam (Tam)
Bass drum (BDrum)


Violins I divided in 10 (Vln, S-Vln = solo violin)
Violins II divided in 10
Violas divided in 8 (Vla) S (all in multiples)
Cellos divided in 8

The Gurrelieder were composed between the string sextet Verklärte Nacht,
op. 4 (1899), and the symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande, op. 5 (1902–3).
I have drawn the exact dates of origin from a letter of Arnold Schoenberg’s, rel-
evant passages of which I quote here both for the sake of simplicity and because
it would be impossible to say it more precisely:

In March 1900 [in Vienna] I composed Parts I and II and much of Part
III. Then a long hiatus filled with instrumentation of operettas. March

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 13

(that is, early 1901) the rest completed! Then instrumentation begun
in August 1901 (again hindered by other work, just as I have always
been hindered in composing). Resumed in Berlin the middle of 1902.
Then a long interruption due to instrumentation of operettas. Worked
on it last in 1903 and finished up to ca. page 118 [of the orchestral
score, corresponding to page 105 of the piano-vocal score].3 Thereupon
set aside and wholly given up! Taken up again July 1910 [in Vienna].
Instrumentation of everything up to the final chorus, which was com-
pleted in Zehlendorf [Berlin] in 1911.
The whole composition was therefore, I believe, completed in April
or May 1901. Only the final chorus remained as a sketch, in which
however the most important voices and the whole form were already
there. In the initial process of composition I indicated the instrumenta-
tion only very sparingly. At the time I didn’t note down such things,
because one hears the instrumental sound anyway. But also, aside from
that, one certainly must see that the part arranged in 1910 and 1911
is completely different in orchestral style from Parts I and II. I did not
intend to hide that. On the contrary, it is self-evident that ten years
later I would orchestrate differently.
In completing the score I reworked only a few passages, and these
were only of 8 to 20 bars in length, for example in the “Klaus-Narr”
section and in the final chorus. All the rest (even several parts I would
rather have had otherwise) has remained as it was before. I could not
have found the same style anymore, and anyone halfway familiar with
the work would be able to identify those 4–5 revised passages without
difficulty. These revisions caused me more trouble than did the entire origi-
nal orchestration.4

Part I
As is evident from the texts, Part I consists of a series of songs related in con-
tent. Each song can be considered as a formally complete and independent
whole, that is, simply as an individual song, in spite of the fact that many the-
matic relationships go through the whole work and that these are connected—
sometimes directly, sometimes by longer or shorter transitions and interludes.
Also the Prelude to Part I [mm. 1–92] (which amounts to a completely new
symphonic form) is both an introduction to the whole work with regard to the-
matic material and a form in itself, considered alone or together with the first
song of Waldemar. For not only does this introduction have almost all of its
themes, harmonic progressions, and the key in common with the first song, it
also appears to me to be like a giant cadence reaching into the distance, whose

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14 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

end point, the pure tonic in root position, coincides with the closing section of
the song, where the pure tonic also appears for the very first time in the work
(m. 145). What follows there is a pedal point, a longer addition corresponding
to the length of this long cadence; we will discuss it later (Example 13). The E♭
major chord, entering here as the real tonic, occurs everywhere else in combination
with the sixth degree of the scale (C), not only in the Prelude and first song, but
also in the final chorus (𝄌 in Examples 124 and 129), though there transposed to C
major. Therefore, I must designate this sixth degree, or, better, the chord produced
thereby (in E♭ major, E♭–G–B♭–C), as the first motive. This chord can be tonic in E♭
major only if one interprets the sixth in it as a suspension.5 This interpretation is
supported by the melodic unfolding of the chord in Example 1 and by the theme
that results from its inversion in Part III (Examples 115iii, 124A and 129a1, a2).*

It seems reasonable therefore to consider the chord as a six-five chord (root

C, Example 1a) and indeed as the supertonic (II) of the dominant (i.e., of B♭
major). This interpretation, like the first one as a triad with suspension, is also
applicable. At the beginning of the Prelude, Example 2A** enters in the third
measure, is immediately joined by its diminuted accompanimental form B in 2B,
accompanies Example 1 (related to theme 2) in measure 7, and is superposed
upon the augmented form C in Example 2C.

* The numbers in squares [in the musical examples] correspond to the orientation number-
ing in the piano score. This begins with 1 in each part, which represents ten measures. So, for
example, 3 means measure 30. The number standing alongside is for 1s [within a ten-measure
unit]. So 3 5 indicates the thirty-fifth measure, that is, in Part I the second measure on page 7 of
the piano score, in Part II the eighth measure on page 89, in Part III the third measure on page
98. The measure numbering in the full score [facsimile edition of 1912] does not entirely agree
with that in the piano score. In the full score the third measure on page 92 and the fifth measure
on page 115 should be removed; also a measure on page 71 is erroneously missing. There the fifth
measure should be repeated and the voice part should enter a measure later (the missing measure
corresponds to m. 810 in Part I in the piano score).
** The theme in Example 2 also contains the suspended C added to the concurrent E♭ major
harmony of the oboes, but the C is not resolved there.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 15

Then we find in Example 3, whose harmonies are likewise derivable from 2A

and 2B, the interpretation of the six-five chord structure—the type mentioned
above—as an actual chord (b) on the supertonic (F) of the main tonality of E♭
major (a).

The outcome of this is that the first harmonic shift after the departure from the
initial six-five chord on C (interpreted as a chord on the second degree)6—cor-
responding to this interpretation and to the preceding progression in Example
3—is toward B♭ at m. 23. This shift to the dominant also offers, as it were, a
counterbalance to the subdominant, which is heavily emphasized by the harmo-
nies of Example 2. However, this counterbalance is not brought out here because
it coincidentally corresponds to the classical practice of ending a first section in
the dominant key; nevertheless, here it follows from the given harmonic condi-
tions in a completely natural form. On the other hand, the deviation to G♭ major,
which often occurs in the introduction, along with the strong emphasis on this
key at m. 27, on its substitute [i.e., dominant] at m. 40, and even on its super-
tonic at m. 68 (G♯ = A♭), constructed analogously to the six-five chord of the
beginning theme (Example 1a), not only answers the need for a counterweight
within this great cadence embracing both the Prelude and the first song, but
also has a consequence: it is like an “excursion into the harmony to come,” to
use Schoenberg’s words.7 G♭ major is the key of Tove’s song (II), which follows
Waldemar’s. This G♭ major is determined by what precedes it and is therefore not

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16 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

arbitrary, but rather, as with everything in Schoenberg’s harmony, the result of

legitimate and logical (though entirely unconscious) structural processes, which,
supported by an intrinsic feeling for form, appear here as new and self-sufficient,
as though revealed for the first time, even where they accidentally coincide with
the rules of the past. It is this that distinguishes Schoenberg’s harmony from
the harmony of those who cannot let go of their borrowed feeling for form in
the crucial moment where rules of the past, which are indeed known but not
felt, are not to be applied. But his harmony is also different from that sort of
“modern” harmony, whose “modernity at any price” is limited by its inability to
move within the boundaries of tonality, an inability resulting from a deficient
feeling for form. Hiding this deficiency, certain daring phrases are placed next to
the most simpleminded tonal constructions, and from that exigency comes the
dubious virtue of rapid modulations, which consist of wanting to express in just
two or three chords what the older composers, and Schoenberg, needed twenty
chords for, i.e., the most compelling harmonic development.
Apart from the Examples 1, 2, and 3 already cited, theme A in Example
4, which is constructed on a variant of 3 and accompanied by 2A and B, is

This theme, as I indicate in the adjacent staff B, has an unmistakable similarity

to Example 2. Not until later does theme 4A receive the upbeat (in parentheses;
see Example 7). As an offshoot of Example 4, Example 5 is constructed from
the downward-resolving suspension b.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 17

From this sequence, continuing a half step lower, arises the thematically impor-
tant form 6A, a harmonic and rhythmic variant form of Example 5.

A in Example 6 is harmonically none other than the cadence in the key of

E♭, emphasizing the supertonic (F) and dominant (B♭). This supertonic chord
appears in four forms: at a, as an inversion of a seventh chord8 with dimin-
ished fifth—a vagrant chord9 that is extremely important for the harmony of the
Gurrelieder and that is known as a half-diminished seventh chord;* at b, as one of
the forbidden (!) inversions of a ninth chord (root F, with missing third);10 at
c, as the so-called Neapolitan sixth; and finally at d, as a secondary dominant
(V of V) with lowered fifth.11 A perfect example of the view that Schoenberg
defended in his Theory of Harmony, namely to derive all three of these chords
(a, c, and d) from the supertonic!12
The very strong cadence to the main key produced in this way is, as it were,
derived again from the rhythmic postponement following at B, as if the time for

* We have already met this half-diminished seventh chord in Example 5 at the extremities 𝄌 and
𝄌𝄌. They have the same harmonic relationship: a root progression of a rising fourth, like a and e in
Example 6. For this reason I could call this example a variant of the previous example (5).

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18 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

the tonic had not yet come. On the contrary, there follows (at f in Example 6),
instead of the tonic, the inversion of the half-diminished seventh chord on E♭ (as
though by an alteration of the expected, but silent, tonic) constructed analo-
gously to the upbeat chord a. The character of this chord appears to result from
a supertonic harmony of the key of D♭, which is established at m. 40. This har-
monic event is repeated, transposed a tone lower, at m. 68, while within these
apparent harmonic deviations (that serve no other purpose than to postpone
more and more the resolution of this mighty cadence to the tonic) occurs a kind
of development section (Example 7) with the themes already heard (Examples
1, 2A, 2B, and 4A) in canonic entrances.

This development—at m. 54 merging into the theme of 2C (altered and fitted

with richer harmonies)—once more leads strongly into the dominant of E♭ (B♭)
(Example 8, 𝄌)—

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 19

—which yet again is not utilized fully. Rather, as a consequence of the multiple
repeats of measure [8]A—wavering between the V𝄌 and the previous II (V of
V—secondary dominant on F with lowered fifth) 𝄌𝄌—the development finally
chooses the latter at m. 59. By alteration of the third, A to A♭, it brings about the
half-diminished seventh chord, which is accordingly the first chord (transposed,
of course) of Example 5 (see footnote*, p. 17). The strong transition to the
subdominant at mm. 64 and 65, produced by this transposition of Examples 5
and 6, which now follows, offers once again a counterweight to the frequently
appearing dominant, which is also touched on at m. 79 in the following transi-
tion to the first song (mm. 68 to 84, whose main thematic events, consisting of
1, 2A and B, recall the beginning). The tonic is still missing.

I. Waldemar’s Song [mm. 93–188]

Example 6 is heard in sequence from m. 84 [to 87], and from m. 87 to m. 93
its upbeat chord a is dwelt upon (Example 9a). At the beginning of Waldemar’s
Song, the inversion of the E♭ major chord heard in Example 5 arises not as a
mere passing chord in a modulatory passage (as at + in Example 5), but rather
with the power of the good old cadential six-four chord (+ in Example 9), fol-
lowed by the dominant in the key [of E♭ major] (𝄌).

The tonic triad is therefore even more strongly expected in root position, but it
still does not appear. What follows is again [the music of] Example 6, prefixed by
the horn theme A from Example 4, as though arising anew from the descending
appoggiatura b, now moving to the dominant. Example 5 follows in a [metric]
displacement adapted to the rhythm of 6A (at mm. 102–106), and 6A is itself
repeated, then at last, at m. 110, for the first time since the beginning, the long
awaited root-position tonic appears. Here an extremely strong, even novel effect
is achieved with that most elementary resource of tonal harmony, the tonic. The
effect is heightened further by the simultaneous entrance of theme 2C in the cel-
los, which appears for the first time in an independent harmony, whereas earlier
it took on only the two harmonies of the triads constructed from its six tones
(2A and C), and in 2B it even assumed the form of an arpeggiated triad.

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20 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

The repetitions of this [string] melody (Example 10) are always differently
introduced. After a four-measure sequential unit (m. 123[–38]) constructed
from Example 5, there is a definite turn toward G minor—

—whose dominant ([Example 11]a), however, makes a deceptive cadence to

the E♭ major chord for the reentrance of Example 10 in the violins (m. 138).
The third reentrance occurs [at m. 161] in Example 13, framed by pedal points,
by means of the cadence given in Example 12, in which the chords in parenthe-
ses (the Neapolitan sixth and the dominant) are really only imagined.

This is an example of the “abbreviation of set patterns through omission of

intermediate steps” that is emphasized in Schoenberg’s Theory of Harmony,13
and the reentrance might have its rationale in the sustained E♭ [mm. 145–56]
just as well as in an intentional avoidance of the dominant; the dominant
does follow later, at C in Example 13. The E♭ pedal point begins [m. 145], as

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 21

mentioned before, with the tonic for the first time without added sixth (C), as
though further to heighten the cadential effect, which in preceding occurrences
had been unsettled by this sixth. The pedal point assists in this, but it is seem-
ingly interrupted at m. 157 (B in Example 13), where the bass line quits the E♭.
Actually, however, the E♭ remains in the middle voices and returns to the bass
at m. 169. Over this pedal point is a melody in the voice part (A in Example
13) that appears to me to be characteristically Schoenbergian in its melodic
construction. One should notice how the little motive g becomes h through
variation, how h becomes k through augmentation of the last two measures of
h, and again how the motive k receives a new form in imitation of the mid-
dle voice (violas, cellos, horns) at l and its offshoots (trumpets) m and n; and
finally how the sentence form derived from such a developed melody (A and B
of Example 13) forms a period with the strongly contrasting theme that follows
(C), which becomes decisive for the shaping of C, an oft-repeated six-measure
phrase (Example 10) that becomes an eight-measure phrase [Example 13C]
under the influence of the preceding melodic events and the harmonic prolon-
gation in the sixth measure.

As a consequence the melody C is once again a new form of 2A and B—which

originally appeared as an accompanying figure (and also at the end of Part 3,
Examples 115iii, 124, and 129), which assumes the most diverse forms (Examples
2C, 8, 10, 13C)—through the power of the thematic and harmonic events.
In addition, the modulating melody that enters at m. 177 after the withdrawal
of the pedal point still appears as an offshoot from Example 13A (or C) and
cadences—in a form [Example 14] that is characteristic later on of similar pro-
gressions, transitions, and endings (cf. Example 47A)—into the key of the fol-
lowing song, a strongly indicated G♭ major, which has been referred to earlier.

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22 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

II. Tove [mm. 189–278]

The string figure a1 above the G♭ major chord in Example 15—

—is actually just a paraphrase of 2A, which appeared at the beginning of Part
I over the E♭ major chord. Like that theme—only here, immediately in a close
canon—it forms, together with the underlying harmony, the foundation upon
which the melodic events (Example 16) are played out. The figure, which is
absent only in the middle section of the song, is always played by solo strings
(violins or violas). Its sound, allied with delicate runs in the woodwinds, divided
string harmonics, and, in the repeat (beginning in m. 239), harp figurations,
glissandi, etc., is characteristic of the whole song. One can safely say that the
coloristic quality itself is thematic, the more so because both here and in his
later works Schoenberg endowed parts of pieces, or indeed whole works, with
the specific sound of a particular combination of instruments.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 23

Here [Example 16] it is striking how the first eight-measure phrase is trans-
formed into a seven-measure phrase by the compression of the two measures
a–b into c. Perhaps this compression is motivic in origin—the motive of the
third that appears at the word “Friede” making possible its own continuation,
even if it does not actually demand it. However, the third that arises in this way
in 16c is nothing but the third in a + b, which d follows and which we also feel
the need for after c even though a measure was lost, since at the moment we
feel the melodic repeat very strongly. In this song, which follows the three-part
song form, theme 16A is very important. Out of it, viewing the first note of 16A
as an upbeat, arises A of Example 17.

The melody (17) is also constructed on the sustained G♭; its second resolution,
at m. 216, leads to the middle section of the song, beginning on the subdomi-
nant of G♭ [Example 18].

This melody is also in six measures, like the preceding (Example 17) and ulti-
mately also like the vocal melody of Example 16 (“O, wenn des Mondes Strahlen
milde gleiten”). Theme c in Example 18 (again [like Example 15a] played by
solo violin and solo viola) is constructed from Example 17A, reshaped by the

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24 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

neighbor-tone figures in the middle voices, especially at [Example 18]a; with

the omission of the upbeat, this becomes one of the most important themes of
the Gurrelieder.
This theme generally occurs with the succession of intervals—

—and it is distinguished above all by the ability of its tones, as the context
demands, to be sometimes consonant and at other times dissonant appoggia-
turas, neighbor tones, or passing tones. This property makes it possible for
this motive not only to be situated over each harmony, but also to be used
with all thematic events taking place within such a harmony—that is, always
to be used contrapuntally. This also explains the heavy usage of this motive:
of the three pitches of form a in Example 19, only two, or just one (usually
the F; e.g., see Example 24B), need to be in the chord, while the others can
be dissonant, used as appoggiaturas, neighbor tones, or passing tones, as I
said; likewise the A♭ in form c can be an appoggiatura. In fact, the sharpest
dissonances arise in the homophonic usage of this most adaptable (and truly
motivated) motive, but this is even more true in the case of its polyphonic
usage. (I refer especially to Examples 20D [at e1, e2, and e3] and 44 and the
passage at mm. 1007 and 1009.) Of course, this is not the only theme of this
type. Of the themes cited in this analysis, many (indeed, perhaps most) of
Schoenberg’s themes generally have that property. I wanted to point to at least
one example and will refer back to it in later instances. Perhaps it will also
help to refute once and for all the delusion that the structures in Schoenberg’s
music that arise in this way are cacophonies, discords, or whatever one pleases
to call them. They are no more so than are Bach’s dissonant harmonies, which
arise contrapuntally.
After a greatly extended repetition of Example 18—this time proceeding
from the overdominant region14 (mm. 224–30)—the first part of the song
(Example 16) returns at m. 239. Here the tonic G♭ again follows directly after
the dominant (D) of its Neapolitan sixth. We find these abbreviated instances
quite often in the Gurrelieder and in Schoenberg’s later harmony. (An analo-
gous case is Example 12; a similar one is the tonic of a key directly follow-
ing the supertonic, whether a six-five chord, Neapolitan sixth, half-diminished
seventh chord, or ninth chord.) When not motivated by external reasons
(for example, a suspended voice), such abbreviations result from the urgent

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 25

desire to vary the repeated entrances of the tonic, or (perhaps for reasons of
artistic economy) to avoid weakening the strong effect of the dominant by
In its return [m. 239], the above-mentioned first section of Tove’s song
(Example 16) immediately uses the seven-measure form, and then the
eight-measure form follows after connection (m. 244[–47]) by a transition con-
structed from Example 17A. This is thus the reverse order from the original suc-
cession in Example 16. This returning passage is at the same time an orchestral
postlude, in which the previous vocal melody is played by the strings, and spe-
cifically again by violin, viola, and cello soli. While part C of this example (16)
is taken over by clarinet and English horn and once again repeated by the solo
strings (Example 20A), the form B (Example 20) develops by splitting off, and
prepares a transition to the following song by further division formed by the
repetition of measure D.

Here the suspensions d are, as it were, the last remains of the progressively short-
ened horn passages a, b, c, which in turn are none other than a variant of the
string figure 15a. This is an example in Schoenberg of a change in melody that
results from accommodation to the tone quality and technique of the instru-
ment. Likewise the oft-repeated thematic octave C♯ (Example 20D), which is
important for the following song (Example 21a), is anticipated by the preceding
pedal point on D♭ (= C♯), which is taken up by flutes, solo violin, and trumpets

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26 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

(Example 20C). Finally in e (Example 20) we again find the theme of Example
19. Its adaptability is already evident here; it is placed in three different posi-
tions under one and the same triad (C♯ minor), so that its other pitches (as I
pointed out earlier), D♯, F𝄪, B♯ as appoggiaturas and F♯, A, and D♯ as neighbor
tones, produce dissonances with the triad (whose third and fifth are themselves
suspended), thus creating a very strong harmonic tension before the entrance of
the next song.
With the preceding, I have tried to show how one song merges into another
and how a connecting passage is formed from offshoots and motive fragments—a
connecting passage that contains, in turn, important components of the new
song and even hints at its rhythm, dynamics, and “thematic” tone quality.

III. Waldemar [mm. 279–342]

Waldemar’s song follows (beginning with Example 21), and once again there
has been no reference to the dominant; this time the song follows directly on
the half-diminished seventh chord [m. 278], the “shortening of the path”15 perhaps
being determined here by the sustained C♯.

In this example the bass theme (c) is very important, as well as the thematic
trumpet octaves (a) and the syncopated notes for oboes and strings, the latter
derived from Example 19.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 27

The rhythm in this example [Example 22] is also anticipated by the rhyth-
mic displacement of the preceding example. Not only does the rhythm change
within the individual measures (thus reflecting the free meter of the poem on
which it is based), but also the series of 6/4 (or 3/2) measures, emphasized
alternately in two-beat and three-beat patterns, is interrupted by 2/4 and 4/4
passages [Example 23], whose thematic connection with Example 21c (see the
upper staff of [Example 23], in small type in parentheses) is evident.

In the course of the song the material of Examples 21 and 22 undergoes the
most varied changes, developments, and combinations, especially theme 21c
at m. 293, in the following Examples 24 and 25b, and at mm. 321 and 328.
In the same way the 4/4 passage (Example 23), whose rhythm and rich har-
monic progressions (wherein it differs most of all from Example 21) were
already foreshadowed at m. 288, returns varied at mm. 309, (316), and 324.
Example 24B, which develops finally out of components of Examples 21 and
22 and which is repeated at m. 314, appears at m. 330 in the homophonic
form of Example 19 (see Example 25A).

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28 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Example 25A forms the transitional passage with the succeeding measure B,
whose oboe and string syncopations (from Example 21b; compare c in Example
25) paraphrase theme 19.
The paraphrase of theme 21c contained in this measure (332), the bass
motive b, is the same as the modified form at m. 293 (upper melody) and is
also retained in the transition. That is in keeping with the change from the C♯
minor of this song to the relative major key, E major, which is expressed in this
second form. E major is strongly emphasized, not only by its entrance at m.
293 and at the end of the song, but also by virtue of its delimitation by over-
dominant and underdominant regions in the passage formed from Example 23,
mm. 302 and 309. But on the other hand, the very changes of harmony in these
same two measures to the dominant and subdominant of C♯ minor at mm. 303
and 310 support the latter key, so that the tonality of this song almost gives the
impression of hovering between C♯ minor and E major. We find this phenom-
enon several times in the Gurrelieder (for example, in Tove’s Song, no. VIII), but
still more strongly and consciously in Schoenberg’s later works (for example, in
the Orchestral Song [“Voll jener Süße”], op. 8, no. 5).
The transition is broken off after a sudden harmonic shift to B major (Example
26), the key of the following song.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 29

IV. Tove [mm. 343–443]

In the beginning of this song (Example 27, following immediately on Example 26)
we recognize Example 24B of the previous song, now on the dominant of B major.
In general, these two songs and their postludes show a certain homogeneity in their
themes, meters (half of a previous 6/4 measure is equal to one measure of the
present 3/4), tempi (both sehr lebhaft), and related keys. We find this phenom-
enon abundantly in Part I of the Gurrelieder. I mentioned it in the discussion of the
Prelude and the first song and will likewise be able to confirm it in the following
fifth and sixth songs. Admittedly, even the songs that display a certain family resem-
blance always have one differing aspect: the sound. But more about that later.

Neither the strongly cadencing four-measure phrase B that follows A, nor its
component b formed from a, returns until the end of the song (mm. 403 to 406).
Because of the cadence expressed in these introductory eight measures (which,
by way of exception, make use of the dominant), the dominant is avoided in all
later progressions to the main key (B major), for example, at m. 368.
Harmonically interesting and characteristic of the manner in which Schoenberg
heightens the expression,* even in the mere strophic repetition of the melody, is
the following [Example 28i, ii].

* I refer here to a similar case in the Peasant’s Song in Part III of the Gurrelieder (Example 96)
and in the song “Lockung” from op. 6, composed in 1905.

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30 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

After the four measures A (which have the same melody in both verses), B
follows the first time, and the second time C, which is B transposed up a half
step. This is made possible harmonically by the dual interpretation of the same
diminished seventh chord (𝄌 and 𝄌𝄌): once as a ninth chord over the miss-
ing root B♭ (Example 28iii), whereby the strong progression II—I in A♭ major
arises,16 the other time as a ninth chord over the missing root E (Example 28iv),

which, as V of A major (the stronger progression, corresponding to the authentic

cadence) is followed by I. The five measures following 28iB are exactly trans-
posed, and once again the same chord, this time naturally transposed, has a dif-
ferent harmonic continuation. Actually, however, all these constitute the same
root succession, as Example 29 shows.

Both times this is a dominant seventh chord, which is followed by the root’s
downward skip of a third. The first time, this produces a seventh chord (A), the
second time (B) a ninth chord on the same step but with the root missing, i.e.,
a diminished seventh chord. But while the harmony remains constant at A, at B
it is just a transition to other degrees, reflecting the uncommitted character of
the diminished seventh chord.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 31

The upbeat-like string figure a that leads the way in Example 28i is a model
for the song’s figurations, which especially enrich the verse repetitions and give
them new form. Played by divided strings and woodwinds (mainly in the form
shown in Example 30A and again the richly varied B), these figurations pervade
the whole song.

The sound of this song differs from that of the preceding one mainly in its limi-
tation to woodwinds, strings, and horns (similar to the instrumentation of the
first song). The trombones appear only in the introductory and concluding mea-
sures (Example 27B). The trumpets are completely silent except for one passage
that is also thematically episodic (Example 31).

Neither the rhythm of the bass trumpet theme nor the horn-trumpet syncopation
on the third beat of the repeating, sequencing measure C appears elsewhere in this
song. Therefore when we consider this episode in its formal connection with the
preceding and the following sections (I gladly leave it to the honorable music his-
torians to find the psychological connection), its impression is one of a rudimentary
intermezzo in a three-part song form that is admittedly only hinted at. The long first
part, which repeats in entire verses and develops wholly out of its melody, stands in
contrast to the short third part (mm. 399–411), which is formed from those same
components and leads rapidly, nach und nach steigernd, to the end of the song.

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32 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

The postlude that follows is like a continuation of Example 27 (B, A, b, b, A

etc.), which now at last appears again. Its climax at m. 431 displays theme c of
Example 21 (trombones, horns, bassoons, ff), which was already suggested (m.
423), and which appears here in the original form again for the first time. Thus
the strong effect of this climax results not only from the dynamics, but also from
its position within the last two songs, after having been displaced for a while
by the E major form (b) of Example 25B, as was mentioned earlier. After the
extension of this theme (21c) on an A major triad, which is the dominant of the
following song, there follows Example 32—

—a new form, a transitional form, arising through an extension of the second

measure of Example 25A.

V. Waldemar [mm. 443–95]

This song, which like the previous one is basically in three sections, has the
following melody [Example 33], which returns at the end (m. 489) in the
original key.
But it also reappears before then as the third section, as it were, this time
in E♭ major, the Neapolitan of D major (m. 481), functioning as a tempo-
rary key.* What lies between certainly does not amount to a definite middle
section; it is much more the continuation of the first verse, which develops
wholly out of the melodic elements. This development occurs here by means
of new periods and phrases, formed by varying A of Example 33 and under
the influence of the upbeat a, which is rhythmically brought out in Example
33B and is constantly assuming a new form—for example, in [Example

* This is at the same time nothing other than the heightening of the expression by a repetition
transposed to a higher degree, something that was also emphasized in the preceding song. The
repeat in the original form that follows is not, however, a weakening, because the harmonic power
of the tonic, returning after a long absence, is then particularly effective. This phenomenon occurs
often in the Gurrelieder. See the discussion of Example 76.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 33

Out of the rhythmic diminution of the preceding [Example 34A] arises Example
34B (a of Example 34A = a of Example 34B).

In the small motive b, which develops from a, lies the seed that produces theme
c in Example 34C—

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34 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

—and important later melodies. Example 34b (b in Examples 34B, C), the new
form of upbeat a in Example 34C, is, however, in addition to being related to the
upbeat a of the preceding Examples 34A and B, none other than the first mea-
sure of Example 33A, and at the same time an imitation of d, which enters one
measure earlier [in m. 471]. This motive [d in Example 34C], played by clari-
nets and strings, reminds one slightly of the passage A in Example 33, orches-
trated in the same way, and thus it also leads back to the repeats of the first
verse, as mentioned above; thereafter the next song, VI. Tove, follows almost

VI. Tove [mm. 496–552]

The new song has not only the key in common with the preceding, but also
the oscillation between major and minor modes (see also the D minor passage
at m. 467 in the preceding song). The deceptive cadence at the beginning,
whereby the tonic that had been strongly emphasized only a short while before
is once again postponed, leads to a minor IV6 chord in D (Example 35b).

The diminished seventh chord [V9, c] repeats the dominant but resolves,
again deceptively, to IV, this time in the major mode (d), and only then does
the tonic arrive, plagally and in the six-four position [e, m. 501]. This fluc-
tuation of mode also occurs within the song, e.g., minor at m. 513, major at
514, in reversed order at 518 and 519, both of these times after an authentic
cadence, i.e., to the tonic. This tonic appears nevertheless in a different inver-
sion each time: the six-four chord [at m. 501], the root position at 513, the
six-three position at 519, the seemingly en passant six-five position at m. 527
(not belonging to D major at all), and not until the end again in root posi-
tion, once more on a pedal point [m. 537]. But what is responsible for this
song’s reputation? It could hardly be the richness of harmonic changes, the
multiplicity of shapes obtained by the repetitions of chords and progressions;

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 35

these are usually passed over unnoticed. Nor is it the long slurs stretching
over the melody (which have become proverbial); one usually doesn’t hear
these unless one chances to see them in print. Thus these could hardly be the
characteristics that have made this song of Tove well-known and “recognized”
by those who “otherwise reject Schoenberg’s art.” But one should repudiate
such a “recognition,” because there is no modesty in it, only a blank check for
denying the beauty of other works of art. It seems to me much more the case
that the reasons for the unwelcome popularity of this song can be found in
its syncopations and diminished seventh chords. That does not speak against
these means per se, but rather for the general inability to recognize when a
popular device is a technique of art as opposed to a technique of predicament.
It speaks for the inability to differentiate between syncopation that is there
merely to avoid polyphonic voice leading and to fake movement in a lifeless
mass (as in the old-fashioned salon pieces for the piano and sometimes also in
the most “modern” orchestral music) and syncopation that forms an organic
component, thematically interwoven in the whole song, like the pulse that
accompanies the life of these melodies and is unthinkable without it—as in
this song of Tove [Example 36].

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36 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Moreover, the use of the diminished seventh chord in the Example 36 [m.
502] and in the following measures differs greatly from those other cases that
have given this chord its popularity. There the character of this “changeling,”
as Schoenberg once called it,17 is misapplied and slipped in wherever the har-
monic succession is debatable. But here—and in all masterpieces of all times—
it is given a real basis corresponding to the statements in Schoenberg’s Theory
of Harmony;18 it is a member of the great family of chords; it is a blood relation
to them. But that doesn’t mean much, especially in an era when it is consid-
ered “modern” to repudiate such harmonic—and also human—relationships;
nor when, for fear of being called philistine (which fear nobody escapes any-
way) and because of the inability to comprehend the unity that depends on
harmonic—and human—derivation, these repudiators strive for an easily
faked capability, which also produces an artificial relationship by conscious
choice where the relationship by nature is not present. And they do not stop
to consider that they comprehend this constantly mentioned elective affinity
of chords—and of souls, to keep up the metaphor—just as little as they com-
prehend the natural relationship that they scorn. He who has a sense of the
former will also honor the latter. And—to return finally to harmony—one can
do naught but believe one who has so completely exhausted the relationships
of these chords that belong to the great tonal family, someone like Schoenberg,
when he claims to produce elective affinities that transcend those relationships,
new combinations of sounds that have never been heard before. However, one
should give no credence to those others, who fled from tonality (which they
never understood in the first place, and to whose authority they could not
subordinate themselves) into that “modernity” already mentioned. It is decep-
tion with new means, just as it was with the old—with the diminished seventh
Example 37 shows in the corresponding points c, d, f, g, h, and i the har-
monic interpretation of Example 36. These diminished seventh chords always
stem from a ninth chord with omitted root. This interpretation is likewise dem-
onstrated in Example 35, wherein the same change, the deceptive cadence to
G (b and d) that was mentioned before, follows the same diminished seventh
chord, once with its actual root present at a, and once without it (c). The second
change, in Examples 36 and 37 from c to f, is a repeat of the degree succession
of the preceding change [c to d], only this time the chord on the fourth degree
at 𝄌𝄌, which is likewise deceptively cadential, appears as a diminished seventh
chord. Making use of this flexibility, a different root, C♯, is inserted, whereby the
resulting seventh chord (h), understood as a secondary dominant (V of V) of
B minor, leads to the actual dominant of B minor, that is, of the relative minor
of D major. This modulation actually receives its strength from the flexibility of
a single chord (d = f). Indeed, in repetitions it completely loses the character of

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 37

those usual progressions. The second cadence on F♯ (at i) appears much more
like a mirror image of the first cadence at e [in Examples 35 and 36], the I
six-four of D. It is rhyme converted to music, whose meaning is a deeper one
than the consonance of words and which expresses here in tones what can oth-
erwise only be imagined.
Out of the figures for clarinet, oboe, and solo strings, which are designated
in Example 36 by F (paraphrasing the voice at F1 and appearing in their
own form at F2 and F3), come the figures a of Example 39 (whose leading
middle voice in the cellos, b, appears as an augmentation of a). They develop
under the influence of the accompanying motive that enters in the second
verse [from m. 512, Example 38] and also adhere to its rhythm of structural

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38 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

But that augmentation [Example 39b] is nothing other than a variant of the horn
theme (Example 34Cc) first heard [mm. 466–72] at the words of Waldemar:
“Nicht sehnlicher möchten die Seelen gewinnen den Weg zu der Seligen Bund,
als ich deinen Kuß,” which developed there for the first time and which will
be of such great significance later (Examples 56–58). Here I wanted to show,
at least once, how one measure of a new melody (containing only one interval,
the tenth in 36A [E–C♯, m. 504]), through paraphrase (F1 in Example 36) and
amalgamation with accompanying motive fragments (Example 38), becomes a
new figure (Example 39a), and finally through such enlargement becomes all at
once a theme, 39b, formed from the smallest motives, which in turn develops
into a theme important for the whole work. The following Examples 40 and
41 also show the development, or, better, the redevelopment of motivic material
formed out of one and the same theme in the course of the song. It is the theme
A of Example 36 that returns in the subsequent measures and in the most varied
connections (see Examples 43, 63c, 64c, 74A, 107ia, and in Part 3 the passages
at mm. 460–464, 629, and 849) with or without the leap of a tenth. The theme
owes this variability in its returns not only to its character as Tove’s motive but
also to its form, whose adaptability results from passing tones, neighbor tones,
and suspensions, as I showed in the case of Example 19. In this theme, as in the
whole melody of Example 36 and, looking ahead to Example 60, at Waldemar’s
words “Du wunderliche Tove,” we find also the large intervals that are character-
istic of Schoenberg’s melodic writing, especially in his later works.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 39

Here [in Example 40], thus, the upbeat b of this theme of Tove, which is formed
from a repetition of motif a2, arises from the preceding a1 of the structural syn-
copations. The theme that enters in this way is, however, not in its original form,
as the continuation c shows; the original form does not recur until the second
entrance (Example 41), which is likewise on the dominant [m. 530]. (Later we
find something similar in Example 107iA.)

In a of Example 41, which is itself derivable from the form c of Example 34C,
as the downward-stemmed notes b in Example 41 show, the form that follows a
has already been forecast; it appears in two variants, b1 and b2, corresponding
to the alternating harmonies in the measure. A further variant of b2 results in c,
whose enlargement brings the upbeat d of the now completed theme 36A, again
on the dominant. Then, after a deceptive cadence, this theme follows in the
original form, whose third measure experiences the following melodic variation
[Example 42], at the same time undergoing the change from major to minor
subdominant (this time chromatically), an exchange that is characteristic for the

Theme A of Example 36 appears now in the postlude of this song [Example

43], as a stretto in the form of the tonic and dominant (the former in original
time [a], the latter in augmentation [b]), corresponding to the two tones D and
A of the double pedal point. At the same time, theme A of Example 33 is heard
at c, combining in this fashion the most important themes of two complemen-
tary songs (Songs V and VI).

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40 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

The pedal point sounded here is, like all those mentioned earlier and those
still to follow, of a purely harmonic nature. The thematic and harmonic events
that take place above it would have their own validity without it. The coun-
terpoint consists not of agreement with the constant tones, but rather of the
sounding together of the contrapuntally moving voices. This is in contrast to
those pedal points and sustained (usually tremolando) parts, which I believe
come from recent Italian music, and which—once again making a technique of
art into a technique of predicament—are there to conceal the lack of harmonic
events and to make impossible counterpoint possible.
A passage that enters at the end of the pedal point [Example 44], and is of
especially striking character in respect to its sound, brings back the theme of
Example 19 again at Example 44a. After the ensuing tonic [m. 550], there fol-
lows a diminished seventh chord in flutes and harp arpeggios, over sustained
clarinet and bassoon, this time making the most of the harmonically indetermi-
nate character of this chord—purely in respect to sound, more like the returning
harmonic motif of this song.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 41

VII. Waldemar [mm. 553–652]

Example 45, which introduces this song (in D minor), shows, in addition to
the very important theme a of the cellos (related to Example 21c), the syncopa-
tion A. This syncopation is played by the harps and solo contrabass harmonics,
which take up the pianissimo strokes of the bass drum and cymbal (played with
the triangle beater) that accompanied the immediately preceding diminished
seventh chord just discussed and transform the indefinite sound of these strokes
into a definite pitch.

The new themes, appearing for the first time in the first part of this large-scale
three-part song, are these [in Examples 46i and 46ii].

We will not meet Example 46i again until Part III of the Gurrelieder, at mm. 10
and 290. Example 46iib is a rhythmically altered Example 19, which also appears

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42 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

in the original form in the middle section of the song at m. 597. It [Example
46iib] assumes also the cadential form of Example 47A, which reminds one of
Example 14 in the way it is used for transitions and cadences.

The harmonies shown in the smaller staff under this example [Example 47]
demonstrate that in each of the four passages B, C, D, E19 at 𝄌 the often-mentioned
half-diminished seventh chord appears, namely: at B, three times in sequence; at
C, as if produced from the minor triad on B♭ by the arrival of the new root
G;20 at D in the actual treatment of the Tristan chord (which resolves to the
diminished seventh chord having as its root the same step [G] as the preceding
half-diminished seventh chord); finally, at E 𝄌, melodically paraphrased. Therefore
this group of passages, B C D E, formed from different components and seem-
ingly unconnected, is held together as though by one single motive, that is, a

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 43

chord; and each fragment is the most natural continuation of what goes before
it, since each amounts to a variation of one and the same thought. In addition to
this chordal relation there is also a thematic one between D and E. The two com-
ponents of Example 45 [a and A] extend over both D and E, changing what was
a superposition to a juxtaposition. In Example 47D the octaves of Example 45A
are played, this time by muted trumpets; in E immediately following, the contra-
bassoon and basses have theme a from the same example [Example 45], but in a
shortened form compounded from the fragments 45b and d. In the repeat in the
third section of this three-part song these passages appear in the original form,
but also considerably lengthened (mm. 638–45). The other themes (Examples 45
and 46ii) from the first verses also undergo changes in the repeat.

Example 48, a variation of Example 45, uses the harp and bass octaves of
that example, but this time they are played by muted horns (f). The bass theme
48c is a shortened form of c (once again different) from Example 45a. With it
comes a harmony, played by the timpani and plucked celli in the new rhythm
of 48a, but this harmony is once again the half-diminished seventh chord—to be
sure, incomplete (𝄌 = E–D–B♭–[G]).
The change in Example 46ii is as follows [Example 49A]:

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44 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

A comparison of Examples 46ii and 49A shows that the two half-measures
have been interchanged, and the half that now comes first (b) has also taken on
another form. From it arises [Example 49B], and from the augmentation of the
half-measure, the wholly new form [Example] 50 (b), which is followed imme-
diately by Example 47 with the extension of E mentioned above.

Between these outer sections is the middle section of the song, in which the
melody, beginning with Example 51B, unfolds freely, and after a strophic repeat
(m. 600) and a new development at the words “Jetzt ist’s meine Zeit,” reaches
a high point and returns from there to the third section of the song (Example
48). The pattern that introduces this middle section, Example 51A, is repeated
at the end of the song (m. 646) and, exploiting its ongoing character, serves as
a rapid transition into the next song.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 45

VIII. Tove [mm. 653–721]

The form of this song is very different from that of the preceding one, and it
could hardly be possible to trace it back to any preexisting form, classical or
modern. Nor is that necessary if one concedes from the outset that one is deal-
ing here with a union of two songs, of which one is in a certain respect the ful-
fillment of the other. (I mean this not in a psychological sense—I always try to
avoid such interpretations—but rather, as always, even when I speak figuratively,
purely in a musical sense.) That is, although a thematic connection hardly exists
between the two parts of the song, the harmonic construction proves their cor-
relation beyond doubt. The key of G major, which in the first part of the song
is always expected and maintained as though hovering in the background, enters
for the first time unambiguously in the second part of the song [m. 691] and
is thus “fulfilled” there. In the first part of the song, the E minor chord always
proceeds deceptively from the dominant of G (see Example 52 𝄌, mm. 679–
80, 681, 682, 683, then Example 54 𝄌); but the E tonality is also not estab-
lished beyond question, as is shown by the harmonically indecisive passage C in
Example 52. Admittedly the latter tonality is supported by the E major passage
E of the same example and the middle section (which begins in the dominant,
B) of this first part of the song (Example 53). On the other hand, however, the
G major effect (resulting from its just-mentioned, often returning dominant and
from the final confirmation of its tonic in the close of the first part, Example 56,
which forms the beginning of the second part) is too strong for one to claim E
minor as the key of this first part of the song. Therefore we have here once again
an example of wavering tonality, as in Song III (Waldemar), but here even more
strongly expressed. Thus, while by this means the harmonic events of one part
are hardly thinkable without those of the other part, the thematic construction
of each can easily be considered separately. Each of the two parts of the song can

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46 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

be considered in itself like a three-part song, the first part admittedly—because

of its junction with the second—with a somewhat freer treatment of the repeat,
Example 54, and its continuation, Example 55.

The appoggiatura in Example 52B, marked with b, is important for the later
melodic development. Perhaps one could derive the whole large melody B, C, D,
E, F, G, etc., and all the following from this half step. But such an analysis would

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 47

lead one too far afield, and would also be much too pedantic and one-sided. It
will, I hope, be sufficient for me simply to refer to it and then to look into the
relationships of the larger periods and phrases that are perhaps derivatives of
that smallest motive, especially the variants of B + C found within D + E. In
fact, the five measures D and E correspond to the seven measures B, c1, c2, c3,
c4, c5, and c6. Expressed mathematically:

D = B + c1 + c2/221

while the four-bar unit E is made up of e1 + e2 + e3 + e4, where:

e1 = c2/2 + c3/2
e2 = c3/2
e3 = c4 + c5 (= B + c1)
e4 = c6 (= c2).

Why does this apparently so simple melody have such a complex or even nearly
enigmatic construction? (For I am well aware of the fact that these unambigu-
ous equations do not exhaust the ambiguity of the melody.) Perhaps the rea-
son lies in the contraction of measures B + c1 into measure D, whereby not
only that which was earlier the first measure (c1) of an eight-measure phrase (C
D) is drawn into the last measure (D) of this same eight-measure phrase as an
upbeat, as though it were for the following E, but also the harmonic change in
D, in halved note values, produced by this contraction of B + c1 still requires
the following half-measure, c2/2. The resultant harmonic shift is retained in the
following measure (e1) and is not balanced again until the next measure (e2),
thus compensating for the initial harmonic acceleration with a retardation. The
contraction of c4 + c5 to e3 (analogous to the preceding D = B + c1, or c4 +
c5) is not guilty of that harmonic hastiness; so the half-measure that was drawn
in earlier (c2/2 = c6/2) (the dominant, by the way) does not follow on the last
quarter now (as in D), but on the first part of the following measure (e4),22
and accordingly the tonic follows on the third measure. In fact, the F that now
follows, with the deceptive cadence at G, is also harmonically none other than
a variant of c7, following c6, with its deceptive cadence at D. In addition, these
measures F + G are full of thematic relationships with the preceding: the ascend-
ing eighth notes (f1) are like the quarter notes in c1 + c2; the following mor-
dentlike figure (f2) is a retrograde inversion of the same figure in e2, which in
turn is an inversion in diminution of c1; the rhythm in the voice’s leap of a sixth,
which follows (G), is the same as that in the leap of a fifth in c4. By repetition
and division into two halves, and retention of the one half (F) by further divi-
sion of F and retention of the mordentlike figure at m. 674 (which again is itself
a model for the theme of the following middle section, Example 53), this artfully

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48 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

constructed melody continues and forms, in spite of its manifold components,

an inseparable, unified whole, and my only reason for dismembering it was to
give an account of the external construction. For I know very well that I do not
come one step closer to the true essence of such melodies, of their life, of their
continuous development by means of this scientific approach; just as the natural
sciences have knowledge about nature, about its living manifestations, reproduc-
tion, heredity, etc., but no idea of the true essence of nature. But I differ at least
from the specialists and the learned in that I admit the impossibility of achiev-
ing comprehension of the true import of works of art and of nature, such as
one might attempt by dissecting these melodies down to their very bones. I admit
this impossibility from the very beginning and do not conclude by means of my
analysis that one should deny the soul of these works. And no one need believe
me about that either, because whoever hears these melodies just once will forget
all that I have said about them and will simply sense their soul.

The melody a from the middle section of the first part of the song, played by
the first violins [Example 53], is immediately accompanied at b by the same
melody in strict canon. In addition to the thematic connection (already referred
to) with the preceding, its beginning shows the motivic half step D♯–E,23 this
time not using the D♯ as appoggiatura to the tonic, but as the third of the domi-
nant triad. After a brief transition that brings back the Erstes Zeitmaß (m. 680),
the indicated third part of the song follows [Example 54], beginning with this

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 49

form, which repeats three times in sequence, each a minor third higher than
the last.

At Example 55b the sequence appears as though in an augmentation of a, and

this turns out to be the beginning of the theme of Example 36A, newly devel-
oped here from the motivic half step.

I have already referred several times to similar cases of such rebirths of this
theme from new motives (Examples 40 and 41). This also happens countless
times with many other themes, and thus this can be considered as a typical
Schoenbergian technique of art, one that naturally is used just as often uncon-
sciously as consciously.
Theme c of Example 34C, which was already born again once in Example
39b, appears now attached to the previous example [Example 55] as an inde-
pendent, leading, freely developing melody for the voice in the second part of
the song [Example 56a].
The verse following this one, which I would like to call the middle section of
this three-section song, brings the altered melody of the vocal part in Example
56 and its development by means of motive b of Example 56 and 57 up to the
entrance of the third part (Example 58).

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50 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

To this middle section the motivic half step of the first part of the song,
Example 52b, is added at [Example 57]c. This motive is the only melodic rela-
tionship between the two parts. The middle voice e, arising from the initially
more accompanimental triplets d, appears to be a varied diminution of the lead-
ing melody 56ab, or 57ab.
The repeat of the first part (Example 56) played by orchestra alone as a
sort of postlude, shows a different kind of canonic treatment and combination
[Example 58].

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 51

Following the three entrances of theme a of Example 56 comes in Example

58B a one-measure pattern derived from the motivic half step of Example 52B
and the previously mentioned mordentlike figure (Example 52f2). This pat-
tern modulates to the entrance of the theme of Example 52e1, e2, e3, played
this time in Eb major by the violins. Once again taking up the mordentlike
figure brought out here, the following transition is formed to the next song
[Example 59]—

—in which the brackets (above the notes in this example) clearly show
how a three-note motive b branches off from the mordent a by a displace-
ment, and which, by augmentation in the following measure (c) produces
the next song’s main motive, Example 60a1. But also the 4/4 time is com-
pletely effaced by this displacement and leads over from 6/8 meter to 3/4
(Example 60).

IX. Waldemar [mm. 722–823]

This song is also in three parts; its construction is almost symmetrical, as the
following table shows:

Part 1:
Example 60A, consisting of a1 and a2 m. 722
Example 60B (b1 + b2) m. 731

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52 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Example 60C, built up from a1 m. 739

Example 61 (twice) m. 750
Example 60B (b1 + b2, twice) m. 758

Middle Part:
Example 62 m. 768

Repetition of Part 1:
Example 60C, built up from a1, with
lengthened continuation m. 785
Example 61 (once) m. 799
Example 60B (b1 only) m. 803
Example 60A (a1 and a2 lengthened) m. 807

Example 60B (b1) [m. 818]

In spite of the large amount of repetition, this short song is diverse, espe-
cially with respect to the harmony, because the themes most often employed
appear on different scale degrees. For example, 60B, at its first repeat (m.
758), appears over a pedal point of the tonicizing G, instead of the har-
monic basses of E♭ major. Similarly Example 61 (by the way, the only case
in this song where the tonic is in root position) appears at its repeat at
m. 799, admittedly in the same key, but, in distinction from its form in
Example 61, also on a pedal point (B♭, the dominant of E♭ major). The
entrance of this E♭ major likewise occurs differently each time (something
that we have already demonstrated in the first song): at m. 750 actually, but
at mm. 797–99 by a deceptive cadence from the dominant of G minor to its
sixth degree [E♭].24
The thematic variability lies not only in the different expansions and
inflections that a particular theme undergoes (for example, phrase C in
Example 60, built up from motive a1 of the same example and appear-
ing again at mm. 747 and 792), but also in the different orderings of the
components of this song, as one can already see from the table. B fol-
lows A in this way in Example 60. One should note how the addition of A
to B in reversed order at m. 807 is produced by using the melodic lead of
B (from b1 to the A♭ of the first measure of b2). But this b1, until now
always three-measured like a1, becomes four-measured here. The reason
for this is that the four-measure Example 61, which at its first appearance

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 53

was a separate unit, immediately precedes Example 60 in the repeat, so b1

demands expansion from three measures to four (at m. 806). The middle
section of this song corresponds to the middle section of the preceding one
(Song VII, Example 51B), but it differs in that the number of measures is
increased from four to five—by adding measure A of Example 62i to the

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54 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

This A, with the following v, is once again the adaptable theme 19c; in fact, the
identity of the free appoggiatura v at 769 (containing the second measure of this
form 19c) with the appoggiatura that introduces Example 51B is used to good
advantage, by connecting both, as the following graphic representation shows
[Example 62ii].

The voice part in Example 62i, which, as one sees in the small staff under-
neath, undergoes the same continuation as in the middle section of the seventh
song (mm. 605–7), is here not contained in an uneven number of measures, but

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 55

rather overlaps into the repeat of Example 62 and forms periods of even num-
bers of bars. This melodic extension also corresponds to the length of the lines
of verse of this poem, which here exceeds the length of the lines of verse in the
seventh song by two strong beats.

Not only in the vocal part, but also in the middle voice of the texture, the
attempt is made to blur the uneven number of measures. Once again this is
assisted by the two-bar (and therefore even-numbered) theme 19c that is used
in the middle section of the song, inasmuch as it overlaps (in celli and bassoon)
into the repeat, as 19c in Example 62i shows.
Connected to the offshoots of the postludelike measures a in Example 63,
formed from 60Bb1, is an orchestral interlude.

X. Orchestral Interlude [mm. 824–956]

This is a type of development of Part I. The most important themes are
treated in patterns of several measures, such as those shown in Examples 63
and 64, and in the most varied combinations, in sequences, carried further
by abbreviation and division, etc., and led forth from a 4/4 rhythm wenig
bewegt, to nach und nach belebter, steigernd (m. 838), at m. 863 leading into
a sehr rasch scherzolike 3/4 rhythm, there again forming contrapuntal pat-
terns, Examples 66–68. After a continuation of just the same kind, once
again nach und nach steigernd (m. 883), the third section (breit, 4/4) of this
interlude is reached at m. 917, from which the transition rasch steigernd und
beschleunigend (m. 944) grows into the Song of the Wood Dove that follows
(Example 69).
The first section of this three-part development—in which, as before, the
preceding two kinds of rhythm (those of even [4/4] and odd [3/4] beats) are
developed, as it were—contains the following types [Example 63].
Example 63a is like Example 60Bb1; Example 63b is once again that most
flexible theme, 19b. Also, the contrapuntal suitability of Tove’s theme, Example
36A, makes possible its frequent return (Example 63c). The d corresponds to A
from Example 33; e corresponds to b1 + b2 of Example 41.25
Here once again c (twice) is the same theme as A of Example 36. Example
64a and b constitute a combination of the motivic half step (Example 52Bb)
with a variant of the beginning of the melody B–c1 of Example 52; this
combination also appeared earlier (Example 54) but in a different intervallic

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56 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 57

At m. 845 a repeat of measures E + F from Example 52 follows, which leads

again, sequencing and dividing itself, to the intensification at mm. 855 to 861
(formed from Example 64 but raised a half step higher), whereupon Example
65 follows.

In Example 65, a comes from Example 27b; b from Example 51B; c from
Example 60b1; d from Example 60a1; finally, e is yet again the ever-recurring
theme from Example 19b.

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58 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Example 66 combines the following themes: e1 + e2 from Example 52,

spreading itself in a over the five measures of Example 66, within whose b is
Example 19b once more; c is from Example 60a1, d from Example 54a, and e,
finally, from Example 51B. Attached to a sequence of this passage is Example
67 a half step higher, another combination of the same themes a, b, c, d of
Example 66.

Example 67 adds a new f, which is theme b1 from Example 60B, and the bas-
soon figure g, also deriving from Example 19.
There follows in Example 68, combined with the motivic downward-moving
thirds from Example 27Bb, a canonic statement of a new four-measure theme,
Example 60a–f, formed from the preceding a of Example 67 ( = Example 52e1)
and f of Example 67 ( = Example 60Bb1).

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 59

The closing section of the orchestral interlude, which is an exact repeat of

the second section of Song VIII, follows after a short intensification formed
from c of the above example [Example 68] and from several of the succeeding
sehr rasch alla breve measures. So this passage in A major (mm. 917–33) cor-
responds to the earlier one in G major (mm. 689–704, Examples 56 and 57).
Instead of the repeat of Example 56 in the new form (Example 58) that was
attached the first time, the closing measures that follow here [Example 69] are
formed from Example 56b3C. These lead into the following song by means of
the rasch steigernd und beschleunigend diminutions of measure c1 of Example 56,
as the following example [Example 69] shows.
To this c1 motive is added the new motive 69A (horns, trumpets, trombones),
which is very important for the following song (see the passage at mm. 1029–
1031, “Die Königin hielt sie [die Fackel] . . . rachebegierigen Sinns”). The immedi-
ately following theme of Tove (Example 36A), distorted into a form that reminds
one of Example 45a, is again one of those transitions formed from a cadenza for
a solo instrument (here, the English horn), as we have seen in Example 14 and
similarly in Example 47A, and will encounter even more often.

XI. Song of the Wood Dove [mm. 957–1112]

This song, which, as Example 69 shows, is connected directly to the orchestral
interlude, is also the last of Part I of the Gurrelieder. Corresponding to the free
form and changing meters of the poem on which it is based, the song is, in
external construction as well as in the rhythm of its measures, freer and more
richly varied than most of the previous songs. In this respect this song reminds
one—altogether superficially, of course—of the third and seventh songs, whose
departures from the usual song form (which is also found in the Gurrelieder,
even though expanded) I have already referred to.

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60 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

The introductory measures, Example 70A, paraphrase the often-mentioned

half-diminished seventh chord; this is also important for what immediately follows
(Example 70B 𝄌).
A glance at the orchestration of this example reveals so much that any word
about the sound of this passage (A) would be superfluous (chords in twelve
New themes are the following A and C in Example 71.
A, appearing immediately in combination with 70b1, is harmonically inter-
esting, for the D in motive a1 (timpani and harps), in combination with the
F♯ minor chord of the strings, permits various interpretations. Considered as a

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 61

sixth added to an F♯ minor triad, it would unconditionally have the character

of a suspension to the C♯. On the other hand, the leap of a third appears as a
substitute for the upward leap of a fourth of the authentic cadence (especially
because its combination with the triad is also used as a closing passage—see the
end of Part I, m. 1107), inasmuch as, as a2 shows, either the dominant contain-
ing the C♯ in the II–V–I cadence (or IV6–V–I) is omitted (a type of harmonic
“shortening of the path” transferred to the melodic domain), or this D must be
considered as the ninth of the dominant, irregularly resolved by an upward leap
(a3). Finally, one could interpret the combination of the triad with that leap of
a third as the simultaneous harmony of a minor triad (F♯ minor) with a major
triad (D major) a third lower; this interpretation would perhaps be supported
by the harmonic continuation in B and C.

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62 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 63

Example 72i, next to the above-mentioned examples the most important theme
of this song, appears (in different variants and in conjunction with the other
thematic components) in Examples 72ii, 72iii, 75, and 77ii.
Here [in Example 72ii] A corresponds to b of the previous example; B is
the familiar example 19b. The new figures are also further utilized: see D at
m. 991, the patterns of the clarinet chords C at m. 980, and the transition to
Example 72iii.

The simultaneous appearance of the often-mentioned half-diminished sev-

enth chords from Example 70Bb1 𝄌 and Example 72i,ii 𝄌 makes the combi-
nation of both examples in 72iii possible. Example 70Bb1, certainly the main
motive of this song, really enters into different combinations, for example, those
[shown in Example 73] which are formed by attachment to one of the many
half-diminished seventh chords from Example 47 𝄌, one of whose motives
(47C) is formed from this chord.

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64 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

The immediately following theme of the basses is the same theme that follows
the words “Uns’re Zeit ist um!” in the basses in that earlier example (47bd),
or the one in Example 45a from this same song (VII). One should notice here
the alternation in tone coloring between the chords of the two English horns
and two bass clarinets and the half-diminished seventh chord 𝄌, played first by
muted horns, then by three bassoons and a flute.
Another combination of Example 70Bb1—called the main motive only for
brevity’s sake—is shown in Example 74.

This main motive [70]Bb1 arises at the third appearance of A by repetition

and rhythmical variation of the component a. Again, one of those instances
of resurrection of a motive that was already there earlier! Even A (a variant of
theme A of Example 36), or at least its upbeat b, seems to arise anew from the
inversion of Example 72ib. Similarly, however, this upbeat and descending fig-
ure f are models for a melody in the clarinets at mm. 1010–12, which was also

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 65

already there earlier: Example 56 a, b1, b2. Finally, the C in this Example 74,
played by the solo cello, is theme A of Example 33. We will often encounter
the combination of these two themes:26 that of Tove (Example 36A) with that
of Waldemar (Example 33A). In the following Example 75, the latter appears
at the words “Die (Gedanken) des Königs winden sich seltsam dahin” in a dis-
torted form without Tove’s theme, but accompanied by Example 72i and the
familiar Example 19a—a combination that we will find again in Part II of the

In Parts II and III we also very often find theme A of the following Example 76;
it is of the highest significance there.27

B is a new form of Example 70Bb2, to which b1 of the same example is con-

nected, as Example 80–1 shows. It is repeated exactly in this song twice more,
once (m. 1035) a half step higher, the second time (m. 1064) in the original
form (see the footnote on page 32). The 4/4 measure that alternates with the
previous 6/8 measure and enters after the repeat of Example 71A contains the
following new theme [Example 77i].

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66 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

This is also combined with other different themes of the song, and thus
especially with the motive at the words “Tränen, die sie (die Königin) nicht
weinen wollte, funkelten im Auge” (m. 1032), a motive (though first heard
at Example 69A) that had already entered earlier (m. 1027), and that then
(after a repeat of Example 77i at m. 1039) appears [in Example 72ii] with
Example 72i:

But the wealth of forms in this song is still far from exhausted. From A of
Example 77ii, itself a variant of the preceding measure there [m. 1041], new
themes and connections of new themes with the old again arise, for example
with C from Example 71 brought back at mm. 1049 and 1052–56; or, after an
additional change of meter (6/8, m. 1062) and subsequent return to 4/4 time
(Example 78), the new combined forms in mm. 1076–82, arising out of these

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 67

earlier themes, finally lead to Example 79, beginning at the words “Sonne sank,
indeß die Glocke Grabgeläute tönte.”

This pattern, mächtig anschwellend, accompanies the melody (Example 80–2)

(this time slightly altered) from Example 76B.
The vocal passage that then follows (Example 80–3), under the influence of
the harmonies of theme A from Example 69 that is heard simultaneously with
it, presents this melody even more altered, but it leads to the so-called main
motive of this song (Example 70Bb1) at m. 1099 like the actual original form
(Example 80–1), and this has an even stronger effect because this simultane-
ously altered and transposed theme (Example 80–3A) also returns to the origi-
nal key of the main motive B.
And this is followed only by the music of Example 70A, which introduced
the song, and by Example 71A, transposed to B♭ minor, which closes the song
and therefore also Part I; this time the concluding minor triad is played first by

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68 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

the entire brass section and is then taken over, after a gradual diminuendo, by
the later entrance of the woodwinds, which, again decreasing in volume, yield
to the muted violins and violas that enter last and that diminish to pp. Beneath
this, the skips of a third are played, apart from the harps and timpani already
used the first time, by bass trombone, tuba, and the pizzicato celli and basses,
likewise beginning ff and ending pp.

Part II
Part II consists only of a single song of Waldemar. The measures introducing it
contain—over wandering harmonies that do not establish themselves anywhere
tonally—different thematic components that are familiar from the preceding
music, mainly from the Song of the Wood Dove. In order of appearance, they are

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 69

the following: at the beginning, Example 71AB (“Tot ist Tove,” this time enter-
ing in the original key, F♯), the same theme with which Part I ended (although
there in B♭), and the minor triad of this theme, only again differently orchestrated
(clarinets and pizzicato violins and violas); next (after the steigernd, from part B
of Example 71) at m. 10 the motive of Example 76A, played like a recitative
by basses, celli, trombones, tubas, and bassoons, which is of greatest importance
(Examples 81, 85, etc.) for this Part II and also Part III. Then at m. 11, Example
72i; at m. 13, the extended Example 71C; at m. 15 (etwas bewegter), the combi-
nation of Example 33A and Example 19 raised a half step, like the one we saw in
Example 75A; and finally, at m. 19, a one-measure model formed from the com-
bination of Examples 19 and 72ib, leading, after a threefold sequence steigernd
und beschleunigend to fff, to the entrance of the first verse, Example 81.

Here the key of the song is established for the first time. It appears to be a
wavering key again, specifically between B♭ minor and C minor. This is also
supported by the two occurrences of the half-diminished seventh chord 𝄌 and
𝄌𝄌 in theme A (arising from a rhythmic displacement in the example). Both
times construed as the supertonic seventh chord of a minor key, the first 𝄌 in

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70 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Example 81 points to B♭ minor, to which key the conclusion of this song cor-
responds exactly (see Example 87); whereas the second 𝄌𝄌 indicates C minor,
as is shown by the continuation (Example 81) into the dominant of C minor
(+). Even when the expected C minor does not enter—in [Example 81]B as
in the second verse at mm. 51–55 (Example 85B), where a different modulation
follows this strong cadence (half-diminished seventh chord of the supertonic and
dominant)—nevertheless, the tonic of C minor is only postponed. (It appears
in the third verse at m. 71, followed by a long pedal point on its dominant G,
Example 86.) If C minor is therefore sustained in this way, partly hovering and
partly fixed, then B♭ minor is asserted, apart from the already-mentioned conclu-
sion, as the key in the following Example 82. This example appears as a middle
section of the first verse and is a model for Example 84, which introduces the
two following verses and which, in the same way, by virtue of beginning on the
dominant of D♭ major, points to the key in closest relationship to this D♭ major,
namely its relative minor, B♭ minor.

The conclusion of this three-part first verse is formed by the following theme
[Example 83], which the second and third verses follow. These two verses are
constructed identically and begin with the aforementioned Example 84.

To this is connected (in both verses), after a short passage (mm. 45–48 and
60–63), Example 85, which is built from Example 81A.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 71

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72 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

The continuation of the second verse, corresponding to B in Example 81, does

not bring the expected C minor—as we said earlier—but leads to the repeat of
Example 84, the beginning of the third verse; and not until this third verse, after
several repeats of theme B in Example 85, at the closing words of the poem, using
Example 83 transposed a half step lower (m. 69), is the C minor tonic reached.
There now follows component a of Example 83 in a close imitative texture,
rasch steigernd (Example 86a), over a pedal point on G; in addition, there are the

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 73

cello figure (Example 86b) formed from the triplet of Example 85b and motive A
of Example 81, which at first conforms to the pedal point (c1), later draws closer
to the original form (c2), and finally resumes its literal original form (c3 and c4).
The repeat of motive A from Example 81, which is realized in B of Example 86
and is now also both tonal and harmonic but played at a more rapid tempo—
in contrapuntal combination with its diminished form B/3 (Example 86) and b
of the triplet of Example 85b—undergoes a direct continuation as in Example
81AB, differing only by a strong ritardando; B minor, which was expected there
but nevertheless not played, is now the key of the restated Example 83 that fol-
lows (m. 87), again transposed a half step lower. This theme, appearing twice,
each time (characteristically) a half step lower, appears here in a different form
from its preceding appearance, not only because of the sehr breit tempo, but also
because of its orchestration (the harmonies of this theme are played ff weich by all
the brass). The continuation is also a different one: while the first time Example
84 comes after the D♭ minor form of Example 83, and at the second appearance
(C minor, Example 86) the pedal point already observed arises, here, after the B
minor version of Example 83, the restated Example 81A closes the song by add-
ing a plagal cadence in B♭ minor [Example 87], as mentioned at the beginning.

Part III
While in Part I a continuous exchange of male and female vocal sound takes place
in the alternating songs of Waldemar and Tove—in fact, the sound of the female
voice predominates as a result of the song by the Wood Dove at the end—Part
II and almost all of Part III are dominated by male voices. These exhibit, admit-
tedly, the utmost variation: in addition to the tenor, Waldemar, held over from
Part I, a strongly contrasting tenor role (Klaus the Fool), a bass-baritone (Song of
the Peasant), the twelve-part choruses sung by Waldemar’s vassals, encompassing
all gradations of sound, and finally the voice of a speaker in the Melodrama, “The
Summer Wind’s Wild Hunt.” Immediately following this—that is, not until the end
of Part III (the final part)—the women’s voices, which have been saved for the con-
clusion as though by artistic economy, enter with a cry, “Seht die Sonne!” (Example
124), and climb step by step, as it were, above the level of the men’s voices.

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74 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Wild Hunt
Part III begins with the Wild Hunt,28 whose introductory measures are the same
as the beginning of Song VII in Part I (Example 45), except that the theme
for the voice (46i) that immediately followed in Part I is played here by the
four Wagner tubas alone. This is also the last appearance of these instruments.
Schoenberg did not use them in the following part (roughly from p. 118 of the
manuscript full score [p. 117 of the engraved full score], m. 100), which, as
I said in the introduction, was orchestrated ten years later.29 And at the same
time, to counterbalance at least the external differences in the instrumentation,
namely the change in the composition of the orchestra, in Part III a fifth and
sixth trumpet are added to the original four; the celesta is also used extensively.

I. Waldemar’s Song [mm. 13–67]

After the above thematic reminiscences from Part I (Examples 45 and 46i),
Waldemar’s Song begins in Example 88 with the rhythmically somewhat
modified theme A (which occurred earlier, mainly in Part II, Example 81A).
The new themes B, C, c, and a are very important for what follows. The same
is true of the theme that appears in the middle section of this short song
[Example 89].
The bass melody appearing in this example (and reminiscent of 88c) has the
rising, pregnant rhythm in common with themes 21C and 25b. At m. 36 we
also meet—as though newly generated from the basses—the rhythm of 21C
(see Example 24), while at the last words of the song, “Heute ist Ausfahrt der
Toten,” 25b has the following connection [Example 90] with themes B and C of
Example 88 and A of Example 89.
The third section of the song is simultaneously indicated by the return of this
theme B in the original key (this time E♭ major instead of E♭ minor). Waldemar’s
cry, which enters now twice in rapid succession (B in Example 88 and 90) melod-
ically outlines part of a half-diminished seventh chord, and this powerful dynamic
intensification is built over its harmony. After these measures, formed from this
harmony and from the falling second at b of the last example [Example 90] and
increasing to the highest fff, comes their echolike repeat (ppp) [Example 91],
after which the Song of the Peasant immediately follows.

II. Song of the Peasant [mm. 68–168]

Its two verses are treated separately and thus form two well-rounded parts, the-
matically and harmonically independent. The first verse rests on a pedal point
constructed in the following way [Example 92A].
Produced at each eighth note by the arpeggiation of the pizzicato bass soli
a1, each constantly entering on a different tone, this chord is once again the

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 75

half-diminished seventh chord, II6/5 in B minor, the key of the Peasant’s first song.
Root, third, and fifth of this chord are also formed by the figures of the remaining
basses’ a2, which figures we know from Example 88C. The motive of Example
92B, played at the same time and appearing in various forms, contributes much
to the development of this song; it is the component of theme B from Example
88, outlining the half-diminished seventh chord.
In combination with an enlargement of C taken from the same example (88),
the following passage [Example 93] arises (over the constant pedal point from
Example 92A) on II of B minor.
When this pedal point stops, a new theme A (Example 94) enters on the tonic
of B (major instead of minor); it will be important for the later men’s choruses.

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76 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

This theme (Example 94A) is closely related to theme A of Example 89. After
the repeat of the whole passage, which is based on one harmony (mm. 97 to
103), this time on II of the relative major key, D major), the earlier theme
(89A) returns at m. 106, and the concluding, or transitional, measures that fol-
low (where the backstage men’s chorus shouts “Holla” and the Peasant cries out
“Da fährt’s vorbei!”) are formed from the falling half step a1 of this sequencing
passage (mm. 114–17 [Example 95]) consisting of 88C, 89A, and 92B.
The theme that enters on the F♯ minor chord in the last measures of this exam-
ple (F♯ being the dominant of B minor) is once again Example 21c molded into the
tones of this triad; here, after the spoken words of the Peasant, “Rasch die Decke

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 77

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78 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

übers Ohr!,” the manner in which it reduces itself constantly into smaller forms,
as if winding down, reminds one of Example 45a and its continuations (at mm.
557–59 and 640–45 in Part I and in the beginning of Part III). The Peasant’s sec-
ond song, which follows these offshoots, begins as follows [Example 96].

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 79

The vocal melody A has a form related to Waldemar’s cry (Example 88B).
With the three measures that continue it, arising from motive b, this melody
encloses a five-measure phrase that forms, with its repeat, the first section of
this second Peasant’s song, which is once again in three sections. The repeat
occurs in the original key (tonal) in the first two measures, and in the fol-
lowing three a half step higher (at mm. 131–33), whereby one and the same
chord (𝄌) permits the two different uses, once leading to F♯, the second time
to G, as we also saw in the fourth song of Part I (Example 28i–iv). From
the new motivic components of Example 96—a1, a2, and the shortened b—a
short middle section is formed at mm. 134–36, onto which the two first mea-
sures of the first section (Example 96) are connected. This repeat of the first
section, however, transposed a tone higher, brings still another motive of the
middle section with it in the bass at mm. 137 and 138 (the descending step-
wise motion again in its original form, as at Example 96b), uniting in this
way the most important melodic components of the two earlier five-measure
phrases into just two measures. Without regard for the earlier continuation,
the indicated third section [Example 97] now develops further on its own,
whereby the second measure of the section [m. 138] (from Example 96A2)
is varied twice.

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80 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

And so, exactly like the twofold explanation of the text, “So bin ich geschützt
vor der nächtlichen Mahr, vor Elfenschuß und Trollsgefahr,” the necessity to
repeat it musically also, to explain more closely, to express it again but differently,
is fulfilled, and this actually gives the variant its deeper meaning. And there is
always this meaning in Schoenberg: each form, even the simplest and the old-
est, arises from the necessity of his art and not from its facility. That both go
hand in hand, that what one demands the other fulfills, is self-evident. But, as
I said, artistic skill is never the means to an end.30 Schoenberg was never con-
cerned about exhausting all the classical forms, although he would have been
capable of doing so; for “art is born not of ‘I can,’ but of ‘I must,’” as he says in
an article, “The Problems of Teaching Art.”*31 And just as, in the formal aspect,
this complete renunciation and disinclination to play with art’s techniques shows
itself, and just as all forms, from the largest to the smallest, are born anew in the
Gurrelieder and grow out of it, so in the same way Schoenberg’s way of orches-
trating also does without any effect that could be achieved with mere artistic
facility. There is no sound in this work that is not heard with the mind’s ear, no
sound that was born from mere knowledge of the technique of orchestration—
nothing born from routine. This is especially noteworthy, since these days tech-
nical knowledge is not only entirely sufficient, but is even regarded as the sole
condition for orchestrating according to the “most modern” requirements. That
one might also be able to orchestrate, when one has neither sat in an orches-
tra nor had a career as a conductor or music director, is considered impossible
today.32 For all that, however, the orchestral glitter of those who consider that
to be impossible can itself be easily attained by the latest routine operetta com-
poser, for there are no “secrets of the green room” for them, and the “demonic
powers of the orchestra” are just right for them to play with. But perhaps the
performance of the Gurrelieder will reveal also, to those who cannot read scores,

* Musikalisches Taschenbuch 3/3 (Vienna: Verlag Stern und Steiner, 1911).

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 81

that orchestration is concerned with secrets different from those of the green
room and with powers different from those of the orchestra, and that indeed
everything, therefore, that sounds there is to be well distinguished from those
orchestrations stuffed with phony counterpoint and pasted up with the cheap
decorations of artistic facility; that those which are, at best, nice modern clothes
that one can drape over any puppet, in Schoenberg’s works are the very flesh
and blood! That is naturally just as valid for the instrumentation of the first two
parts of the Gurrelieder as for Part III, which was scored at a later time. The dif-
ference is not in the essence of the orchestration, only in its style. And in Part III
it is self-evident that the orchestra in the part orchestrated later receives a more
intensive, concentrated expression through the preference for solo instruments
and the juxtaposition of colors of the most disparate instrumental families,*
and that the possibilities for the finest gradations of sound are multiplied; thus
the style of this later instrumentation naturally reminds one more of that of
Schoenberg’s later works, such as the monodrama Erwartung, than it does of the
earlier parts of the Gurrelieder. I emphasize this again, although I already showed
it at the beginning of my discussion with Schoenberg’s own words about the
origins of the Gurrelieder, in order to meet all the questions and wonderment
in advance, which already came up anyway—namely, how it was possible that
Schoenberg could create his newest works and work on the Gurrelieder at the
same time.
The transition following the Peasant’s song brings theme A from Example 96
(whose component A2 after all contains again a beginning form pointed out in
Example 92B), which is also used subsequently in accompanying the male cho-
rus. It is a in Example 98.

* Note, for example, the instrumentation of Example 96, the progressive, chromatic octaves
(over an underlying harmony of tuba, bassoon, horn, and oboe) whose upper note is played by a
solo cello, the lower note by a clarinet. In addition the ascending, syncopated melody (a1) carried
by two additional solo cellos, and in the middle of it the figures of the violas, which play around
the voice. And how, after these two measures orchestrated in this way, the sound changes by the
addition of the high bassoon and violins (b), the middle voice of the bass trumpet, and the bass
note of the bass clarinet; and how such a change takes place in each of the measures that follow.

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82 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Theme b is a form of Example 88C that is enlarged from two to five half-measures;
hence the uneven rhythm within this transitional passage. After a short intensi-
fication that develops out of the passage, cadencing in G minor, the chorus of
Waldemar’s Vassals begins.

III. Waldemar’s Vassals [169–311]

It is only a four-part chorus at first [Example 99], with theme A in canon, fol-
lowed by its inversion B, with a different order of entrances.

As the small staff shows, theme A is a variant of Waldemar’s cry (Example 88B).
The brackets show how far each four-part canon continues. A counterbalance to
the strong tendency toward the dominant region (produced by the cadence to
the dominant D of G minor at a and the following authentic cadence in the key of

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 83

the dominant D major at b)* is offered in the theme that follows (Example 100
at a1 and a2), the choral theme that strongly emphasizes the subdominant region.
Here we again have a canon, this time an endless canon at the octave and the

tenth, that is sung by the first four-part chorus alone, while the voices of the two
other four-part choruses have the cries of “Holla” (as is evident in later exam-
ples). In the measures that follow, to the canon of the second chorus formed
from a and c of Example 100 is added the new theme of the first chorus, yet
again as a four-part canon [Example 101], and this is none other than a varia-
tion of the preceding theme in thirds, the triplets being a one-voice linearization
of the two-voice thirds, as shown in the small staff.
Apart from the cries of “Holla” in the third and fourth measures, the third cho-
rus sings the imitated triplets on the D major triad (mm. 195–96, not shown).
[In Example 102] the theme in thirds (Example 100a) receives a different
melodic continuation (b1-b2) and a metric displacement, under the influence of
the rhythm (patterned as though in 5/4) and melody of the B minor passages
of the basses. The new theme that arises in this way, and that naturally subor-
dinates itself to the underlying harmony, is sung in three canonic entrances by
all the tenors, becomes intensified, and leads to the choral passage [in Example
103], which is of a purely harmonic nature, in contrast to the rich polyphony of
the preceding examples.
Apart from the harmonies and the themes of Example 88Cc, [Example 103]
contains a figure b for trumpets, derivable from Example 102b1-b2 and the
theme A for strings (cf. Example 89A).
An intensification formed from A leads to the transition [in Example 104],
whose bass theme a1 is an augmentation of Example 100a, which, doubly aug-
mented in turn, appears at the same time in the horns and bass trumpet (a2).
On the other hand, the motive b1 of the strings (from Example 92B) is taken
up by the trumpets in diminuted form (b2 and b3). Finally, the strings play
theme c of Example 21 in the third measure.

* Both times reinforced by the Neapolitan sixth: at 𝄌 that of G, at 𝄌𝄌 that of D.

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84 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Then the music of Example 47D follows at the words “Nur kurze Zeit das
Jagen währt . . . ,” sung in unison; its continuation E follows immediately, but in
the expanded form (Part I, mm. 640–44).* The repeat of the preceding poly-
phonic choruses, especially the chorus of Example 100, occurs in a strongly var-
ied form wherein the main changes and combinations may be cited here: at m.
* The appearance of E from Example 47 at this point tends to confirm the relationship of
component d in this theme with the theme a1 in Example 100. This is only a single instance of the
countless thematic relationships, most of them unconscious, formed in this work. Certainly many
more such relationships could be pointed out, some of them also with this theme; one might
think, for example, of the vocal melody of the second song in Part I (A in Example 16).

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 85

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86 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

247 the addition of theme C from Example 88 to a1 from Example 100 (or 101);
at mm. 252 and 253 [Example 105], a combination (similar to Example 103) of
Examples 88C and 89A, whose first measure, moreover, also contains Example
21c and Example 92B and whose second measure contains the theme a1 of
Example 100; at m. 260, a different combination of Examples 88C and 92B with
100a1 and its inversion; at m. 270, Example 105 in the minor mode; and finally,
at m. 272, by the orchestra alone, the restated Example 101, which then breaks
down further and further into its motivic components and thus leads into a
short orchestral interlude that, in turn, consists only of familiar themes.

They are, in this order, Example 46i at m. 290, and, from mm. 294 to 310
[Example 106], the whole analogous passage in Part I (mm. 622 to 632,
Examples 49B, 50, and 47A), but much extended. One should refer to the score
to compare the difference in the instrumentation of these two passages. For rea-
sons of space, I can only cite several measures of the passage orchestrated ten
years later, and refer back to Example 49B for the passage in Part I that was
orchestrated earlier.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 87

IV. Waldemar’s Song [mm. 312–89]

Waldemar’s Song follows immediately upon the interlude just described
[Example 107i].
In addition to the new components, Example 107i contains theme A from
Example 36 in a1, a2, and a3, and theme B from Example 51 in b [b is miss-
ing from Berg’s Example 107i]. In the first two entrances (a1, a2) the inter-
vals of the theme are different from the original form of Example 36: instead
of a diatonic upbeat, there is a chromatic one; in a2, instead of a leap of a
major seventh, there is a minor seventh; while in the first entrance (a1) not
even the very characteristic leap of a seventh is retained, being replaced by
a fifth. Thus it is all the more striking that the original form of Example 36
does not appear here until the third entrance (a3). In this ultimately suc-
cessful struggle, as it were, of the true form to establish itself—as we have
already seen in similar fashion in our discussion of Examples 40 and 41—is
demonstrated a powerful means of intensifying and heightening the expres-
sion, a means that is also conditioned by the possibilities for variation that
it implies.
From the motives indicated in the last measure of the example [Example 107i]
two episodes of the song are developed: from c (itself formed from a1 of
Example 60) the passage (mm. 332–36) at the words, “Tove ist hier und Tove
ist da, Tove ist fern und Tove ist nah” (once again involving varied repeats); and
from d, the continuation of the preceding example (107i) up to m. 332, and
the theme of the passage [in Example 107ii]. Finally, in this freely formed song,
which is nevertheless built completely on melodic development, the theme [in
Example 107iii] is also of great importance.
The offshoots of the repeat of the phrase at m. 350, formed from this theme,
pass at m. 357 into the theme of Example 50 and, following that, at m. 361 pass
into the theme of Example 47A, thus ending the song with the same compo-
nents of Part I of the Gurrelieder as those that began it. The natural continuation
of Example 47A—the B, C, D, E passage—is also included in these postludelike

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88 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 89

measures at m. 363, the B fragment indicating the rhythm of the motive a

(Example 108i) of the transition section that follows. This transition section
contains the important motives [shown in Example 108i, ii, iii], which are also
important for the thematic development in the Song of Klaus the Fool.

V. Song of Klaus the Fool [mm. 389–606]

The b in this example [Example 109] is clearly recognizable as the b in the
preceding Examples 108i, ii, iii.

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90 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Moreover, the motives and themes [in Examples 110i, ii, iii] are also found in
the Song of Klaus the Fool, which is not classifiable among the usual song forms
but is wholly constructed with symphonic freedom.

These undergo, naturally, the most diverse variations, developments, and

combinations, which for lack of space I cannot cite here, just as I must limit
myself to the enumeration of only the very most important, frequently repeated
thematic events and at best can only refer to episodic material, transitions, and
reminiscences that emanate from the preceding. I am also forced to hold to this
limitation in the following, since my discussion has already far exceeded the
usual size of so-called thematic analysis.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 91

At m. 448 we meet the episodic passages of parallel thirds in the muted trom-
bones and celli; in addition, at m. 450 in the vocal part, the odd leaps of a sixth,
which are important for motivic development in what follows and also for the music
of the Melodrama (m. 799). At the words “So bald die Eulen klagen” (m. 458),
b1 of Example 70 is heard, and following that, at mm. 460–64, a combination of
themes A from Example 36 and a1 from Example 60, both from Part I; and several
measures later, at the words “Denn er (der König) war immer höchst brutal” (m.
469), the harmonic progression from Example 52B and Example 84 (from Part II),
which leads to the new little three-measure passage [in Example 111].

This is followed at m. 478 by Example 109 and at m. 480 by a two-measure

phrase, related rhythmically to b of both the foregoing example and the example
that follows (112i); and after a variant of this two-measure phrase, Example
111 is repeated. The succeeding intensification, which is formed from the rep-
etition (built on whole-tone harmonies) by exploiting the similarity of fig-
ures c in Examples 110i and 111, leads to the repeat of Example 110i at m.
495, in which another variant of Example 111a adds a counterpoint. Example
110iii appears again at m. 503, while Example 110ii plays around it; and from
Example 110ii itself there arises again at m. 505, over a G pedal, an episode
whose rhythmic-melodic variation at m. 507 (compare Example 111b) prepares
the dotted rhythm b of Example 112i.

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92 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

What follows is formed mainly from the diminuted b and the likewise diminuted,
richly harmonized a (mm. 517–24). Example 112ii arises with the retention of
the rhythm of this new form in b and the addition of motive a2 from Example

After a repeat of a somewhat altered Example 109, to which Example 110iii

is directly joined (mm. 534–38), the little passage in Example 113i, related to
Example 111, follows.

Theme B of Example 113i is used in mm. 546 and 547 as well as in the
orchestral postlude.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 93

The leap of a fifth is often replaced by a sixth or seventh, and the connec-
tion with the leaps of a sixth that was mentioned earlier (mm. 450–55) is
At m. 548 Example 110iii is repeated; at 552 the first measures of the
contrapuntally altered Example 111 recurs; at [m.] 555 the beginning motive
(Example 109) appears, enriched by new figures of the solo violin and the flutes
and dissolving into figures at m. 557; at m. 560 appears Example 110i, whose
component c at m. 564 assumes the form a [in Example 113ii], which appears
simultaneously in sixteenths as an accompanying figure in the strings, in eighths
as a vocal part, and finally in quarters as a large melody for the woodwinds
extending over several measures.

In addition, the motive in fourths—a from Example 110i (also in various note
values)—is heard in the horns, and b1,2 from Example 112i is heard in the
muted trumpets. The cadence in G major, the key of this song, next follows.
This cadence is formed from the harmonies of the woodwinds and brass and
the runs of thirty-seconds by all the strings; it leads to the postlude in the same
key, which is once again, like the large orchestral interlude in Part I, a devel-
opment of the foregoing motives and themes. Indeed, Example 113iA (in the
open trumpets and horns) follows at m. 574 as accompaniment to the wood-
wind figure (the thirty-second-note values from before are retained), which is
itself a development from Example 110a2; at m. 578 there follows a combina-
tion of the melody from Example 110iii in imitative entrances with motive B
from Example 113, likewise in close imitation, over which appears (at m. 580)
a flute figure that becomes important later (in Examples 118 and 119). After a
repeat [at m. 582] of the somewhat altered first part of the postlude, rhythmic
figures in the woodwinds made from a1 and a2 from Example 108i and b from
Example 113iB (at mm. 591–94) lead to a new developmental passage at m.
595, in which the same rhythmic figures also participate.
With the above-mentioned descending runs for strings that arise from
Example 110ia233 and diminish from ff to pp, and with the parallel thirds of the
muted trumpets (ff–pp), this orchestral postlude is joined now to Waldemar’s
Song, which follows, and which is also Waldemar’s last song in the Gurrelieder.

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94 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

VI. Waldemar’s Song [mm. 607–59]

Besides the introductory measures (with the familiar motive from Example 83a
or 86a, in various note values for celli and bassoons—compare at mm. 609 and
611–12) and the solemn melody of the first words of the song, the following
theme [Example 114] is also new.

All the others are components from before (especially from Waldemar’s big
song in Part II) and appear here only in new ordering, in different combina-
tions. At m. 620 there are two entrances for trombones and tubas, indicating
theme 76A; at mm. 627–28 and 634–37, the theme of Example 82 (in the
second case together with Example 19b); at mm. 629 and 631 at the words
“Ich und Tove, wir sind eins,” one of the many juxtapositions of Tove’s theme
(Example 36A) with Waldemar’s (Example 33A), with the addition of that
ever-adaptable theme Example 19b; at m. 638 a rapidly steigernd und beschle-
unigend sequence formed from b1,2 of Example 112i; at m. 642, twice as fast,
the frequently crescendoing entrances of theme C from Example 88 at the last
words of this song, “und sprenge mit meiner wilden Jagd ins Himmelreich ein”;
and finally, at m. 650, the climax of this buildup, fff, Example 76A ( = Example
81A), and following it, Example 83, whose component a is that motive men-
tioned at the beginning of this song and stated there in various note values.
Thus there is established at least a connection between beginning and end in
this Song of Waldemar, which otherwise is constructed according to no “song
form” whatever.

VII. Waldemar’s Vassals [mm. 660–740]

The introductory measures 660–64 to the following choruses of Waldemar’s
Vassals state the ascending bassoon figure in one of the forms amalgamating
Examples 21c and 45A (compare mm. 118–19 of Part III). The choruses them-
selves [Examples 115i–iv] again present new material.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 95

Theme A in Example 115iii, which resounds in the accompaniment of the cho-

rus that follows, is the inversion of the very first theme of the entire work, in
the original key of E♭ major (compare Example 1); this is of greatest significance
for the end of the work, where the inversion appears in C major (Examples 124
and 129). In addition, the familiar figures from Example 2B are also heard.

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96 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Also new is this passage [Example 115iv] for four voices.

Likewise the twelve-part chorus [Example 116], which, in contrast to the har-
monic choral passage preceding it, is rich in counterpoint.

As the brackets show, this passage consists of two themes: A, which enters three
times, an octave lower each time, and the four imitative statements of B, each
beginning on a successive tone of A; at m. 715 the texture breaks down into the
components a and b of these same themes.

The Summer Wind’s Wild Hunt [mm. 741–84]

The transition to the orchestral prelude of the Melodrama, The Summer Wind’s
Wild Hunt [Example 117], is formed at m. 721 by the inversion of Example
88C and, following that at m. 726, a chord progression similar to the a of the
choral Example 115ii.
Here a and b especially are thematically important, each of them appearing in
close imitation. The muted string figure, which likewise enters canonically at m.
761, is related to a in Example 88 in the “Wild Hunt” section at the beginning

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 97

of Part III, and to a in Example 108iii in the Song of Klaus the Fool; it also
appears in the Melodrama (Example 119a and mm. 842, 865, and 885). From
a combination of this theme with b of the foregoing example [Example 117],
the passage [in Example 118] results, from which one can form a notion of the
instrumentation of this orchestral piece. Its most important components are
included in the two Examples 117 and 118.

The construction is also clear and easy to judge from the excerpt, just as it is
from the Melodrama that follows.

VIII. Melodrama [mm. 785–917]

Thus I only mention the most important themes and combinations here, and I
want to add only a comment about the nature of this Melodrama, about the treat-
ment of the speaking voice, which I cite from a letter of Schoenberg’s: “Here the
notation of pitch is in no way to be taken so literally as in the Pierrot Melodramas.*

* Schoenberg’s [Pierrot lunaire], op. 21.

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98 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

In no case should a songlike spoken melody appear here as it does there.

Throughout, the rhythm and dynamics (corresponding to the accompaniment)
must be preserved. At a few places where it almost appears melodic, it could
be spoken somewhat (!!) more musically. The pitches are to be considered only
as ‘registral differences,’ meaning that the phrase in question (!!! not the single
note) is to be spoken higher or lower. But not in exact intervals!”34

In Example 119, a is the figure referred to earlier (Examples 118a, 108iiia, and
88a); b reminds one of the beginning of the Song of Klaus the Fool (Example
109). That song and the Melodrama also have the same light rhythms, melodic
skips, and brevity of motives, even the style of instrumentation, and, finally, the
large, free, symphonic form in common. One should compare, for example, the
passage at m. 799, arising from the leap of a seventh in Example 120, with
the passage at mm. 450–55 (also in 6/8 time) in the Song of Klaus the Fool,
or the rhythm of the woodwind figures at mm. 804–8 with that of the motives
at mm. 517–24 (derived from Example 112ia).

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 99

Or, looking ahead, one might compare the viel bewegter section (mm. 868–
80) with Example 112i, from whose motive b1, retained in the Melodrama, the
overlapped form arises at m. 880, and, from that, the familiar theme A from
Example 47 then appears, as though “born again”; from this, in turn, theme d of
Example 45 develops at m. 884.
[In Example 121] a combination of a from Example 120 and a and b from
Example 117 appears.

This combination occurs often (mm. 811–12, 815–18, and 834–40), as does
the combination of the three new themes a, b, and c of the Example [Example

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100 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

Indeed, the inversions of these three themes (at m. 823) appear in a different
counterpoint; in the following measures they undergo new juxtapositions; at m.
827 we find a1 of [Example 122i] and b of Example 120 combined; at 829 the
version [in Example 122ii] of a1, an inverted a2, and a partially diminuted a2
from Example 122i, which is rhythmically interesting because of its internal 5/8

Tove’s theme (Example 36A) also enters for the last time in this Melodrama,
first in close imitation in the solo strings, oboes, and clarinets at m. 849, and at
m. 859 it assumes a wholly new, expanded, variant form. In addition, Waldemar’s
theme (Example 33A) is again heard in the solo cello (mm. 851–54) and, as if
a continuation of it, the melody of Example 56 played by a muted horn at mm.
855–58. The following passages are also under the influence of this melody:
mm. 872, 878–82, and 886–89, each of which also has its own working out,
each generating a self-contained form. I mean those two parts of the Melodrama
that have already been described in detail: Viel bewegter (mm. 868–84) and
Etwas langsamer (mm. 885–94). The transitional ideas that follow are [seen in
Examples 123i–ii], in which a pedal point on G, initiated in Example 123i but
soon withdrawn (m. 898),35 is not relinquished again after its second entrance
(Example 123ii), and thus harmonically prepares the entrance of the Mixed
Chorus in C major.

IX. Mixed Chorus [mm. 918–1045]

The power of this first entrance of the eight choral parts [Example 124] is
strengthened by the initial avoidance of the root-position tonic and by the delay
of its entrance until m. 930. Theme A of the trumpets arose, as was already
shown in Example 115iii, from the inversion of the first theme (Example 1)
of the Gurrelieder; the figures grouped under 124B are likewise the inverted
accompanying figures of Examples 2A and 2B, which frame the harmony almost
without interruption, up to the end of the work. When the root-position tonic

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 101

enters at last (m. 930), there follows, after several transitional measures, a pas-
sage for “half chorus” over a dominant pedal [Example 125].
The contrapuntal art of this choral passage surpasses even that of the pre-
vious contrapuntal structure. Here [Example 125] it is no longer motives and
themes that are imitated, as in the men’s choruses (Example 116), or formed
into stretti of simple and double counterpoint (Examples 100–102), or that, as in
thematic developments, episodes, and development sections, appear all at once
in the most diverse combinations, augmentations, diminutions, and inversions,
etc., etc. (I refer only to Examples 63–67 of the Orchestral Interlude in Part I.)
Here it is entire melodies that form this ingenious choral movement, melodies—
such as those of the double canon (a above b) and (b above a), worked out in
double counterpoint—of completely polished form. But one should also con-
sider the other voices singly—and the choruses formed from the groups of the
four higher and four lower voices separately—and ultimately the aggregate of the
eight voices; and one should now notice how the same melodies, abandoning
the pedal point, form a new passage (mm. 945–56) intoned by the full chorus,

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102 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

where theme a, in double counterpoint, is sung again canonically but in reverse

order (Tenor I, then Soprano I), with counterpoint added by a quasi-inversion
of theme b in Bass I, Tenor II, and Alto II, and by the successions of thirds
for Soprano II and Alto II (mm. 947–52), which follow the leading melody a
as though in accompaniment (pp, sehr zart). And one should notice how the
gigantic harmonic intensification that is formed by the development of these
voices bursts forth in the homophonic choral passage (C) [in Example 126]
after the third entrance of the melody (a, Example 125), which is again brought
forth in stretto, distributed this time between two voices (Sopranos I, II; Tenors
I, II) over the chromatically ascending basses, and to which newly derived
motives add a counterpoint. Yet even this climax is surpassed by the next one, mm.
Between the two climaxes there is this subsidiary passage of the final chorus
[Example 127] whose theme a (also strictly imitated here) appears again at m. 988
and leads to a repeat (m. 996) of the homophonic chorus passage of Example 126C,
entering in doubled note values because of the constantly accelerating tempo.

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 103

After this wide harmonic excursion, the tonic, C major, arrives by means of
the following cadence [Example 128]. In this cadence the dominant—which
so strongly prepared the entrance of the chorus and whose effectiveness is
thus already consumed—is avoided, and the C major, which is perhaps not
so strongly expressed by the progression of Neapolitan sixth (𝄌) to tonic, is
strengthened by the thematic events that follow [Example 129], delineating
the tonic.
It is these countless entrances of the inversion arising from the first theme (Example
1) stated by all choral voices (a1) and (in halved note values) by the orchestra (a2),
which generate anew—together with the accompanying figures (b) from Example 2
(inversion) played by the flutes, harps, and celesta, at last also by the trumpets—the

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104 Pro Mundo—Pro Domo

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The Sch oenberg G uid e s 105

major tonic triad with suspended sixth (𝄌) in each measure and part of a measure after
Example 129. This chord, up to the final resolution of the sixth at the end, is con-
stantly heard,36 from the piano of the first entrance of that theme up to the highest
fortissimo. It is the chord (transposed from E♭ to C) of the beginning of the Gurrelieder.
Deep is the meaning and
widely known:
The great significance of the past is
that it can carry into the future
The name of him
Who recovered it
From the darkness
And brought it to light.
(from an introductory poem in the first edition of Jacobsen’s Gurrelieder)37

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Arnold Schoenberg, Chamber Symphony, Op. 9: 
Thematic Analysis
This thematic analysis is primarily intended for the use of the concertgoer. Apart
from several short references to formal, thematic, harmonic, and orchestrational
subtleties that are especially characteristic, it is confined to an analysis of symphonic
construction only in the broad outlines and to citing the most important themes.
To facilitate orientation, both the text of the analysis and the appended Table
of Themes keep to a clearly displayed arrangement, corresponding to the divisions
and subdivisions of the Symphony; further, the example numbers in the Table of
Themes that are mentioned in the text are also printed in the outer margin of the
text, in boldface type at their first appearance and in italics at later appearances.
The names of individual themes and figures used in the text, such as ausdrucksvoll
melody, schwungvoll theme, energisch figure, etc., are not intended as descriptions of their
character, expression, or emotive content—such things, by the way, are entirely avoided
in the present discussion as a matter of principle—but are used instead merely as desig-
nations for easier orientation. As a rule, they are derived from the performance markings
or character designations used at the first appearances of such themes in the score.
The Chamber Symphony, composed in 1906, received its name from the fifteen
solo instruments, which are consistently used as in chamber music and consist of
the following:

Flute (also Piccolo)

English horn
Clarinet in D (also Clarinet in E♭)
Clarinet in A (also Clarinet in B♭)
Bass clarinet in A (also Bass clarinet in B♭)
2 Horns in F
String quintet (2 violins, viola, cello, and bass)

Like all previous symphonic and chamber works by Schoenberg (the string sextet
Verklärte Nacht, the symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande, and the D minor String

Alban Berg, Arnold Schönberg Kammersymphonie Op.  9:  Thematische Analyse (Vienna and
Leipzig:  Universal-Edition, n.d. [1918]). Adapted from the translation by Mark DeVoto, Journal of
the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 16 (1993): 237–67, with reference also to the Critical Edition: Alban
Berg, Sämtliche Werke, part 3, vol. 1 (Musikalische Schriften und Dichtungen), ed. Rudolf Stephan and
Regina Busch (Vienna: Alban Berg Stiftung in Universal Edition, 1994).


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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 107

Quartet), the Chamber Symphony is in one movement, but it clearly shows a sec-
tional organization within the movement, one that corresponds, in form and order-
ing of the individual parts, to the normal construction of a symphony in several
movements, namely:  first movement, scherzo, slow movement (Adagio), and finale.
Apart from the immediately obvious difference between one movement and sev-
eral, the only essential difference is that a long development is inserted between the
scherzo and the slow movement (quasi Adagio) of the Chamber Symphony, and
that the last part (quasi finale) contains no new thematic material, but instead—as
will be shown in the discussion of this part—uses only components of the preced-
ing sections of the Symphony in a kind of recapitulation followed by a coda.
For just the same reason it also seems possible to reduce the form of this
Symphony to that of a great, broadly expanded first movement in sonata form,
whereby one considers the scherzo simply as an insertion between the exposition
and the development, and the slow section as an insertion between the develop-
ment and recapitulation.
It does not matter which of these two interpretations is the more accurate; in any
case, since the last part as well as the long development in the middle of the work,
and moreover the developmental parts of each separate section, constantly refer back
to all the preceding thematic components—varying these melodically, harmonically,
and contrapuntally without interruption—the homogeneous form of an articulated
but indivisible whole is no less fully achieved for being a concatenation (produced dif-
ferently each time but always in the most compelling manner) of the individual parts,
which are naturally brought together into a unified, harmonious relationship in one
large movement.

Part I of the Symphony

Main Section [mm. 1–67]
The first four examples in the Table of Themes are components that appear at
almost all of the structurally decisive places in the Chamber Symphony. These com-
ponents, which introduce the main section, are:

the “fourth chord,”* [which returns] at the end of the long development [mm. 1
372–77] and the Sehr langsam part of the Symphony [mm. 413–14], though
stated differently each time (cf. Examples 20 and 22);

*“Fashioned out of a stormy, upward-surging horn theme [Ex.  2], the fourth chords are spread
architectonically over the whole work and leave their mark on everything that occurs. Thus they appear
not just as something more than melody, nor as purely impressionistic chord effects; rather, their indi-
viduality penetrates the whole harmonic construction—they are chords just like all others.” Arnold
Schoenberg, Harmonielehre (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1911), 450–51; trans. Roy E. Carter as Theory
of Harmony, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978), 403–4; translation here
adapted from the English edition.

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108 pro mundo—pro domo

2 the “fourths theme” (ascending, and in inversion descending) in the same places
[mm. 371–73, 410–11] and also at the end of the scherzo [mm. 278–79] and
development [mm. 366–67] and finally before the beginning of (and also
within) the very last, concluding coda of the whole work [mm. 573–75];
3 the “cadencing theme” (always when there is a strong cadence, especially in E
major, the main key of the Chamber Symphony, as in this case);
4 the “main theme,” which enters when E major finally arrives [m. 10] ; it is built
on whole-tone harmony, which is as fully characteristic of the harmony of this
Chamber Symphony as the harmony based on fourths.

5 This main theme has its continuation in Example 5, and, after a short “up and down”
made from imitative entrances in each measure of theme 5 and its inversion [mm.
6(+4a) 22–31], in the entrance of Example 6. (The augmented triplet motive, imitating the
upbeat of this theme [4], is in the basses [mm. 32–36]).38
The somewhat more extensively laid out development of theme 6—in
(6a) which its component 6a is especially involved—leads in a strong crescendo
7 to Example  7, the last theme of the main section, which, after an intensifica-
4 tion of the main theme [mm. 58–61] (analogous to its first entrance following
3(+4a+5a), 5 the cadencing theme) and a continuation (5)  proceeding from its high point
[m. 62], leads to the end of this section.

Transition [mm. 68–83]
8 The transition contains, first of all, the schwungvoll theme,39 Example  8, then the
9 energisch figure for strings, Example 9, and etwas langsamer, the sehr zart melody for
10 oboe, Example 10. This last melody breaks off on a B♭ minor chord [m. 82], after
(+9) a short intensification energetically driven by the addition of the string figure just

11 Subsidiary Section [mm. 84–112]

The B♭ minor chord functions here as a cadential chord for A major, the key of the
subsidiary section. The chord relates to A major somewhat as a Neapolitan sixth.
That relationship should be noted because at the analogous place in the recapitula-
tion in E major (page 114 of this analysis), a mechanical repetition is avoided in the
following way: the corresponding cadential chord for E major would be F minor,
but there the transition is changed so that the sudden rupture occurs on an E♭ minor
chord [m. 446].
For the development of this subsidiary section, the motive consisting of the
11c last five notes of its theme is important; so too are the counterpoint (formed from
11 (+6a) Example  6a) to the canonic entrances of this sehr gesanglich subsidiary theme

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 109

and, finally, at its high point, the augmentation 11b+c, strengthened by the triplet 11b+c(+4a)
motive (Example  4a) in quarter notes [mm. 106–12] in the basses and second
violin (pizz.).

Closing Section [mm. 113–59]

The A  major tonality (subdominant of E major) that is reached at the climax is
firmly retained in the following closing section. In addition to revealing how earlier
themes function by becoming constantly shorter and forming passages for the clos-
ing section, this section clearly contains:

the three-measure Example 12, played three times in triple counterpoint (the last 12 (11a+9)
time lengthened to four measures with the addition of a horn part taken from
4a and 6a); +(4a+6a)
the two-measure Example 13, repeated only once and in double counterpoint; 13 (+11a)
and finally Example 14 with its one-measure or half-measure closing section ideas 14
from Reh. 31 to 32.

Example  14 in its last two measures shown in the Table of Themes also
alludes simultaneously to the entrance of the main key, E major, and the liter-
ally stated main theme [mm. 133–41], both again announced by the cadencing 4
theme—thus apparently beginning the classical repeat of the exposition. But 3
an etwas ruhiger oboe part [mm. 142–48], varying the second half of this main
theme and harmonically deviating from it, leads into a noch ruhiger transitional 4b, c
passage, Example 15. This passage, steigernd und beschleunigend, adds in wood- 15
wind leaps that become steadily larger [mm. 151–56] and characteristic of what
is to come (see, among others, the leaps of a ninth in Example 16) and a para-
phrase of the main theme in the basses fff [mm. 156–59] before finally leading 4c, b
to Part II.

Part II (Scherzo)
First Scherzo Theme [mm. 160–99] 16(+15a)

The accompanying figure in the first scherzo theme, formed from the dotted motive
of the previously mentioned transition passage, is just as important for the thematic
development of the scherzo (so similar to the continuation which derives from it,
Example 17) as is the dotted 2/4 rhythm of the ninth leaps of the basses [mm. 175– 17
78], which also predominate despite the unequal measure.
By means of a steigernd und beschleunigend passage consisting of imitative entrances
in the basses and thematic component 16b [mm. 184–89], imitative entrances of 16b
its inversion in the woodwinds in thirds, and the 2/4 rhythm just mentioned in

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110 pro mundo—pro domo

the first violin [mm. 185–90] (see also the characteristic leaps [mm. 190–95] and
(2) the ascending and descending fourths [mm. 197–98]), one arrives, subito pp, at the
entrance of the second scherzo theme.

18 Second Scherzo Theme [mm. 200–248]

The theme on one hand keeps to the 2/4 rhythm, and on the other hand quotes the
15a+b transition theme 15a+b. Corresponding to the C minor chord (pizz. fff) that unex-
pectedly follows the A ♭ minor tonic at the end of the antecedent phrase [m. 203],
there is a pizzicato chord on the dominant of C minor (G) following the cadence of
the consequent phrase on the dominant, E♭ minor [m. 207].
16b, (a), d Components of the first scherzo theme are again added during the course of
18+ further development, first in interruptions [mm. 218–23], later in entrances that
come closer together [mm. 226–32]. In a stormy intensification together with the
19 shrilly prominent clarinet figure, Example 19 [mm. 236–40], likewise in dotted 2/4
rhythm, these components lead to a sehr heftig reentrance of the beginning of the
scherzo [m. 249].
The five measures that begin this transitionlike repeat include the second scherzo
16d, b+18 theme (Example 18) simultaneously with the first [mm. 249–53], and in addition
+16a imitative entrances of the accompanying figure 16a that spans thirds. It is repeated in a
contrapuntal paraphrase [mm. 253–57] and leads with a kind of fugato (simultaneous
16c+18a stretto of the ninths motive with its inversion and the thematic fragment 18a and
16a+16b also the accompanying figure 16a [mm. 258–73]); at the climax [m. 274], 16b is also
(1+2) quoted piecemeal. In a four-part fourth chord the descending-fourths theme is heard
in the horns [mm. 278–79], up to the beginning of Part III.

Part III (Development)

The beginning key of this section, F minor, which was reached both by the con-
2+ cluding tone of the descending-fourths theme [horn, m. 280] and by the sehr aus-
2+6+ drucksvoll upbeat of the theme of Example 6, is delayed a measure in the woodwind
+3 harmony and then finally established by the cadencing theme [mm. 281–84].
(The woodwind harmony here once more contains the first three notes of the first
+16d+ scherzo theme (Ex. 16d), thus accounting for the simultaneous F minor and E♭
minor chords at this place [mm. 280–81].)

First Developmental Passage [mm. 280–311]

The first developmental passage, introduced in this way, begins with imitative
11 entrances of the subsidiary theme* [mm. 284–89] both in the original form and

*The numbers of the most important themes of the individual developmental passages are under-
scored [in the margins].

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 111

inversion, but this idea is interrupted by a short episode [m. 290–97] (formed
from the energisch transition figure of Part I  of the Symphony, Example  9, and
the triplet motive 4a). Another entrance in this first developmental passage [mm. (9+4a)
295–97] follows (Example 2+6+16d+3) that is analogous to the first one but with (2+6+16d+3+)
its themes condensed from four measures to one. Into the repeat of this theme
(11) in F♯ minor [from m. 298]), a “piercing oboe figure,” proceeding from the 11
triplet motive 4a and its inversion [mm. 303–7], is added in the course of further (+4a)
development. The episode ends in an admittedly short but rapidly intensifying
combination of the cadencing theme with the energisch figure [mm. 308–11], the (3+9+2)
descending-fourths motive, and even that new piercing figure formed from 4a, (+4a)
finally breaking off in ff.

Second Developmental Passage [mm. 312–34]

The second developmental passage is supplied primarily by the transition theme,
Example 8, which is first stated in the homophonic form of its first appearance in 8
Part I of the Symphony, but then forms three canons in triple counterpoint [mm.
319–23, 325–29, and 330–34], two of which are accompanied by yet a fourth
voice, deriving from the above-mentioned piercing oboe figure. Like the preced- (4a)
ing one, this developmental passage formed thus also breaks off suddenly in ff
[m. 334].

Third (and Last) Developmental Passage [mm. 335–77]

This is a working out primarily of the main theme (Example 4) and its whole-tone 4
harmony in a long, extended buildup. Its pp entrance in the cello is joined first by
a stretto in double counterpoint of a theme beginning with the scherzo compo-
nent 16b (the first time spiccato, the second col legno). This canonlike entrance +16b
is followed—led always by the main theme (4)—by an enormous number
of imitative entrances of themes 8 and 3 [mm. 336–50]. In the course of the +8+3
intensification developing out of this passage [mm. 354–63] comes the fourths 2
theme,* likewise entering repeatedly both ascending and descending, thereby
overcoming more and more the whole-tone harmony of this great crescendo,

*One statement of these descending themes’ arpeggiating of the fourth chord is continued
melodically in subsequent themes with the same rhythm, likewise descending [mm. 356–60].
Considered harmonically, this produces a notable connection of the six-part fourth chord with
the six-part whole-tone chord and vice versa, to which Schoenberg refers in his Harmonielehre [Ex.
337b]. Specifically, there arises from the [descending] fourth chord G♭–D♭–A ♭–E♭–B♭–F, by chro-
matic lowering of three tones (D♭ to C, E♭ to D, and F to E), a whole-tone chord—G♭–C–A♭–D–
B♭–E—and from this, by lowering the remaining tones (G♭ to F, A♭ to G, and B♭ to A), again a fourth
chord, F–C–G–D–A–E.

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112 pro mundo—pro domo

finally vanquishing it completely [from 361] in the quartal harmony of the cli-

max with the highest fff.
It is interesting that when one considers the order of the most important
themes for the separate passages in the development (Examples 11, 8, 4, and 2),
a succession appears:  subsidiary section, transition, main section (main theme
and fourths theme). This is the exact reverse of the succession brought out in the
“first movement sonata form” of Part I of the Symphony. The fff climax of fourth
chords settles on a sustained fourth chord [mm. 364–67] to which is added, by
15a+ way of transition, the dotted motive from the transitional passage to the scherzo,
and also (like a straggler from one of the development themes) the variant of the
4a 4a fragment of the “piercing oboe.” After this the other fourth chords break up
into fragments (pp bass and cello harmonics,* muted strings col legno, clarinet
arpeggios) [mm. 368–73]. And finally, to conclude this whole section, the intro-
1 ductory fourth chord of the Symphony appears, with its resolution to F major [m.
374–75; cf. mm. 1–4].
20 A second resolution of this chord (Example 20) [mm. 376–77] leads to G major,
the key of Part IV.

Part IV (Langsam, quasi Adagio)

21 First Main Theme Group [mm. 378–414]
The sehr ausdrucksvoll melody of the first violin is continued by entrances every
21c half-measure of motive 21c from the first main theme group [mm. 385–90].
21b This leads to the repeat of the melody by the cello (21b) [mm. 390–93], with
21c, 21a an intensification (21c) climaxing in theme 21a played by the whole ensemble
[mm. 398–400]. After receding a bit and after the brief new “going up” figures in
the strings [mm. 401–3] and the third entrance of the shortened ausdrucksvoll
21b melody (21b) in the horn and oboe [mm. 404–6], the theme group has come
1 full circle—indeed, to the fourth chord of the beginning [mm. 410–12]. Here
it again moves to the first resolution on F, then to a new, third resolution on B
22 (Example 22) leading harmonically to the second main theme of the slow move-
ment of the Symphony.

23 Second Main Theme [mm. 415–34]

This theme has more the character of a transition to the last part (finale) of the
Symphony, both in its tempo and key as well as in its structure and developmentlike
working out, with frequent imitative entrances of the theme and the formation of

*The bass’s tuning in fourths allows for a particularly appropriate use of natural bass harmonics.

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 113

short contrapuntal passages from its characteristic components. These components

also appear immediately in diminuted form [mm. 419–34], and, toward the end—
first by open then by stopped horns [mm. 430–34]—they are played in an aug-
mented form related to the ausdrucksvoll beginning of the melody of Example 21b. (21b)
The transition section with this makeup—so different from the thematically and
harmonically fully separate first half of the slow part of the Symphony (Examples 1,
20, 21, 1, 22)—slips almost imperceptibly into the beginning of Part V, the last part
of the Symphony.

Part V (quasi finale)

Recapitulation [mm. 435–96]
As will be seen, the construction of the first section of this free recapitulation of Part
I of the Symphony begins with the transition of Part I (Examples 8 and 9, with a
suggestion of 10) in a somewhat compressed form and a completely different (and 8, 9 (+10b)
especially noteworthy) instrumentation.* Within it some components of the slow
part of the Symphony, Examples 23 and 21b, are still heard. The harmonic connec- (+23+21b)
tion of this suddenly broken-off group of ideas with the subsidiary theme of Part
I of the Symphony [mm. 82–112] was already pointed out in the discussion of the
analogous passages in that part (page 108 of this analysis).
In what follows, the rest of the thematic material is repeated with significant vari-
ations, partly shortened, partly extended, always differently orchestrated and shuf-
fled in order. The subsidiary theme [theme 11] has the same canonic entrances and 11(+6a)
counterpointed motive 6a as its repeat in Part I of the Symphony [mm. 96–99], but
instead of moving to the closing section it leads across a repeat of equally familiar
developmental measures (11b+4a in augmentation [mm. 463–71]) into the main 11b(+4a)
section, which, in keeping with its new position, is expanded as a closing section, 2-5
not as before as an exposition.
Since the parts of the finale broadly described have the character of a recapitula-
tion because of the appearance of all important themes of Part I of the Symphony
(in the order 8, 9, a suggestion of 10, 11, 6a, 2, 3, 4, and 5), it is reasonable to inter-
pret what follows and concludes the work, after the main key of E major has been
reached, as a large coda.

*As, for example, in the first two measures of the schwungvoll theme 8, where the melody is played 8
by the violins (p) in octaves and the supporting bass by cello (slurred) and an octave lower by bass
(pizz.), also p. Between them (not including the oboe, which accompanies the violins as if by a subsid-
iary pp voice) is a middle part in the bass clarinet doubled by the bassoon an octave higher, in very soft
eighths, in a new counterpoint formed from the aforementioned theme 23. (+23)

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114 pro mundo—pro domo

Coda [mm. 497–593]

In this coda the themes of Part I that were missing in the recapitulation or were
only hinted at and fragmentarily brought back are now added. Additionally, an
4a-b abbreviated main theme enters in E major (Example 4), with various p state-
5 ments of the Example 5 theme and its inversion, at first over an E in the basses,
which creates a brief resting point in the uninterrupted movement of this last
part of the Symphony. From the other parts of the Symphony only the Adagio
theme formed from the first main theme group (Example  21) appears [mm.
Decorated with moving figures in the woodwinds and strings, this Adagio
21b theme also undergoes variation:

(10) by the insertion of the theme of Example  10 [mm. 516–19], which in

the recapitulation had appeared only in its developed form (10b) in
place of 21c;
21b(+9) by the addition of the energisch figure (Example  9) to the repeat of 21b
[mm. 517–24];
finally, by a greater intensification developing out of theme 21 [mm. 524–34],
21a which, as at its climax (21a [m.  535]), is significantly enriched by
imitative parts.

Next, the entrances of the themes that were missing in the recapitulation
6, 7 begin: Example 6 (subito p [mm. 540–43]) and Example 7 (ff) after being rhyth-
mically prepared and “crescendoed” [mm. 548–54]. It is followed in significantly
expanded and intensified form by the closing-section passages of Part I, Examples 13
13(+11), 14 (+11) and Example 14 [mm. 555–61, 562–69]. Thus the total thematic material of
Part I of the Symphony appears in the finale.
1 These closing-section passages reach their climax on a fourth chord
[mm. 573–75]. Horn I, clarinets, and violin II (pizz.) play the descending fourths
2 theme, whereupon the final coda—forming a last coda within the [larger] coda sec-
tion discussed here—enters in an E major that is now firm and conclusive. Sharply
rhythmic passages, mostly two measures long and formed from the main theme and
4+2 the fourths themes, lead in sehr rasch tempo to the final chords of the Symphony
[mm. 588–94]. Played by the strings in quadruple stops together with the triplet
4a motive of the woodwinds (inversion of 4a) in the strongest ff, these are in turn
3 overpowered by the entrance of the cadencing theme in the horns, here again, and
for the last time, making use of its cadential character for the decisive end of the

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 115

Table of Themes for the Chamber Symphony by

Arnold Schoenberg
Part I of the Symphony

Themes of the Main Section (2–7)

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116 pro mundo—pro domo

Themes of the Transition (8–10)

Subsidiary Section

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 117

Themes of the Concluding Section (12–14)

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118 pro mundo—pro domo

Part II (Scherzo)
First Scherzo Theme

Second Scherzo Theme

Part III (Development)

This begins at Reh. 60 with the theme in Ex. 6, following the first appearance
of the descending-fourths theme (an inversion of Ex. 2 [mm. 278–79]). Three
developmental parts follow, at Reh. 61, 67, and 71.

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 119

Part IV (Langsam, Quasi Adagio)

First Main Theme Group

Second Main Theme

Part V (the last part, quasi finale)

This contains the recapitulation, which begins at Reh. 90 with the theme in Ex. 8
(schwungvoll), and the coda, which enters at Reh. 100 with themes 4 and 5.

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120 pro mundo—pro domo

Pelleas and Melisande (after the drama by Maurice

Maeterlinck). Symphonic Poem for Orchestra by Arnold
Schoenberg, Op. 5: Thematic Analysis
This symphonic poem dates from the years 1902–3, that is, one or two years after the
sextet Verklärte Nacht and the Gurrelieder, two or three years before the First String
Quartet, op. 7; the Orchestra Songs, op. 8; and the Chamber Symphony, op. 9. Like
all of Schoenberg’s chamber music and symphonic works from this period, it is in
a single movement. It also has its key, D minor, in common with the First String
Quartet and the Sextet. Finally, like the Sextet, it is based on a literary work. There it
was a poem by Richard Dehmel from “Weib und Welt”:

. . . Da ließ ich schaudernd mein Geschlecht

Von einem fremden Mann umfangen, . . .
. . . There, shuddering, I  let my womanhood
be encompassed by a stranger, . . .

Here it is a drama by Maeterlinck.

Schoenberg’s music—supported by the idea and the inner happenings of this
drama—renders the outer plot only in very broad gestures. It is never purely
descriptive;* the symphonic form of absolute music is always maintained. In fact, in
the four main parts of this symphonic poem the four movements of a symphony are
clearly demonstrable. These are, first, a large sonata movement; second, a three-part
movement consisting of three short episodes (suggesting a scherzolike character in
at least one scene); third, a broadly spun out Adagio; and finally, a Finale in the form
of a reprise. How such a purely musical form nevertheless agrees with Maeterlinck’s
drama, and how a few scenes of the play also achieve representation within these
movements, are shown in the following analysis.

Alban Berg, autograph manuscript headed “Pelleas und Melisande . . . von Arnold
Schönberg. . . . Thematische Analyse,” Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, F.21.Berg.98/ii. Adapted
from the translation by Mark DeVoto, Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 16 (1993): 270–92, with
addenda by Bryan R. Simms and reference to the Critical Edition: Alban Berg, Sämtliche Werke, part 3,
vol. 1 (Musikalische Schriften und Dichtungen), ed. Rudolf Stephan and Regina Busch (Vienna: Alban
Berg Stiftung in Universal Edition, 1994). Translations from Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pélléas et Mélisande
by Richard Hovey.
*In the thematic analysis, when individual themes and motives have been designated with a
name—like “Fate motive,” “Melisande’s Awakening to Love,” “Golaud’s Suspicion and Jealousy,” etc.—
this has been done solely for the sake of quicker grasp and easier orientation. One certainly ought
not to conclude that the literary content alone is actually decisive for the appearance of a theme so
designated. Moreover, the appellation selected here is usually only approximate, and in any case never
exhausts the actual content of feeling.

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 121

Piccolo (Picc*) Contrabassoon (CBsn)
3 Flutes (Fl) 8 Horns (Hn, Hns)
(Flute III doubles Piccolo II) 4 Trumpets (Tpt)
3 Oboes (Ob) 1 Alto trombone (Trb)
(Oboe III doubles English 4 Tenor-Bass trombones (Trb)
horn II) 1 Tuba (Tba)
English horn (EH) Timpani, 2 pairs (Timp)
E♭ Clarinet (E♭ Clar) Triangle
3 Clarinets in A and B♭ (Clar) Cymbals
(Clarinet III doubles Bass Bass Drum (BDr)
clarinet II) Large Snare Drum
Bass clarinet (B Clar) Tamtam
3 Bassoons (Bsn) Glockenspiel
2 Harps (Hp)
16 Violins I, 16 Violins II (Vln, Vlns), 12 Violas (Vla), 12 Cellos, 8 Basses

Duration: about three-quarters of an hour.

*The abbreviations enclosed in parentheses correspond to instrument labels used
in the examples in the analysis. Additional abbreviations in the musical examples:
S—solo instrument; Str—Strings; w mute—with mute.

Part I
Part I of the symphony corresponds in its form approximately to a sonata-form first

Introduction (In the Forest) [mm. 1–43]40

[Golaud:] “I hear weeping . . . Oh, oh! What is there yonder by the water’s
edge? . . . A little girl weeping.”

[Golaud:] “I do not know her age, nor who she is, nor whence she comes. . . . A gold
crown had slipped from her hair and fallen to the bottom of the water. She was
clad, besides, like a princess, though her garments had been torn by briers . . .”

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122 pro mundo—pro domo

Following a short intensification of 12/8 motives coming from Examples 1 and 2,

theme 3 first appears together with these motives, then [m. 20] in three- to five-
voice canonic figures, and finally together with the next theme:

Golaud, who said of himself, “I was made of iron and blood,” and whom his
old grandfather, the King of Allemonde, characterized with these words: “He
is past the age to marry . . .” [and Geneviève:] “He has always been so prudent,
so grave, so firm . . .” He has lost his way on a hunt and finds Melisande by the
spring: (He approaches her and touches her on the shoulder:) “Why weepest
thou?” (Melisande trembles, starts up as though to flee:) “Do not touch me! Or
I will throw myself in the water! . . .”

This example [Example 5] contains Melisande’s theme transformed into a wood-

wind flourish [mm. 42–43]. Later in this analysis—so that it can be shown with at
least one theme—the important variants of [Melisande’s] theme will be indicated.

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 123

For this purpose, compare the following examples: 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20,
(25), 26, 27, 28, 33, 34, (37), 40, 43, 44, and 45.41

Main Section [mm. 44–74]

Golaud brings Melisande into the dark castle of his royal grandfather and
makes her his bride.

Golaud’s theme (Examples 4 and 5), to this point used only as a leitmotif, appears
here in a more symphonic form. When this main section returns in developments
and reprises (cf. Examples 16, 39, 42), it takes on ever differing shapes (in harmoni-
zation and melodic development, architectonic structure, etc.; cf. Examples 16, 39,
and 42),42 but it always maintains the triplet continuation (m. 3 [of Example 6, high-
est line]), which later in the symphony becomes an independent leitmotif acquiring
the meaning of:

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124 pro mundo—pro domo

Golaud: “I had rather have lost all I have than have lost that ring. You do not
know what it is. You do not know whence it came.”

An “intensification” contains various combinations of Golaud’s themes

(Examples 4–7) with Melisande’s—

—and other combinations; and, after a few measures of ritards and diminuendos, it
leads finally to a transition.

Transition [mm. 75–88]

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 125

Following this are Golaud’s theme (Example  4) in the basses [m.  83],
Melisande’s (Example  3) in the solo viola, English horn [m.  84], bassoon
[m. 85], and bass clarinet [m. 86]—these last two over fourth-chord harmonies
(in 1902!).

Subsidiary Section [mm. 89–123]

In the castle Melisande makes the acquaintance of Golaud’s young stepbrother.

After an intensification developing from this theme, once again langsam, the themes
of Melisande and Pelleas, as if in dialogue [m.  113], lead to the entrance of the
theme of the concluding section.

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126 pro mundo—pro domo

Concluding Section [mm. 124–36]

Oboe and bass clarinet state Melisande’s theme in the following form [Example 15],
having the dotted rhythm of Pelleas’s theme (Example 12):

Following a seventh chord on D♭ [mm. 135–36], a short reprise of the main sec-
tion begins.

Reprise of the Main Section [mm. 137–47]

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 127

A few measures later—[in a passage] just as brief as this reprise and similarly hinted
at—begins a developmental transition to Part II.

Developmental Transition to Part II [mm. 148–60]

This introduces the following new form of Melisande’s motive [Example 17], again
only intimated, as well as Pelleas’s theme I and Example 14 (Melisande’s Awakening
to Love)—

—which is not without influence on the “intensifying” sixteenth-note motion in

the violins [Examples 18–20]:

Part II of the Symphony

Scene at the Fountain in the Park [mm. 161–243]

Pelleas: “What are you playing with?”

Melisande: “With the ring he gave me.”

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128 pro mundo—pro domo

This scherzolike section is formed from the motives and themes bracketed in the
previous example (Examples 7 and 13).43 Important for the further development
are Golaud’s theme—distorted in the trombone—

—and the figure from Example 14:

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 129

Its 2/8 rhythm [mm. 187–89, 193–95] (rasch anschwellend und beschleunigend)
depicts the ride of Golaud, who tumbles from his horse at the very moment that the
ring falls into the fountain:

Postlude [mm. 217–43]

A short Postlude that alternates between langsam and heftig presents, in various com-
binations, Melisande’s theme in the flutes [m. 218], Golaud’s in the violins [m. 218],
and the distorted Marriage Bond theme (Example 7) in the English horn [mm. 219–
220]; then there follows a theme characterizing Golaud’s Suspicion and Jealousy—

—and further on, heftig, a combination of [the themes of] Melisande’s Awakening
to Love (Example 14) [m. 225], Pelleas, and Melisande (Examples 12 and 3) [mm.
225–26]; wieder langsam, Golaud’s Suspicion motive (Example 25) simultaneously
with the Fate motive (Example  2) [m.  227]; and finally, again heftig, all of these
themes combined with the first Pelleas theme (Example 12) in the horn, the Fate
motive in the muted trumpet [mm. 230–31], and the theme of the falling Golaud
(Example 24) in the violins [m. 234].
With the diminuendo of this descending theme [m. 235] and its melodic offshoots,
a pause on E is reached [m. 239], from which a harmonically and sonorously inter-
esting chord progression [Example 26] leads to the next scene [Example 27]:

Scene by the Castle Tower [mm. 244–82]

Melisande (at the window combing her unbound hair).
Pelleas (beneath the window):  “Oh! Oh! what is it? . . . Thy hair, thy hair is
falling down to me! . . . All thy locks, Melisande, all thy locks have fallen down the
tower! . . . I hold them in my hands; I hold them in my mouth. . . . Hearest thou my
kisses along thy hair? . . .”

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130 pro mundo—pro domo

When Golaud interrupts this scene, his themes in Example 4, Example 7 (Marriage
Bond), and Example 25 (Suspicion and Jealousy) once again appear, at first nach
und nach beschleunigend [m.  259], then in connection with Melisande’s theme
(shrieking piccolo) [m. 264], sehr rasch, heftig, in 3/4 time—

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 131

—forming an intensification particularly out of the Suspicion motive [m. 265],

which thereby also reaches its climax. A vigorous run in the strings (Pelleas’s
theme I) [m.  280] and the Fate motive (Example  2) [mm. 281–82], com-
bined with the harmonic progression from Example  12 (muted horns), close
this scene:

Scene in the Vaults under the Castle [mm. 283–301]

Golaud: “Do you smell the deathly odor that reigns here? . . . Let us go to the end of
this overhanging rock, and do you lean over a little . . .”
Pelleas: “Yes; there is a smell of death rising about us . . .”
Golaud: “Lean over; have no fear . . . I will hold you . . . Give me . . . no, no, not your
hand . . . It might slip. Your arm, your arm! . . . Do you see the gulf?”
Pelleas: “I stifle here; . . . let us go out . . .”
Golaud (with trembling voice): “Yes, let us go out . . .”

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132 pro mundo—pro domo

In the music of this scene the following themes appear again: the Marriage Bond
theme (Example 7) with the Pelleas theme (Example 12) [m. 287], Melisande with
Golaud, and Melisande’s Awakening to Love (Example 14) [m. 288]:

Three measures later [m. 291], appearing in a transition, are whole-tone chords (in
1902!) (at * in the following example [Example 32])—

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—and finally, a combination of themes running up and down in the strings [m. 294],
which reminds one of Example 10.
This scene also closes with the theme of Golaud’s Suspicion (Example 25) and
the Fate chords (Example  12). See the first four bars of the following example
([Example] 33):

Part III of the Symphony

Developmental Introduction (At the Fountain in the Park) [mm. 302–28]
This part (Ein wenig bewegt) takes up primarily the harmonic progression just
referred to [the Fate chords] in a rhythm that returns in the Fountain motive
([Example] 34) [m. 316]. Also simultaneously in counterpoint [Example 33] the

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134 pro mundo—pro domo

themes from Example 7 (Marriage Bond), 14 (Melisande’s Awakening to Love), 2

(Fate motive), 13 (Pelleas’s theme II), and 3 (Melisande), and later, again with the
aforementioned rhythm, a variant of Pelleas’s theme I in sixteenths in the strings
[m. 312]. The Fountain motive follows and forms the preparation for the Farewell
and Love Scene between Pelleas and Melisande.

Farewell and Love Scene between Pelleas and Melisande

(Quasi Adagio) [mm. 329–460]

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Out of the diverse melodies and motivic components of this Adagio theme,
together with other themes and leitmotifs of the symphony, a large-scale sec-
tion is formed. These themes, in order of their appearance, are as follows:  first,
Melisande’s Awakening to Love (Example 14), only as accompaniment [mm. 355–
63]; then, simultaneously, Melisande’s theme (Example  3) and both of Pelleas’s
themes (Examples 12 and 13) [m. 390]; then the Fountain motive (Example 34)
[m. 391] with Pelleas’s theme I (Example 12); and finally Example 14 once more
(Melisande’s Awakening to Love) together with Pelleas’s theme I  (Example  12)
[mm. 397–400]—all of this, as I said, within the large Adagio section.
Golaud overhears the lovers (his motive 4a, in the basses, with the vigorous pic-
colo shriek of Melisande’s motive (Example 3) [mm. 427–28]).

Melisande: “A-a-h!—He is behind a tree.”

Pelleas: “He comes! He comes! . . . Thy mouth! . . . Thy mouth! . . .”
They kiss desperately.

The Adagio formed from parts of Example 35 continues, creating a gigantic inten-
sification. Then Example  14 (Melisande’s Awakening to Love) in a full orches-
tra unison ff; then at the same time Pelleas’s themes, Melisande’s, and Golaud’s
(Example 4a and the Suspicion [motive]) [mm. 439–41].

Pelleas: “Oh! Oh! All the stars are falling! . . .”

Melisande: “Upon me too! upon me too! . . .”
Pelleas: “Again! Again! . . . Give! give! . . . All! all! all!”
(Golaud rushes upon them, sword in hand, and strikes Pelleas, who falls at the brink
of the fountain. Melisande flees terrified.)

The Fate motive (Example  10) [is sounded] at the highest fff, together with the
Marriage Bond theme (broken off, so to speak) and the dotted rhythm of Golaud’s
theme (Example 4a) [mm. 449–50]; heavy blows [are heard] from the full orches-
tra; the theme of the dying Pelleas (Example 12) [m. 454] appears in the horn, the
Fate motive (Example 2) [m. 457] in the muted trombone, and Melisande’s theme
(Example 3) [m. 458] in the English horn and bass clarinet.

Part IV of the Symphony (the Last)

Together with a few new themes (Examples  36 and 37)  and the scene of
Melisande’s Death Chamber, Example  41, this brings back almost all of the pre-
ceding thematic material. Thus on the one hand Part IV forms a proper Finale for
this four-part symphony, but on the other it can be considered the free reprise in a
single large sonata[form] first movement, a form that could thus be the basis of this
one-movement symphonic poem.

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136 pro mundo—pro domo

Reprise of the Introduction of Part I [mm. 461–504]

Example  1 in C# minor; in addition, Example  3 (Melisande) [mm. 462–63],
Example 12 (Pelleas) [mm. 464–65], Examples 29 and 7 (Golaud’s Suspicion and
Marriage Bond) [mm. 462 and 467], and two new themes that express the domi-
nant mood following the catastrophe—

—are to be understood in the words of the old king over Melisande, “She suffers so
timorously . . . ”
An intensification formed from Example 36 leads to a climax [mm. 493–95] that
joins this theme with the Fate motive (Example 2).44 After a rapid falling off, there
follows a recitative for basses [m. 501], a characteristic example of motivic inter-
weaving of several otherwise independent themes—

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—and then, in the full orchestra, the reprise of the main section of Part I, themati-
cally, harmonically, and formally transformed.

Reprise of the Main Section of Part I [mm. 505–14]

Reprise of the Adagio Theme [mm. 515–40]

The sequence of five-bar phrases is followed, Etwas belebter, by a reprise of the Adagio
theme (Example 35) in sharp eighth-note rhythms [m. 515], here once more in a
different instrumentation, entering into many combinations (Examples 6, 25, 37,
and 12; cf. Example 38) and taking on new forms.

Golaud: “I have wrought thee so much ill, Melisande . . .” Once, in a rage of jealousy,
he seized her by the hair. “On your knees before me!—Ah! ah! your long
hair serves some purpose at last! . . . Right, . . . left!—Left . . . right!—Absalom!

Once again, sehr langsam, the English horn theme, Example 37 [m. 534], appears,
turning into Golaud’s theme (Example 6) and then, unaccompanied, flowing into
Melisande’s theme.

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138 pro mundo—pro domo

Melisande’s Death Chamber [mm. 541–65]

(The room has been invaded, little by little, by the women servants of the castle)

Arkël: “Do not speak too loud—She is going to sleep.”

With the chorale of trumpets and trombones near the end of this section (Reh.
61), which is heard beneath whole-tone harmonies, there sounds the theme of
Melisande’s Awakening to Love in the solo violin (Example 14) [m. 559], and, addi-
tionally, her theme from Example 3 dissolved in a piccolo flourish. Then once again
[m. 562] the first two measures of this Example 41 and, ending plagally, a long hold
on B♭ [B♭–F, m. 565].
(At this moment all the servants fall suddenly on their knees at the back of the

Arkël: “What’s the matter”?

The Physician (approaching the bed and feeling the body): “They are right . . . ”
(A long silence)

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Epilog [mm. 566–646]

This also states the themes of the first three parts of the symphony, thus forming a
continuation of the reprise that was introduced before the Death Chamber scene.
The epilog has a three-part form [divided at mm. 566, 583, and 611]:

1. The theme of the main section [Example  6], now in D minor with basses
descending. This begins after the [hold] on B♭:

It continues differently and intensifies (see the fifth measure of the example above
[Example 42] and the first four measures of the next example [Example 43]).
2. A middle part [mm. 583–], consisting of the following developmental pas-
sages: First, the one beginning at Reh. 64, which follows the [sequential] model
[at m. 579]—

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140 pro mundo—pro domo

—and which brings together several themes from Part I of the symphony.
Second, the one beginning [at m. 588] with [Example 44], which is based
on the scherzo theme [Example 21] of Part II of the symphony:

Finally [at mm. 593], the one coming from the Adagio theme of Part III of
the symphony (Example 35). It is played first by the winds, then by strings,
and—just as with the reprise of the main section (Examples 42 and 47)—is
accompanied by descending basses. In its course this Adagio shows a further
development [Example 45] in which the reprise of the three-part Epilog
(Golaud’s [theme]), which enters four [eight?] measures later [at m. 611], is

3. This somewhat postponed repeat of the first part of the Epilog (Example  43
[42?]) is the final reprise of Golaud’s theme from the main section, but it is

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differently harmonized and thematically developed, with still greater intensifi-

cation [Example 46]:

Arkël: “It is terrible, but it is not [Golaud’s] fault . . .”

The Fate motive, brought in with such interesting harmonic changes, leads
back, after a twofold repetition in the woodwinds, again to Golaud’s theme
[Example 47]:

We have traced the development from a one-measure motive at the beginning

of the symphony (Example  4), to the two-measure theme (Example  5), to its
four-measure form in the main section (Examples 6 and 16); in Example 39 we
see a five-measure developmental [sequential] model. In the epilog this main sec-
tion reappears, beginning with a four-measure unit (Example  42) that becomes
ever shorter, returning to its original motivic shape. The two-measure model
(Example  47) should be especially noted (with its descending basses that are
characteristic of this coda); and, after a repeated entrance of the Fate motive
(Example 10) in the muted brass [m. 639], finally [we hear] the one-measure form
[m. 643] before the final chord:

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142 pro mundo—pro domo

Strictly speaking, this final note, D, is the most extreme outcome of this pro-
cess of thematic dissolution. Ultimately, even the interval of the third in Golaud’s
motive is renounced to return to the smallest component—the tone—and thus to
the source of all music.

Pelleas and Melisande (after the drama by Maurice

Maeterlinck). Symphonic Poem for Orchestra by Arnold
Schoenberg, Op. 5: Brief Thematic Analysis
This symphonic poem dates from the years 1902–3, that is, one or two years
after the sextet Verklärte Nacht and the Gurrelieder, two or three years before
the First String Quartet, op.  7; the Orchestra Songs, op.  8; and the Chamber
Symphony, op. 9. Like all of Schoenberg’s chamber music and symphonic works
from this period, it is in a single movement. It also has its key, D minor, in com-
mon with the First String Quartet and the Sextet. Finally, like the Sextet, it is
based on a literary work. There it was a poem by Richard Dehmel from “Weib
und Welt”:

. . . Da ließ ich schaudernd mein Geschlecht

Von einem fremden Mann umfangen, . . .
. . . There, shuddering, I  let my womanhood
be encompassed by a stranger, . . .

Alban Berg, Pelleas und Melisande . . . von Arnold Schönberg Op. 5: Kurze thematische Analyse (Vienna
and Leipzig: Universal-Edition, n.d. [1920]). Adapted from the translation by Mark DeVoto, Journal
of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 16 (1993): 270–92, with reference also to the Critical Edition: Alban
Berg, Sämtliche Werke, part 3, volume 1 (Musikalische Schriften und Dichtungen), ed. Rudolf Stephan
and Regina Busch (Vienna:  Alban Berg Stiftung in Universal Edition, 1994). Translations from
Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pélléas et Mélisande by Richard Hovey.

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Here it is a drama by Maeterlinck.

Schoenberg’s music—supported by the idea and the inner happening of this
drama—renders the outer plot only in very broad gestures. It is never purely
descriptive;* the symphonic form of absolute music is always maintained. In fact, in
the four main parts of this symphonic poem the four movements of a symphony are
clearly demonstrable. These are, first, a large sonata movement; second, a three-part
movement consisting of three short episodes (suggesting a scherzolike character in
at least one scene); third, a broadly spun out Adagio; and finally, a finale in the form
of a reprise. How such a purely musical form nevertheless agrees with Maeterlinck’s
drama, and how a few scenes of the play also achieve representation within these
movements, are shown in the following analysis.

Piccolo (Picc*) Contrabassoon (CBsn)
3 Flutes (Fl) 8 Horns (Hn, Hns)
(Flute III doubles Piccolo II) 4 Trumpets (Tpt)
3 Oboes (Ob) 1 Alto trombone (Trb)
(Oboe III doubles English 4 Tenor-Bass trombones (Trb)
horn II) 1 Tuba (Tba)
English horn (EH) Timpani, 2 pairs (Timp)
E♭ Clarinet (E♭ Clar) Triangle
3 Clarinets in A and B♭ (Clar) Cymbals
(Clarinet III doubles Bass Bass Drum (BDr)
clarinet II) Large Snare Drum
Bass clarinet (BClar) Tamtam
3 Bassoons (Bsn) Glockenspiels
2 Harps (Hp)

16 Violins I, 16 Violins II (Vln, Vlns), 12 Violas (Vla), 12 Cellos, 8 Basses

Duration: about three quarters of an hour

*The abbreviations enclosed in parentheses correspond to instrument labels used in
the examples in the analysis. Additional abbreviations in the musical examples: S—
solo instrument; Str—Strings; w mute—with mute.

Thematic Analysis
Part I of the Symphony
This corresponds in its form approximately to a sonata-form first movement.

*In the thematic analysis, when individual themes and motives have been designated with a
name—such as “Fate motive,” “Melisande’s Awakening to Love,” “Golaud’s Suspicion and Jealousy,”
etc.—this has been done solely for the sake of quicker grasp and easier orientation. One certainly ought
not to conclude that the literary content alone is actually decisive for the appearance of a theme so
designated. Moreover, the appellation selected here is usually no more than approximate, and in any
case never exhausts the actual content of feeling.

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144 pro mundo—pro domo

Introduction (In the Forest) [mm. 1–43]

This is based on the following themes and motives:45

1 Example 1;

[Golaud:] “I hear weeping . . . Oh, oh! What is there yonder by the water’s
edge? . . . A little girl weeping.”
2 and 3 The Fate motive (Example 2) and Melisande’s theme (Example 3), the latter appear-
ing repeatedly in close imitation in the woodwinds;
[Golaud:] “I do not know her age, nor who she is, nor whence she
comes . . . A gold crown had slipped from her hair and fallen to the bottom of
the water. She was clad, besides, like a princess, though her garments had been
torn by briers.”
4 The aging Prince Golaud finds her (Example 4).

Main Section [mm. 44–74]

5 Example 5

Golaud makes Melisande his wife and brings her to the castle of his grandfather,
the King.

In an intensification of this principal theme [Example  5], Melisande’s theme

(Example 3) also reappears.

Transition [mm. 75–88]
6 Example 6
Following this are Golaud’s theme (Example  4) in the basses [m.  83] and
Melisande’s (Example 3) in the solo viola [m. 83], English horn [m. 84], bassoon
[m. 85], and bass clarinet [m. 86]; these last two are over fourth-chord harmonies
(in 1902!).

Subsidiary Section [mm. 89–123]

In the castle Melisande makes the acquaintance of Golaud’s young stepbrother,

7 (Example 7)
After an intensification developing from this theme, the themes of Melisande and
Pelleas appear, once again langsamer, as if in dialogue [mm. 113–16], together with
the entrance of the theme of the concluding section.

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 145

Concluding Section [mm. 124–36]

Example 8. Melisande’s Awakening to Love. 8

Reprise [mm. 137–60]

In the course of a brief reprise of the main section, Example 5 (greatly varied har-
monically, melodically, and instrumentally), there appears the theme of Example 9 9
and, in the manner of a development, other themes already heard: Example 7 (Pelleas’s
first theme) [m. 149], Example 8 (Melisande’s Awakening to Love) [m. 156], and
Example 3 (in sixteenth-note runs, etc. [m. 157]); these lead, in a few measures, to
Part II of the Symphony.

Part II
Scene at the Fountain in the Park [mm. 161–243]
Example 10 10

Pelleas : “What are you playing with?”

Melisande: “With the ring he gave me.”

This scherzolike section is formed from the motives and themes bracketed in
Example  10 ([the Wedding Ring theme from] Example  5 and [Pelleas’s theme
II from] Example 7). For the further development particularly the figure already
known from Example 8a is important [mm. 166, 175, 196–212]. Its 2/8 rhythm
(rasch anschwellend und beschleunigend) depicts the ride of Golaud, who tumbles
from his horse at the very moment that the ring falls into the fountain:46
Example 11. 11
A short Postlude [mm. 217–43] that alternates between langsam and heftig presents,
in various combinations, Melisande’s theme (Example  3) in the flutes [m.  218],
Golaud’s (Example  4) in the violins [m.  218], and the distorted Marriage Bond
theme from Example 5 in the English horn [mm. 219–20].
Then there follows a theme characterizing Golaud’s Suspicion and Jealousy
(Example 12) [m. 223]; further on (heftig), a combination of Melisande’s Awakening 12
to Love (Example 8) [m. 225], Melisande (Example 3), and Pelleas (Example 7)
[mm. 225–26]; wieder langsam, Golaud’s Suspicion motive simultaneously with the
Fate motive (Example 2) [m. 227], and finally, again heftig, all of these themes in
combination with the first Pelleas theme (Example  7) in the horn [m.  229], the
Fate motive in the muted trumpet [m. 230], and the theme of the falling Golaud
(Example 11) in the violins [m. 234].

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146 pro mundo—pro domo

Scene at the Castle Tower [mm. 244–82]

13 Example 13

Melisande (at the window, combs her loosened hair and sings).
Pelleas (beneath the window): “Oh! Oh! what is it? . . . Thy hair, thy hair is falling
down to me! . . . All thy locks, Melisande, all thy locks have fallen down the
tower! . . . I hold them in my hands; I hold them in my mouth. . . . Hearest thou
my kisses along thy hair?”

When Golaud interrupts this scene, his themes of Example 4 [m. 259], Example 5
(Marriage Bond) [m. 261], and Example 12 (Suspicion and Jealousy) [m. 262]
once again appear, at first nach und nach beschleunigend, then in connection with
Melisande’s theme (shrieking piccolo) [m.  264], sehr rasch, heftig, in 3/4 time,
forming an intensification particularly out of the Suspicion motive, which thereby
also reaches its high point. A  vigorous run in the strings (Pelleas’s theme I)
[m. 280] and the Fate motive (Example 2, trombone) [mm. 281–82], combined
with the harmonic progression from Example 7 (muted horns), closes this scene.

Scene in the Vaults under the Castle [mm. 283–301]

14 Example 14

Golaud: “Do you smell the deathly odor that reigns here? . . . Let us go to the end of
this overhanging rock, and do you lean over a little . . .”
Pelleas: “Yes; there is a smell of death rising about us . . .”
Golaud: “Lean over; have no fear . . . I will hold you . . . Give me . . . no, no, not your
hand. . . . It might slip. Your arm, your arm! . . . Do you see the gulf?”
Pelleas: “I stifle here; . . . let us go out . . .”
Golaud (with trembling voice): “Yes, let us go out . . .

In the music of this scene the following themes come up again:  the Marriage
Bond theme from Example  5 with Pelleas’s first theme (Example  7) [m.  287];
Melisande (Example 3) with Golaud (Example 4a) and Melisande’s Awakening to
Love (Example 8) [m. 288]; later a whole-tone chord (in 1902!) in flutter-tongued
woodwinds appearing in a transition [mm. 291–93]; and finally, fff, a combination
of themes, reminding one of Example 6 [m. 294]. This scene also closes with the
theme of Golaud’s Suspicion (Example 12, unison strings) [m. 298] and the “Fate
chords” of Example 7 [m. 300].

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 147

Part III of the Symphony

Developmentlike Introduction (At the Fountain in the Park) [mm. 302–28]
This part (Ein wenig bewegt, 3/4) takes up above all the harmonic progression just
referred to, specifically, in the horns and harps (in the a rhythm) of the next example
(Example 15). In addition there appear, in simultaneous counterpoint, the themes
from Examples 5 (Marriage Bond), 8 (Melisande’s Awakening to Love), 2 (Fate),
7 (Pelleas II), and 3 (Melisande). Later, a variant in sixteenths of Pelleas’s theme
I is played by the strings [m. 312], then the Fountain motive, Example 15 [m. 316]; 15
added to this are runs in the woodwinds (Examples 3 and 8), flute tremolos, string
trills [m. 324], harp arpeggios, etc.
This forms the preparation for the Quasi-Adagio, which now follows.

Farewell and Love Scene between Pelleas and Melisande

(Quasi-Adagio) [mm. 329–460]
Example 16 16
Out of the diverse melodies and motivic components of this Adagio theme,
together with other themes and leitmotifs of the symphony, a large-scale section is
formed. These themes, in order of their appearance, are as follows: first, Melisande’s
Awakening to Love (Example  8), only as accompaniment [mm. 355–83]; then
simultaneously Melisande’s theme (Example  3) and both of Pelleas’s themes
(Example  7) [m.  390]; then the Fountain motive (Example  15) [m.  391] with
Pelleas’s theme I; finally Example 8 once more (Melisande’s Awakening to Love)
together with Pelleas’s theme I (Example 7) [mm. 397–400]—all of this, as I said,
within the Adagio [i.e., langsam] section. Golaud overhears the lovers (his motive 4a,
in the basses, with the vigorous piccolo shriek of Melisande’s motive [Example 3]
[mm. 427–28].)

Melisande: “A-a-h!—He is behind a tree”

Pelleas: “He comes! he comes! . . . Thy mouth! . . . mouth! . . .”
They kiss desperately.

The Adagio formed from parts of Example 16 goes further: Example 8 in unison

[mm. 438–39], then simultaneously the themes of Pelleas, Melisande, and Golaud
(Example 4a and Suspicion, Example 12, combined [mm. 439–41]).

Pelleas: “Oh! Oh! All the stars are falling! . . .”

Melisande: “Upon me too! upon me too! . . .”
Pelleas: “Again! Again! . . . Give! give! . . . All! all! all!”
(Golaud rushes upon them, sword in hand, and strikes Pelleas , who falls at the brink
of the fountain. Melisande flees terrified.)

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148 pro mundo—pro domo

The Fate motive (Example 6) [is heard] together with the Marriage Bond theme
(broken off, so to speak) and the dotted rhythm of Golaud’s theme (Example 4a)
[mm. 449–50]; [there are] heavy blows from the full orchestra; the theme of the
dying Pelleas (Example 7 [Pelleas’s first theme]) [m. 454] appears in the horn, the
Fate motive [m. 457] in the muted trombone, and Melisande’s theme (Example 3)
[m. 458] in the English horn and bass clarinet.

Part IV of the Symphony (the Last)

Apart from a few new themes (Examples 17 and 18 and the scene in Melisande’s
Death Chamber, Example 20), this brings back almost all of the preceding thematic
material. Thus on the one hand Part IV forms a proper Finale for this four-part sym-
phony; but on the other hand it can be considered as the free reprise in a single
large sonata-form first movement, a form which could thus be the basis of this
one-movement symphonic poem.

Reprise of the Introduction of Part I [mm. 461–504]

Example 1 in C# minor [m. 460]; in addition, Example 3 (Melisande) [mm. 462–
63], Example 7a (Pelleas) [mm. 464–65], Examples 12 and 5 (Golaud’s Suspicion,
17 and 18 Marriage Bond), and the two new themes: Examples 17 [m. 463] and 18 [m. 467].
An intensification formed from Example 17 [m. 482] brings this theme together
with the Fate motive (Example 2) at its climax [mm. 493–95]. After a rapid falling
off from this climax, there follow a recitative for cellos and basses from Examples 4a
(Golaud) [mm. 501–3], 12 (Suspicion), 18, and 7a (Pelleas) as well as—played by
the whole orchestra—then the Reprise of the Main Section.

Reprise of the Main Section [mm. 505–14]

This is changed thematically, harmonically, and formally (Example 5, Etwas bewegt),
with a heftig continuation employing Melisande’s theme [m.  509]. In the bass,
Golaud’s Suspicion motive (Example 12) is joined to 18a [m. 505]. Following the
recurrence of this five-bar phrase, Etwas belebter, is a reprise of the Adagio theme.

Reprise of the Adagio Theme [515–40]

Example 16 (in sharp eighth-note rhythms) [m. 515], here once more in a differ-
ent instrumentation, enters into many combinations (Example 5, Example 12 plus
Example 18) and takes on new forms.

Golaud: “I have wrought thee so much ill, Melisande . . . Once, in a rage of jealousy, he
seized her by the hair. “On your knees before me!—Ah! ah! your long hair serves
some purpose at last! . . . Right, . . . left!—Left, . . . right!—Absalom! Absalom.”

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Example 19 19
Once again, sehr langsam, the English horn theme of Example 18 appears [m. 534],
turning into Golaud’s theme (Example 5) and then, unaccompanied, flowing into
Melisande’s theme (Example 3) [m. 537].

Melisande’s Death Chamber [mm. 541–65]

Example 20 20

(The room has been invaded, little by little, by the women servants of the castle)

Arkel: “Do not speak too loud—She is going to sleep.”

With the chorale of trumpets and trombones near the end of this section, which is
built on whole-tone harmonies, there sounds the theme of Melisande’s Awakening
to Love in the solo violin (Example 8) [m. 559], and, additionally, her theme of
Example 3 dissolving in a piccolo flourish. Then, once again, the first two measures
of the theme (Example 20) [m. 562], and finally a long hold on B♭ [m. 565].

(At this moment all the servants fall suddenly on their knees at the back of the

Arkel: “What’s the matter”?

The Physician (approaching the bed and feeling the body): “They are right . . .”
(A long silence)

Epilogue [mm. 566–646]

This also states the themes of the first three parts of the symphony, thus forming a
continuation of the Reprise that was introduced before the Death Chamber scene.
The Epilogue has a three-part form:

1. The broad theme of the main section (Example 5) in D minor, but differently
continued and intensified, and with a descending bass [m. 566].
2. A slow middle part [from m. 583], consisting of the following development-
like passages: Examples 1, 3 (Melisande), and 7 (Pelleas’s first theme); the
beginning of the Scherzo (Example 10), Pelleas ([Example] 7 [first theme]),
and Melisande (Examples 8 [m. 589] and 3 [m. 592]); and the Adagio theme,
played first by the woodwinds [m. 593], then by the strings [m. 597].
3. Repeat of the first part of the Epilogue [m. 611]: last reprise of Golaud’s Main
Section theme (Example 5), once again harmonized and thematically devel-
oped quite differently and with still greater intensification.

Arkel: “It is terrible, but it is not [Golaud’s] fault . . . ”

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150 pro mundo—pro domo

The Fate motive resounds, in the harmonization of Example  6 (but without

a countermelody) first in the woodwinds, then in muted brass [m.  631].
Alternating with it is Golaud’s theme, which—becoming constantly shorter—
regresses to its original motivic form (Example 4a) and, as it relinquishes interval
and rhythm, returns, in the D minor chord at the end of the work, to its smallest
component—to a tone.47

Table of Themes for Pelleas and Melisande by Arnold

Part I of the Symphony

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152 pro mundo—pro domo

Part II of the Symphony

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154 pro mundo—pro domo

Part III of the Symphony

Part IV of the Symphony

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Commentary on the Schoenberg Guides

Between 1913 and 1920 Berg wrote guides, or thematic analyses, to three major
works by his teacher, Arnold Schoenberg. The earliest was on Schoenberg’s mas-
sive cantata Gurrelieder and was written to coincide with its premiere in Vienna

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156 pro mundo—pro domo

on 23 February 1913. It was followed in 1918 by a much more concise study of

Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony, op.  9, and in 1920 by an equally brief analy-
sis of Schoenberg’s Pelleas und Melisande, op. 5. Berg wrote the Guides primarily
because Schoenberg’s publisher, Universal Edition, commissioned him to do so.
On a deeper level, Berg undertook the projects out of his keen interest and skill
in musical analysis, which presented him with an opportunity to demonstrate the
superiority of Schoenberg’s music. This resided, in Berg’s view, in a deep structural
integration and ingenuity that tied Schoenberg’s oeuvre to the great masterpieces of
German music reaching back to J. S. Bach.
Berg’s analyses were written at a time of innovation in German musical the-
ory, as found in writings by Heinrich Schenker, Georg Capellen, Hugo Riemann,
Ernst Kurth, and Hermann Kretzschmar, among others. But Berg evidently had
little interest in such innovative analytic methodologies. His approach to analysis
is derived almost entirely from Schoenberg’s own theories and teaching, which
were highly traditional and indebted to a Viennese tradition of fundamental bass
theory established by Simon Sechter in the early nineteenth century.48 Berg took
other ideas from the standard textbooks on harmony, counterpoint, and form
that he had used in his student days. His purpose in addressing Schoenberg’s
music was not to apply original analytic thinking so much as to dig ever deeper
into this music to show that it was profoundly unified and traditional in struc-
ture, that it rested on established formal archetypes, and that the music itself had
no need for support from psychological, programmatic, or other extramusical

Arnold Schoenberg, Gurrelieder, Guide (1913)

Berg’s Guide to Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder was his earliest important essay, and it was
destined to be the longest of any of his writings. Its history is documented in detail in
the correspondence in 1912 and 1913 that passed between Berg, Schoenberg, and
Universal Edition.49 By November 1912 arrangements for a complete performance
of Gurrelieder by Vienna’s Philharmonic Chorus, conducted by Franz Schreker,
were provisionally in place, and Emil Hertzka, director of Universal Edition,
asked Schoenberg about the writing of a “thematic analysis” or “guide” (Führer)
to coincide with the premiere. Schoenberg recommended Berg, Webern, or Josef
Venantius von Wöss as prospective authors, preferring Berg, who, Schoenberg said,
needed the work.
Guides to the musical and dramatic content of new compositions had by 1913
become common in German concert culture, and they were especially desirable
to have on hand for major performances of large new works. Typically these were
brochures written by music critics at the behest of a music publisher and were
intended to give the general audience background information on a composition,

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 157

the text of a vocal work, and illustrations of important themes. Under Hertzka’s
leadership, Universal Edition was especially involved with such publications.
Shortly before commissioning a Guide to Gurrelieder, Universal Edition had
published Richard Specht’s thematic analysis of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and
a similar study of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde by Wöss. Hertzka had commis-
sioned other Guides for works by Frederick Delius, Franz Schreker, and Anton
Despite his inexperience in 1912 as a writer of musical analysis, Berg was a good
choice to write the Guide to Gurrelieder. He knew the work intimately, having cre-
ated its piano score in the previous year; he was familiar with Schoenberg’s ideas
concerning musical analysis; and he had a special expertise in theoretical studies.
In a letter dated 17 November 1912 he provisionally accepted Hertzka’s invitation,
although when he wrote to Schoenberg on 23 November he expressed contempt
for all such Guides. He was especially bothered by the euphuistic language and
superficiality that he found in Specht’s analysis of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony.50
Such writing, Berg concluded, was “a perfect example of the dreadfulness and irrel-
evance of such analyses.”51
Schoenberg answered Berg on 4 December. He agreed that the typical analyses
were “abominable,” but he urged Berg to accept Hertzka’s offer all the same, and he
recommended that Berg limit his work to “a list of the most important themes, in
the order of the individual sections. . . . So: in a loose aphoristic form! That would
certainly be something new.”52
With this encouragement, Berg committed himself to writing the Gurrelieder
analysis, but he did not follow Schoenberg’s advice on its content. Instead of
limiting himself to a list of themes in a loose aphoristic form, he returned to his
original idea of what an analysis should be: a deep and comprehensive account
of the music in which themes were presented in all of their “developmental,
variational, formal aspects,” with extensive information about harmony, tonal
plan, counterpoint, and orchestration and with absolutely no poetic language
or hermeneutics. The elements of Gurrelieder would be viewed strictly as musi-
cal objects, with no reference outside of their own form and place in an abstract
Time for the creation of such a deep study was limited. Berg began work on the
project only toward the end of December 1912, and his deadline was 5 February
1913. He reported to Schoenberg on 17 January that he was working on the Guide
every day from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. With only a few days remaining before his
deadline, he confessed to Schoenberg that he was out of time and would have to
account for Part III of Gurrelieder in cursory fashion. But he reassured Schoenberg
about the tone of his Guide. “Don’t worry about my writing too effusively, dear
Herr Schoenberg! Completely matter-of-fact, without any flowery adjectives, noth-
ing psychological—[nothing] Spechtian! Perhaps without once using the word

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158 pro mundo—pro domo

‘beautiful’ the beauty of the work and how much I love it will be better expressed
than with all of Specht’s adjectives.”53
To speed his work, Berg made up many of the musical examples by cut-
ting out passages from proofs of the piano score that he still had on hand, over
which he then wrote in as much additional information as could be fitted on the
page. The proofs that he used were uncorrected, and these were the source of
many errors that subsequently found their way into the musical examples in the
1913 Guide.
Remarkably, Berg completed his complex analysis—eighty-four pages in length,
illustrated by some 450 lines of the most intricate musical examples—in the space
of about seven weeks, while during the same period attending Gurrelieder rehearsals
and correcting the many errors in the work’s parts.
On 1 February Berg sent the eighty-seven musical examples for Parts I and II of
the Guide ahead to Universal Edition, and Hertzka finally saw how much longer
Berg’s Guide had become than he had anticipated. He contacted Schoenberg, who
replied on 3 February supporting Berg’s work despite its unwieldy length. “He is
very intelligent and conscientious,” Schoenberg said about Berg, “and I have confi-
dence that he does nothing superfluously.”54
Despite the demands made both by Schoenberg and Hertzka to shorten the
Guide, Berg made no reduction, either in the number of musical examples or in
the text. Hertzka, to his credit, published it in full, with an instrumentation list
and Jens Peter Jacobsen’s complete text added at the beginning. The many musical
examples were engraved in a mere ten days (7–17 February) and with astonish-
ing accuracy in light of their complexity. The errors in the musical examples were
almost entirely in the copy submitted by Berg, and relatively few of them were ever
corrected in proofs, nor in the shorter edition of the Guide that appeared in 1914.
On 22 February, a day before the premier performance, 2000 copies of Berg’s Guide
were delivered to Universal Edition.
Even within Schoenberg’s circle, reaction to Berg’s Guide was muted. Webern
quipped to his friend that it was a “mountain guide” (Bergführer). On 10 March
Schoenberg wrote to Berg about it in the coolest of terms: “Sometimes you over-
state the case a bit. And I’m afraid you often claim something is new when that can
scarcely be proved! But it’s definitely a very interesting piece of work.”55
For a reprise of Gurrelieder scheduled for 27 March 1914 in Vienna, Hertzka
again approached Berg, asking this time for the creation of a shortened version of
the earlier Guide, a list of themes with verbal commentary reduced to a minimum.
After considerable hesitation, Berg agreed to Hertzka’s proposal, and in December
1913 he began to make the “short edition” of his Guide. Most of the front matter
from the earlier edition was carried over into the new version, Berg added a brief
notice concerning Jacobsen’s treatment of the legends of Gurre, and he reduced the
earlier analysis to a reprinting of selected musical examples and a formulaic account-
ing for their other occurrences in the work.

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 159

Berg could never disguise his disdain for the short edition, which was published
in February 1914 under the title Führer (kleine Ausgabe)—“Guide (short edition)”—
with the term “Thementafel” (Table of Themes) used as a subheading. The large
edition was destined to have only a modest sale; its first press run numbered 2000
copies, and it was reprinted once (again with 2000 copies) in 1921. The short edi-
tion had an excellent market, with 34,595 copies printed between 1914 and 1929.56
The method adopted by Berg in his Guide was squarely in the formalistic
approach to musical analysis that he inherited from Schoenberg. Berg was also
intimately familiar with Schoenberg’s theories of harmony. The ideas laid out in
Schoenberg’s Harmonielehre had been used in Berg’s studies, and Berg had also
made the index of Schoenberg’s treatise for its publication in 1911.57 Berg made use
of several of his teacher’s distinctive ideas about late-romantic harmony, such as the
profusion of “vagrant” chords, which allowed for a quickly moving harmony and
tonality, “wavering” (schwebend) tonality by which two keys coexisted, and “short-
ening the path” by which one or more chords in a cadential progression could be
omitted. Berg’s makes no reference to original thinking by contemporary writers
on harmony, such as Heinrich Schenker, although to flesh out his discussion and
terminology Berg seems to have occasionally consulted standard texts on music
fundamentals by Hugo Riemann, Ludwig Bußler, and possibly others.
Berg’s principal objective in the Guide is to isolate the main themes and motives
of the work and to show their varied recurrences and plastic combinations through-
out. With only a few exceptions, he does not label the motives with dramatic or
textual associations—he does not treat them as leitmotifs—although he may have
intended Jacobsen’s text in the musical examples to allow the reader to make such
associations if desired. Although he expressed a pointed criticism for the thematic
analyses of Specht, his Mahler studies still were models for Berg as he approached
Gurrelieder. He attempted to outdo Specht in the thoroughness by which he
accounted for themes and in the addition of information on form, harmony, tonal
plan, orchestration, and counterpoint.
The translation of Berg’s Gurrelieder Guide of 1913 follows the text of the first
edition, with a few corrections of obvious errors and comparison with the Critical
Edition of the texts in BSW III/1. Corrections in Berg’s musical examples have been
made to the extent possible.

Thematic Analysis of Schoenberg’s Chamber

Symphony, Op. 9 (1918)
Berg wrote his Thematic Analysis of Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony, op. 9, on
the occasion of open rehearsals of the work, held in the small auditorium of Vienna’s
Musikverein in June 1918. Organized by Erwin Ratz and the Hugo Heller concert
management, these were intended to give subscribers an opportunity to hear the

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160 pro mundo—pro domo

complex work repeatedly and with thorough preparation. Although correspon-

dence between Berg and Universal Edition is lacking for this period, the publisher
in all likelihood commissioned Berg to write a thematic analysis along the lines of
his brief Guide to the Gurrelieder, to coincide with the open rehearsals. A first print-
ing of 500 copies appeared on 22 May 1918, with much larger additional printings
following in 1919 and 1920.
For Berg, as for others in Schoenberg’s circle, the Chamber Symphony was an
inspiring masterpiece, and Schoenberg himself always stressed its pivotal impor-
tance in his development as a composer. In 1914 Berg made an arrangement of it for
piano four-hands, and in his estimation it was forever among Schoenberg’s greatest
works. Later, as a tribute to Schoenberg, he used its fifteen-part instrumentation
in the central Largo (Act 2, scene 3) of Wozzeck, and he returned to his analysis
in 1933, adding details to it for use in lectures that he was giving on Schoenberg’s
Berg’s objectives in his 1918 analysis of the Chamber Symphony were more
modest than four years earlier with Gurrelieder. In planning that earlier project he
“renounced from the beginning the formal slickness and oversimplification that
usually characterize such guides.” His Chamber Symphony analysis would be far
shorter and address “symphonic construction only in its broad outlines” while “cit-
ing the most important themes.”59 As always in his analyses of Schoenberg’s music,
Berg relied on Schoenberg’s own theories of form. In the Chamber Symphony
(1905–6), Schoenberg continued to refine and regularize the one-movement for-
mal designs that he had used earlier in Verklärte Nacht, Pelleas und Melisande, and
the First String Quartet. In program notes on the Chamber Symphony written in
1949, Schoenberg found a basic similarity in form between it and the First Quartet,
both of which, he wrote, combined the four movement types of the sonata cycle
into a one-movement shape. This formal strategy, he continued, had a distant rela-
tion to the multitempo sectionalism of Verklärte Nacht and Pelleas und Melisande,
although these works, unlike the First Quartet and Chamber Symphony, disre-
garded “the conventional order of the movements.”60 Schoenberg’s analysis of his
Chamber Symphony also shows the succession of a four-movement sonata cycle
(Allegro sonata form–Scherzo–Adagio–Finale) intertwined with the main parts of
a single sonata form:  the fast first movement is expository, a development (Reh.
60) occurs between the Scherzo (Reh. 38) and Adagio (Reh. 77), and a recapitula-
tion (Reh. 90) is inserted between the Adagio and the Finale (Reh. 100).
Schoenberg had no name for the formal conflation that he had used in the First
Quartet and Chamber Symphony, and it is now sometimes called “double-function”
form, a term coined by William Newman to describe Liszt’s Piano Sonata.61 In 1906
there were still no prominent discussions of the formal model in the didactic litera-
ture on form, and Schoenberg did not discuss it in his later Fundamentals of Musical
Composition, although the design may have been addressed in his teaching.62

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 161

Schoenberg first spoke out about his use of double-function form in 1907,
in a brief article in the Berlin journal Die Musik about his First Quartet.63 There
he described the work as having the four movements of a classical quartet, these
blended together “in an attempt to create a single unified, uninterrupted move-
ment.” As with his 1949 analysis of the Chamber Symphony, he shows the four large
parts of the quartet intertwined with sections of a single sonata form.
Berg’s analysis of the form of the Chamber Symphony builds upon Schoenberg’s
ideas, and, appearing in 1918, it is the earliest extended application of the
double-function concept in the analytic literature. A summary of Berg’s large anal-
ysis of the Chamber Symphony is shown in Table  1. His formal interpretation
received Schoenberg’s implicit approval: Schoenberg read the proofs of the Guide
prior to its publication in May 1918, rewrote at least one of Berg’s paragraphs, and
made other minor changes.64 In his analysis Berg says relatively little about har-
mony, except to note the prominence of fourth chords and whole-tone chords, or
about key, which is expressed in the Chamber Symphony in an especially recondite
manner. His main emphasis, as in his analysis of Gurrelieder, is on the recurrences
and motivic interconnections of themes.
The translation in this volume is based on the first edition of Berg’s Thematic
Analysis of 1918. The musical examples there (as here) are placed in a separate
Table of Themes.

Analyses of Schoenberg’s Pelleas und Melisande, Op. 5 (1920)

Following the success of his Thematic Analysis of Schoenberg’s Chamber
Symphony, op.  9, Berg accepted an invitation from Emil Hertzka of Universal
Edition to write a similar introduction to Pelleas und Melisande, a symphonic poem
that Schoenberg had composed in 1902–3. The occasion was an impending per-
formance of Pelleas in Cologne. Within three weeks Berg completed an analysis
that he sent to Universal Edition to be forwarded to Cologne. On 16 February
1920 he wrote to Alfred Kalmus of Universal Edition asking to have the Cologne
manuscript returned so that he could complete a “final version” of it, presumably
longer and more complete than the one he had originally written. Only at the end
of April was Kalmus able to recover this document and return it to Berg, informing
him that it had not been published in Cologne after all; Kalmus again invited Berg
to touch up the manuscript prior to sending it back to Universal Edition for publi-
cation. Berg then hurriedly completed the “final version,” a longer analysis that he
wrote out in a fair copy with forty-eight often complex musical examples pasted in.
He entered the date as 11./5. (11 May) on the reverse side of the title page amid
copious notes to the typesetter.
From this point the history of the Pelleas analyses becomes more uncertain. On
26 May 1920 Universal Edition sent Berg a contract for a brief thematic analysis
(kurze thematische Analyse), of which the first copies appeared on 1 June. But this

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162 pro mundo—pro domo

Table 1 Summary of Berg’s Formal Analysis of Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony

Part Role in Role in sonata form Formal subparts Main key Themes
symphony cycle

I first movement exposition E major

main section, 1–7
mm. 1–67
transition, mm. 8–10
subsidiary section, A major 11
mm. 84–112
closing section, 12–14
mm. 113–59
(transition to Part II, 15
mm. 148–59)
II scherzo (episode)
A section, mm. 16–17
B section, mm. A ♭ major 18–19
(transition to Part III, A + B reprise,
mm. 249–79 mm. 249–79
III development F minor
first section, mm.
second section,
mm. 312–34
third section, mm. F major 20
IV slow (episode) G major
A section, mm. 21–22
B section 23
(transition), mm.


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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 163

Table 1 (Continued)

Part Role in Role in sonata form Formal subparts Main key Themes
symphony cycle
V Finale (fast) recapitulation, mm. 1-14
435–96 reordered
first Coda, mm. 497–575 E major
final Coda, mm. 576–93

was apparently not the “final version” of the Pelleas analysis that Berg had completed
on 11 May, which Hertzka had rejected on account of its length. Berg mentioned
this in a letter to Schoenberg dated 8 March 1933, saying that the “more detailed”
Guide was not published by Universal Edition because it was too long.65 Following
its rejection Berg evidently sent Hertzka a shorter version—in all likelihood iden-
tical to or along the same lines as the Cologne version—and this was the “brief
thematic analysis” that appeared in early June. The brief Guide sold reasonably well
and went through two additional printings in 1921.66
At some later time (probably in the spring of 1933) Berg returned to his analy-
sis of Pelleas, which he expanded by writing additional thoughts in the fair copy
of the still-unpublished longer version. He wrote these hurriedly in pencil, primar-
ily using the otherwise blank facing verso pages of this document. The annotations
contain a variety of observations, additional musical examples, questions to himself,
and subjects for further analysis. These notes were transcribed in the 1994 Critical
Edition of the longer analysis, appearing there sometimes as footnotes, sometimes
integrated into Berg’s 1920 text.67
Although undated, these addenda to the manuscript of the longer Guide were in
all likelihood made in 1933. In the spring of that year Berg was holding lectures at
his apartment in Hietzing on Schoenberg’s music, and in his letter to Schoenberg of
8 March 1933 he mentions that he had recently restudied Pelleas and had “discov-
ered an abundance of new and wonderful things.”68
Berg’s 1920  “Brief Thematic Analysis” of Pelleas und Melisande was the first
important published study of this complex work. Schoenberg himself did not write
anything of significance on the piece until 1949. In his article “My Evolution” of
that year, Schoenberg stressed the effect of nondiatonic intervals in themes upon
underlying harmonies, and in brief program notes on the work, which he also wrote
in 1949, he outlined the connection of music to the work’s program.69 Schoenberg
gave no verbal hints in the score, published by Universal Edition in 1911, of an
intended programmatic or formal reading of the work.
Berg’s analysis of Pelleas und Melisande of 1920 was closely modeled on the anal-
ysis of Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony that he had written two years before.

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164 pro mundo—pro domo

Both Guides were directed at concert audiences and dealt in general terms with
symphonic construction and themes. As with the Chamber Symphony, Berg
attempted to analyze Pelleas as an example of double-function form, although
the double-function model was far less apparent in Pelleas than in the Chamber
Symphony.70 Berg also had to account for the programmatic element of Pelleas,
although he was always hesitant to do so in his musical analyses. Probably draw-
ing on information provided by the composer, Berg isolates and labels the main
themes according to their programmatic role.71 But he also cautions the reader
about the relevance of such labels and extramusical matters: “One certainly ought
not to conclude that the literary content alone is actually decisive for the appear-
ance of a theme so designated.” He also adds headings of scenes in the play to
identify certain sections of the music, and he inserts quotations from its text to
reinforce the alignment of music and drama.
Berg is at his most original—and most controversial—in his analysis of the
large musical form of the work. When analyzing music of the Viennese School
(Schoenberg’s as well as his own), Berg always stressed the presence of traditional
formal plans, and in this case he applies the Lisztian double-function form, as he
had done earlier with Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony. Berg divides the piece
into four large parts in which he finds analogies both with the four movements of a
symphony and with the sections of a single sonata-form movement. The music to
Reh. 16, Berg says, is both an exposition and a first movement with its own smaller
expository, developmental, and recapitulatory elements; the music of Reh. 16 to
Reh. 50 develops earlier themes but is also analogous to a symphonic scherzo and
(at Reh. 33) Adagio. A recapitulation, which begins at Reh. 50 (its return to the
tonic D minor is delayed until Reh. 55), amounts to a Finale of the symphony as
a whole.
While virtually every later analysis of Pelleas has made use of Berg’s observations
and aspects of the double-function model, there is general agreement that Pelleas
is not a comfortable fit with double-function form and that much of Berg’s analy-
sis is of questionable accuracy. Berg’s avoidance of programmatic considerations
makes his discussion of musical form seem all the more arbitrary.72 Schoenberg’s
tone poem has a fluidity of tempo that dispels any simple division of the work into
the traditional symphonic sequence of fast–scherzo–slow–fast. In Berg’s analysis,
the traditional parts of a sonata-form movement—introduction, first-theme group,
transition, development, coda, and the like—are present only to a limited extent
in these sections. The tonal plan of the work is similarly irregular, shifting between
keys in a way that is little reminiscent of the traditional symphony or sonata form. In
Berg’s reading, development sections are especially irregular and confined mainly to
transitional passages between the four large parts.
Berg’s two Guides to Pelleas are essentially the same in content except that the
longer Guide is somewhat more expansive in its text, provides for additional analytic

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The Sch oenberg   G uid e s 165

observations, and brings in more than twice the number of musical examples. In the
longer Guide, Berg adds one detail to his formal analysis that is absent from the
shorter Guide: he finds a short transition (mm. 148–60) between Parts I and II to
balance out the transition between Parts II and III (mm. 291–93).
Berg’s thematic analyses of Pelleas und Melisande were the last such Guides to
Schoenberg’s works that Berg undertook. Berg’s interest in analyzing Schoenberg’s
music remained keen—in 1920 he began to write a book on Schoenberg in which
technical analysis was to play a central role—but he seems to have lost interest in
bringing these analyses to a general audience.
The translation of the longer Guide in this volume is made from the 1920 fair
copy, which Berg considered a “final version” and submitted for publication in that
year. The most substantial of Berg’s 1933 addenda are cited as annotations to the
translation, and Berg’s remaining notes can be found in the 1994 Critical Edition.
The translation in this volume of the shorter Guide follows the text of the “kurze
thematische Analyse” as published by Universal Edition in 1920.

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02_Simms_Ch01Cont.indd 166 12/16/2013 6:01:01 PM
Essays, Lectures, and Analyses
The Musical Impotence of Hans Pfitzner’s
Die neue Ästhetik

With such a melody, on the other hand, one is suspended in air. Its
quality can only be recognized, not demonstrated; there are no intel-
lectual means to reach agreement about it; people are of one mind
about it through the delight that it produces, or not; with those who
cannot join in, there is no argument to be made, nothing to be said
against their attacks except to play the melody and say, “How beauti-
ful!” What it expresses is as deep, clear, mystical, and self-evident as
truth itself.*

To see words like this written by a composer of Pfitzner’s stature may be for many
musicians—as also for me—a sharp disappointment. All the more in a book that
teems with erudition, leaving hardly any field of human knowledge untouched
and orienting itself in equal measure to philosophy or politics, music history or
racial theory, aesthetics or morality, journalism or literature, and God knows
what else.
But where we have the most need for erudition, in matters of music, this is quite
abandoned in favor of a standpoint that denies from the very start any possibility
in this area of distinguishing good from bad. He continues (in highly ungrammatical

I say the following only to a small group, namely, to those who still have
and want to have a sense for the quality of a melody, a sense that has for
decades been driven out of us with ever greater success.

Alban Berg, “Die musikalische Impotenz der ‘Neuen Ästhetik’ Hans Pfitzners,” Musikblätter des
Anbruch, 2/11–12 ( June 1920): 399–408. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.
*This and the subsequent citations are taken from the book: Hans Pfitzner, Die neue Aesthetik, der
musikalischen Impotenz, Ein Verwesungssymptom? (The New Aesthetic of Musical Impotence: A Symptom
of Decay?). Wording and punctuation (even in the title) are of course preserved, except that the words that
Pfitzner has stressed typographically are rendered in boldface type while those that I see as worthy of stress
are given in italic type.
In this way every reader can easily reconstruct the citations, which are otherwise unaltered, in their
originally printed form.


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168 pro mundo—pro domo

Not a word is said to this small group—among whom I dare to count myself—that
would aid in this “sense” or take it into account. Instead, it is glossed over with an
exhortation that is German more in opinion than in manner of expression: “So we
who still have this sense, let us courageously enthuse!”
For my own part, I would gladly leave the enthusing to that large group from
whom the “sense for the quality of a melody” did not first have to be driven out and
instead reserve for myself and for those few others, who were spared this, a more
worthy and objective relationship to music. But it seems that Pfitzner’s small group
is not really so small, because he chooses to place before their musical sense the
following outrageously difficult and problematic case: “Let’s turn to Kinderszenen
by Schumann, no. 7, ‘Träumerei.’ ” Not one of the hundreds of melodies that are
less generally familiar, drawn from classical symphonies or chamber music or other
great musical works—instead, this composition that even in Schumann’s time
enjoyed great and undisputed success and since then, to my knowledge, has never
been the object of any especially sharp “attacks.”
The praise that Pfitzner lavishes on the Kinderszenen seems to me thus all the
more superfluous and not especially “courageous”:  “Each of the small pieces
from this opus is a musical creation of delicate charm, poetry, musicality, and,
above all, the most personal character.” He continues:  “But who among those
who understand the elemental language of music would fail to recognize that this
‘Träumerei’ is uniquely distinguished by the quality of its melody.” This could
only be so if this piece is also, in some other way, “uniquely distinguished,” so
unique that Pfitzner on the very next page characterizes it as “not really belonging
in the Kinderszenen.”1
I notice, however—in addition to what I will have to say later about the quality
of this melody—that “Träumerei” is uniquely distinguished by the central position
that it occupies as the seventh of thirteen pieces and as such has a quite special place
within the symmetric structure of the whole opus, creating an essential, perhaps
the most essential, component part. This could only be overlooked if one from the
very start had given up on any possible “agreement by intellectual means.” If one has
not given up on this and has let the “sense for the quality of a melody” (including,
to be sure, a sense for its key) function rather than being co-opted by a small group,
it will be observed that the “Träumerei” is distinguished also in tonality since it is
the first piece in Kinderszenen in a flat key and shares this characteristic only with
the piece that follows, “Am Kamin,” with which it is also outwardly related in other
ways. Pfitzner, however, knows nothing of this. For him, in general and in the spe-
cific case of “Träumerei,” it is about much more; for him it is about nothing less than
the “elemental language of music”:

For him who does not understand, the “Träumerei” is a little piece in song
form with tonic, dominant, subdominant, and nearby keys—with no

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 169

deviations from the norm residing in its elements; no harmonic innova-

tions, no rhythmic finesse, a melody that ascends through the triad, “for
piano two hands.”

By this, musically educated people who have the capacity to understand the compo-
sition theoretically—not just laypeople who stand clueless before such a composi-
tion—are told once and for all that it does them no good unless they understand
the elemental language of music. And they really have no need for this faculty either,
even if they possess it, because he has made it known that when confronted by “such
a melody” one is simply “suspended in air.”
Note in passing that by “such a melody” is meant “a beautiful, a truly ingenious
melody,” a “genuine musical inspiration,” but no other evidence is given about its
beauty, ingeniousness, or genuineness than to say that “wanting to explain is a dilet-
tantish activity.” Because:

When we stand before something ungraspable, something that mocks

our powers of explanation, we readily abandon our logical succession of
thoughts, lay down our weapons of reason, and surrender completely and
helplessly to feeling. Faced by a genuine musical inspiration we really can
only call out: “How beautiful it is!” Everything more, every word asking
“why” diminishes the impression, offends the spirit, and disperses the
“breath” of the “poem.”*

To avoid these three dangers in the present case, Pfitzner simply contends
that all purely musical explanations are settled by the few theoretical scraps
cited above.
“But for us who know, what a marvel is inspiration!” This exclamation awakens
the pleasant hope that at this point we will hear something musically informative
from someone who understands this melody and the elemental language of music
in general, from “one who knows” rather than from an enthusiast who has surren-
dered to his “feelings.” Instead we are fed a question that avoids any knowledge

What more could be said that could increase its understanding by a per-
son in whom this melody does not go “through and through,” a melody
which constitutes an entire piece in which inspiration and form nearly

* Play upon Goethe’s saying, “Bilde Künstler, rede nicht, nur ein Hauch sei Dein Gedicht” (Create,
you artist. Do not speak. Your poem is but a breath). From Goethe’s poem “Bilde, Künstler,” first pub-
lished in Vollständige Ausgabe letzter Hand, vols. 1–4, Gedichte (Stuttgart and Tübingen: Cotta, 1827).

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170 pro mundo—pro domo

Conceded! But for someone unlike this person, for someone in whom this
melody does go through and through, there must be something about its qual-
ity that can be stated! And this should be possible also with a negative example,
with some piece of kitsch that one has not felt through and through. If it were
really impossible to bring forward anything but “arguments” based on feelings,
anyone, with equal justification and no fear of contradiction, could claim such an
inspiration that he felt to be “beautiful,” “ingenious,” and “genuine” in the same
tone as Pfitzner: “to enthuse . . . to infinity.” If one were to read these quotations
from Pfitzner and substitute, for example, Hildach for Schumann, “Lenz” for
“Träumerei,”2 then everyone inclined to “surrender helplessly to feeling” would
have to “lay down the weapons of reason” and “surrender completely” to a fearless
Hildach enthusiast.
This cannot be! There must exist the possibility of saying something irrefutable
about the beauty of a melody, something that can “increase its understanding” and
awaken a sense for its quality. Of course things of a musical nature and not just those
of pure feeling or things all too personal or enthusing that proves nothing, as we
read in the following:

I can talk about the nobility of the language of tones, of its absolute origi-
nality, of the deep personality and utter distinctiveness of melody, of its
Germanness, tenderness, and ease—such words flit in circles around
the tones.

This is correct. “All these words added together cannot remotely say what makes up
the melody itself.”
This is correct also! Still, Pfitzner attempts to get hold of the beauty of this
piece—after noting that it is [German] “dreaming” and not, thank goodness,
[French] “rêverie”—by calling dreaming “a pensive, serious feeling, deeply lost
in itself, sensitive but still strong, as we would gather from the famous Schumann
portrait with his head resting on his hand.3 Enthusing can go on in this way end-
lessly, with no need for words to conjure up the music’s magic; it is a droplet
of music from the deepest of springs; we too (?) are musically deprived and led
astray if we lose a sense for this beauty.”
Yes, but also musically deprived and led astray if we fail to find an explanation
within art for this beauty and, coming more from being tipsy [weinselig] than sensi-
tive [feinseelig], think that such explanations pertain to all areas except for music.
I might be reproached that a similar way of describing music is found from time
to time in the writings of older masters and that I am criticizing not only Pfitzner
but also, for example, Schopenhauer, Wagner, or Schumann. To this reproach
I reply—without getting into the pros and cons of this type of writing about music
and what should be admissible nowadays—that such a euphuistic description of

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 171

music has meaning only when it concerns a work the beauty of which the contem-
porary world must be made aware, a beauty that must be revealed to it. This would
take more courage than bringing up “Träumerei,” which, as was mentioned, has
charmed and inspired the entire musical world from the first day of its appear-
ance. And when such literarily inspired reflections are made by a major composer
(think of Schumann’s [Gesammelte] Schriften über Musik und Musiker), they
always take place alongside purely musical discussions of the most distinguished
sort. And finally, in this latter case, there will also be exhaustive and, above all,
accurate analysis.
In Pfitzner’s book, which otherwise has such scholarly pretensions, there
remains an absence of just that erudition that might bring us over to his point of
view. Just where he theorizes and uses scholarship, it is done in such a nonchalant,
inadequate, and false way that—I have to repeat what I said at the beginning—the
unsuspecting reader could have the opinion that the book before him was by a phi-
losopher or politician or a scholar writing feuilletons, not a composer of Pfitzner’s
How can such a person dismiss the melody of “Träumerei” with the phrase “ris-
ing through the triad”? The beauty of this melody lies less in the large number of
motivic ideas than in the three other characteristics of beautiful melody: the pro-
nounced conciseness of individual motives, the richness of their interrelations, and
the multiplicity of applications of the motivic materials at hand.

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172 pro mundo—pro domo

That the melody “rises through the triad” is its least distinction. Looking
only at this recurring ascending phrase (see the motive marked a), the neigh-
bor tone E, dissonant with the unfolding F major triad, is, to my mind, the
characteristic and delightful thing. Don’t forget that this entire figure is felt
immediately as a variation (and what a variation!) of the opening leap of the
fourth, which lives on in the motive of the descending phrases (b, c, d) and is
constantly transformed into other intervallic leaps (m) whenever the harmonic
opportunity arises.
Given limited space, I can only hint at all the other melodic variants, particu-
larly those in the aforementioned descending phrases (x, y, z). In the last of these
(z), the melody for the first time moves downward by a sixth from the highest
note of the little four-measure phrase, and it does this by means of a motivic
“inversion” [Umkehrung] (made from stepwise intervals and also, for the first
time, a leap).4 I cannot pass by this reversion [Umkehr], this melodic homecom-
ing, this harmonic return to the point of origin without mentioning that there
could hardly be a more inadequate description of it than Pfitzner’s “lost in itself ”

* There is indeed something like this in Schumann, just not here! We note this very intention (to
remain with the Kinderszenen) at the final cadence on a dominant seventh chord in the fourth piece,
“Bittendes Kind,” or melodically in the tenth piece, “Fast zu ernst,” which really does get lost, and finally
in the twelfth piece, “Kind im Einschlummern,” which after a ritardando of several measures dies away
on a long-held subdominant chord.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 173

Just as inadequate is his judgment on the rhythm of the melody, in which he finds
“no finesse,” let alone refinement, although such “finesse” will be obvious to every
musical listener in the alternation of stress on strong and weak parts of the measure
which runs throughout the whole piece. This alternation appears in the first two mea-
sures, called forth by the ascending figure a (displacing the upbeat rhythm by the
value of a quarter note). It becomes all the more obvious when one looks at the half
and full cadences in the little four-measure phrases. These conclude in these ways:

at A (and E) on the second quarter note;

at B (after an eighth grace note) on the third quarter;
at C on the third [recte fourth] eighth note.

The next phrase, which repeats the previous one sequentially, does not end in the
same way on the third quarter (which would work harmonically) but extends

at D on the fourth quarter

Finally, the last measure contains a cadence that is quite different in rhythm from
the second phrase:

at F on the third quarter.

From what has been said to this point, it must be admitted that this kind of
describing and “demonstrating” produces a different and more realistic picture of
the “quality of a melody” than that found in Pfitzner’s euphuistic language and
his inadequate analyses, which falsify musical facts. How impoverished would a
melody appear if it did not have, for example, the melodic refinements that I have
recounted and about which there was nothing to say except that it “rose through
the triad” and had no “rhythmic finesse.” In the previous musical example I have
quite cursorily attempted to show such a melody in the first four measures that
are placed above Schumann’s original; I  have retained a second (descending)
motive—whose presence Pfitzner did not consider worthy of mention—as the
meager shape s, and I have not changed Schumann’s harmonic design (which is far
from conventional).
But Pfitzner misses out on this too when he alludes to “tonic, dominant, and sub-
dominant” and professes to know nothing about “deviations from the norm residing
in its elements.” What individuality there is here also! These are seen in the structure
of the individual small phrases: note, for example, in the first four-measure phrase,
the changes of harmony that correspond to these durational values: 5/4, 3/4, [1/4],
2/4, 1/8, 1/8, 1/4, 3/4, then again 5/4, etc. Also in the disposition as regards the
whole piece and its exposed points, by which I mean above all the melodic high

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174 pro mundo—pro domo

points in the six small phrases. These are harmonized by the following chords, given
in their order of appearance, which grow ever stronger:

at G (and K) by a triad;
at H by a seventh chord;
at I (and J) by a ninth chord with minor ninth.

If it were only a matter here of a “little piece in song form with tonic, dominant, and
subdominant,” the second repetition of the first eight measures would in mechani-
cal fashion repeat the harmonic events of the first eight measures (G and H), so that
the second four-measure phrase—e.g., transposed up a fourth—would produce the
cadential figure toward the tonic. But how is this actually achieved! In place of the
expected seventh chord (pertaining to the subdominant region) in the correspond-
ing place (H), there appears at this final high point:

at L a ninth chord, this time with major ninth.

Thus the harmonically strongest chord is reserved for the end, leading to a cadence
that is truly a “deviation from the norm” as one and the same motivic cadential fig-
ure (c2) appears twice in succession, for the only time in the entire piece, and har-
monized differently both times. So although it is self-evident that the conception
of this piece—and composing in general—occurs far from all theoretical consider-
ations, it is scarcely possible to create such a cadence without artful intentions and
without conscious activation of musical skills.
So we are all the more justified—indeed, compelled, if we wish to make a judg-
ment about music—to account for it in music-theoretic terms, and this in the most
precise and thorough manner. But not like Pfitzner, whose way of setting up a musi-
cal description [signalement] recalls those bureaucratic “official personal descrip-
tions” where everything is always entered as “customary” and “normal.” And if
it were the famous head of Schumann resting on his hand [der bekannte auf die
Hand gestützte Schumannkopf ] (NB, not the reverse, “der auf die Hand gestützte
bekannte Schumannkopf ”!)5 some ossified civil servant would not hesitate to write
“none” on the special characteristics line.
This is what Pfitzner has done with “Träumerei”! And he goes even further. To
make this composition in technical respects seem inconspicuous, normal, with
no special characteristics, he describes it as a bagatelle, something “for piano two
hands”—in quotes, to be sure. A mere first look at the music reveals, except for parts
of a few measures, a strict four-part composition that in style, character, counter-
point, the extent of the individual parts, and their aptness for being played or sung
could be given straightaway to a string quartet or wind ensemble, even to four voices.
So this composition—even though it was published as only a “piano piece”
and is valid as such—is essentially different from what one calls a “piano piece for

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 175

two hands” (just consider, for example, the four-voice imitations of motive e [in
mm. 7–8]). The latter is a genre term preferred for homophonic works (with mel-
ody and accompaniment separated in the two hands). In fact, the other pieces in
Kinderszenen display less of this generalized musical texture and far more a charac-
teristically pianistic writing that takes into account, with varying degrees of artistry,
the technique of the piano.
This distinction is immediately striking in the piece that follows Träumerei,” the
eighth piece, “Am Kamin” (see the musical example, third staff ), whose pianism is
exceeded in other pieces. For example in the tenth one, “Fast zu ernst.” Of all the
character pieces of the cycle, “Am Kamin” is the one for which no more meaning-
ful (or less meaningful) label could be applied than “for piano two hands.” When
applied to “Träumerei” this term is not only inapt, but, given the tendentiousness of
its use, has a character that disparages the compositional art of this piece.
Such a disparaging tone used for the purely musical properties of this melody
is meant to create the appearance of its complete artlessness, in spite of which it
attains an effect high enough to be “ungraspable.” The consequences of this appear-
ance—created with six lines of analysis in a telegraphic style and five times as many
lines of courageous enthusing—are easily drawn. The implication of Pfitzner’s essay
is that the beauty of modern music has just as little theoretical explanation as there
is for the beauty of classical music—that it is of no avail for modern music to sur-
round itself with the odium of artful skillfulness and to lend “theoretic support” to
its horrors. In the entire book there is no attempt, none using an example of modern
music, to orient the reader in purely musical terms toward or to explain these hor-
rors. The assertion, emphasized, suffices:  “Musical impotence is declared permanent
and is theoretically supported. Music no longer needs to be beautiful and the composer no
longer needs to have any particular inspiration.”6 Theoretically this cannot be proved,
just as little as the opposite as regards classical music. A “genuine, honorable public”
has no need for such an art, and whoever pretends to have the need is one of those
“snobs and types that are worse” who, as is well-known, “gobble up everything like
dogs, devouring Beethoven today, Kandinsky tomorrow.”7 With such “symptoms of
decay,” the question posed on the title page seems strikingly to be answered.
It should now be my task, indeed my duty, to make up for what Pfitzner has care-
fully omitted from the entire book. That is, to take up modern music—which he
literarily, politically, and otherwise (but not musically) attacks—to speak about it
objectively, to use at least one example of where we are today with things that make
up good music: melodies, harmonic richness, polyphony, perfection of form, archi-
tecture, etc. If I succeed in this as I have done with “Träumerei,” the musical potency
of this will be proved in a way that Pfitzner could not do even with Beethoven,
Schumann, and Wagner, although the tendency of his discussion of classical music
was to unveil the music of today as “impotent” and subject to general attack.
For my objective to rehabilitate modern music I would chose two lyrical melo-
dies, more from a momentary inclination than intending (as Pfitzner did) to select

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176 pro mundo—pro domo

especially typical cases. Specifically, the “Lieb’ Knabe, du mußt nicht traurig sein!”
[“Ah, lad, you must not be sad!”] from Mahler’s “Der Schildwache Nachtlied” and
the subsidiary theme from Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony.8
But, owing to limitations on space in this essay, I cannot explore them here and
now. Some other time! Trust me when I say that I would be able to show their musi-
cal potency. Perhaps my music-theoretical examinations of Schumann’s “Träumerei”
will suffice for that “small group”—which I  also apostrophize as those “who still
have and want to have a sense for melody”—at least as a basis for the judgment of
modern melodies. But this is not easy! It may be more obvious, and for that small
group simpler, to try a negative procedure: to attempt to prove its beauty theoreti-
cally by applying those measures that I used on Schumann’s “Träumerei” and with
which I am familiar to a melody that will defeat my otherwise trusted “arguments”
and “explanations.”
I shall choose—this time with the intention of taking up a typical case more
than following some momentary inclination—a song composed in 1916 [Pfitzner’s
song “Nachts,” op. 26, no. 2], so without doubt modern. Unfortunately I can give it
here only incompletely, only with a harmonic outline of the accompaniment (“ris-
ing through the triad, for piano two hands”).

We should examine this melody with that loving precision in all musical matters
that I brought to “Träumerei,” but it won’t be held against me if in this case I make an
exception and spare myself a detailed musical analysis, which would only “diminish
the impression and offend the spirit.” For truly:

With such a melody, on the other hand, one is suspended in air. Its quality
can only be recognized, not demonstrated; there are no intellectual means
to reach agreement about it; people are of one mind about it through the
delight that it produces, or not; with those who cannot join in, there is no
argument to be made, nothing to be said against their attacks except to play
the melody and say, “How beautiful!”

And I do this herewith.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 177

Vienna’s Music Criticism: Two Feuilletons

Much has been written on the inadequacy of articles on music in today’s newspa-
pers, but not, to my knowledge, about the general frivolousness with which musical
issues are addressed. Both unjustly so. Even if it is understandable and excusable
(although disagreeable) that a critique—of a modern work, for example—that
claims to be more than reportage (perhaps it should be just that) misses the mark,
still, that frivolousness which appears when musical issues are so much as touched
on is reprehensible and inexcusable, since it makes a mockery of the sanctity of
art. This is certainly explained by the general lack of musical education among the
public, which is beneficial for a critic’s reportage and unharmed by his own lack
of musical education (in purely musical issues, not in the knowledge of music his-
tory). It is also explained by the credulousness and respect with which the news-
paper reader always believes whatever he finds in his paper. This is especially so in
matters with which the reader is not as familiar—due to the aforementioned lack
of musical education—as he is with politics and finance. Articles that are cleverly
strewn with resourceful reporting, moreover, may temporarily serve to gloss over
or even justify such frivolous work. An example is in the “Kleine Chronik” of the
Neue freie Presse on the occasion of the sixtieth birthday of the Berlin music critic
Dr. Leopold Schmidt.9 We are told (actually it’s drummed in) that his critiques are
“backed up by excellent technical knowledge and distinguished by a gift for judg-
ment that is inborn like any other gift” and that “the talent of this critic measures
up to his character: his conscientiousness and sense of responsibility,” also that “his
descriptions have a plain and level-headed objectivity, his judgments clothed in
moderation, which is an expression of an inner culture that is aware of the conse-
quences of words that appear in a large newspaper.” So it is no wonder that the gull-
ible newspaper reader buys into everything else without further ado.
The actual level of “excellent technical knowledge,” the “conscience” and “sense
of responsibility,” the “plain and level-headed objectivity,” and the “moderation”
and “inner culture that is aware of the consequences of words that appear in a large
newspaper” will emerge from the following remarks, which came to me while read-
ing two newspaper articles—presumably only a fragment of the effusions of music
criticism from the summer past—which I came across then almost by accident.

One of them, typically a block of eight columns with occasional reviews pressed
together, contains in the middle (not even suggested by the subtitle of the feuil-
leton) an account of “atonal” music.10 An issue like this—which nowadays preoc-
cupies the mind of every thinking musician and which the best are on the way to

Alban Berg, “Wiener Musikkritik,” handwritten fair copy (1920–21), Vienna, Arnold Schönberg
Center, T79.05. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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178 pro mundo—pro domo

solving—is dispensed with here in two columns, as a pendant to “Afterthoughts on

the Vienna Music Festival.” Still, there is enough space to account for the “master of
atonal belief ”—Arnold Schoenberg yet again—pending further notice. And this “in
moderation, . . . inner culture . . . consequences . . . large newspaper . . . etc.”
In the same feuilleton truly insignificant music is said to be “masterful, stir-
ring in spirit and life, sounding without distortion,” which “should be prized today
higher than in more productive and healthier musical periods,” and further “that
the requirements of organized musical speech are not disregarded.”11 The intelligent
newspaper reader already knows that these snide remarks (which I have italicized)
can only refer to Schoenberg. While such insignificant works are evaluated in this
way, all that is said about Schoenberg’s music and the great triumph of his direction
“toward atonal thought” is that it is a method whose “last appeal is its provocative-
ness,” whose intervals and sounds are excogitated, whose chords are willfully con-
structed with “atrophied musical powers of creation,” whose melody is “brewed up in a
test tube,” etc.
If such critical writing gives evidence of “plain and level-headed objectivity,” how
will these words and the critic’s “excellent technical knowledge” appear when he
goes more deeply into musical matters. Here the joke ends! The joke that the music
expert is playing on his unsuspecting public and that even I can enjoy in a feuilleton
like this in the Neue freie Presse:  Where is it written, where is it apparent, in which of
Schoenberg’s melodies is it found, that “our anarchists look upon melodic laws as slav-
ery”? That they are “slaves to the chord”? Show me one work by Schoenberg in which
such slavery appears more than in the works of the classicists.
But true judgment does not occur in a feuilleton. For the newspaper reader the
image of anarchists also being slaves is so stimulating that he doesn’t give it a thought
and buys obediently into everything else. So too the assertion made in passing that
chords of these “anarchists” “ever more deliberately deviate from nature.” The reader
does not suspect that this is a complex issue that is being dealt with simply by a cliché
that ever more deliberately deviates from the truth.
To get around everything problematic, the critic is more inclined to dwell on
the “soul” of this music. Its absence is evident (to him, that is, to the musical expert
of an international paper) since “at least until now” “it has not been able to reveal a
soul”—which you could hardly blame it for.
In addition to this failing, the other “all too clear shortcomings” in Schoenberg’s
music are established as follows:

Where are the “larger atonal effusions” (we dare not call them “larger
atonal forms”)? There can be no broader musical action within which fate
and events can take place, because that which could enable fate to act and
develop—the theme or basic melodic idea—has not been created and
cannot be created. Not without reason, the master of atonal belief hides
now in aphorism.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 179

Must we not shake our heads at such factually false ideas? Does not Herr Julius Korngold
know that with Schoenberg (with the exception of the Six Little Piano Pieces
[op. 19]), the term “aphorism” is as little appropriate as it is for the short piano
pieces of Schumann or Chopin and Beethoven’s Bagatelles? Or that Schoenberg
has written other works in the so-called atonal belief—such as the cycle of fifteen
songs [George Songs, op. 15] and twenty-one melodramas [Pierrot lunaire, op. 21]
and his two stage works [Erwartung and Die glückliche Hand]—which provide
ample evidence for the existence of “larger atonal forms”? Or that within these
works—I think immediately of the concluding part of Erwartung, powerful in both
expression and dimension—what Herr Korngold calls a “larger atonal effusion” is
plainly found?
And how does he imagine the musical plan of “Jakobsleiter,” an oratorio, a form well
known for its “broad musical action”? Perhaps even evidence for the creation of
“themes” and “basic musical ideas,” which “develop and suffer fate.”
Would he have us believe that he knows nothing of this? Or does he mean that these
works in larger forms, because he is silent about them and only mentions aphorisms, do
not in fact exist, expecting that his readers will think the same?
No matter how these questions are answered, that anyone—even down to the
last reader of the Neue freie Presse—feels justified in raising them shows the truth
about “what makes up, as it were (and only as it were) the critic’s character—con-
science and sense of responsibility.”

Lacking courtesy, as we “worshipful disciplines of Schoenberg” do, I won’t let ladies

go first, at least not when I  deal with musical experts of both sexes. But I  could
not—even at the risk of yet another new reproach—bring myself to sacrifice the
artistic principle of contrast (which would not have been so clear if the order had
been reversed) to the conveyance of courtesy, which we “hasten to observe” when
we have recourse to “the tools of public opinion.” I don’t intend to speak about that
feuilleton by Frau Dr. Elsa Bienenfeld in which she settles up with us in this way
(although from every line by this musical expert of the Neues Wiener Journal we can
draw the correct conclusion about the affectations of Viennese newspaper criti-
cism). Instead I will speak about a more objective article having the title “Against
Modern Music.”12
She deals in her article with a recent defamatory piece of writing by a certain
Walther Krug.13 She does so in such a manner that even the most astute reader,
one acquainted with her style and having the best of intentions, cannot figure out
what is simple reporting on the contents of [Krug’s] brochure and what is her own
judgment on what is discussed there—where one begins and the other ends. The
point of such a tactic is to bring over what is said about Arnold Schoenberg, who
is pulled to pieces in that book, into her own sphere. One must admire the naïveté
with which this is done and admit that the tactic achieves its purpose. Quotations

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180 pro mundo—pro domo

from the reviewed brochure are sometimes not designated as quotations and are
garbled. For example:
walther krug14 dr. elsa bienenfeld
(p.  59):  Everything that occupies the (no quotation marks):  Everything
subconscious, as in a dream, in a favor- that occupies the subconscious, as in a
able moment can be perceived con- dream, could in a favorable moment be
sciously. Music is like this. It has an heard consciously. Music is like this. It
enormous, flowing strength and builds has an enormously mobile power and is
according to no law that we know of. It has structured in a way that knows no laws.
a rhythm like that of pulsing blood, just
like the rhythm of life within us. It has a It has a tonality just as the sea and storm
tonality just as the sea and storm have a also have a tonality. It has harmonies but
tonality. It has harmonies but we cannot we cannot grasp them.
grasp them. We cannot locate its themes.
There is always a structure to it, but we There is always a structure to it, but we
cannot reproduce it within ourselves. cannot reproduce it within ourselves.
All technical craftsmanship disappears
within us, everything is one and all with
content. Everything in music and its tra- Everything in music and its traditions
ditions must fall away. Whatever we fear must fall away. In such sounds whatever
is here made real, our unconscious shud- we fear is made real, our unconscious
derings take shape, our fear of ghosts. . . .15 shudderings take shape, our fear of
ghosts. . . Krug expresses his ideas by a sim-
(p.  66):  . . . Calmly, one could imagine ile: “Calmly, one could imagine that . . . etc.”
that . . . etc.

. . . types of embryos or homunculi. Or . . . types of embryo or homunculus. Or

to put it otherwise, here the language of to put it otherwise, here the language of
tone and harmony according to the new tone and harmony according to the new
theory is opposed to everything con- theory is opposed to everything con-
ventional, and one has the impression of a ventional, and one has the impression of a
person coining new words . . . etc.16 person coining new words . . . etc. (different
from here on, without any further reli-
ance on the aforementioned original).
Or such quotations are faked by being brought to the wrong place: [Bienenfeld
writes:] “Krug turns most sharply on Schoenberg. ‘One must have seriously limited
means to try to eke out a musical living on the whole tone scale.’ ”
To say such nonsense about Schoenberg would not occur even to the writer of
that defamatory piece. Nor to anyone having a clue about modern music or dealing
with it professionally. Actually, the words quoted refer not to Schoenberg but to
Debussy, where they at least make sense from the harmonic standpoint, even if their
spiteful implications are quite unjustified.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 181

In Frau Dr.  Bienenfeld’s article—after confirming this falsification by saying

“This is certainly correct!”—she continues on her own account and at her own
risk: “All the same one should not underestimate that through Schoenberg’s works
harmonic tools became more tractable. His early works are rich in melodic inspira-
tion, artful in form, and masterly in everything polyphonic.”
And—after this—she writes: “But Schoenberg has disowned all of this in his later
experiments: art comes not from ‘to come’ but from ‘to do,’ as he likes to say.” In the
correctness of the ideas that this sentence expresses, the accuracy of the quotation
that it contains, the temperamental tone in which it is uttered, the lapidary simplic-
ity in which its ideas are connected, even in the punctuation that allows for this
connectedness, the likes of this sentence may not soon be equaled in contemporary
music criticism.
How very different, in what more moderate form, with what simpler, more level-
headed objectivity, in a word, with what greater inner culture would Korngold have
informed us that Schoenberg’s later compositions are not compositions but “experi-
ments,” in which this “anarchist” himself disowned the “melodic inspirations,” the “art-
ful form,” and “everything polyphonic.” This would not be surprising from someone
whose only “method” is to compose in “aphorisms” and thus be a “slave to the chord.”
How different would that quotation from Schoenberg have been if Korngold had made
it! Korngold would not have been able to take pride in having heard what “Schoenberg
likes to say,” and he could at least have read in the article “Problems in Teaching Art”
that art comes “from ‘I must,’ not from ‘I can.’ ”17 Korngold—perchance in a feuille-
ton about Richard Strauss—would be able to prove by way of a witty parody of both
Bienenfeld’s and Schoenberg’s aphorism that art comes neither from “can” [können]
nor “must” [müssen] but from income [Einkommen].
Although opinions on the origins of the word art may be divided, one thing is
clear, that criticism that produces such excrescences in all directions as indicated
in my evaluation of these two articles—truly only indicated—that such dissipated
criticism that so well serves its authors, by God, comes only from “I cannot,”
from inability, from a special sort of impotence, and all that can be hoped for
with it is the same as what it seems to want for art, namely, that it should perish

The Musical Forms in My Opera Wozzeck

Far be it to from me to dispute the musical-theoretical and other viewpoints of Herr
Emil Petschnig—every measure of my music can do this better than words. Here
I want to set right only a few of the plainest and most glaring untruths from among a

Alban Berg, “Die musikalischen Formen in meiner Oper ‘Wozzeck,’ ” Die Musik 16/8 (1924): 587–
89. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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182 pro mundo—pro domo

larger number of these in his article “Atonales Opernschaffen.”* It is false that in the
second scene of Act 1 “the essential features correspond to a rhapsody only in the
formlessness of the music.” This is instead a fully closed piece in which free varia-
tions upon a succession of three chords, which act as a theme, underlie the entire
structure of the scene. Furthermore, it receives its clear organization from the care-
ful structural placement of three strophes and the refrain of a hunting song, cor-
responding to the true character of the rhapsody as folklike. Nor is the “Fantasia”
of the second scene of Act 2 “the atonalist’s usual puttering about without plan or
goal.” To realize the connection between “fantasia and fugue,” the triple fugue is
prepared here by bringing in its themes according to plan and (at first on a more
harmonic basis) working them out to lead to the purely contrapuntal form of the
fugue, which is their real objective. Herr Petschnig’s additional criticism, that he
“would have thought that the motivic basis for the triple fugue had been taken from
the characteristics already established for the three people involved in this scene,”
becomes untenable, especially if I tell him that these three themes were taken from
earlier scenes where these characteristics were present. His admission “of failing to
reconstruct the Sonata (2/1) from its thematic infusoria” is hardly evidence that its
form does not correspond to a strict classical sonata movement (with exposition
and composed-out recapitulation, development, and second reprise with coda),
and these themes, clearly recognizable as main, transitional, subsidiary, and clos-
ing, in their dimensions are no more infusoria than the themes in many Beethoven
sonatas. The next assertion, “the Scherzo (2/4) consists of a Ländler and a Waltz,”
is a quite inadequate and misunderstood account of the form of this scene, which
ignores its design as a symphonic movement. These two dance pieces are really only
part of the symmetric structure of the movement, which rests on classical mod-
els. That is, Scherzo I, Trio I, Scherzo II—Trio II—Scherzo I, Trio I, Scherzo II.
With this correction, all of the tendentious and inapposite comparisons with Hans
Heiling, Rosenkavalier, and Salome collapse.18 On the other hand, I must give Herr
Petschnig his due: it is “a highly forced interpretation” to call the part that he does
a rondo. It is only an introduction to one. The “Rondo marziale” (2/5), a very strict
one in character and form, begins only where Herr Petschnig ends his analysis.
A  similar symptom of a truly distorted critique is found in the discussion of the
Adagio interlude in the last act (3/4–5). Not realizing that this is quite clearly a
ternary piece in D minor, he complains that “the tonality of this transitional music
does not extend very far” and that the key signature “after two pages, apparently
felt to be superfluous, is entirely cancelled.” It is correct that this cancellation occurs
in the ensuing middle part (Bußler calls it the “modulatory part”),19 which leads
back to the main key (which is then maintained and ends the Adagio as clearly as
it began), something that is signaled by the reintroduction of the key signature. This
plainly refutes Herr Petschnig’s assertion “that the piece actually consists of two or
four keys (it is hard to say whether major or minor). This is, therefore, a harmonic
*Die Musik, 16/5 (February 1924).

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 183

farce that, like so much of what preceded it, looks damnably similar to a formal
bluff.” Thank goodness it is only similar to one! This is as much as saying that evi-
dence that is adequate to reveal a farce needs more to be a bluff—despite the dam-
nable similarity. For example with the invention on a rhythm in the third scene of
Act 3. If its formal principle only consisted in a certain rhythm being “repeated here
and there,” it would be nothing that could claim to have formal value. In fact, how-
ever, this entire piece is based on this rhythm, which is used in the manner of a
theme: subjected to all imaginable combinations, contrapuntal forms (fugato, stret-
tos) and shapes (augmentation, diminution, metric displacement, etc.). The rhythm
penetrates throughout the entire harmonic, thematic, and vocally melodic action of
the scene. To see this—and much more—would not be hard. In addition to good-
will, it would take a certain degree of judgment, which in musical and also in other
areas appears not to be present. How otherwise, for example, could Büchner’s work
be so misunderstood as in this remark: “Here, however, are quite simple people who
naively abandon themselves to their sexual instincts.” All the more astonishing is
another striking judgment, that the treatment of the speaking voice in the tavern
scene of Act 2 [scene 2] (pp. 156–59 [piano-vocal score]) represents “a completely
unnatural method that borders on caricature.” We have this, in fact, when a com-
pletely drunken apprentice gives a Lenten sermon. This is caricature in the truest
sense of the word, which is mirrored also in its musical treatment (about which, like
so much else, there is only silence). Or about the chorale melody of the bombardon
counterpointed with the remaining instruments in the drinking music, which takes
the strict form of a four-voice chorale setting.
Trust me that I  succeeded in placing these and other musical forms right
where they were intended, and that I  am able to prove their correctness and
regularity—more thoroughly and thus more compellingly than is possible
here. Whoever wants to be persuaded of this should contact me. I will willingly

Why Is Schoenberg’s Music So Difficult to Understand?

To answer this question we might be inclined to trace the ideas behind
Schoenberg’s works, or to explore the intellect that resides in them, or, as is
often done, to approach the music through philosophical, literary, or other such
avenues. This will not be my objective. I will address solely the musical content
of Schoenberg’s works, his means of compositional expression, which must be
regarded, as can be assumed in the language of every work of art, as uniquely
suited to the object that is represented. To fully understand this language and to

Alban Berg, “Warum ist Schönbergs Musik so schwer verständlich?,” Musikblätter des Anbruch 6
(1924): 329–41. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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184 pro mundo—pro domo

grasp its details implies, in general, being able to recognize the beginning, mid-
dle, and end of every melody, to hear the simultaneity of voices not as chance
phenomena but as harmonies and harmonic progressions, and to perceive the
small and large relationships and contrasts as such; in short, being able to follow
a piece of music as one follows the words of a poem written in a language that
one knows perfectly. He who possesses this gift has the ability to think musi-
cally, which is tantamount to understanding a work. So it seems that the ques-
tion posed at the outset of this essay will be answered if we succeed in testing
the intelligibility of Schoenberg’s means of compositional expression and then
drawing conclusions on the extent to which this can be grasped.
I will do this on the basis of a single example [Schoenberg’s String Quartet no. 1,
op. 7, mm. 1–10], since much can be achieved by a detailed examination. I have
chosen this example at random, and there are few passages in Schoenberg’s works
that would not be just as good for such an investigation.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 185

These ten measures that open the D Minor Quartet—twenty years after they were
composed—may no longer be incomprehensible or especially difficult. But it can
still be said about them that if a listener at first hearing recognizes only the main
voice, follows it to the end of the ten measures, hears this as a single melody—which
it certainly is—and demands that it be as singable as the beginning of a Beethoven
quartet, the listener so engaged will meet with difficulties of understanding even in
the third measure. The ear preconditioned to melody whose most essential prop-
erty is periodic symmetry of construction and to thematic organization that moves
in units of even-numbered measures (a type of structure that with few exceptions
dominated all of music for the last 150 years) questions the rightness of the open-
ing measures of a melody that consists, contrary to expectations, of 2½-measure

A thematic structure that avoids two- or four-measure phrases is certainly

nothing new. Quite the opposite. [Ludwig] Bußler rightly said that “the
very greatest masters of form (he meant Mozart and Beethoven) love free
and bold constructions and do not always force themselves into the frame-
work of even-numbered metric units.”20 But how rarely do we find this [free-
dom and boldness] among the classicists (Schubert possibly excepted), and
how readily was the freedom that was so evident in the eighteenth century
and before forgotten in the music of the romantic era (except for Brahms’s
folk-song melodies), even by Wagner and the entire New German School.
Even the Heldenleben theme [by Richard Strauss], seemingly so bold for its
time, is entirely made from two- or four-measure units, and these lead after the
typical sixteen-measure opening to a literal repeat of the first phrase, which is
the surest means of promoting understanding. Even the music of Mahler and
Debussy—the latter a master in a different style from the same period—has
melodies almost entirely made from even-numbered metric units. The sole
exception (other than Schoenberg) is Reger, who preferred fairly free struc-
tures, like prose, as he put it.*21 This is the reason for the relatively limited
accessibility of his music: the only reason, let me say, because other features—
themes (motivic development of long phrases) and harmonies, not to mention

* An expression that Schoenberg has also used, independently from Reger, for his own musical

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186 pro mundo—pro domo

his contrapuntal style—would not hinder the understanding of his musical

Given these circumstances it is clear that a music that admits asymmetry and free
structure in themes—and this is perhaps the most essential feature of Schoenberg’s
style—as readily as two-, four-, and eight-measure divisions will be difficult or (as
in his more recent works) incomprehensible.
Such a theme—returning now to our single example—undergoes an exceed-
ingly rapid development that corresponds to its energetic and stormy character.
The phrase that was itself scarcely graspable in rhythm [mm. 1–3] makes use
of its right to variation and appears in its second repetition [mm. 7–8] in this
abbreviated form.

Here the listener loses the thread, even before the first melodic climax is reached
two measures later.

The sixteenth-note motive here may seem to have come from the blue, but it
is simply the natural melodic continuation of the main theme (obtained, to be
sure, by variation). As is evident still today from performances of the Quartet,
it is just this succession of chromatic leaps of the seventh that poses a nearly
insurmountable barrier to the understanding of the listener, who is accus-
tomed to a slow development of a theme or one that is created by sequences
and unvaried repetitions. As these sixteenth-note figures hurry by, the listener
is rarely able to relate them to a chordal basis, which certainly is present, and
he loses his last point of orientation: interpreting the passage at least in terms
of its approaching cadential function, or hearing it simply as a caesura or cli-
max. It seems to him instead to be an arbitrary assemblage of “cacophonies”
produced by a senseless zigzag in Violin I. He cannot possibly follow its con-
tinuation, which reveals a new and related thematic form based on the richest
motivic work, which after nineteen additional measures leads [at m. 30] to a
repetition of the main theme (in E♭!).
How much easier it would be for this listener if everything that proved difficult
was removed, if the beginning of the quartet had taken the form that follows—please

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 187

forgive me this atrocity!—which intentionally avoids richness of rhythmic structure,

motivic variation, and thematic work and preserves only the number of measures
and succession of tones of a melodic inspiration that even these mutilations cannot

Here the asymmetry of the original is removed and the two-measure phrases so sat-
isfying to the densest of listeners are restored; motivic and rhythmic development
goes nice and slow, and every possibility for variation is avoided. Sixteenth notes,
which could trip us up in a fast alla breve movement,22 are entirely absent, and with
them the last stumbling block—the difficulty of those chromatic leaps of the sev-
enth presented melodically—is swept aside, leaving a motion that does not exceed
eighth notes and harmonies that change every half note. And just so there will be no
danger of lack of understanding for this distorted theme, it is given a literal repeat in
the main key immediately after its end. And to add to a general accessibility border-
ing on the popular, all polyphony is avoided, replaced by the simplest conceivable
How different is Schoenberg! “To penetrate the psychology of his creations, the
sketchbooks, which he used exclusively during the epoch of this quartet, are of the
greatest value. No one who has examined them will be able to say that Schoenberg’s
music is contrived, intellectualized, or any other such slogan used to deny the supe-
riority of his overflowing fantasy.” Because “every thematic idea is conceived of imme-
diately with all of its counter themes.”*23
And all these are to be heard! The eloquent melody of the middle voice at the
very beginning of the quartet—

* Egon Wellesz, Arnold Schönberg [Leipzig: E. P. Tal, 1921), 26–27; English translation by William
Kerridge (London: Dent, 1925), 19–20].

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188 pro mundo—pro domo

—might be overlooked without damage to the total impression. This melody—

built exceptionally from one- or two-measure units—is counterpointed with the
first five-measure phrase of the violin theme. But it is impossible to correctly grasp
even the beginning of the main idea if one overlooks the expressive melody in the
bass voice, which could easily happen on account of its division into two units now
of three measures each.

To avoid this oversight—if one does not feel the beauty of such a theme (and
of the music in general) with the heart—requires a faculty of hearing that, at the
minimum, can distinguish among voices so finely diverse in character, that can rec-
ognize melodic phrases of differing lengths that drop out and reappear at different
points within these first six measures, and that can follow their progress as well as
understand their formation of harmonies. It also requires a faculty of hearing that
receives its most difficult challenge in regard to rhythm, which here and generally in
Schoenberg’s music reveals an unprecedented multiplicity and variety.
We see this in the cello line just cited. Its long-extended opening legato phrases
lead in the seventh measure to a skipping dotted-eighth scale,* which two measures
later is joined to a contrasting seven-note theme (E♭, A ♭, C, F, A, D, F♯) in weighty
quarter notes made of an upward thrusting alternation of fourths and thirds. Here
two important motivic elements of the Quartet are introduced. All these rhythmic
forms are brought into a contrapuntal connection with the other voices, which are
developed using entirely different durational relations.
One would have to be quite deaf or quite malicious to call such music “arrhyth-
mic” when it has such rhythmic richness and concentration in both successive and

* When it is recognized that the sixth measure is a variation of the third and that the seventh mea-
sure is a variation of the previous measure, the feeling for musical coherence (without which music
would be senseless) becomes obvious.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 189

simultaneous dimensions.24 Yes, if by this word it is meant that all temporal and
durational relations are “arrhythmic” when they are not derived from mechanical
motions (e.g., mill wheel, railroad) or similar bodily ones (march, dance, etc.). Then
I  could see calling Schoenberg’s music this, but also Mozart’s and that of all the
classical masters, except in their dances and movements (scherzo, rondo, etc.) bor-
rowed from old dance forms.
Or perhaps by the term “arrhythmic” is meant the opposite of the term
“rhythm” when not used as a musical concept, but instead (like “ethos” and
“cosmos,” “dynamics” and “mentality” and other such clichés of our time) as
a concept that could serve for anything concerning motion, whether in art or
sports, philosophy or industry, world history or finance. Such a usage that does
not refer to musical forms in motion but to something vague, not defined by
music itself, could be applied to the recent stock-market crash just as well as
to the rhythm of a piece of music. It is plainly useless to account for rhythmic
phenomena that originate in musical details and spread throughout an entire
work. That such a watering-down of concepts could occur—even among com-
posers whose high standing makes it least expected—shows how difficult it is
for music to be understood when it has only art as its means of measurement,
rather than some “agenda.”25
So we come once again to the main task of my investigation: to the difficulty
of understanding of Schoenberg’s music, a difficulty that is produced, as we have
seen, by the beautiful abundance of its themes, counterpoint, and rhythm. It
remains yet to speak of the harmonic richness of this music, of the immeasur-
able fullness of chords and chordal connections, which comes from a polyphony
(to be discussed presently) that is extraordinary in contemporary music. This
polyphony is the outcome of juxtaposing voices that are characterized especially
by an unprecedented mobility of melodic line. Like everything else, this super-
abundance of harmonic activity is destined to be misunderstood—and just as
The strict choralelike setting below does not contain, as might be thought, the
chords of an adagio unfolding in leisurely curves. No, it is simply the harmonic skel-
eton of the much-discussed opening of the Quartet.

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190 pro mundo—pro domo

It seems inconceivable that something so simple could ever fail to be under-

stood and be greeted by its first audiences, in search of scandal, as an orgy of dis-
sonances. So unusually many and diverse chords lined up within the narrow space
of ten measures in a quick alla breve time—even though logical—explains how
an unsophisticated ear accustomed to the poverty of chord degrees in other con-
temporary music cannot take in a succession of five or more harmonies in a few
seconds without finding “hypertrophy” (another cliché), when only richness and
abundance prevail. This last example should show that the makeup of chords and
their connections cannot be blamed for difficulty of understanding. Nowhere in
the Quartet’s ten measures, not even in the most fleeting sixteenth note, is found a
simultaneity that would need further explanation for an ear trained in the harmony
of the past century. Even the two whole-tone chords (marked by [in the musi-
cal example above]), with their chromatic preparation and resolution, could not
today offend anyone’s moral principles without making him the laughingstock of
the musical world.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 191

So we see how incorrect it is, and always has been, to assess Schoenberg’s music
by speaking of a reckless “modern” voice leading that ignores the harmonies it gen-
erates. These ten measures that I have shown can just as well be found in any part
of this work. Even those passages in the development having the boldest harmony
are no playground littered with unsupervised chords arising by accident. Even here
nothing happens by chance, and whoever still cannot follow along must quietly take
the blame himself and trust in the hearing of a master who produces these things
that seem difficult to us with the same ease with which he tosses off the most com-
plex contrapuntal exercise before the eyes of his students. And to the question of
whether he “had then been really aware” of an especially difficult passage in one
of his works, he answered with quip that contains a deep truth: “Yes, right when
I composed it!”
A style shaped by such an unwavering musicality encompasses all compositional
possibilities and is accordingly never entirely or fundamentally explainable. Not
even theoretically.
The results so far of my analysis (however thorough my intentions) have far from
exhausted the content of these few measures. For example, it is still to be mentioned
that its voices, created from the very beginning in invertible counterpoint, admit
by the rules of polyphony a variety of manifestations in the different reprises of
the main idea. And since nothing is repeated mechanically in this early work by
Schoenberg, the melodies of the violin and cello are the first to change places. To
represent this graphically, let the vertical order of voices in the first measures of the
Quartet be:


On page 5 of the study score [from m. 30] these take the order

3 (in octaves [in Violins I and II])


On their third appearance (page 8 [m. 65]) the subsidiary voices, while strictly pre-
serving their melodic notes, are varied. The ordering is then:

2 (variant in sixteenth notes [in Violin II])

1 (in octaves [in Violin I and Viola])
3 (whirling in eighth-note triplets [in Cello]).

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192 pro mundo—pro domo

Finally, at the last reprise of the main section (page 53 [m. 909]), the main voice
and counter voice, apart from the countless combinations with other themes in this
work, have the order:

3 (variant in eighth-note triplets, which is different from the preceding one [in
Violin I])
1 (in octaves [in Violin II and Viola])
(3, inversion in an eighth-note diminution [in Cello]).26

These ten initial measures and their recurrences that are varied in these ways are
only a very, very small fragment of this nearly hour-long work. They can give only
a general idea of the harmonic activity that thrives in thousands of measures in this
music, together with an abundance of polyphony and counterpoint not heard since
the time of Bach. One can calmly assert, with no charge of exaggeration, that each
of its smallest phrases, each accompanimental figure is significant for the melodic
development of the four voices and for their ever changing rhythm. To use a single
word, each one is thematic. And this occurs within a single large symphonic move-
ment, whose colossal architecture cannot even be superficially explored in the con-
text of this study.
We should not be surprised if an ear accustomed to the music of the last century
cannot follow such occurrences as here. In that music homophony almost always
prevails, themes are made from symmetric two- and four-measure units, and devel-
opments and elaborations are largely unthinkable without numerous mechanical
repetitions and sequences. All of this demands a relative simplicity in harmony and
rhythm. Decades of familiarity with such things make the listener of today quite
incapable of understanding music of a different type. He is irritated by the revival
of an unfamiliar technique and the departure from the tried-and-true, even in a
single musical element that may still be allowed from the standpoint of rules. In
Schoenberg’s music there is a combination, a simultaneous appearance, of proper-
ties that would be considered traits of good music if they were found individually or
distributed over different periods of time.
Let us think of Bach’s polyphony, or of the often quite free thematic design, in
respect to construction and rhythm, of the classicists and their forerunners. Or of
the romantics, with their juxtaposition of distantly related tonal regions that still
today is considered bold, or of Wagner’s new chords, produced by chromatic altera-
tion and enharmonic change, with their obvious incorporation into tonality. Finally
of Brahms’s thematic and motivic work, which often reaches to the smallest details.
It is clear that a music that brings together all of these resources inherited from
the classicists will not only be different from contemporary music from which such
a combination—as I will show—is absent. Despite its characteristics recognized as
traits of all good music, despite its pronounced richness in all musical areas—or,

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 193

better, precisely because of this—such music will be as difficult to understand as

Schoenberg’s music in fact is.
I will be criticized in this study for having proved something that is in no need of
proof—that the D Minor Quartet is difficult—when it is actually a “tonal” work that
is no longer a problem, and, quite the opposite, generally recognized and thereby
understood. Even if that goes too far, I admit that the question addressed in this
article would seem to be answered only if what I showed in a few bars in the minor
mode is also demonstrated in at least one example of so-called atonal music. But to
do so would raise questions not only of difficulty, but also (as will probably have
been seen in my analysis) of proving that things are right and proper in this music
despite much that will be found quite difficult to understand. Things are right and
proper, to be sure, things demonstrably of the highest art! Of course this is easier
to show with an example that still rests on major and minor tonality, but, in spite of
that, having the additional advantage that the music in its day caused as much agita-
tion as “atonal” music does today. And from the moment when I noticed that this
[agitation] was as evident with the former music as with the latter, I would need only to
extend* what I said about these ten Quartet measures to some chosen passage in his
later and most recent works. And the agitation is just as great, not only with the works
of Schoenberg—the “father of the atonal concept,” as he is generally known—but
also with those of the majority of the musical universe. So the question of the title
would appear to be answered here too and evidence produced that things—those
of the highest art—are right and proper in this music. We shall see that it is not so
much so-called atonality—an expression much on the lips of contemporaries—that
creates difficulty of understanding, but instead the other structures of Schoenberg’s
music: the fullness of artistic means that are achieved and generally applied also in
this harmonic style, the drawing together of all existing compositional resources
from the music of past centuries, and, in a word, its immeasurable richness.
Here too we find the same diversity in harmony and the same multiple chord
degrees marking cadences. Here too melody suited to such harmonies, melody that
puts to the boldest use the resources of the twelve tones. Here too the asymmetry
and free construction of themes, with their untiring motivic work. Here too the art
of variation that reaches in this music to themes as well as to their harmonization,
counterpoint, and rhythm. Here too a polyphony that spreads over an entire work
and an unparalleled contrapuntal technique. Here too, finally, the multiplicity and
differentiation of rhythm. Let it be said again that in addition to its own laws, this
rhythm is also subjected to those of variation, thematic development, counterpoint,

* For example in the Woodwind Quintet [op.  26], about which I  dare to speak without know-
ing a note. Its composition, which is nearing completion, was begun in this summer of 1924 (what a
coincidence!), in the same place [Traunsee] where exactly twenty years earlier the D Minor Quartet
was begun.

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194 pro mundo—pro domo

and polyphony. Here too an art of construction is attained that proves how wrong it
is to speak of any “dissolved rhythm” in Schoenberg’s music.
Viewed from this universal standpoint, other contemporary composers—even
those whose harmonic language has broken with the domination of the triad—
appear fundamentally different. Of course, in their music we may find the artistic
means just enumerated, but we never find them, as with Schoenberg, combined in
the work of any one personality. They are instead always divided up among different
factions, schools, age groups, nations, and their representatives.
One composer will adopt a polyphonic style but reduce thematic development
and the art of variation to a bare minimum. Another will use bold harmonies, not
shrinking from any combination of tones, but then write a single melodic line that
scarcely exceeds a simple homophony in two- and four-measure phrases. For some,
“atonality” consists in placing false basses beneath primitive harmonic phrases.
Others use two or more (major or minor) keys simultaneously, in either one of which
the remaining musical procedures dwindle under a frightful poverty of invention.
Music that is distinguished by a richly moving melody and free thematic construc-
tion will suffer from inertia in its harmony, marked by a poverty of chord degrees,
long-sustained chords, endless pedal points, and repetitive harmonic progressions.
We can generalize that music of this type could scarcely get by without its mechani-
cal repetitions and primitive sequences, something seen especially in rhythm. This
borders on monotony, as it uses its many changes of meter and displacements of
beat to disguise scantiness as formal richness. Its rhythms—stiff, hammering, danc-
ing, bouncing—more often than not are the only point of cohesion in an otherwise
trivial music. The representatives of this compositional technique are those who are
praised as “strong rhythmicists.”
The orientation toward these more or less fixed principles, this exaggerated
one-sidedness that approaches mannerism, this self-satisfaction or (to put it nicely)
being “modern but not extreme” promotes the accessibility and the relative popu-
larity of this “atonal” and otherwise “progressively oriented” music. Even if it places
one or a few difficulties before the listener, it usually does not deviate in any other
respect from the conventional and is often intentionally “primitive,” so that owing
precisely to these negative qualities it can please the ear of the musically less gifted,
and, in a word, make for easy appeal. All the more so since the authors of such music,
to be pure in style, need be conscious only of their own type of modernity and feel
no necessity to accept the consequences of a combination of all resources.
Let me repeat that there exists an inescapable necessity to accept even the most
far-reaching consequences of a self-chosen musical universality, and this is uniquely
found in Schoenberg’s compositions. And this, I  believe, points to the final and
perhaps strongest reason for its difficulty of understanding. This noble necessity
is observed with a sovereignty found, I would say, only in the genius. It supports
everything I have said about Schoenberg’s great expertise, which is beyond that of
any contemporary, and leads to the assumption—no, to the certainty—that here

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 195

we have the work of a master. When all the “classics of our time” are in the past,
Schoenberg will be one of the few who will be called a classic for all times. Not
only has he “drawn from German musical culture the final, boldest conclusions,”
as Adolf Weißmann aptly put it in his book Die Musik in der Weltkrise,27 he has also
brought them further than those who sought new paths without reason, and thus,
consciously or not, negated to some degree the art of this musical culture. So today,
on Schoenberg’s fiftieth birthday, one need be no prophet to say that through the
works that he has already sent forth into the world, the supremacy of his own art
seems assured—as well as that of German music for the next fifty years.

Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto: An Open Letter

9 February 1925

Dear Friend Arnold Schoenberg,

The composition of this concerto, which I have dedicated to you on your fiftieth
birthday, is completed only today, on my fortieth.28 Although sent to you late, I ask
you to receive it in amity, all the more since it was always meant for you and is a small
monument to a friendship of more than twenty years. In a musical motto that is placed
before the first movement there are the letters of your name, also Anton Webern’s and
my own, so far as this is possible through musical letters,* forming three themes (or
motives) that play a significant role in the melodic development of this music.
With this I indicate the trinity of events—since it refers to the threes in all the
good things that I wish you on your birthday—which is decisive for the entire work.
The three parts of my concerto, which are merged into a single movement, are
labeled with the following three terms and tempo indications:

1. Thema scherzoso con Variazioni

2. Adagio
3. Rondo ritmico con Introduzione (cadenza).

From the three types of available instruments (keyboard, string, and wind), each of
these parts uses a distinctive sound group, made by placing the piano (1.), the violin
(2.), and both (3.) with the accompanying winds.

Alban Berg, “Alban Bergs Kammerkonzert für Geige und Klavier mit Begleitung von dreizehn
Bläsern,” Pult und Taktstock 2/2–3 (February 1925): 23–27. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.
*That is, A–D–S–C–H–B–E–G [A–D–E♭–C–B–B♭–E–G], A–E–B–E [A–E–B♭–E], A–B–A–B–
E–G [A–B♭–A–B♭–E–G].

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196 pro mundo—pro domo

These last (with piano and violin forming a chamber orchestra of fifteen—a holy
number since your op.  9 for the same instrumentation) consist of piccolo, flute,
oboe, English horn, E♭, A, and bass clarinets, bassoon, contrabassoon; two horns,
trumpet, and trombone.
Also in the formal dimension there is repeatedly found the number three or its
Thus in the first movement is a sixfold repeat of a single basic idea. This, stated
in expository fashion as a ternary variation theme of thirty measures for the wind
ensemble, is taken first by piano alone in the virtuosic character of this instrument,
then varied, then repeated (first reprise). In Variation 2 the melodic tones of the
“theme” are retrograded, in Variation 3 inverted,29 in Variation 4 inverted in retro-
grade (by which these three middle variations can be seen as the development sec-
tion of this “sonata first-movement”), while the final variation returns to the basic
shape of the theme. But since these variations occur in strettos between piano and the
wind ensemble—in canons in which the voice group that enters later tries to over-
take the one that first entered—this final variation (or reprise) takes on an entirely
new shape that agrees with its simultaneous placement as a coda. It is obvious and
needs no special emphasis that each of these thematic variants has its own attributes,
even though—and this seems important for me to stress—the scherzo character in
this first part is dominant and must be made absolutely clear in performances.
The design of the Adagio is a “three-part song form”—A1–B–A2—in which A2
is the inversion of A1. The repetition of the first half of this section of 120 mea-
sures takes place in retrograde, in part by freely reshaping the theme in retrograde,
in part (as, for example, in the entire middle section B) as a precise mirror form.
The third movement, finally, is an amalgamation of the two preceding ones (see
the tabular overview). The entire architecture of the concerto thus has a three-part
form owing to the recurrence of the variation movement (enriched by the simulta-
neous reprise of the Adagio).
Movements 1 and 2 are merged in three basic ways:

1. Free counterpointing of the corresponding parts;

2. Successive juxtaposition of individual phrases and passages, one after the other
like a duet;
3. Precise addition of whole sections from the two movements.

To bring all of these component parts and different characters under one roof (keep
in mind, dear friend, that we have a pervasively scherzoso variation movement that
lasts for some nine minutes and a broadly lyrical, extended Adagio lasting a quarter of
an hour) the form of a “Rondo ritmico” arose, in a new movement with its own tone.*

* The duration of this movement (with repeat) is also some fifteen minutes, for a complete time of
ca. thirty-nine minutes.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 197

Tabular Overview

of bars
in the basic shape retrograde inversion retrograde basic
Variazioni inversion shape

(Expo- (First (Development) (Second

sition) reprise) reprise)

30 30 60 30 30 60 240

II Ternary Retrograde
Adagio A1 B A2 A2 B A1
(inversion (mirror form
of A1) of preceding

30 12 36 12 30 30 12 36 12 30 240
III Introduction Exposition Development Second
(= I plus II) (cadenza for reprise
violin and piano) or coda
Rondo (da capo)
ritmico con bars:
Introduzione 54 96 79 76 305
Repeat: 175 175

Three rhythmic forms: a main and a subsidiary rhythm and another that can be
construed like a motive. These are used in the most diverse of variants (lengthened
and shortened, in augmentation and diminution, in stretto and in retrograde, in all
manner of metric displacement and transposition, etc. etc.), laid under the melodic
tones of the main and secondary voices. With this and by its rondolike return a the-
matic unity is achieved that is in no way inferior to that of the old rondo form and
by which also insures—to use one of your own technical terms—a relatively facile
“comprehensibility” of musical action.
I first showed in a scene of my opera Wozzeck that this procedure—allowing a
rhythm to play such a large constructive role—is possible.30 But it was from a passage
in your Serenade [op. 24] that I saw that this most far-reaching thematic reshap-
ing of a rhythm as I did in this Rondo is admissible. In the last movement of the
Serenade—coming from a quite different motivation—a number of motives and
themes from the preceding movements are placed in multiple rhythms that did not
earlier belong to them. And vice versa. And when I learned from the recent article
by Felix Greissle on the formal structure of your Woodwind Quintet (Anbruch,
February number, 1925)  pointing out that, in the last movement, among other
places, “the theme is brought back with the same rhythm each time using the tones
of a different row,” this seemed to me further evidence for the rightness of such a
constructive procedure with rhythm.

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198 pro mundo—pro domo

Another means of putting the finale of my concerto on its own feet (despite
bringing over all of its notes from the two earlier movements) is in the choice of time
signatures. While the variations are entirely in triple meter and the Adagio dominated
by even-numbered meters, in the Rondo there is a constant alternation of all imagin-
able even and odd, composite and non-composite meters, so as to emphasize in the
area of meter the ever-returning trinity of events.
This is also expressed in harmonic terms, where amid passages in which tonality
is entirely dissipated, still small passages with tonal elements emerge, as do others
that correspond to your laws of “composition with twelve tones.”31 Let me men-
tion finally that divisibility by three has also governed the number of measures in the
whole work as well as in its parts. I am aware that when this becomes known my
reputation as mathematician will grow in proportion to the square of the distance
by which my reputation as a composer falls.
But, seriously, if I  have spoken in this analysis almost exclusively of those
things that have relevance to the number three, this has been so, first, because
no one would notice just these occurrences (given all the other musical ones);
second, because I, as author, can speak much more easily about such things than
about inner processes of which this concerto is certainly no poorer than any
other music. Yes, let me say, dear friend, if it were known how much friendship,
love, and world in human and spiritual relations I have smuggled into these three
movements, the adherents of program music—if there are any left—would be
delighted, and the [representatives and defenders of the “New Classicism,” and
“New Objectivity,”] the “linearists,” “physiologists,” the “contrapuntists,” and the
“formalists” would fall upon me in indignation at such “romantic” tendencies—if
I did not make them aware that they too, if they wanted to look, would have their
hearts’ desire.32
It has been my objective in this dedication to bring you on your birthday truly
“all good things,” and a “concerto” is just the art form in which not only the solo-
ists (including the conductor) can display their virtuosity and brilliance, but the
composer too. To compose such a work—preferably one with chamber-orchestra
accompaniment—was what you advised me to do, dear friend, many years ago,
not suspecting (or maybe you did!) that you, as always, with this advice were out
ahead, in awakening this very art form to new life, as it is nowadays everywhere.
So by sending you this and, as I mentioned, a token of a threefold rejoicing, I can
hope that I have found that “better opportunity” of which you spoke prophetically
in your Harmonielehre:  “And so perhaps this activity, too, will eventually return
to me.”33
Alban Berg

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 199

Committed Response to a Noncommittal Survey

A year ago, on the occasion of Arnold Schoenberg’s fiftieth birthday, I wrote “that
through the works that he has already sent forth into the world, the supremacy of
his own art—as well as that of German music—seems assured for the next fifty
years.”34 With these words my reply to the request from Universal Edition, “to look
forward to the next 25 years,” is made in full. And since this is no mere assertion,
instead a prophecy neither more nor less, giving proof of its accuracy would be
But to give proof would not be hard when we contemplate music of the last
twenty-five years and survey in general terms its development from its very
beginning. I choose not to do so in this case because I am convinced that such
proof serves virtually no purpose. Since proof is irrefutable (I won’t bother with
other types!) it cannot be contradicted in point of fact. On the other hand,
since it cannot be confirmed, the easiest way of weakening its truth is simply
to shroud it in silence. Once forgotten, how easy it is to make some other,
opposing claim.
This is so in the present case. Not that I fear that anyone would assert that the
thousand composers being performed today will still be mentioned in twenty-five
years. I know also that it is clear even to those who don’t share my opinions that
of the hundred composers who today enjoy esteem and recognition nothing may
remain behind but their names in music histories and dictionaries and that only a
few of them will still have currency in the year 1950. But even if an attempt to fix the
names of a few masters—ten if that many—on the basis of a “look forward to the
next twenty-five years” were possible, it would produce the same deep differences
of opinion that would impede, by some contrary assertion, a look forward for only a
single one—whether I dare to cite the one who appears to me today as the first and
perhaps only living figure capable of carrying on the classic tradition, or some other
living figure who for the moment has public favor, or some whole group of musi-
cians, or even a national trend that is in vogue. So having to abandon the path that
leads to proof—which is a blind alley in the truest sense of the term—I would like
to assert, at least by way of analogy, that if people do not want to rely on my prophe-
cies there is even less reason to put any credence in the judgment of public opinion.
I won’t take the easy route here by citing old critiques from the contemporary press
of an earlier day. That would make for an article in itself. Citing their errors of judg-
ment seems too cheap and banal to be still persuasive. My arguments will be of a
more general nature.

Alban Berg, “Verbindliche Antwort auf eine unverbindliche Rundfrage,” 25 Jahre neue
Musik: Jahrbuch 1926 der Universal-Edition, ed. Hans Heinsheimer and Paul Stefan (Vienna: Universal
Edition, 1926), 220–25. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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200 pro mundo—pro domo

Who knows today the names of the thousand composers or the works of the
hundred “musical artists” who twenty-five years ago had value? It makes one smile
to recall who then—just in Germany—were held in the highest esteem. Only a
few names will serve:  bring to mind Raff, Volkmann, Reinecke, Rheinberger,
Reinthaler, Kretschmer, Draeseke, Hiller, etc.35 At the time they stood higher than
Bruckner, Wolf, Mahler, Reger, and Debussy. In Meyers Konversations-Lexikon
for 1900, certainly a trusted organ of public opinion, the last group is either not
mentioned or, like Bruckner, dealt with in some twenty lines.36 To the first-named
pseudo-masters and many of their ilk, and even less significant musicians, long col-
umns and entire articles are devoted. About [Felix] Draeseke, for example, then
sixty years old, it is said that he “without doubt is one of the most significant indi-
viduals among living composers.” This, as I said, at a time when Mahler, Reger, and
Debussy were not only among the living composers but had risen to the height of
their powers.
Coming from the same year, the Goldenes Buch der Musik (1900)—from
which as a boy I  gathered my own knowledge of music history—as if by col-
lusion gives the same results of musicological research.37 The chapter headings
alone speak volumes. In the section titled “Instrumental Music” in modern
times, after a section devoted to “Brahms and Bruckner,” we find one headed
“Kiel, Herzogenberg, Bruch, Blumner, Hofmann.”38 Gustav Mahler is men-
tioned in the music history part of this truly golden book only in the section
on program music, and this in the now obtuse combination “Schulz-Beuthen,
These historical assessments are covered with a veil of seriousness and dignity,
so that one would think they hold eternal validity. And these have not stood for
even one generation. Where would I be if I had given credence to writings of this
sort, if even then the first measures of a Mahler symphony had not led me, once
and for all, out of the world of the Draesekes and Reineckes, if people like us had
not—over and again—been lifted beyond that musty atmosphere into the “air
from other planets.”40
Ever more in such regions one loses a sense for what goes on in the public mind.
And, to be sure, not only what they, by way of their dictionaries and music histo-
ries, would have us seriously believe but also, indeed more, by what they have found

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 201

The Meggendorfer-Blätter, a German “periodical for humor and culture,” pub-

lished this [poem] in 1910:

Epilog to Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony

(after the premier performance with 1000 musicians in Munich)
Maestoso, animato,
Presto, dolce, pizzicato,
Pianissimo, furioso,
Lusingando, lamentoso,
Con sordino, con dolore,
Allegretto, con amore,—
triplets, Coca-colas,
Basses, tubas and violas,
canons, modulations,
fifths in several variations,
C♯ majors, A ♭ minors,
soli, tutti, noisy diners;
drums, harps, and xylophones—
patience please, no telephones;
Drums, cymbals, bells, trombones.
Thunder metal and clanking  bones;
tower bells with hammers,
roaring metal whammers,
whirring fast propellers,
clanking churchly knellers—
All of this is plain  to  see
in the mighty Eighth Symphony.
and Mahler he’s no mourner;
the Ninth is just around the corner!

The Ninth had already been written and the Tenth was in the works. A year later
Mahler was dead.—
Here is another example of an especially successful merger of humor and culture: In
a worthy old periodical, which had, according to Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, “the
greatest circulation of all the German humor pages,” which “fought with great zeal
against the foolishness of fashion and taste in the spirit of healthy German national
traditions” (this being a measure par excellence of cultural value), we find the fol-
lowing joke (see figure 3):
You might think that this means fighting, in the spirit of healthy German national
traditions, against the fashionable foolishness of the large scores of Wagner, or perhaps
Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, or the score of [Schoenberg’s] Gurrelieder, which has as

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202 pro mundo—pro domo

Figure 3 “Higher Pleasure”

many as forty-six lines. But you would be wrong. The text below the cartoon reveals the
object of this comic’s parody: “It is still a heavenly pleasure to read a Beethoven score.”
This occurs in the fifty-third number of the Fliegende Blätter for 1847, approxi-
mately twenty-five years after Beethoven’s fiftieth birthday. And, what is more nota-
ble still, twenty years after his death!
I dispute flat out the ability and the right of a public that publishes and allows this
sort of thing, or a public’s opinion that is documented by it, to formulate or lay down
judgments about high art. And I suspect that the public still today is inclined to find
such humorous moments to be harmless or at least not to understand why I get worked
up over them. And when people like me recognize this, there is nothing left but to flee
from such a present into a distant future. And thus one realizes the true sense of the
dedication with which Arnold Schoenberg sends into the world a work [his recently
published Woodwind Quintet, op. 26] that begins the second quarter century of his
oeuvre. It is not only an act of paternal love when he dedicates his Wind Quintet,
op. 26, to an unsuspecting child.41 I believe it could be said that this music, which the
unsuspecting children of our time can cope with just as little as “Baby Arnold” does
now, is reserved for a time in which at least this second generation will be grown, for a
time in which today’s prophecy will finally have become an irrefutable truth.
This is something truly “to look forward to in the next 25 years!”

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 203

Two Analyses of the Lyric Suite

Composition with Twelve Tones
For my first attempts I chose the row discovered by [Fritz Heinrich] Klein, which
not only has all twelve tones but also all twelve intervals* (when composing I did not,
of course, follow the order of intervals). It reads:

Its symmetry has advantages but also disadvantages. Successions of fourths and
fifths can be derived from it:

Also, by axis rotation the C major and G♭ major chords with their scalar contents

Alban Berg, “Komposition mit zwölf Tönen,” handwritten enclosure to a letter to Arnold
Schoenberg dated 13 July 1926. Library of Congress, Arnold Schoenberg Collection. Translated by
Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

* This row, like the chord derived from it [below], contains similarly all twelve notes and all twelve
intervals (with its inversion and a third form derived by axis rotation). It is the only one of its kind! So
a theoretically interesting case.—[See n. 44 on p. 413.]

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204 pro mundo—pro domo

and corresponding tonal suggestions of A  minor and E♭ minor, or F and B

[major]. This symmetry also has a serious disadvantage. The second half is the
mirror image of the first half, lying a diminished fifth lower, which is apparent in
the following:

This means that this row has no independent retrograde forms. Actually, the retro-
grade of the original row, R, when transposed down a diminished fifth—

—is the same as the [original] row following an adjustment of register for some
tones (see above):

For this reason (I noticed it only while at work), I decided in my next efforts to
make the following change in the row:

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 205

While composing, the first four notes arose as an especially important motive.
To preserve this four-note succession (better described as a four-note group [Gr])
in transpositions and inversions, like an ostinato, I looked at those transformations
and found that this tone group (allowing for the notes to be reordered) is contained
only in three other forms, so they were available to me in four forms in all (plus
retrogrades = 8).
In addition to the four-note groups (F E C F♯, E F F♯ C, E F C F♯, and C F♯ F E)
I used the remainders: four 8-note rows, which were full of variety if I started them
at the end of the Grs. Thus:

All of this also using their retrograde forms. As I said, no other transpositions to
other degrees were used.
Furthermore, I  derived from this row and its inversion the following division
into 7 + 5,

which, in addition to the chromatic scale, produced the following motive and its

and a characteristic rhythm along with its complement:

No one in the world (pardon me—except for you alone, dear friend) can imagine
the difficulties I encountered in finding in these four forms (RI, II, III, and inver-
sion) the possible four-part canons (of which there are seventeen).42 So my progress
was slow. Also for this reason, so as not to lose heart, I sometimes fell back into my
old familiar free style.

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206 pro mundo—pro domo

Nine Pages on the Lyric Suite

6 movements:
Allegretto: twelve tone
Andante: free
Allegro: twelve tone (Trio free)
Adagio: free
Presto: free (both Trios twelve tone)
Largo: twelve tone
The row changes over the course of the four movements by changing the position
of certain tones (these changes are not essential for the line, but they are for the
character, “suffering fate”).43

Rows: see enclosure [i.e., the following pages]

Form: see enclosure

Connection of individual movements occurs not just because the twelve-tone row
creates such a connection, but also because some element—a theme or row, a pas-
sage or idea—is carried over from one movement to the next, the last movement
connected similarly to the first. Of course not mechanically, but in relation to the
large development (intensification of mood) throughout the entire Suite (“suffering

[Movement] I

(introductory character, quasi intrada)

The row of the first movement

= the twelve-tone row discovered by F.  H. Klein, which contains all twelve
intervals (the only one of its kind).44 Its symmetric property allows (in this rather

Alban Berg, untitled typescript, Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS Mus 195, with addenda
from Berg’s autograph manuscript, Library of Congress, Rudolf Kolisch Collection. A facsimile and
transcription of the latter source is given by Willi Reich under the title “Neun Blätter zur ‘Lyrischen
Suite für Streichquartett,’ ” in Alban Berg:  Bildnis im Wort (Zurich:  Die Arche, 1959), pp.  45–54.
Translation by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 207

objective piece as well as by the somewhat mathematical form of this row), for
example, for:

fourths and fifths. 1–3, 5–6, 4–2 | 12–10, 8–7, 9–11 = fifths;

two symmetric halves joined by a diminished fifth (which accordingly plays a
larger role);
the four shapes used here, connected by minor thirds (two min.
thirds = diminished fifth), and their (four) inversions:

antecedent F major, consequent B major or C♭ major. Corresponding scalar forms:

no retrograde form (since the retrograde  =  the original form transposed to the
diminished fifth):

Form of this movement: two-part (?): exposition (1–35) and reprise (36–69)

exposition reprise
main section idea [mm.] 1–12 36–48
transition 13–22 49–52
subsidiary section 23 [–32] 53–61
closing section 33–35 62–69

[Movement] II

A 1–15, 6/8
B (first subsidiary section) 16– (transitional from 36), 3/8
A 41–
C (second subsidiary section) 56–, 2/8

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208 pro mundo—pro domo

Reprise (developmental):

A (shortened and varied), 81–, (from 91 taking the character of B, 3/8)

B (reordered):
from 94 corresponding to the exposition, mm. 24–, Viola;
from 101 corresponding to the exposition, mm. 16–.

Continued by alternating the two subsidiary sections:

C 105– = 56–
B 101– [= 16–]
109– = 20–
C 113– = 62– (subsidiary theme from A, mm. 1–2, Viola)
B 118– = 24–
C 120– = 66–

Intensification [from m. 122] using these three (or four) motives—

—continuing until the “quasi p, aber hörbar und immer mehr durchdringen”
[rather soft, but audible and ever more penetrating] at m.  131. The main
theme (6/8) appears at 143 and continues until the conclusion at 150 [on
this] figure:

Connection with the first movement. The row—

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 209

—in which two notes (C and A) have changed positions, corresponds to [theme] B
in the first subsidiary section (m. 24–):

So too at the following entrances:

Cello (27–), note 7–12–3 (4), and

Violin II (31–), note 5–12, 1, 2.45

Movement III
Scherzo form with one Trio:

A2 (which, although shortened, presents A1 backward)

A1 and A2 are strictly in the twelve-tone system. B is entirely free (and at the same
time [returns in] the exposition of the fourth movement). Mm. 77–78 contain a
reminiscence from [Movement] II, mm. 13–14.
Connection with the second movement: mm. 77–78 have a reminiscence from the
second movement, mm. 13–14. This is the connection with the second movement.
In A only the row (1–12) is used, but it takes the shape of the second movement
(m. 24–), etc., and has only four forms. These four forms are the only ones among the
twelve transpositions of the row and the twelve transpositions of the inversion that
contain this group of four notes (ignoring row order)—

—which runs through the whole piece like a common denominator (ostinato). Thus:

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210 pro mundo—pro domo

All other rows (and inversions) lack this four-note group. By removing these
groups, four 8-note rows result, e.g., mm. 6–9.
Another type of row partitioning (cf. mm. 10 in Violin I  and Viola) and its

—produce, moreover, two important rhythms:

Various canons (from the eight-note rows) and ostinati in various forms and
stretti. Finally, from m. 46 all of the possible stretti (possible, that is, without creat-
ing unisons [or octaves]), among the 4 forms (as twelve-tone rows).46 Intensifying
chromatically until the Trio.
Measure 93—repeat of A but in retrograde (backward), also shortened.

A2 corresponds to A1
93–95 69–67
96–104 66–58
105–7 45–43
108 39
109–38 (end) 29–1 (beginning)

Movement IV
Connection with [Movement] III Trio (thematically). Compare:
Adagio and Trio [of Movement III] (mm. 70–92)
m. 1 mm. 74–75 Viola
12–13 70–73

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 211

21–23 81–83
32 (second half)–33 80
34–39 86–92
NB: 76–78 [of the Trio] = Movement II, 13–14
compare Violin I, m. 5, with Viola, m. 14 (inverted);
compare Cello, 1, and Viola, 8;
measure 29 Viola, later Violin [I] (measure 30), becomes the
main theme of the second movement), as in its second half
(and [measure] 31);47
63–65, canon in four parts;
17–30 = 15–17 circa;
40 quasi coda, or 45;
59 = 40 Viola.

Movement V
A1 50 measures
B[1] 70 measures
A2 90 measures
B2 110 measures
A3 140 measures

[Sections are] increasingly longer; almost entirely in [hyper]measures of fives,

especially in the

A free
B twelve-tone system on the basis of the row and inversion. Again with
reordering of notes by which the last shape of the row, that of Movement VI,
is reached.

Row in Movement III [and V]:

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212 pro mundo—pro domo

Further row transpositions:

mm. 211–40

mm. 241–60, 261–66 in Violins and in canon, Viola–Cello, 263–68

m. 266–. Canon between 2 Violins and Viola–Cello with this row:

m. 272–. Canon between 2 Violins and Viola–Cello with this row:

m. 281–. Inversion in 2 Violins and Viola; in Cello the same inversion from
4–5–6 . . . 1–2–3

m. 285–, inversion in Cello

m. 291–, row:

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 213

m. 297, row, to the end of the Trio, m. 320:

m. 380–, inversion reminiscence between Viola and Cello

Important rhythm in the Trios:  [hyper]measures of 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 beats (=  15

beats), and the reverse. So, for example:  [mm.] 51–56–60–63–65–66 [are sepa-
rated by] 5–4–3–2–1 [beats]. Or [mm.] 86–91–95–98–100–101, then backward.
Or: 306–311–315–318–320–321.
[Mm.] 160–170 are the inversion of [mm.] 4–14; 411–20 are both [the inver-
sion and the prime form of 4–14]; the canon from 386 is the inversion of 171–85.
Compare the differences in the transitions from A to B and B to A.

Also compare the main theme = measure 1 [with] 121 col legno [and] 326 pizz.
Without being strictly twelve tone, the main theme is still twelve-tone-like (with
the E in Cello, m. 4) = 3 × 4 notes ([cf.] 148–52).
Division of this theme into three, four, and five notes (twelve). ([Cf.] mm. 342
and 441–45).
Mm. 356–70, reminiscence from Movement IV (corresponds exactly to mm.
45–46 [in Movement IV], Viola, transposed) = connection.

Movement VI (Finale)
Twelve-tone composition
The row as in the previous movement and transformations that follow (including
their transpositions):

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214 pro mundo—pro domo

(N.B.: Similarities of the partial half rows with the beginnings of the rows are
exploited, especially at the conclusion with the entrances of the four forms!
Form: cantabile throughout
Connection with Movement I: first compare m. 10 with m. 6, Violin II, in Movement
I; then mm. 37 and 39 in Movement VI with mm. 5–6 and 38–39 in Movement I.
All of the material in this [sixth] movement, even the tonal material (triads, etc.)
and the Tristan motive, mm. 26–27, is derived strictly from twelve-tone rows (from
the four forms above, including transpositions).
Some elements of form:

1–6 introduction
7–8 main melody foreshadowed
9–12 introduction repeated and main melody from 13 (Viola)

The rhythm of the main melody returns in 31–32 in the attack points of the chang-
ing notes in the four instruments:48

Introducing Ernst Krenek
I know, ladies and gentlemen, that I don’t have to say who Ernst Krenek is. You your-
selves—together with the boards of the Austrian Kulturbund and Verein für Neue
Musik—simultaneously and quite independently had the idea of inviting him to lec-
ture and to introduce himself to the Viennese public in person. His name has been
familiar to you even before the Vienna performance of Jonny [spielt auf]—at the
least as belonging to that large group of composers who through the fullness, diver-
sity, and strong influence of their works have outwardly furthered and still further
the development that music has undergone during the past twenty to thirty years.
I mean the path whose point of departure was marked off by late Mahler, Reger, and
Debussy and whose temporary end point is in the most recent works of Schoenberg
and his immediate circle. The space lying between and linking these points seems
filled out (superseding much from the past, applying many new resources, prepar-
ing much that is coming up) by the sizable production (in all areas of music) of
that large group of mainly young composers among whom Ernst Krenek must be
counted as one of the most successful and noteworthy.

Alban Berg, untitled typescript, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung, F21.

Berg.110/v/81–82. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 215

But apart from the thanks that we owe the composers in this movement—and
there are, as you know, many belonging to it today throughout the world—for a
series of interesting, beautiful, and indeed lasting works, it is an especially gratifying
fact that the ample present-day scope of this movement prevents this term “atonal
music” from being attached now (as it was not long ago) to some few names and
supporters. It would not occur to anyone today to describe this music as a matter
of “clique.” For how long was the influential art of Schoenberg mentioned only in
the context of this spiteful term? Who among you cannot recall the time when in
Vienna there was still and only a Mahler clique?
But today, if one wanted to characterize this now irresistible movement with the
same spite as before, if one intended at the least to separate it from music that did
not join in this development and if possible temporarily to halt its influence, then
one would have to resort to another term, the otherwise quite senseless word “fac-
tion” [Partei].
In the meantime this “faction” has become so large that it stretches literally over
the whole world of music; it is no longer something for the International Society for
Contemporary Music, something partisan. Quite independently there have appeared
societies of composers, performing musicians, and musical devotees in all the larger
cities of Europe and America that share and strive toward the same goals that we do.
And most gratifying of all is that on their lists of honorary members we find again
and again the names of artists who ten or twenty years ago belonged to those pitiful
“cliques” and to these alone. In this I think mainly of Vienna, where this movement
Krenek is also Viennese. Through his creations he has also taken a lively interest
in this movement, both as an individual and as one of many collaborators, so I think
that I can best greet him as our guest in the name not only of the Austrian Kulturbund
and Verein für Neue Musik, but also in the name of this “faction,” and extend our con-
gratulations on his great recent success and bid him a heartfelt welcome to our midst!
Introductory words for a lecture by Ernst Krenek in Vienna, organized by the
Kulturbund and Verein für Neue Musik.

The “Problem of Opera”

Pro Mundo
Not long ago, on the occasion of the premiere of a modern opera, I was asked some-
thing similar and wrote what follows for the program book.49 I think this explains
my position in general about the “problem of opera”:

Alban Berg, “Das ‘Opernproblem,’ ” Neue Musik-Zeitung 49/9 (1928):  285–87. Translated by
Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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216 pro mundo—pro domo

What do you think about the further development of opera as suited to the
times?—The same that I think about every development in art: that some-
day a masterpiece will be written that points so much to the future that by
its very existence we will be able to talk about the “further development of
opera.” The use of means “suited to the times”—like cinema, revue, loud-
speakers, and jazz—proves only that such a work is up-to-date. But this
cannot be called real progress because we are already there and cannot go
further with such things alone.
To say that the art form of opera has developed further—as hap-
pened, for example, with Monteverdi, Lully, Gluck, Wagner, and
finally in Schoenberg’s stage works—requires other means beyond
the simple application of the latest acquisitions and things that are in

But must it always “further develop”? Isn’t it enough to take the oppor-
tunity to make beautiful music for good theater, or, better said, to make
music so beautiful that—in spite of it—good theater will result?

Here I state a personal viewpoint about the “problem of opera,” and I need to do
so to correct a mistake about this that arose just when my opera Wozzeck became
known and since then has continued to spread. So please allow me this . . .

Pro Domo
It never occurred to me to attempt to reform the art form of opera when composing
Wozzeck. However little I intended this when I began to compose, I intended just as
little that it should become a model for further operatic creations, whether my own
or those by other composers. And I did not assume or even expect that Wozzeck in
this sense could “create a school.”
Apart from the wish to make good music, to fulfill musically the intellec-
tual content of Büchner’s immortal drama, and to translate his poetic language
musically, from the moment when I decided to write the opera I had nothing
in mind about a technique of composition, nothing in mind at all except to
give the theater what belongs to the theater, that is, to create music that at
every moment fulfills its duty to serve the drama. Furthermore, to create music
that provides everything that is needed to bring this drama to reality on stage,
thus demanding of the composer all the essential duties of an ideal regisseur.
And all of this without risking the absolute (purely musical) justification for
the existence of the music—without risking its own viability by extramusical

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 217

It happened quite by itself that this was done using more or less old musical forms
(cited as one of the most prominent of my alleged operatic reforms).
The necessity of creating a libretto by selecting from among Büchner’s twenty-six
loose and partly fragmentary scenes,50 avoiding repetitions that were not musically
susceptible to variation, bringing these scenes together, placing them in order and
dividing them into acts presented me, whether I liked it or not, with a task that was
more musical than literary—a task that could only be fulfilled with laws of musical
architecture, not with those of dramaturgy.
To vary the fifteen scenes that remained after this selection and consolidation—
to ensure their musical clarity and memorability—prevented me from the first from
using typical continuous “through composition” based solely on literary content.
No absolute music, even if rich in structure and vivid in illustrating dramatic events,
could avoid a feeling of musical monotony after only a small number of scenes com-
posed in this way. A dozen interludes that formally offer nothing but musical illustra-
tion, that undergo only an increasing intensification, could not avert a slackening of
interest and could lead only to boredom. And boredom is the last thing that should
be felt in the theater!
An obedience to the imperious demand to give musically to each of these
scenes and interludes (whether these have the form of prelude, postlude,
transition, or interlude per se) both their own unmistakable features and a
rounding off and closure brought about, as though by itself, an application of
whatever would guarantee distinctiveness on the one hand and closure on the
other. Thus the oft-noted use of old and new musical forms, including those
that appear only in absolute music.
In many respects their inclusion in the genre of opera on such a large scale may
be unusual, even new. But, as I have explained here, it is not meritorious in itself. So
the assertion that I have reformed the art form of opera by such innovations can and
must be flatly rejected.
But I  do not wish to belittle my work by this explanation (which others who
don’t know it as well can do much better), so I will readily confess to what I see as
solely meritorious in it:
To whatever extent to which one is aware of the musical forms in this opera, or
how strictly and logically everything is “worked out,” or what artfulness resides even
in the many details . . . from the moment when the curtain rises to that when it falls
for the last time, there should be no one in the audience who will notice the diverse
fugues and inventions, suites, and sonata movements, variations, and passacaglias,
no one who should be aware of anything except the idea of this opera, something
that goes far beyond the individual fate of Wozzeck. And that—I believe—I have

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218 pro mundo—pro domo

The Voice in Opera

It is self-evident that an art form that avails itself of the human voice cannot bypass
any of the voice’s many resources. So in opera the spoken word—whether unac-
companied musically or melodrama51—is just as suitable as singing itself, from
recitative to parlando, from cantilena to coloratura. One such resource is the expan-
sion of bel canto, which is justifiably demanded even in operas of the present day.
There is no reason that modern melodies having such cantabile phrases as the fol-
lowing (I select only one here from among hundreds in Schoenberg’s Erwartung
[mm. 398–400])

could be any less “beautifully sung”—indeed, must be as beautifully sung if they are
done to the best advantage—than the famous “La donna è mobile” [from Verdi’s

Here, and almost always in the arioso forms of Italian music, a single motive suf-
fices. And this, unlike women, never really changes however much it recurs. This
guarantees an ease of rendition of such a melodic idea, but it does not justify the
assumption that only a so-called “declamatory” vocality is appropriate to styles—
especially those of German music, whether tonal or “atonal”—characterized by
melodic, harmonic, rhythmic richness, and far-reaching variation. Quite the oppo-
site: every composer who has this kind of melodic conception wants to know that it
is felt and realized by the singer as intended (after all, this is the singer’s task!). I can
speak from my own experience how much it astounds me to read in a critique of
Wozzeck—and this recently—a reproach made of an actress that “she was too ambi-
tious in showing off her voice and trying to come across as a ‘singer.’ ” It may be that
not all the resources of the voice are equally applied in my opera (I note that only
some dozen measures of recitative are found). But I lost no opportunity to use bel
canto. I believe that I have richly compensated for the former shortcoming by being

Alban Berg, “Die Stimme in der Oper,” special issue “Gesang:  Jahrbuch 1929,” Musikblätter des
Anbruch 10/9–10 (November–December 1928): 349–50. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 219

the first and for a long time the only one to use the so-called rhythmic declamation
that Schoenberg some twenty years ago introduced into the speaking choruses of
Die glückliche Hand and his Pierrot melodramas and to accord it so large a place. It
turned out that this treatment of the voice in the manner of melodrama—please
note, with a full preservation of all the possibilities of absolute musical form, which
are lacking in recitative—that this manner of declamation not only constitutes one
of the best means of communication (which even in opera is occasionally fulfilled
by speaking) but also, ranging from toneless whispered word to the true bel parlare
of broadly sweeping speech melody, enriches operatic music by a fully equal and
artistic means that comes from the most sparkling of musical sources. Together with
the sung word, to which it gives a welcome rounding out and an appealing comple-
ment, this way of speaking that is fixed in melody, rhythm, and dynamics can also
partake in all other resources of dramatic music—I mean in solos as well as in duets,
trios, large and small ensembles; men’s, women’s, and mixed choruses; a cappella
and accompanied singing. These are the resources toward which opera, like no other
musical form, seems destined, especially in serving the human voice and helping
it advantageously. In the last decades of music-dramatic composition these advan-
tages have been nearly absent, and operatic music—according to Schoenberg’s bon
mot—has often been nothing more than “a symphony for large orchestra with the
accompaniment of a voice.”

What Is Atonal? A Dialogue

Docent [Julius] Bistron: So, my dear Meister Berg, let’s begin.
Alban Berg: You start, Professor, I’m happy to have the last word!
Bistron: You’re that sure of the matter?
Berg: As sure as a person can be about an issue in whose development and
growth he has participated for a quarter century, with a certainty that
comes not only from reason and experience but, even more, from belief.
Bistron: Good. It would probably be simplest if I first pose the title question of
our dialogue: “What is atonal?”
Berg: It is not easy to answer this by a formula that could also serve as a
definition. Where this expression was first used—apparently in a
newspaper critique—it probably was, as the compound form of the term
[a-tonal] clearly implies, a designation for music whose harmony did not
comport with the traditional laws of tonality.

Alban Berg, “Was ist atonal? Ein Dialog,” typescript, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek,
Musiksammlung, F21.Berg.105, pp. 1–10. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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220 pro mundo—pro domo

Bistron: So you mean in the beginning was the word, or, better, a word
that compensates for the helplessness we feel when confronted with
something new.
Berg: You might say that. But it is certain that this term “atonal” was used
with a pejorative intention, just as terms like “arrhythmic,” “amelodic,”
“asymmetric” were also used at this time. But while these borrowed terms
were sometimes suitable as designations for specific phenomena, the
word “atonal,” unfortunately I  must say, served as a collective term for
music that was assumed not only to lack relevance to a harmonic center,
but also to have none of the other prerequisites of music, such as melody,
rhythmic, formal divisibility into large and small. So the term “atonal”
today really means as much as something that is not music, nonmusic,
in fact something that is quite the opposite of what has always been
understood as music.
Bistron: Aha, a term of reproach! And I see it as a valid one. So you’re saying,
Mr. Berg, that there is no such contradiction and the lack of reference to a
definite tonic does not actually shake the whole edifice of music?
Berg: Before I answer that question, Professor, let me put this forward: if this
so-called atonal music cannot be related in harmonic terms to a major
or minor scale—and after all there was music before the existence of this
harmonic system— . . .
Bistron: . . . and what beautiful, artful, and imaginative music . . .
Berg: . . . it doesn’t follow that in the “atonal” artworks of the last quarter
century, at least as regards the chromatic scale and the new chords derived
from it, there cannot be found a harmonic center, although this, of course,
is not identical to the concept of the old tonic. Even if this has not yet been
brought into the form of a systematic theory.
Bistron: Oh, I find this reservation to be unjustified. The chromatic scale also
follows a rule and comes from nature just as legitimately as the diatonic
scale that was worked out earlier with simpler numbers—perhaps even
more so. I believe I’m close to proving this.
Berg: All the better! But regardless of this, with “composition with twelve-tones
related only one to another,” which Schoenberg first put into practice,
we already have a system that in no way lags behind the older teaching of
harmony in its regularity and cohesiveness of material.
Bistron: You mean the so-called twelve-tone rows? Would you like to speak
about them further?
Berg: Not just now, Professor. That would lead us too far afield. Let’s just talk
about the concept “atonal.”
Bistron: Certainly. But you still haven’t answered my earlier question: whether
there is not in fact a contradiction between traditional music and the music

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 221

of today and whether the renunciation of relation to a tonic does not in fact
make the entire edifice of music totter.
Berg: I  can answer your questions more easily by starting where we have
found agreement—that the rejection of major and minor tonality in no
way produces harmonic anarchy. Even if a few harmonic resources are
lost along with major and minor, all of the other prerequisites of “serious”
music are preserved.
Bistron: For example?
Berg: It is not enough just to tick them off without going into the matter further.
Indeed, I must do so, because it is a question of showing that the concept
of atonality, which related at first solely to harmony, has now become, as
I said, a collective term for “nonmusic.”
Bistron: Nonmusic? I find this description too strong—I have never heard it
before. I believe that the opponents of atonal sonorities want to stress the
antithesis with so-called beautiful music.
Berg: As far as I’m concerned, that’s what it suggests. In any event, this
collective term is intended to deny everything that makes up the content
of music until now. I  have already mentioned the words “arrhythmic,”
“amelodic,” “asymmetric,” and I  could cite a dozen more terms used
to dismiss modern music, like cacophony or test-tube music, which
have already partially faded from memory, or new ones like linearity,
constructivism, New Objectivity, polytonality, machine music, etc.
These may have relevance in certain specific cases, but they are all now
brought together under a single umbrella in the phony notion of “atonal”
music. The opponents of this music hold to it with great persistence so
as to have a single term to dismiss all of new music by denying, as I said,
the presence of what until now has made up music and thus to deny its
justification for existing.
Bistron: You may be seeing things too darkly, Mr. Berg! Perhaps what you say
may have been the case until not too long ago. But today people know
that atonal music in and of itself can be engaging and in certain cases
will be so. In cases that are truly artistic! It is only a matter of showing
whether atonal music can really be called music in that same sense as
with earlier works. That is, whether, as you say, only the harmonic basis
of new music has been changed, with all other elements of traditional
music still present.
Berg: And I do hold this and can prove it in every measure of a modern score.
Prove it above all—to start with the most serious objection—by showing
that this new music, as with traditional music, rests on motive, theme,
main voice, and, in a word, melody, and that it progresses in just the same
way as does all other good music.

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222 pro mundo—pro domo

Bistron: Well, is melody in the normal sense really possible in this atonal music?
Berg: Of course it is! Even, as is most often disputed, cantabile and songful
Bistron: Now as concerns song, Mr. Berg, atonal music travels on new paths.
Here there are certainly things not heard before, I would almost say things
that seem at present to be outlandish.
Berg: But only in harmonic rudiments—there we are in agreement.
Bistron: Yes.
Berg: But it is quite false, as regards the other characteristics of melodic line, to
see a new path or something unheard of or outlandish. Not even in a voice
part, even when it contains (as has been thrown at me) “instrumental,
chromatic, distorted, jagged, with wide-leaping intervals.” Just as little does
it “contradict the lyric necessities of the human voice.”52
Bistron: I have never said this, but I cannot help thinking that such a treatment
of songful melody and melody in general is unprecedented.
Berg: This is just what I am arguing against. I assert, on the contrary, that songful
melody, even as caricatured in the description that I just quoted, has been
present especially in German music, and I say also that the so-called atonal
music, at least as it emanates from Vienna, has hewed to the model of the
masterworks of German music rather than (with all due respect) Italian
bel canto opera.
Bistron: Pardon me for interrupting. Do you mean to say that you have not lost
sight of melos?
Berg: Don’t you see, that’s just another one of those words. It’s jargon! It all
depends on how the concept is delimited.
Bistron: The normal limit, I think, is where the tonal support point of melody
is suspended.
Berg: Yes, but where is it suspended? A melody based on harmony that is rich
in [chordal] degrees and (to say virtually the same thing) adventurous can
readily appear distorted when that harmonic meaning is not understood.
And this happens in a style of composing in which chromatic tones are
pervasive, as in hundreds of examples by Wagner, Bruckner, and Hugo
Wolf. But listen also, Professor, to a song melody by Schubert, like the
famous song “Letzte Hoffnung”:53

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 223

Its continuation has the following twist, adventurous harmonically and

thus also melodically:

Staying with Schubert, the melodist par excellence, what do you say about
the treatment of the voice in the song “Der stürmische Morgen”?

Isn’t this a typical example of a richly “jagged” song melody? And here’s
one with especially “wide leaps” [Schubert’s “Rast”]:

Bistron: So if you mean it in that way, then we need only go as far as Mozart, Don
Giovanni or Figaro!
Berg: Right! For example the following vocal excerpt for Donna Elvira, as
though made for strings [Don Giovanni, Trio “Ah! chi mi dice mai”]:

Or from the same aria this clarinetlike figure:

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224 pro mundo—pro domo

Or this fanfare for voice in the duet of Leporello and Zerlina [“Per queste
tue manine”]:

Or many such from Donna Anna’s parts, or to cite an especially clear case of
a jagged, wide-leaping instrumental passage for voice that spans more than
two octaves, this one from Così fan tutte [Fiordiligi’s aria “Come scoglio”]:

You will admit, Professor, that the voice can be treated in ways that are different
from the model that is always cited . . .
Bistron: . . . certainly in this sense . . .
Berg: . . . a model that is basically characterized by the extended use of long-held
notes in the upper register of the prevailing voice. You will admit too, as
the classicists have shown, that the voice is an ideal instrument, one that
is agile, expressive in all registers, soulful, and still capable of declamation.
You will see in these classical examples that it has nothing to do with
atonality if melody—even in operatic music—lacks the sweeping arches
of Italian cantilena. You won’t find this in Bach either, and hopefully no
one would doubt his melodic potency.
Bistron: I think not!
Berg: Just as little can we German composers be criticized if in this area we went
to school with Bach and not with Puccini.
Bistron: But there is another characteristic of the melody of so-called atonal
music that distinguishes it from the norm. This is the asymmetry of melodic
articulation. I miss in this music the two- and four-measure phrases of the
music of the Viennese classicists or all of the romantics, Wagner included.
Berg: You have observed correctly, but perhaps you overlook that just this
even-numbered phrasing is characteristic only in these periods, and
with Bach, for example, it is found only in his homophonic works and
in the dance-based suites. And even among the Viennese classicists—
especially in the works of Mozart and Schubert—we find over and over
(especially in their greatest masterpieces) a striving to go beyond the
bounds of an even-numbered symmetry. Here are only a few famous

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 225

passages from Figaro:  Cherubino’s aria “Non so più cosa son, cosa
faccio,” in which the first two four-measure phrases are immediately
followed by four three-measure phrases, then two two-measure phrases,
then two five-measure units. Another is the Wedding March from Act 3
[“Ecco la marcia”], in which normal four-measure phrasing is suddenly
interrupted by two three-measure phrases [mm. 9–14], these going
quite against the notion of a march. Finally the Rose Aria [Susanna’s
“Deh vieni, non tardar” in Act 4], whose divisions fall entirely outside
the framework of even-numbered periodic construction and in which,
after a string of five three-measure phrases, the sixth one [mm. 16–20]
is freely extended to five measures. And this art of asymmetric melodic
construction was expanded even further during the next century. Think
of Brahms and look just at his most famous songs, like “Vergebliches
Ständchen” or “Am Sonntag Morgen” or “Immer leiser wird mein
Schlummer.” And even if four-measure period structures prevail in
Wagner and his epigones—a primitiveness that was retained in the face
of other innovations, especially in the area of harmony—the tendency
to increase the artistry in the area of melody is never absent. Here there
is a direct line from Mozart, through Schubert and Brahms, to Reger and
Bistron: You omit Wagner . . . . That has a certain importance. During the heyday
of Bayreuth, Mozart was shunted into the background—at least Mozart
the musician—and he was rediscovered only by Mahler. And it is probably
no accident that the glorious new productions of Figaro occurred at the
beginning of that quarter century, as did the new music of the Viennese
Berg: You may be right! In any event we of the Viennese School find what we
do closely modeled on and confirmed by Mozart’s music. Speaking again
about structure, our music—just like the classical—has its periods, half
and full cadences, points of rest and climax, caesuras and transitions, and
introductory and concluding passages whose goal-directed tendency can
be compared to the harmonic structure of modulations and cadences.
Nothing from earlier music has been lost; it only needs to be recognized in
the new. If this happens it will be tantamount to perceiving these logically
ordered and contrasting successions of tones as melody in the truest sense
of the word.
Bistron: . . . and perhaps consider them to be beautiful.
Berg: Why not? But let’s go on. A freedom of melodic construction naturally
brings with it a freedom of rhythmic structuring. The rhythm of such
music has undergone a loosening, for example by abbreviation, extension,
and intertwining of values, also displacement of stresses, for which
Brahms especially was and is the model. But the laws of rhythm are not

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226 pro mundo—pro domo

suspended, and it is as tendentious and senseless to call this procedure,

which represents only a refinement of artistic means, “arrhythmic” as it
is to use the term “amelodic.” Bear in mind, Professor, that this rhythm
is demanded especially by the polyphony of the new music, and here
it would not be inappropriate to state that we find ourselves now in
a period which has a certain similarity to that of Bach. At that earlier
time the transition from the imitative style and pure polyphony to the
harmonic style was carried out; now we are slowly but relentlessly
moving from the harmonic period, which reigned for the whole of
Viennese classicism and its century into a period having a predominantly
polyphonic character. And just as then the church modes were giving
way to major and minor modes, now these have played out, perhaps
in favor of the aforementioned “twelve-tone rows,” even though the
diatonic scale is “still in our possession.” In its polyphony the so-called
atonal music shows yet another characteristic of all genuine music, a
characteristic that cannot be made trivial, certainly not by giving it the
nickname “linearity.”
Bistron: I think we’ve come to the heart of the matter.
Berg: Yes, with counterpoint.
Bistron: Quite right. The essence of polyphony consists in a hierarchy of voices
that have their own independence. But this comes from a harmonic
consideration. I mean, the independent existence of each part produces a
second, new existence, that of the simultaneity.
Berg: That is of course not accidental, instead something consciously created
and perceived.
Bistron: What you say really surprises me. Is that elemental streaming together
of atonal voices, which seem to me to lack the inner contrasts necessary
for an active inner life, also a matter of conscious design, or is it something
accidental brought about by an admittedly higher inspiration?
Berg: To avoid being too verbose and theoretical, I can answer this question,
Professor, only with a truth coming from experience—experience that
comes not only from my own composing but also that of others for
whom art is as sacred as it is for me (this is how old-fashioned we of the
Viennese “Atonal” School are!). There is not a measure in our music,
however complex in harmonic, rhythmic, and contrapuntal structure, that
is not subject to the strictest control by the ear—the external as well as
the internal ear—and whose sense, both in itself and in its place within
the whole, is given any less artistic consideration than would be done
with a primitive structure, such as a simple motive or a simple harmonic
progression, whose logic would be immediately apparent even to the

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 227

Bistron: This explanation seems to me quite plausible. And if so, it seems that
the word “atonal” is misleading for this whole artistic direction.
Berg: Yes, that’s what I’ve been saying the whole time and trying to clarify
for you.
Bistron: So your music must have some type of relationship to the formal
elements of earlier music? If I  assume correctly, atonal music (I have
trouble getting the word out now) makes reference to the older forms?
Berg: To form in general. And isn’t it remarkable how we reach back to the old? Isn’t
that yet another proof for how our current practice of art remains conscious
of the whole expanse of serious music? And this, as we just established, in
all of its dimensions! And this expanse reveals itself, simultaneously, in all
its aspects—I refer to harmonic development, free melodic construction,
rhythmic and metric multiplicity, preference for polyphony and contrapuntal
writing in general, and the bringing together of all the formal resources
of centuries of musical development—a universality toward which this
new music strives and which is manifest in its masterworks. It cannot be
reproached by labeling it with the abusive code word “atonal.”
Bistron: Mr. Berg, you have made a very positive case. To an extent you have
corrected a misapprehension that I had, since I was under the impression
that the word “atonal,” coming from who knows where, was a pretext for
creating an ad hoc musical theory [Justement-Theorie] that was extraneous
to natural lines of development.
Berg: That would suit the opponents of this new music, because that would
justify what they really mean by the word “atonal,” which is something
unmusical, ugly, uninspired, bad sounding, and destructive. It would
support their bemoaning the tonal and chordal anarchy, the destruction
of our musical heritage and the helpless uprootedness of us composers
who without major and minor scales can do no more.55 In this they
are unaware that for them it is not really a matter of the true essence of
tonality. Their outcry for tonality comes not so much from the need for
relation to a fundamental tone, but instead much more from the need for
familiar chords—plainly put, for the triad. Any music that has enough of
these triads does not upset them, even if, as so often in recent decades, it
otherwise trespasses against the sacred laws of tonality.
Bistron: So is it still sacred for you, this good old tonality?
Berg: If it were not so for me, how could the likes of us believe in a new art—for
which the Antichrist himself could have devised no term more diabolical
than this foreign word “atonal,” a word that will be eternally foreign for the
true musician!
Bistron: And that’s your final word?
Berg: Yes, sir!

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228 pro mundo—pro domo

Lecture on Wozzeck: The “Atonal Opera”

When seventeen years ago I decided to compose the opera Wozzeck, the situation
in music was very peculiar.56 We of the Viennese School (with its leader, Arnold
Schoenberg) had just moved beyond the beginnings of a musical movement that
was called “atonal” (falsely named, by the way). Composition in this style was
at first limited to the creation of small forms, such as songs, piano and orchestra
pieces, or, when it came to extended works (like Schoenberg’s Pierrot melodra-
mas or his two brief one-act stage works [Erwartung and Die glückliche Hand]),
to forms whose creation rested entirely on an underlying text or dramatic basis.
This so-called atonal style lacked works of very large size: works having the classi-
cal four movements of normal extent, such as symphonies, or oratorios and large
operas. The reason was that this style had renounced major and minor tonality and
with it one of the strongest and most reliable means of creating small as well as
quite extended forms.
When I decided to write an opera lasting an entire evening, I faced a new chal-
lenge, at least in the harmonic dimension. How could I obtain the same closure, the
same forceful musical unity, without this formative element—a closure not only on
the small scale of the scene and entrance (about which much more will be said later)
but, what was more difficult still, a unity in the large dimension of individual acts,
indeed, in the total architecture of the whole work?
Text and action alone could not guarantee this closure, especially not with a
work like Büchner’s Wozzeck, which, as you know, consists of many (twenty-six)
loose and fragmentary scenes.57 Even when I  succeeded in finding a three-act
ordering in three-by-five scenes—which clearly distinguishes the drama’s exposi-
tion, peripeteia, and catastrophe, thus capturing the unity of action and dramatic
closure—these did not ensure musical unity and closure.
We will see in the course of my lecture the diverse ways in which this goal
was approached and reached. First of all, let me draw your attention to a har-
monic matter, as it concerns the harmony at the end of acts. At this place in tonal
music we will have a clear recurrence and reinforcement of the main key, some-
thing graspable even by the eye and ear of the layman. So in the “atonal” style in
this location there must also be something harmonic that closes off a large act.
This sort of reinforcement could be obtained by steering each act of this opera
toward one and the same final chord, on which it rests like a tonic, creating a
quasi cadence.

Alban Berg, untitled typescript, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung,

F21.Berg.104/ii. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 229

The chord at the end of Act 1 sounds like this:

At the end of Act 2 like this:

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230 pro mundo—pro domo

At the end of Act 3 like this:

You will have noticed that these final chords, even though they have the very same
notes, appear each time in a different form. These differences in sound were needed
not only on account of the changing situations in the dramatic action, but also
because of an equally strong force—the striving for musical variety and diversity
of shape—which stands opposite the impulse toward musical closure and (to use
Schoenberg’s term) musical “coherence.” Whereas Acts 1 and 3 end on a simultane-
ity made from the chord tones—to repeat, in Act 1—

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 231

—and in Act 3—

—the chord at the end of Act 2 dissolves, as it were, into its component parts and
dwindles away to its last element, the low B.58 

Here let me mention (looking ahead) that this low B, which sounds beneath the
portentous final words of Act 2—“He is bleeding,” “One after the other”—are sig-
nificant in one of the most important later scenes not only from a dramatic stand-
point but also formally. We will return to this.
To show more clearly how closure on one hand and diversity on the other are
both present, let me say more about the harmony, which is also important for form
at the beginnings of the ensuing acts. Briefly stated, the final scene of Act 1 con-
cerns the seduction of Marie by the Drum Major. The music is a rondolike Andante

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232 pro mundo—pro domo

affettuoso. The entire short orchestral introduction to the following act (played
with the curtain down) again takes up the cadential chord:

Only then [at m. 7] does the curtain rise for Act 2.

The concluding scene of Act 2 depicts the collision between the jealous Wozzeck
and the swaggering Drum Major, which ends with Wozzeck’s beating. It should be
noted in passing that the struggle that plays out between these two is musically the
same as that between Marie and the Drum Major in the final scene of the preceding
act, which ends with her giving in to him. So again, a way of creating musical coher-
ence without major and minor.
These and other such parallels in the concluding scenes produced additional
musical parallels (which happened quite unconsciously). In the passionate Andante
in Act 1 [mm. 656–717] a rondo form is only hinted at. In this piece [the conclud-
ing scene of Act 2], which plays out according to military conventions, there is a
strict rondo, indeed a Rondo marziale, created according to textbook rules of form.
As a rondo in olden style—like the rondeau, which means roughly “round
song”—Act 1, scene 5 corresponds to the final scene of Act 3, with its chil-
dren’s round dance. So too in its lighter character and the pithy delivery that it
demands. Otherwise this scene has a continuous eighth-note motion—a perpet-
ual motion—which ends the opera. Although it again clearly cadences on the final
chord, it creates the feeling that it could keep going. In fact it does keep going!
The first measures of the opera might well link up harmonically with these final
measures without further ado, thus closing the circle. Here is the end of the opera,
then the beginning.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 233

But that, like so much else that I mention here, was not calculated and became clear
to me theoretically only when I looked back ten years or more later. For example—
to remain with this beginning passage—there are two brief introductory chords in
the strings before the drama begins. To make the crescendo from the first chord to
the second more emphatic, there is a soft, crescendoing drumroll from one chord
to the next. This was a purely instrumental touch, something wholly musical. But
when I heard it for the first time I discovered to my great surprise that I could not
have suggested the military milieu of this play more discretely and fruitfully than
with this little drumroll.
Let me return to my objective of being both unified and varied. You have seen
in the different beginnings and endings of the three acts that, with the exception
of the aforementioned variants of the basic chord, a great diversity reigns. The
curtain for the first scene opens immediately after the first orchestral measure;
it falls during the last measures of music at the end of this act. The curtain for
the second act opens only after the short orchestral introduction (which I men-
tioned earlier), and when the music of this act is over, the final scenery remains
visible for an additional moment, during which the music is silent. Only then
does the curtain fall. Corresponding to this conclusion (here again striving for
coherence), the curtain for the third act rises while the music is silent. Only after
this musical pause does the orchestra begin. The final curtain descends before
the music ends, but not, as in the first act, to coincide with the crescendoing
cadence chord, instead before this chord enters, in an unmoving pianissimo that
then dies away.
Finally, concerning the total architecture of this opera and the striving to make it
both unified and varied, I placed each of the three acts musically into a relation that
suggests a large, traditional threefold ABA form in that Acts 1 and 3 have a certain
architectural correspondence, even though the third is by no means a reprise of the
first. In the looseness of their composition they frame, quasi-symmetrically, the far
more weighty middle act. And while this middle act, as we shall see, has a quite uni-
fied musical shape, from its first measure to last, each of the outer two acts consists,
in their diverse and loosely connected series of scenes, of five corresponding pieces
of music that hang together loosely. The five scenes of Act 1 can be seen as a series
of five character pieces; these correspond to the dramatic content, since each one
characterizes a main figure in the drama, of course always in relation to the title hero.

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234 pro mundo—pro domo

These are the Captain (his superior officer), his friend Andres, his beloved Marie,
the Doctor, and the Drum Major.
The five scenes of Act 3 have five musical forms whose closure comes from some
musical principle of unity: that provided by a theme that is varied, a note, a chord, a
rhythm, and a steady motion.
These two outer acts—which in like manner are somewhat more loosely put
together in architecture and whose succession of scenes constitutes more of an ide-
alized unity (the five character pieces of Act 1, the five unifying principles of Act
3)—frame the middle act like two A sections in a ternary song form; the music of the
middle act is much more firmly formed, its five scenes inseparable, connected like
the movements of a (dramatic) symphony. These consist of a fast first sonata-form
movement; then a Fantasy and Fugue on three themes; a slow movement (Largo); a
Scherzo; and finally the aforementioned Rondo marziale with Introduction. In this
way the middle act will correspond to the B section of the three-part form and will
be clearly distinguished from the two similar A sections of the outer acts and stand
plainly separate as a middle part.
My earlier remarks on the harmonic and formal aspects of this opera will suffice
to explain the closure of the music in the large dimension. This closure, as I said at
the outset, was obtained without the means of tonality and without its inherent
capacity to create form.
In the small dimension this closure is equally necessary, and this may have led to
the following simple observation concerning the much-noted bringing in of certain
“old forms,” which made this opera known even before there were prospects for its
In the striving for musical variety and avoiding the customary post-Wagnerian
“through composition” in each of the many scenes, there was virtually nothing else
for me to do but to confer a different shape upon each of the fifteen scenes. The clo-
sure of these scenes also required a closure in their music, and to ensure this closure
it was necessary to confer upon them musically closed forms.
Their appropriateness to the drama was just as natural as was their selection.
There was absolutely no archaic intent and not—as has been stated—any “voice
of conscience” by an “atonal” composer seeking to restore legitimacy that led me to
variations, passacaglias, fugues, and choral harmonizations.59 And it would be even
more false to assume that this had anything to do with the atavistic movement of
“back to . . .” (which anyway arose much later). Actually, these more or less old forms
were still not enough for me, and (as I revealed in my brief analysis of Act 3) I also
had to resort to new forms, ones that rested on new principles, for example dwelling
on a musical “object,” like a single note or rhythm or chord, and so forth.
An additional stimulus toward the greatest possible diversity and variety was also
in the relatively large amount of scene-change music, which results from the three
[recte four] scene changes in each of the three acts. To write entirely symphonic
transitions or intermezzi (of the sort that I later observed in another contemporary

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 235

opera with many scene changes) would not have conformed to my idea of musical
drama (which despite my respect for absolute music is never out of mind when
I compose for theater).60 So here too I was compelled to realize a variety rich in
contrasts by making these nine [twelve?] interludes into transitions sometimes
resembling codas to what went before, or introductions to what followed, or both
together. At times I wanted the most unnoticeable connections between the differ-
ent parts of these musical forms, at other times quite brusque juxtapositions. (Later
in my presentation we will get to hear some examples of these.)
Now I will go through each scene with you, not just to point out these musical
forms, which, as I said, was done years ago in articles on this opera in daily newspa-
pers and musical journals.61 Instead I will add what is not so apparent as the forms
themselves to provide a view of the possibilities of so-called atonal music making.
The very first scene of the opera, for example, is based on a suite, which may be
explained by the dialogue in this shaving scene, in which nothing happens except
for a series of different and loosely juxtaposed topics of conversation. Finding a
small form for each of the component parts of this dialogue, the totality creating a
succession of small musical pieces, seemed self-evident, and the result was a suite.
That it was a suite consisting mainly of old forms (more or less stylized)—such as
Prelude, Pavane, Cadenza, Gigue, Gavotte with double repeats—was no accident,
although it came about unconsciously. It took on (although, as I said, not intention-
ally so) a musically appropriate historical tinge that I otherwise did not hold to in
this truly timeless drama. The small suite movements were placed together so that
the small introductory Prelude recurred as a refrain at the end of the scene, only in
retrograde—in reverse note by note.62 In this way the music does justice to the dra-
matic layout of this scene, which returns to its beginning at the end. The postlude,
which follows as the first scene-change music, is only a development of the main
ideas of the different suite movements.
While the first scene is based on an admittedly old musical form, the following
scene between Wozzeck and Andres has a different foundation. The unifying prin-
ciple of this scene is a harmonic one—three chords provide its harmonic skeleton:

That such a principle can be a formal element will be understandable if, for exam-
ple, we think of the formal capacity of tonality and compare these three chords to
the functions of tonic, dominant, and subdominant. Obviously, the way that these

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236 pro mundo—pro domo

chords and their progressions are used are diverse and constantly changing. For


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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 237

In the bass of these three chords lie three foundational thirds:

Out of them grows the following shape with a more motivic character, which
depicts the eerie sunset.

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In what follows, the three chords are the harmonic basis of a broad conclusion:

And so forth.
Of course I  did not miss the opportunity to write songlike and arioso music
at the operatic resting points that arise in a drama. In fact, such songlike forms,
among other things, occur in this and the following scenes. First, in this scene, the
three-strophe coloratura song for Andres is inserted into the more rhapsodic struc-
ture of the three-chord form, and in the following scene there is the military march
and Marie’s lullaby.
Allow me here to make two general observations. One concerns the handling
of the singing voice in this opera.63 Critics have repeatedly asserted that this is no
bel canto opera. And it really isn’t! The treatment of the voice here is much more
in line with many works of the German classicists, in which the voice is thoroughly
emotional, expressive in all registers, and a spirited instrument that is also capable
of declamation, indeed, an ideal instrument. It has nothing to do with so-called
atonality if a melody, even in opera, lacks the broad phrases of Italian cantilena.
You will look in vain for this style of singing in Bach as well, and hopefully no one
will question his melodic power, much as we German composers cannot be taken
to task if we also in this regard learned from Bach rather than from Puccini. But
it is not apparent why much that is conceived of as purely cantabile (and which
must seem to the listener to be cantabile and which only the deaf could consider
unsingable) would not be expressed by the art of “beautiful singing.” To return to
my own music, I have never rejected the possibility of coloratura singing.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 239

Moreover, virtually no recitative is found in my opera. I believe that I have richly

compensated for its absence by being the first and for a long time the only one to
use the so-called rhythmic declamation that Schoenberg introduced some twenty
years ago into the speaking choruses of Die glückliche Hand and his Pierrot melodra-
mas, and to accord it so large a place. It turned out that this treatment of the voice
in the manner of melodrama—please note, with a full preservation of all the pos-
sibilities of absolute musical form, which are lacking in recitative—that this manner
of declamation, fixed in melody, rhythm, and dynamics, not only constitutes one of
the best means of communication (which even in opera is occasionally fulfilled by
speaking) but also, ranging from a toneless whispered word to the true bel parlare
of broadly sweeping speech melody, enriches operatic music by a fully equal and
artistic means that comes from the most sparkling of musical sources and provides
in respect to sound a welcome rounding out and an appealing complement to the
sung word.
The second observation, coming from my subsequent review of the opera, con-
cerns my way of handling folk songs and drawing a distinction between art music
and folk music, which was necessary in my opera. In tonal music this is a quite
simple matter, but it was not easy with so-called atonal harmony to distinguish
clearly between these two levels. I  believe that I  succeeded by giving everything
that reaches musically into the area of the folklike an easily understood primitive-
ness, something available even in atonal harmony. This includes a preference for
four-measure phrases and a symmetric construction of periods, bringing in major
and minor thirds and also fourth chords, and also using a melody in which the prim-
itive whole-tone scale and the perfect fourth play a large role, when otherwise in the
so-called atonal music of the Viennese School diminished and augmented intervals
are preferred. Also so-called polytonality is another such primitive harmonic means
of composition.
We see such a folkish element in Andres’s hunting song:

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240 pro mundo—pro domo

Then in the military march with its “false” bass:

And so forth. Then also in the various dance and song forms of the folkish scenes
in Acts 2 and 3 (to which I will return), and also in Marie’s lullaby, whose short
postlude, with its melody constructed from perfect fourths, I will now have played
in order to illustrate yet another usage in this dramatic music making, one whose
only purpose is to insure musical unity and clarity:64

These empty fifths (together with other returning motives and musical shapes)
are characteristic of Marie: I would say that this harmonic resting point depicts her
aimless waiting, a waiting for happiness that never comes and stands unfulfilled
even up to the moment of her death, where we again hear these fifths. This musical
idea is repeated several times (like a leitmotif).
Repetitions of this type also occur, as I already mentioned, with other motives,
which are distributed among different personae and different situations. In this
I only mean to say that I have also availed myself of the traditional resource of the
leitmotif, or, better put, of the reminiscence motive, with which unity and musical
logic are again attained. So, for example, the aforementioned chordal progression
in the second scene [of Act 1] could be heard as a sound of nature. There (in this

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 241

second scene) it is lifeless nature, frightening to Wozzeck. In the final scene of Act
2, it is the sounds of nature in the form of snoring by the soldiers in their barracks.
There in the second scene it is in the orchestra; here it takes the form of a chorus
singing with mouths half-closed, to which Wozzeck’s groaning in his sleep is added:

The passacaglia, or chaconne, in the third [recte fourth] scene is built upon an osti-
nato twelve-tone row:

Needless to say, the variational treatment of this theme is not mechanical, nor
is it conceived purely as absolute music. It has a close and obvious connection to
the dramatic action. Even the initial statement of this twelve-tone row is trans-
formed into musical drama in that it disappears into the dialogue of the Doctor
with the first words of the scene and is nearly hidden in the overwrought rubato
of a cello recitative. Twenty-one variations follow, and these are true variations.
They concern only a single theme—only the Doctor’s idée fi xe—which is also
echoed when Wozzeck, tormented by the Doctor and his obsessions, begins
to speak.
This explanation, which I formulated some years back, met with criticism even
early on, and it became vociferous on the occasion of the Vienna Wozzeck perfor-
mance.65 It was said that there was “no compelling need, neither in scenery nor in
situation,” for the choice of a variation form and that the variation theme was not
recognizable as such. Now as concerns the latter, I admit that the transfer from the
realm of absolute music to that of musical drama was intentional. We are in a theater,

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242 pro mundo—pro domo

not a conservatory! Let me inform those for whom this theme seems (and I quote)
“no such thing,” since “it is draped over long stretches of measures” and “from the
very beginning is rigidly covered over by a grotesque parlando,” that the ostinato
theme enters one measure [recte two measures] before the voice, has all the possible
plasticity of a monophonic passacaglia theme, is not covered over in any way by a
solo clarinet, and is recognizable to anyone.

(If it didn’t lead us too far afield, I would show also that this clarinet theme does
not just drop from the clouds, but develops harmonically from and is a melodic
extension of the preceding interlude.)
As to the criticism that such a variation form is unjustified by the staging or
dramatic situation (unlike the variations in an opera by Dukas, something that
I apparently missed in my schooling) and that these and other forms in Wozzeck
“remain purely artificial and undramatic,” I have searched in musical scholarship
to help someone who does not see that a recurrent idée fi xe corresponds to a vari-
ation theme. I looked in Riemann [Hugo Riemanns Musik-Lexikon] to make up
for what I had apparently missed in school. There, under the term “passacaglia,”
I found references to “chaconne” and “folia,” and it says that these are “musical
works with an ostinato bass.” Under “folia,” which is the “oldest form of ostinato,”
I  came, to my surprise, upon the parenthetical words “idée fixe” as part of the
You will see from this small example (a hundred more could be added) that
we—and I am not speaking only about myself—partake, often without calculation,
of the inexhaustible fountain of musical realities that are backed up by centuries of
scholarship. You will also see what a “beautiful idée fixe” it is, even if it produces
these persistent laments over the “anarchy of tone and chord,” over the “destructive
and amusical, atonal, amelodic, arrhythmic new music,” over the “crushing of old
musical treasures,” and over the “helpless rootlessness” of us poor atonal composers
who no longer know how to use major and minor scales. For these opponents of
new music it has little to do with the true essence of tonality; these cries for tonality
come not so much from the need for reference to a fundamental tone as they do
from the need for familiar chords. To put it plainly, for the triad. As has been seen in
recent decades, a music that has enough of these triads does not cause offense, even
if it goes against the sacred laws of tonality.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 243

Act 2 uses a sonata movement as its first musical form. It is certainly no acci-
dent that the three characters in this scene—Marie, her Child, and Wozzeck—cor-
respond to the three theme groups of a musical exposition—main, subsidiary, and
closing—thus from the start suggesting the choice of strict sonata form. The entire
dramatic development of this jewelry scene, with its twofold return of certain situ-
ations followed by the clash of the main characters, promotes a strict musical orga-
nization. After the exposition we have the first reprise, then the development, and
finally the second reprise. Let me illustrate the themes for you.
The main theme:

The transitional theme:

The subsidiary theme:

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244 pro mundo—pro domo

Finally the coda, which ends the whole exposition:

In the following reprise this exposition is clearly repeated although varied and
shortened. Here is its beginning:

The development, which is that part of the scene in which the main figures (both
musical and human) come into conflict, leads to a climax of the sonata, at the
appearance of a reminiscence motive, “Wir arme Leut” (We poor people), which by
this point is familiar and which runs throughout the whole piece:

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 245

Listen to the C major triad that hangs over (how could the objectivity of money,
which is at issue here, be better represented). It leads [at m. 128] into the final
reprise of the sonata:

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246 pro mundo—pro domo

And so forth.
This reprise, which ends the sonata, contains the remaining music of the scene
and, after the curtain, the ensuing scene change, which belongs musically to the
previous scene and provides its conclusion. But since this scene-change music has
its own independent life, constituting a small unit, in another way it is also con-
nected to the following scene. This is done by marking the beginning of the scene
change by a harp glissando [m. 140] and bringing it back when the scene change
ends [m. 170]. The first time the glissando is ff and moves downward; the second
time it is pp and climbs upward.
Three characters are also on stage in the next scene (the Captain, the Doctor,
and Wozzeck), but these stand in a looser relation to one another than the three
characters related by blood in the previous scene. While there a musical form had to
be chosen whose parts grew together organically as in a family—sonata form, that
is—here a form is constructed from elements that are more distantly related, for
example, something in counterpoint such as an invention and fugue. Furthermore,
the motivic differentiation among its three themes—different from those motives
in the preceding sonata movement that are interrelated more closely—requires this
strictly fugal form, whose strictness is lightened by the motives being already famil-
iar and, in my opinion, tersely cogent [prägnant]. Specifically, the Captain’s motive,
which had dominated the first scene at the beginning of the opera:

Then the Doctor’s motive from the third [recte fourth] scene of Act 1:

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 247

And finally one of Wozzeck’s motives that was prefigured in the preceding sonata
movement though not literally stated:

Its harmonic makeup allows for this Wozzeck theme to take on three shapes coming
from its voices:67

The slow movement of this symphonic act is a Largo. In addition to the obvious
thematic relationships that make this Largo into a closed movement, it has the
following distinctive features:  the orchestration is that of chamber music and
corresponds precisely to the instrumentation of Arnold Schoenberg’s Chamber
Symphony [op. 9]. Let me note in passing that I intended this small tribute to my
teacher and master to occur precisely in this prominent position at the central
point of the opera.
Let me add here that throughout the opera I  tried to realize my desire for
unity and closure on the one hand, change and diversity on the other, by using
the means of instrumentation and orchestration. Not infrequently in this opera
there are passages or entire scenes, like this one, that are given to a specific sound
group. In the diminutive movements of the suite in the first scene [of Act 1], small
instrumental groups repeatedly appear as obbligati, for example, five woodwinds

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248 pro mundo—pro domo

[mm. 1–29], or three timpani and harp [30–50], or three flutes [65–108], or four
brass [115–26], or the string quintet [136–53]. Part of the second scene [of Act
1, mm. 201–8] that is distinct in content is entirely based on the sound of muted
brass and strings playing col legno; a fugal passage in the first scene of Act 3 [mm.
52–57] is entirely based on the sound of five solo strings. Finally, let me mention
the orchestration of the very last scene, from which bassoons, trombones, and
basses are absent.
I return now to the Largo. The way that it begins and dies away is another exam-
ple of closure—achieved here by means other than the repetition of a main key.
The dwindling clarinet figures, which grow out of the fugal themes of the preceding
scene, lead into this slow symphonic movement. The figures come, as it were, to a

Then they create the initial harmonic basis of the Largo theme:

The Largo dies away on this same chord, which is then placed into motion to
produce the same clarinet figures from which the chord earlier had grown, thus

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 249

reversing the order of events. These clarinet figures then lead into the following
scene change:68

And so forth.
In the Ländler that follows, as well as in the remaining dance music, you will find
passages that you may find dissonant, although in a different sense from so-called
atonal music. Dissonant in the sense of the sounds of several pieces of music in
different keys being played simultaneously, with which you are certainly familiar
from fairs. This plain dissonance, coming from a primitive “polytonality,” is created
intentionally, of course, and not at all indiscriminately. It comes not only from the
literary situation, but also from a nearly objective musical logic. An example: the
antecedent phrase of a Ländler in G minor can, according to the rules of form, lead
either to the dominant (D major) or to the tonic (G minor). When both happen

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250 pro mundo—pro domo

simultaneously (who could blame a drunken tavern band for this!), harmonic con-
fusion results:

The confusion continues when some of the fiddlers (who have modulated to
the dominant) return to the tonic (G minor) as they should, but the others
(also following the rules) modulate at the same time to the parallel major key
(E♭ major):

It’s a wonder that they get back together at the end!

I have already said that the following scene [Act 2, scene  4] represents the
Scherzo within the dramatic symphony of Act 2. The Ländler that you just heard
is the first part of this Scherzo. A song by the apprentices corresponds to the first
Trio; a waltz by the tavern band, to the second Scherzo; the hunters’ chorus, which
is the middle section of the whole, to the second Trio. A repetition of this open-
ing three-part Scherzo group follows (compare this to the strict construction of the
romantic scherzo, such as those in Schumann’s symphonies).69 These three small
parts (Ländler, song, waltz) do not recur literally, instead, corresponding to the
action, they are extensively varied. The Ländler, for example, although cited lit-
erally, is transplanted into an entirely new musical environment. The song of the

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 251

apprentices, representing the first Trio, is changed in a similar manner, with the
basic harmonies dismantled to produce a chorale melody in half notes, which—
stated by the bombardon—forms the basis of a melodrama. This melodrama (con-
taining a harmless parody of a sermon) is partly a repetition of the first Trio and
partly a proper (though parodistic) five-voice chorale arrangement.
Finally, the repetition of the Waltz by the tavern band keeps its waltz charac-
ter but (since it also constitutes the scene-change music leading to the next scene)
is also an expansive symphonic development, played by the full orchestra. When
it suddenly breaks off, the snoring chorus in the soldiers’ barracks, which I earlier
described as a type of nature music, is heard at first through the closed curtain. This
forms the introduction to the aforementioned Rondo marziale, and with the bar-
racks scene the act ends. I have already described the individual forms and formal
principles of Act 3. The principle of the first scene is that of a varied theme. The
strictness of its architectonics (I purposely choose this word) involves a two-part
theme, with antecedent and consequent phrases, that covers seven measures; the
theme has seven variations and then a double fugue made from two subjects drawn
from the two parts of the theme, each with seven notes.70
The low B in the basses—

—sounds like a nonharmonic tone in the final chord of the fugue [mm. 71–2] (we
know it as the final note in the basic cadential chord of Act 2), and it becomes the
unifying element and principle of coherence in the murder scene that follows. Of
course it appears there in the most diverse ways imaginable: as a pedal point, as a
sustained tone in the middle and upper voices, divided into one or more octaves,
and in all possible registers and orchestrations. When finally Marie is murdered, to
the pounding of this note in the timpani at the most intense fortissimo, this pedal
point is joined by a jumble of all of her most important musical figures, during
which—as is said about the instant of death—the most important moments of her
life flash through her mind. These are:
—the lullaby for her child, from her first entrance [Act 1, scene 3, m. 372]:

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252 pro mundo—pro domo

—reminiscences from her “jewelry” scene in Act 2 [mm. 8–9]:

—the Drum Major himself:

—her theme of lament over her wretchedness (“O Marie”):71 

—and, finally dying away as she draws her last breaths, the fifths that I already cited
as her motive of aimless waiting:

The brief scene-change music returns to this sustained note B, this time in unison in
the register just below middle C [kleine Oktav-Lage], where it is the only note of the
whole scale which is available to every instrument of a large orchestra:

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 253

It begins with the softest attack in a muted horn; the attacks become ever stron-
ger, finally with the whole orchestra playing at maximum power. Note that
these entrances are not equidistant; instead, they enter according to a distinc-
tive rhythmic scheme. The attack points of the winds and brass create the same
rhythm as do the strings, so that both groups of rhythmically ordered attacks
mesh into a type of canon at the distance of a quarter note. For the listener this
ostensible irregularity is just as little apparent as is the logical ordering of the
attacks. This seeming irregularity creates the impression of a powerful breath of
life into that crescendoing note [B]. In reality this crescendo provides a greater
dynamic effect and intensity than does the repetition of the crescendo on the
note B in different registers [mm. 117–21], even when joined there by all the
The placement of these rhythmic attacks is of course not accidental, nor is the
chord to which this crescendo intensification leads:

Both have important thematic significance. The rhythm underlies the next scene—
it is present there in every bar—and ensures its musical logic. This rhythm is not
a continuingly monotonous ostinato imposed on the music of this scene, like the
so-called rhythmics found in more recent music. Instead, it is treated in a way that
allows for the greatest metric diversity within the context of rhythmic uniformity by
allowing melodies to be set to it, for example:
—the quick polka of the drunken girls and boys with which the scene begins:

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254 pro mundo—pro domo

—by placing the rhythm in the accompaniment;

—by varying the rhythm by augmentation, diminution, or repositioning in the


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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 255

—or by placing it as two or more interlocking canons in meters that are divided
into triplets [mm. 151–69].
A similar example of this sort of musical exploitation of material, this “objec-
tivity”—earlier applied to a specific note as object, here to a rhythm—arises also
in the next scene. You see, this term “objectivity” is older than the current buzz-
word!72 There [in scene  4] a single chord—or, better, a group of six notes—is
the basis:

This chord was already announced (as I mentioned) in the preceding brief scene
change ([at m. 114] during the great dynamic crescendo on the note B), and it also
forms the harmonic completion at the end of the [third] scene with its scene-change

Despite the cohesiveness of this six-note group, it again produces diversity and
variety in this scene, since the hexachord, as was done earlier with the single note
or the rhythm, is transformed by all conceivable variations. These include transpo-
sitions of the chord; dividing up, inverting, or regrouping its six notes; respacing
them in different registers—

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256 pro mundo—pro domo

—or distributing them melodically, i.e., reinterpreting the notes as melodies. For

On the other hand, the architectonic shaping of this musical piece is again attained
by the tried-and-true symmetrical division into three parts: the hexachord appears
in the outer parts of the scene only at a single level of transposition (obviously in all
its variants), while in the middle part [from m. 267] it moves through all other chro-
matic transpositions. When in the third part it finally returns to its original transpo-
sition [m. 315], it is as though it has returned to its tonal center but at the same time
is creating the harmonic transition to the following passage, where D minor acts
almost as the resolution of the hexachord:

More about this later. For now I  will comment only on a more general mat-
ter. It is clear that music that is based simply on harmonies and chordal

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 257

simultaneities—despite the reinterpretation of these as melodies—has a strongly

impressionistic character. Plainly, this is the outcome of a dramatic action that
partakes of nature and its elements, for example, the waves of the lake that close
over the drowning Wozzeck, or the frog croaking made from the aforementioned

—or the rising moon

And so forth.
Despite this, there was never any intention here to imitate the musical style of
the French (such as Debussy). An impressionism of this sort (again to use a slogan
of recent decades), which some think they have noticed in this and other such pas-
sages in my opera, is readily found among the classicists and romantics of music,
not to mention in the timeless nature impressions one hears in Wagner. In fact,
everything here that may seem impressionistic in this sense is far removed from the
vague, foundationless sonorities in that [French] style, which has nothing essential
in common with German music. Here it all has much more to do with music itself, as
I have explained, and was created in strict accordance with rules, indeed with a cool
objectivity. Here it is all based on the thematic hexachord; in the aforementioned
open field scene of Act 1 [scene 2] on the alternation of three chords in ostinato.

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258 pro mundo—pro domo

I emphasize this accordance with rules so insistently because I need to repeat

yet again that in so-called atonal music, as we of the Viennese School understand it,
there is no question of willful or free composing. Quite the opposite! Even if har-
mony following upon Wagner’s chromaticism has continually expanded, eventu-
ally surpassing the keys just as major and minor surpassed the seven church modes,
everything else essential to music is preserved in this so-called atonal music. Only
in music that is based on the great tradition of German music—with its moving har-
mony, its diverse rhythm, especially with its polyphony and immeasurable richness
of forms and shapes—is there a straight path leading from Bach to our own time.
The music of Wozzeck does not stray from this path of German music—and
when I think of music pure and simple it is the only one, the only one that I find to
be music at all—and this is what I have intended to show when I have underscored
a traditional accordance with rules in my theoretical discussion.
The final scene of this act (the children’s scene already mentioned)—with its
eighth-note motion from first measure to last—could rightly be called a perpetuum
mobile, corresponding to older theories of form. This concluding scene of the opera
is also in accordance with rules and principles of regularity—rules that here, as in so
many other instances, I established first and then followed.
The final scene is preceded by a somewhat longer orchestral piece. From the dra-
matic standpoint it is to be construed as the “epilogue” following Wozzeck’s suicide;
as a confession by the composer, who has stepped outside of the theatrical action;
indeed, as an appeal to the audience, inasmuch as it represents mankind. From a
musical standpoint this final orchestral interlude represents a thematic develop-
ment of all the important musical shapes relating to Wozzeck.
Its form has three parts and its unifying principle is—unusual in this work—
tonality. This D minor, which, as I have already mentioned, arose as a resolution of
the hexachord from the preceding scene—

—undergoes such an extensive expansion that it reaches the boundaries of tonality.

Specifically, in the middle part of this piece, at its climax, the entrances mass devel-
opmentally into a stretto that produces a harmonic entity which, although it brings

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 259

together all twelve tones, still functions like a dominant in this key, leading quite
naturally and with harmonic logic back to D minor at the reprise74 :

It is hard for me to say more in few words about this piece of absolute music. So
allow me, ladies and gentlemen, to use the words of another about this passage,
in which the drama “hits the audience with its greatest power.” This comes from
the journal Das Nationaltheater in an article on Georg Büchner that I recently came
across by chance. And since these words agree quite uncannily with what I wanted
to say in this musical epilogue, let me quote a few sentences to end my discussion.
The author of the article, Otto Brües, calls this fragmentary drama “the greatest
bourgeois tragedy in our literature, equal to the thrilling power of Schiller’s Millerin
drama [Kabale und Liebe], which is also a play about God”:

For Wozzeck is none other than Job. . . . What he cannot have in this world
he will have in heaven, or else place it on his balance sheet with God; thus
his religious preoccupations, his superstition, his desire to find meaning
and to delve. But God—to put it most simply—cancels the balance sheet.
So Wozzeck takes a knife in hand, kills Marie, and kills God—these are
one and the same in this play. But God will not be killed; he cries out to
Wozzeck from the blood of the murdered one; Wozzeck briefly stops up
his ears but to no avail, and he must wade into the water and drown. This
is no punishment of the sinner by God; when Wozzeck pays for the mur-
der he thereby confirms the higher power. And although Büchner leaves it
open—Wozzeck doesn’t expressly make this confirmation, and he might
have drowned accidentally—just here is Büchner’s great stroke. At this

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260 pro mundo—pro domo

moment the drama hits the audience with its greatest power. It doesn’t
matter whether, like Job, the sufferer accepts his dire fate and thus acknowl-
edges God, or, like Wozzeck, he rebels and atones by his death. In the end
it is God who triumphs.75

“. . . one of the greatest masters of all times, one of those who cannot be surpassed
because they embody the musical ability and sensibility of an epoch. But he has
attained a special significance, an unparalleled greatness, by bringing the stylistic
genres of two different periods to a higher level, so that he stands between these
two like a mighty landmark, looming like a Titan over both. He belongs with equal
justification to the previous

period of polyphonic music, of period of harmonic style, as well

contrapuntal, imitative style, as as to the period of polyphonic
well as to the period of harmonic music, of contrapuntal, imitative
music style, which returned with him,

and its system, appearing for the first time fully developed, of

modern tonalities (which take twelve-tone rows (which take the

the place of church modes). place of major and minor keys).

His lifetime coincides with a period of transition, i.e., with a time in which the old
style was not yet exhausted and the new was still in its early and immature stages.
His genius brings together the characteristics of both stylistic genres. As a vocal as
well as instrumental composer, he is heir to centuries of artistic legacy, which he
brings to completion and from which he distills all harmonic functions, with the
most precise insight, that have been brought forward from the period of polyphony
in large and small form. His melody is so fundamentally sound and inexhaustible,
his rhythm so diverse and pulsing with life, his harmony so powerful—bold but also
clear and pellucid—that his works are not just objects of admiration but will remain
models for the most assiduous study and imitation.”

Riemann on J. S. Bach76 Alban Berg on Schoenberg

Alban Berg, “Credo,” Die Musik 22/4 ( January 1930):  264–65. Translated by Bryan R.  Simms
© 2013.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 261

A Few Remarks on Staging the Opera Wozzeck

The Music
Essential for the musical preparation are:

(a) a score having the important corrections (incorporating the errata list that
appeared in late December 1929);
(b) the new edition of the piano score, which has this note on its title page, “edition
revised by the author, the vocal parts provided with ossia readings.”77

In the vocal parts these corrections and revisions concern the addition of dynamics
and performance markings and indications of “recitative,” “parlando,” and “canta-
bile”;* elsewhere, tempo modifications and corrected metronome markings. These
should be considered relative and not taken literally or as absolutes. My experience
in performances of recent years has shown me that the entire work should nowadays
be generally tranquil. I mention this desire for a more relaxed realization because
the text and content suggest an understandable tendency toward the opposite, for
example, in the brief dialogue in the tavern scene (Act 2, mm. 589–604), which
should be relaxed and senza accel.78 Or in the last scene of the first act, where despite
the indication “Affettuoso” the andante tempo should never be ignored. Or the last
scene of Act 2, the Rondo marziale, which is easily taken too fast and must always
have a rather broad, clumsy, and almost stolid character. So too its Introduction (Act
2, mm. 737 and 744–60), which cannot be presented too calmly or in too restrained
a fashion.
The same applies to the murder scene (Act 3, scene 2), which I believe should be
almost solemn—comporting with the quite slow tempo of the forty-measure pedal
point—and this dispensed with only at the moment of the murder.
This new demand for a generally more relaxed presentation concerns not only
tempo but also the dynamics of the work, which (except for the explosions that are
discharged in each scene) is a “piano opera.”
Attention should be directed especially to bringing about this piano. The many
espressivos in the individual part (also in the solo strings) can easily lead wrongly
to exceeding the dynamic markings. In the winds (especially in orchestras with a
weaker string group) the many small crescendos (<)—which relate only to a cre-
scendo within the prescribed pp, p, or mp context—are easily done wrongly. Pay

Alban Berg, “Einige Bemerkungen zum Studium der Oper ‘Wozzeck’ von Alban Berg,” typescript,
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung, F21.Berg.2520 (Willi Reich Sammlung).
Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.
* It is important to distinguish among these. Such markings show precisely where a cantabile, bel
canto treatment of the singing voice, which must be achieved by a relaxed singing, is definitely needed
and where not.

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262 pro mundo—pro domo

particular attention to the fp indications: when this dynamic marking appears in a

quiet phrase it does not mean forte, but only a small sforzando in which the follow-
ing piano is the essential part of the fp.
On the other hand, a misunderstanding of a quite different sort has arisen about
the dynamic markings in my score. For example, in pp passages the muted horns
are often quite inaudible. It will always be clear where this is not intended (as, for
example, when they are the main and secondary voices, or when marked by┌).* In
such cases they should play either somewhat louder or only half muted.
Similar things also arise in the col legno bowed or struck strings, where some use
of the hair of the bow can produce more tone.
When possible in large opera houses, use a third pair of horns. These will be
available from the stage music (the military march in Act 1, scene 3). They should
be brought in for reasons of clarity in tuttis, for example, in the scene-change music,
Act 2, mm. 713–23, etc.
Similarly, two harps when at all possible! The two parts would be made up first
from the existing part for one instrument, not by mechanical doubling but by divid-
ing it up for two instruments. Such an arrangement for two harps, made by Professor
Franz Jellinek, is planned for the performance of Wozzeck in Vienna, and it will then
have general validity.79
It is very important that the rehearsal of the tavern music (Act 2, scene 4) is
begun early on, and not only in the rehearsal hall but also on the stage. The reason
is so that it will not be too late to decide on the size of the instrumentation, which
depends on the placement of this small ensemble on the stage and on the acous-
tics of the house. It will then be seen how many violins (fiddles) and how many
guitars are needed, which can be increased if so. The accordion plays a special role
in this tavern music. One must determine early on what degree of accomplish-
ment can be counted on from the instrument and from its player (!). If there are
no accomplished players available for this instrument and for the guitars, these
parts must be redistributed. From the score of the tavern music it will be clear
what is intended. In any case it will be clear from what has been said about this
small ensemble why rehearsals must be started early on. This goes also for the
so-called sermon (Act 2, m. 605). This must be prepared like chamber music and
then properly balanced with the speaker’s part (again, not just in the rehearsal hall
but also on stage).
Here is additional information on the treatment of the speaking voice, adding
to what is given in the full score and piano score.80 It should under no circumstances
be sung! But still the pitches (which are precisely notated) should be established
and sustained as though sung although with the resonance of speech. This type of

* [The symbol] ┌ in the full score and in the parts means that the part so distinguished has the same
rhythm (creating chord tones) as do the main ( ) or secondary ( ) voices, which should come

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 263

speaking voice should not be produced only with chest voice but possibly also with
head voice added in, or purely head voice, which may be necessary since the normal
speaking voice is often too low and has too little range. In this way the spoken tones
will be placed where they do little harm to the singer, no more than the sung tones
that arise in any type of expression and register.
Only in cases where an unnatural or distorted timbre cannot be avoided, despite
these instructions, may the speech melody be permitted in a narrower compass,
within which “the relations of the individual pitches to one another” are absolutely to
be maintained!

A precondition is a thorough knowledge of Büchner’s drama and also of the music,
at least to the extent of its tone, language, and dramatic style. Despite this absolute
necessity, the stage designer has room to express his own art of staging in tone, lan-
guage, and style. And this will be so even if there prevails throughout (as seems
necessary to me) a realism in representation, which will ensure an immediate and
clear recognition and overall view of the various settings.
Familiarity with the music and its extensive diversity, which can be observed in
the musical language of each and every scene, will bring with it a similar diversity in
every aspect of the scenic design. This will be found in the different appearance of
the three rooms (Marie, Captain, Doctor), as well as in the streets (in the city and
in front of Marie’s door), or between the tavern scene of Act 2—set in a roomy out-
door garden—and the confined space of a corner in a bar in Act 3. What contrasts
there will be, in the size alone, between this scene and, for example, the landscape
scenes, especially the “open fields” in Act 1 with its sky that spans the whole stage and
its moody apparitions!
The scenic representation of such natural phenomena (the sunset that for
Wozzeck is so eerie) must likewise have the greatest conceivable clarity (for the
audience as well), as in the scenes at the lake, in which the moon comes up on the
horizon the first time (Act 3, scene 2), while the other time (Act 3, scene 4) it must
break through the clouds higher in the sky. The water in the lake must be recogniz-
able as such. In an earlier performance a great effect—one that was entirely in agree-
ment with the music—was produced when the water in the lake at m. 275 quietly
began to move, and these soft wave movements reached a climax at mm. 285–87,
then slowly abated, coming at m. 302 to a complete calm.
An exception to the need for the greatest possible realism is in the bar scene
in Act 3 (scene 4). This scene, coming between the two scenes at the lake, can
appear truly unearthly and ghostly. The most general indication of the setting
will suffice, and this will facilitate the unusually short interludes before and after
the scene.

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264 pro mundo—pro domo

Stage Direction
This brings us to one of the most important tasks of the stage director. It prob-
ably does not need to be said that the duration of this and all other interludes
as they occur between scenes with continuously sounding music must be strictly
observed. As before, I must stress the importance of precisely observing the cur-
tain and interlude instructions. To these I will add that by “curtain” I mean only
the main curtain coming at the end of an individual act, while I conceived of the
scene endings within the acts in a less conclusive way, possibly by a drop curtain,
scrim, or complete darkness (?), etc. In any case, from the moment at which the
scene change begins, that is, the moment when the instruction “scene change”
[Verwandlung] appears, the stage must become invisible (also quiet!) and only
there where the instruction “curtain up” [Vorhang auf] occurs does it become
again visible. (It has been shown highly practical to direct these curtain manipula-
tions from the pit rather than from the stage itself. Resetting the stage makes it
hard to hear the orchestra from there, and the required contact between curtain
and music cannot be achieved.)
It is also important to observe the time of day in which a scene takes place.
Whether it is day (or night) must be clearly apparent, for example, the twilight
in Act 1, scene 5, where the light must be essentially different from that in Act 2,
scene 3 or Act 3, scene 5. So too there should be a distinction made in the lighting
in Act 1, scene 3, where the evening progressively darkens, and the same place in
the bright sunshine in Act 2, scene 1 or in the nightly candlelight of Act 3, scene
1. Etc.
N.B. The night scene (Act 2, scene 5) in the guard room from m. 761 must be
more brightly lit because the Drum Major has brought a light with him and has
placed it somewhere. After he leaves with the light at m. 800 [recte 808] the rest of
the scene returns to its original darkness and atmosphere.
An especially thorough knowledge of the music is a prerequisite for the work of
the director. The generality of a stage direction (given by Büchner) is often made
precise only by the music.81 For example:
Wozzeck murders Marie by “stabbing the knife into her neck” only once (m. 103).
Everything following (mm. 104, 105, and 106) relates musically only to Marie and
to her death. Any additional butchery by Wozzeck has to cease.
The music in the next-to-the last scene (Act 3, scene 4)  up to mm. 239–49 is
entirely directed to Wozzeck—Marie’s body no longer dominates the stage. For
this entire time she must be nearly invisible (possibly by lying in the shadow of the
The director’s imagination can roam more freely in other scenes, as in the doc-
tor’s office (Act 1, scene 4), where, for example, a more lively action is not unwel-
come if it parallels and somehow suits the dialogue—as with physical examinations
and measurements, etc. Or in the two tavern scenes, in which there must be a

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 265

distinction between the harmless levity of the first (Act 2, scene 4) and the eerie,
almost demonic madness of the second (Act 3, scene 3).
But even in scenes that were composed with a freer direction in mind, the musi-
cal content of the various parts must be observed. For example, at the appearance
of the Fool (Act 2, m. 643) things gradually calm down,* and by m. 651 the dis-
traction from clamor and noisy games on the part of the regular tavern customers
ceases. A similar case is in the dialogue between the Captain and Doctor on the
path by the lake (Act 3, scene 4). For the whole time they should keep to the side
and speak in nearly muted voices. Here the music and stage design are the main
Finally, the most important thing of all: rehearsing cannot begin too soon for the
scenes in which Marie’s Child appears, especially in the final scene. (The Child is
best cast as a small girl—girls at that age are more talented than boys.) These scenes
must be absolutely “secure” and completely prepared on stage and with orchestra
before the general stage rehearsals begin. Otherwise the children’s scenes will delay
the entire rehearsal schedule, just at the last minute before the premiere, and their
preparation will not be adequate even with extra rehearsals (which usually must
be done by an assistant coach at the piano, which is a poor substitute for contact
between the orchestra and the children).

Commemorative Address for Emil Hertzka

Ladies and Gentlemen:
Among the many enemies of the living composer is the publisher. It’s no
wonder! On one side is the artist, whose activities, if they deal rightly with art,
are directed toward intellectual interests; on the other side is the businessman,
whose activities, if they deal rightly with business, are directed toward material
interests. I would not bring up this commonplace about the split between artist
and salesman, between idealism and realism, if we today did not live in a time
when it is perhaps no longer a commonplace, when nearly the opposite is taken
as self-evident. The artist is the one who has to be “objective” while the salesman
is “inspired.”82
So if I want to adhere to my belief that the ideal artist stands in opposition to
the realities of the world, I must cast a glance back to the time when this belief was
not out of date, when that opposition was considered to be an almost unbridge-
able chasm; and the quarter century of Universal Edition gives me the possibility
of doing so. Looking back twenty to thirty years will be enough; it is sufficient to
look at the [musical] program of this very commemorative celebration, with its

Alban Berg, untitled typescript (1932), Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung,

F21.Berg.110/ii. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.
* On the stage.

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266 pro mundo—pro domo

three composers—Bruckner, Mahler, and Schoenberg. Bringing them together on

a single concert seems as fitting to us today as it was daring back then to perform
even one of them.
Think back, ladies and gentlemen, to what happened in the halls of this build-
ing [the Musikverein] when such music was played. Even Bruckner, then ten
years dead, was far from what is called “generally recognized” and “accepted.”
To bring his works nearer to the world’s understanding, societies had to be
founded to give introductory lectures and four-hands performances of his sym-
phonies (I heard them here myself ), to make what is now called propaganda,
something then still necessary for Bruckner. Even his students and others who
were his closest friends still thought it appropriate to edit his works, to intro-
duce extensive “cuts” in them, mutilating them to make them generally palat-
able to the musical world.
If the nurture of this music was then a problem and largely an internal matter
for societies (which carried Bruckner’s name, or Wagner’s or Hugo Wolf ’s . . .),
what was the effect on the music of Mahler and Schoenberg? What happened
in the halls of this house when such music was played need not be repeated.
Even if Mahler had a large “following,” the enthusiasm of this following for
this “secessionistic” music, this “conductor’s music,” was entirely incomprehen-
sible to the larger musical world of that day. Just as incomprehensible as the
general rejection of the “cacophonies” of the “fraud” Schoenberg was compre-
hensible and normal in that world. They were not opposed to the strivings of a
“society” or the enthusiasm of a “following,” but only against the views of a very
small partisan group, for which the only name to be found was “Schoenberg
So this was the response, about a quarter century ago, to what was offered
to the world as new music, to a world in which composers and their societ-
ies, followings, and cliques believed in all seriousness that they should not only
be performed and heard but also preserved for posterity, that is, printed and
I must say that for a businessman—and a publisher is always that—it took a lot
of nerve to deal in such wares, wares that the consumer had rejected as unpalatable.
And if you, ladies and gentlemen, can imagine and keep before your eyes the dis-
crepancy between these two spheres of interest, you will not find it an exaggeration
that I spoke earlier of an “almost unbridgeable chasm” between artist and salesman,
these even being “enemies,” for this is something that must happen when two such
worlds collide.
And despite it all, contrary to all calculating logic and business practice, the
unexpected happened! There appeared a businessman who in this apparently
hopeless struggle between producers and consumers came down on the side that
was not only economically weaker but, in other ways too, had never been right.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 267

What did this small bunch of musicians mean in comparison with the worldwide
power of the music establishment? What did it matter if the dozen (if that many)
younger composers found a few supporters in the form of journalists? Even if a
few performances caused a “sensation,” scoring an abstract gain that could still
not outweigh the losses in the deficit column? What must have been in the mind
of a businessman (and, as it turned out, one who understood business) for him
to decide on something that until then had achieved neither honor nor prospects
for material success, something no other publisher in the world wanted a part of?
What must have been in this businessman’s head for him to recognize these few
musical events as the beginning of a movement, a musical movement that would
remain intact still after a quarter century, indeed remain the only one that is still
today a movement? And finally we must ask: what power did this small business-
man—and that’s what he was then—possess to turn such fantastic insights into
plans, to put them into action, and then over the course of a quarter century to
communicate them irrepressibly over the whole musical world and literally to
force them upon this world?
We know that it was not one of those powers to which nearly everything is attrib-
uted in large and successful undertakings, even those of an intellectual nature. No, it
wasn’t the power of money or that of status. It wasn’t the trappings of power, with-
out which virtually nothing in Vienna gets done or is shown to advantage, as in the
power of the press or of Viennese society, when “they have name and rank” and
“connections” to the “highest levels of authority, art, and science.”
What power was it that accomplished something that otherwise seems quite
unthinkable without the help of those factors?
I have no answer, and for us musicians there is no other explanation than this: it
was the power of an idea. It was the idea that was brought into the world by the
“musical movement” about which I just spoke and upon which the entire intellec-
tual balance sheet of this publisher is figured, including a material success that has
not been absent and the real power that ultimately came from this publisher in earn-
ing its now leading position. Do not be surprised, ladies and gentlemen—even the
nonmusicians among you—when I assert that for us musicians the spiritual aura
of the name “Universal Edition” plays a more important role than the name of a
well-led, smoothly organized, and accordingly successful publishing business. And
don’t be surprised, even though there is the risk of it sounding paradoxical, when
I contend that this does not depend so much on everything that is usually praised
when a great publisher dies, such as:

that they have published works by several hundred composers;

that in the course of the quarter century of their publishing activity, the number
of these works has climbed from 2,000 to 10,000;
that this publishing activity extends over all areas of music;

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268 pro mundo—pro domo

that the musical movement of our period is not limited to Vienna, where it
originated, or to Germany, where it soon spilled over, but has instead become
that just as this publisher, true to its name, extends universally over the entire
musical world, so in the current festivals of the International Society
for Contemporary Music we should honor this publisher with the title
“International Corporation for Contemporary Music”;
and that finally, it should not be omitted, what outwardly ensures a publisher of
international standing assures—the success of its composers, in all degrees
from the temporary success of local scope up to the brilliantly acclaimed
names which outlive our own time and extend into eternity.

And despite how characteristic and important the things suggested here are for
the assessment of a publisher—all of which, let me say, could be better and
more completely documented by the catalogs and yearly reports and other
financial papers of this corporation—these things seem to me to be private
matters for composers . . . and stockholders. But what has been put down on
five-line paper in the course of this quarter century is no private matter; rather,
it is one for music history. It lives on, as it did twenty-five years ago, because it
serves the idea of that great musical movement, and it has been proved right
because this artistic capital is perhaps the only one that is subject to no crisis
and loss of value.
This is how I, at least, see the situation of music of today and tomorrow and also
how I see Universal Edition, these two enduringly connected, and I believe that in
this I am speaking in the name of all of its composers.
I have been asked specifically “to speak in their name,” and what I  have said
was done with this in mind. If I have hardly spoken until now of that man who
was—I can find no more honorable terms—the bearer, transmitter, and guard-
ian of that “idea,” it is only because I wanted to distinguish the outward from the
personal. And if I  were to do this, to speak of that which lies in my own heart,
I  would become not only too personal but also deviate in my address from the
bright recognition of that “idea” into a dark tone of deep sadness. I wanted to avoid
this. What brings us together here today should be no funeral service but instead a
commemoration, one that should be repeated yearly, after the pain over the loss of
this extraordinary man no longer spoils our joy in possessing the idea that he left
behind. Then we shall also know—and here I speak again in the name of all—that
the historically based assertion of the enmity between composer and publisher,
with which I began my commemorative address, does not hold true in this perhaps
unique instance. Because.. .
Among the few friends that we living composers have, one of them was our pub-
lisher Emil Hertzka.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 269

Commentary on Essays, Lectures, and Analyses

The Musical Impotence of Hans Pfitzner’s Die neue
Ästhetik (1920)
The appearance of the essay “The Musical Impotence of Hans Pfitzner’s Die neue
Ästhetik” in the June 1920 issue of Musikblätter des Anbruch marked the beginning
of a new phase in Berg’s activity as a writer. Before that his published writings had
been limited to technical studies of music by Schoenberg, at which he was generally
regarded as an authority. With this publication he became an essayist—one who
was prepared to address a wide range of controversial topics concerning music, and
in a more sophisticated form of expression than heretofore. This development in his
career coincided with a short-lived plan to make writing his main profession and
to place his aspirations as a composer—including work on his opera Wozzeck—at
least temporarily in second place.
These new career goals began to crystallize in his thinking in 1918, during the
disruption in his life caused by wartime military service—an experience by which
he had been, so he told Schoenberg, “degraded to the point of self-loathing.”83
Schoenberg encouraged him in this change of career. The first major product of
Berg’s new literary orientation was his essay on Hans Pfitzner’s recent book Die neue
Aesthetik der musikalischen Impotenz: Ein Verwesungssymptom? (The New Aesthetic
of Musical Impotence:  A  Symptom of Decay?).84 Pfitzner (1869–1949) was a
widely respected composer and conductor. Early in his career he had written music
in a romantic and generally progressive harmonic style. But around 1910, alarmed
at where unrestrained progressivism seemed to be leading German musical culture,
he returned to a more conservative musical language, as in his most important work,
the opera Palestrina (1912–15, premiere 1917). His trenchant German nationalism
and distress at the state of modern German music only increased during World War
I, during which he began to write bitter attacks upon modern trends in music that,
in his view, were dragging German music downward.
In his Die neue Aesthetik der musikalischen Impotenz, a book of over 150 pages
that appeared in 1919, Pfitzner ostensibly intended to refute the ideas in several
books by Paul Bekker, mainly Bekker’s Beethoven (1911). Bekker, an essayist and
music critic for the Frankfurter Zeitung, approached Beethoven’s music using the
interpretive and hermeneutic theories of art that had advanced a short time ear-
lier by writers including Wilhelm Dilthey and Hermann Kretzschmar. For Bekker,
as for Kretzschmar, music could be construed as an embodiment of affections—
poetic ideas, feelings, and images—that could be used as a basis for understand-
ing it. Bekker held that the most essential generative force in Beethoven’s music
was its initial “poetic idea” or “vision,” which the composer subsequently worked
into a concrete shape using the musical elements of motive, theme, harmony,
counterpoint, and rhythm. An elucidation of a poetic idea, Bekker contended,

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270 pro mundo—pro domo

allows the listener to perceive the coherence and intention lying behind the work’s
abstract form.
Pfitzner saw in Bekker’s theory a misguided removal of music from think-
ing about music.85 In Pfitzner’s view, a great work of music is conceived from an
inspired musical idea that combines concrete musical elements, among which mel-
ody, theme, and motive are the leading components. Invention is the basic creative
impulse in music, Pfitzner contended, without which artistic impotence results.
Unlike a writer such as Heinrich Schenker—another persistent critic of Bekker’s
theories—Pfitzner held that analysis of the musical idea, or the basic melody, was
pointless and misleading, since inspired ideas were products of an irrational process
based on pure feeling. As an example of this pointlessness Pfitzner cited the melody
of “Träumerei” from Schumann’s Kinderszenen, which, he said, has no strikingly dis-
tinctive structural features but still engages the emotions of the listener, with no
intervention from reason or analysis. In contemplating such a melody, Pfitzner con-
cluded, the listener can only exclaim, “How beautiful!”
At the end of his book, Pfitzner moved from Beethoven and Schumann to mod-
ern music, which he deplored for its lack of idea, inspiration, and beauty, absences
that suggested impotence.
Pfitzner defined musical impotence as the “embodiment of all that is bad” in
music, “the inability truthfully to procreate and bring forth, the lack of inspiration.
Lack of talent is artistic immorality. Everything else can somehow be accepted and
The term “impotence” was commonly used by music critics of the day, nor-
mally referring pejoratively to a composer’s lack of strength and vigor but often
with a suggestion of sexual weakness. This was implicit in Hugo Wolf ’s review
(1886) in the Wiener Salonblatt of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, a work in which
Wolf found only “nothingness, emptiness and hypocrisy”—all examples of the
unmarried composer’s “musical impotence.”87 The term was used similarly in
the vocabulary of Brahms’s circle, as in Theodor Billroth’s assessment of Liszt’s
Mephisto Waltzes: “To be musically impotent is certainly a misfortune for a man
like Liszt,” writes Billroth to Eduard Hanslick. “But for that reason we don’t have
to have Liszt’s impotence shown to us. Still, it is rudely placed before the audi-
ence, in music for which the term ‘vulgar’ is flattery.”88 Pfitzner put the term front
and center in his book, probably because it also invoked a stereotype of Jews in
the anti-Semitic literature of the day. Inbreeding among Jews was thought by
some to have produced sexual irregularities, one of which was a tendency toward
impotence.89 Pfitzner had contended in his book that the “Jewish-international
movement,” led by people like Bekker, was largely responsible for the impotence
in German music of the modern period.
Despite its inflammatory tone, Pfitzner’s Neue Aesthetik contained many ideas
with which Berg could readily have agreed. Like Pfitzner, he would not have
approved of Bekker’s hermeneutics, any more than he approved of the flowery

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 271

language in Richard Specht’s analysis of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, which he

had characterized as “irrelevant.”90 He certainly would have agreed with Pfitzner’s
assessment of the superiority of German music, which is a recurrent topic in Berg’s
writings as well as in Pfitzner’s; and Berg also often lamented the degraded taste in
music among contemporary audiences. But Berg certainly had no sympathy with
Pfitzner’s many eccentricities and exaggerated hostilities: his view of the pervasive
decline of German culture, his hopeless pessimism about the present and future,
or his blatant anti-Semitism. Most of all Berg wished to contest Pfitzner’s blanket
condemnation of modern music, although this is a relatively minor theme in the
Neue Aesthetik. Toward the end of the book Pfitzner wrote, “Quiet music is no longer
composed; the piano sonata has died out. Whoever nowadays says that he finds a
song by Adolf Jensen beautiful is disgraced. But the madhouse kitsch of any bungler
is taken seriously—so long as it is ‘atonal.’ ”91
To expose the falsity of such statements, Berg adopts subtle polemic strategies
that he had found in the writings of Karl Kraus.92 Berg begins by quoting extensively
from an isolated passage in the middle of Pfitzner’s text in which Pfitzner asserts
the futility of trying to explain the beauty of an inspired melody, using Schumann’s
“Träumerei” as an example. Berg glosses each quotation, piling argument upon
argument against Pfitzner’s thoughts. He then turns to technical analysis—his
strong suit as a writer—to reveal motivic features in Schumann’s melody that are
rich, ingenious, and outside the norm, all suggesting a special aesthetic quality in
the melody. Finally, Berg produces a counterexample by rewriting the opening
phrase of Schumann’s melody with these distinctive features removed, leaving the
melody impoverished, normative in all ways, and accordingly devoid of the special
qualities from which a perception of beauty could result.
Near the very end of the essay, Berg arrives at his main point. If structural ingenu-
ity, richness, and going against the norm promote a sense of beauty in Schumann’s
melody, then these features can also suggest the presence of beauty in modern
music, making such works potent rather than impotent. Berg says that he is ready
to analyze melodies by Mahler and Schoenberg with this goal in mind, but limited
space allows him only to cite a counterexample from the modern repertoire. The
unnamed work that he produces is the opening of Pfitzner’s own song “Nachts,”
op. 26, no. 2 (1916), which had recently been performed by the Society for Private
Musical Performances.93 The music has none of the special qualities that Berg had
just observed in “Träumerei”:  its phrasing is entirely in two-measure units, the
texture and rhythm are unvaried, the voice line is melodically sterile—more an
inner voice than a melodic one—and the harmonies move at a glacial pace. In his
quotation from Pfitzner’s song, he adds the repeated exclamations, “How beauti-
ful!,” just as Pfitzner had done in a musical example drawn from the Scene at the
Brook in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Ending with a polemical flourish, Berg
again quotes Pfitzner’s empty description of Schumann’s melody, now to describe
Pfitzner’s own music.

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272 pro mundo—pro domo

The reception of Berg’s article was strongly positive among those in Schoenberg’s
circle. Berg most wanted to know what Schoenberg thought of the article, and he
asked him about it in a letter of 9 July 1920:

I also wish I  could have stayed on in Vienna to see how you liked my
Pfitzner article. Of late I  have had many misgivings about it. That is,
I couldn’t even look at it anymore, it was so repugnant to me. The begin-
ning! It’s all much too mild! Instead of coming right out and saying: he’s
a fool, I speak of a “composer of Pfitzner’s stature.” Still, I was pursuing a
strategy there. I wanted to have the fool emerge gradually from the essay
as a whole: to begin at least with a degree of superficial respect (leaving it
ambiguous whether it’s meant seriously or ironically—“erudition!”) and
only slowly to strip him of all the attributes of which he is so proud: his
Germanness, his style! his musical learning, the logic of his book, finally,
as trump card, his composition, which I expose and denounce with the
same foolish “how beautiful!—how beautiful!—how beautiful!” that he
used for the Pastoral Symphony. And all of it dipped in the irony of the
incredible stupidity of this “master.”94

Schoenberg never responded in writing, but others said that he was pleased with
the article.
Some of Berg’s acquaintances, including Alma Mahler and Heinrich Jalowetz,
thought that he had gone too far by attempting to account for beauty in music
using rational, analytical means. In a letter of 1 July 1920, Jalowetz asked: “Can we
exhaust the essence of an art by using the means of a conceptual language, an art
whose means of expression has just the advantage that it is not conceptual?”95 Berg
defended himself by saying that he did not attempt in the article to explain beauty
or give a rational definition for it—only to indicate special features in music that
helped to provoke a sense of beauty in a listener.
In the 1926 edition of his Neue Aesthetik, part of his Gesammelte Schriften, Pfitzner
added a lengthy foreword in which his attack upon modern music is increased. The
heritage of great German music has been exchanged in the present day, he writes, for
atonality and American jazz. “Things anti-German, in whatever form they appear—
whether atonality, internationalism, Americanism, German pacifism—assault our
existence, our culture from all sides, and with it all of Europe.”96 Finally Pfitzner gets
to Berg’s article:

A friendly gentleman of the dawning day—friendly because he praised

a song of mine toward the end—was not satisfied with my treatment of
one of these examples, from Schumann’s “Träumerei.” He sharply disap-
proved, right from the start, determining that pure enthusing in the place
of solid analysis was unfitting for a composer of my stature. He thinks he

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 273

has gotten at the secret of this deeply gripping tonal portrait by brackets,
dotted lines, and upper- and lowercase letters. I, like others, might demon-
strate the structure of a melody in that way if I were teaching elementary
form to a conservatory class. But this man hasn’t the slightest idea of what
I was actually talking about. It’s like telling me—being in wonder at the
markings on a butterfly’s wings or gripped by “mysterious nature in broad
daylight”—that the good impression came from chestnut brown and lilac
going well together. Great works of art come from the unconscious, not
from the conscious.
The prospect of having to find the value of “Träumerei” in the explana-
tions of this man is bleak. And anyway, having certain people instruct me
about inspiration makes me think of the hospital trainee telling the woman
who has just given birth how to get through labor. Who should deal with
aesthetics? One can only testify to what one has experienced.97

Berg made a few notes on this passage, as though he was considering an answer to
Pfitzner, but then he let the matter drop.98 By 1926 he had experienced the success
of Wozzeck and exchanged the role of polemicist for the career of a major composer.
The translation of Berg’s “Musical Impotence of Hans Pfitzner’s Die neue
Ästhetik” in this volume follows the text of the first edition in Musikblätter des
Anbruch, 2/11–12 ( June 1920). Berg’s typescript is found in the Österreichische
Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung, F21.Berg.110/i, with additional notes in

Vienna’s Music Criticism: Two Feuilletons (1920)

Berg followed up on the success of his polemic against Pfitzner with a new and
related article attacking selected musical journalists. Displeasure with music crit-
ics and their writings was strongly felt throughout Schoenberg’s circle, especially
by Berg, whose letters are filled with expressions of vexation with the negative and
superficial coverage that their new music received in the press. In the summer of
1920, while working on Wozzeck and preparing to take over as the Vienna editor
of Musikblätter des Anbruch, Berg began to research the new article by collecting
newspaper clippings containing reviews that seemed to him to be glaringly defec-
tive. He chose two of these as his principal focus—one by Julius Korngold and
the other by Elsa Bienenfeld, both leading Viennese journalists. Korngold’s piece,
which appeared in the Neue freie Presse on 17 July 1920, was a review of a concert
of new music that had been given under the auspices of the Vienna Musikfest; the
other was Elsa Bienenfeld’s review, appearing in the Neues Wiener Journal on 11 July
1920, of a book by Walther Krug, Die neue Musik.
Berg chose two large targets for his polemical article. Korngold (1860–1945)
was the principal music critic for the Neue freie Presse, Vienna’s largest paper. He

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274 pro mundo—pro domo

had followed Eduard Hanslick in this prestigious position in 1902, and his reviews
were known for their broad knowledge and erudition, devotion to the classic
masters, openness to the progressive music of the period of Richard Strauss and
Gustav Mahler, and vitriolic intolerance for such later developments as atonality
and the New Objectivity of the 1920s. Elsa Bienenfeld (1877–1942) was briefly
a student of Schoenberg’s while she studied for her Ph.D. degree in musicology at
the University of Vienna. In 1904–5 she taught a class in music history at a private
girls’ school run by Eugenie Schwarzwald, where Schoenberg was teaching a class
in harmony and counterpoint. She was the leading music critic for the Neues Wiener
Journal, a respected tabloid founded in Vienna in 1893. At first she was positively
inclined toward the music of Schoenberg and his circle, although in her later reviews
of atonal works her thoughts went along the same lines as Korngold’s. She wrote
an especially caustic review of Berg’s Altenberg Songs after they were heard at the
scandal concert of 31 March 1913.99
The articles and reviews of Korngold and Bienenfeld were regularly pub-
lished under the heading “feuilleton,” a term rarely encountered in present-day
English-language newspapers. The feuilleton originated in the early nineteenth
century as a section in French newspapers in which writing about art, literature,
fashion, or fiction was placed, separate from the heavier fare concerning politics and
business. A feuilleton was a prestigious type of journalistic writing. The feuilleton
section of the Neue freie Presse—on musical issues ruled over by Korngold—was
prominently located at the bottom of the first page and typically extended for eight
half columns.
Korngold’s feuilleton of 17 July 1920 used a performance of Paul Pisk’s Sänge
eines fahrenden Spielmanns, op.  6 (1919), as the pretext for a diatribe against the
entire atonal style of Schoenberg and others. Music of this type, says Korngold, is
anarchy, its tones devoid of relatedness, connection, or coherence. It has no capacity
for expression and can only create chaotic impressions, behind which lie a “blood-
less intellectuality.” Bienenfeld’s article is a review of a short book by Walther Krug,
Die neue Musik, in which modern composers of virtually all stripes are attacked and
Hans Pfitzner is held up as a model for what music might still be. As Berg notes in
his polemic, Bienenfeld’s description of Krug’s text leaves it unclear where she is
paraphrasing Krug’s thoughts and where she is stating her own opinions, and she
expresses no disagreement with Krug’s exaggerated and highly inaccurate portrait
of Schoenberg’s music.
In a letter to Schoenberg dated 1 September 1920 (the day on which Berg
took over as the Vienna editor of Anbruch), Berg says that he wrote the article,
with the title “Schoenberg und die Kritik” (Schoenberg and Criticism), dur-
ing the last week or two of August. In drafts found among Berg’s papers in the
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, the working title for the article is given as
“Zwei Feuilletons” (Two Feuilletons).100 At some point in the next weeks, Berg
proposed the article for publication in Anbruch, but this was overridden by Emil

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 275

Hertzka, probably because it would have damaged Berg’s ability to function as

a journal editor.101 On 16 January 1921 Berg reported to Schoenberg that he
had revised the article, still titled “Schoenberg und die Kritik,” and had sent it
to Hermann Scherchen for publication in Melos. Scherchen resigned from his
editorial position with Melos before the article was published, and Berg’s manu-
script was returned to him on 18 June 1921.102 Berg then temporarily abandoned
his attempts to have the article published, and he sent a handwritten fair copy,
retitled “Wiener Musikkritik” (Vienna’s Music Criticism), to Schoenberg on 9
September 1921 as a birthday present.
In an early version of the article, Berg had the idea of including a third feuilleton,
Max Kalbeck’s “Stunden mit Klinger: Nach Tagebuchaufzeichnungen” (Hours with
[Max] Klinger: From Diary Notes). Kalbeck, the friend and biographer of Brahms,
was a highly respected figure in Vienna. He had earlier been the leading music feuille-
tonist for the Neues Wiener Tagblatt, where his “Hours with Klinger” appeared. Berg’s
attack upon him may have been inspired by Kraus, who had denounced Kalbeck in
a 1904 issue of Die Fackel.103 Berg’s issue with Kalbeck was the same as Kraus’s: both
held that a profound difference separates the creative artist from the journalist, and
any attempt by the journalist to evaluate the artist is inherently repugnant. Berg writes:

I do not know if Max Klinger was wholly a great man. I must leave this
judgment to those who are in a position to assess the significance of this
artist just as accurately—even if only approximately—as we musicians do
with masters of music. I must leave this judgment to those who can see the
relation of a music critic for a daily paper and a trained artist on the level of
a Klinger with the same clarity as I do when I see, for example, a feuilleton
by a Franz Servaes on Max Reger.104 One thing I know with certainty: in the
case of Klinger-Kalbeck, there exists a distance that even in those hours of
the most cordial interaction the latter was obliged to maintain.105

In the final version of “Vienna’s Music Criticism”—the one that Berg sent to
Schoenberg on 9 September 1921—Berg dispensed with the material on Kalbeck
and confined his remarks to the two other feuilletonists.
In “Vienna’s Music Criticism” Berg follows the polemical model that he found in
similar writings by Karl Kraus in Die Fackel, a model that he had begun to use in the
Pfitzner article. He takes up what he sees as the shortcomings and abuses in news-
paper criticism of the day, and he pulls no punches in attacking his opponents ad
hominem. As in the Pfitzner polemic, he quotes extensively from his sources, refut-
ing their every thought from multiple angles, and he uses witty puns available in the
German language to satirize his targets. His method in this article is to point out the
factual inaccuracies in the two feuilletons and their sloppy grammar: if these writers
make repeated gaffes in such basic mechanics, how could their fair-mindedness or
judgments about new music be trusted?

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276 pro mundo—pro domo

Berg seems to have recognized that this article was not as successful as his earlier
efforts. He admitted to Schoenberg that it was “wordy, awkward in style,” and in
certain passages he loses control of the Krausian satiric style and allows a certain
obscurity of thought and petulance of tone to enter in. Still, Berg wished to see the
article published, and he later gave a copy of it to Willi Reich for publication in the
journal 23. This was impossible given its length, but in 1953 Reich sent its first two
paragraphs again to Melos, where this excerpt was published in that year. The full
text first appeared in Reich’s Alban Berg (1963).
The version of the article translated in this volume is from Berg’s fair copy manu-
script, titled “Wiener Musikkritik” (Arnold Schönberg Center, Vienna), which he
sent to Schoenberg with a letter dated 9 September 1921.

The Musical Forms in My Opera Wozzeck (1924)

Berg wrote no articles for publication for nearly four years after completing the
abortive polemic “Vienna’s Music Criticism” in 1920. During the intervening years
he turned his attention to the completion of Wozzeck, although his interest in writ-
ing musical essays remained keen. Following the engraving of Fritz Heinrich Klein’s
piano-vocal score of Wozzeck in December 1922, Berg began methodically to pro-
mote interest in the opera and its staging by sending the score to conductors and
journals. From the very beginning Berg intended to draw attention to the opera by
its formal originality, especially its use of rounded musical forms, mostly based from
earlier instrumental music, in each of its fifteen scenes. To ensure that these forms
would be noted, he enclosed, in copies of the score that he first sent out, a chart
or Szenarium drawn up by his student Fritz Mahler, where the forms used in each
scene were enumerated.
Within months of the publication of the piano score, Berg’s friend Erwin
Stein wrote a short article about the opera in which—probably following Berg’s
prompting—Stein stressed the presence of its distinctive formal elements.
A breakthrough for the recognition of the new work came in April 1923, when
the Berlin composer and conductor Ernst Viebig (1897–1959) wrote a posi-
tive report on Wozzeck for the widely read Berlin journal Die Musik (Berg earlier
had sent a copy of the piano score to its editor, Bernhard Schuster). Viebig, like
Berg, stressed the originality of the form of Wozzeck. “In this score absolute musi-
cal forms and the demands of the libretto find the perfect fusion,” he wrote.106
“Perhaps the road to a truly ‘musical opera’ lies here—away from music drama,”
Viebig concluded.107 Journalistic recognition of the opera continued. Shortly
after Viebig’s article appeared, Fritz Heinrich Klein wrote an article on it for the
Musikblätter des Anbruch, again stressing the formal layout of the work. It contains
“a completely new kind of structure,” Klein wrote, “in which the themes, springing
from the dramatic situation, undergo a formal musical development and in all the
forms of absolute music.”108

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As interest in the opera grew and a premier performance was being planned, Berg
was disturbed to find another review of the piano score in the February 1924 issue
of Die Musik, this time with a distinctly negative outlook. The title of the article
was “Atonales Opernschaffen” (Creating Atonal Opera), and it was written by Emil
Petschnig, a Viennese composer (and student of Alexander Zemlinsky) and teacher
of music theory who occasionally wrote for Die Musik.109 Petschnig disagrees with
Viebig’s characterization of the opera and argues, plausibly, that the absolute musi-
cal forms that Berg enumerates in the Szenarium are often hard to find in the music
itself. But Petschnig then lapses into more standard journalistic condemnation of
atonality—its “poverty of imagination,” its “complicated and twisted harmony,” its
“jumble of chords and voices.” “The whole opera,” Petschnig concludes, “sounds as
if it were played on an out-of-tune piano.”110
Berg immediately contacted Bernhard Schuster to complain about the article
and to request an opportunity to answer Petschnig’s erroneous characterizations.111
Schuster answered on 12 February to say that a rejoinder from Berg could be pub-
lished provided that it was objective in tone and brief in length. Berg then drafted
a short article, “The Musical Forms in My Opera Wozzeck,” as a reply to Petschnig.
In the article Berg for the first time addressed his opera Wozzeck in print, and
he continued to flesh out the viewpoint about it that had already attracted atten-
tion—its use of forms from traditional instrumental music. Berg would continue to
emphasize this element in later articles and in his “Lecture on Wozzeck.” The forms
within scenes of the opera, Berg says, are highly regular and traditional in their con-
struction, they rest on classical norms, and they will be apparent to anyone who
has studied the score closely. Again using his earlier, Krausian polemical method,
he quotes from several passages by Petschnig and attacks each of them on a fac-
tual basis. Berg made forty-two pages of notes for the article, which show his highly
systematic approach to writing a polemic.112 First he isolated what Petschnig had
said about certain specific elements in Wozzeck—“Rondo,” “D moll,” “Rhythmus,”
“Rhapsodie,” and “Fantasie,” among others; then he added in his own commentary
to each, placed them in order, and merged the notes into a continuous draft.
The translation in this volume is based on the printed version of Berg’s “Die
musikalischen Formen in meiner Oper Wozzeck,” Die Musik 16 (August 1924).

W hy Is Schoenberg’s Music So Difficult to Understand? (1924)

Berg’s essay “Why Is Schoenberg’s Music So Difficult to Understand?” was pub-
lished in September 1924, in a special issue of Musikblätter des Anbruch honoring
Schoenberg’s fiftieth birthday. In the article Berg analyzes the opening measures
of Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 1 (1904–1905) to underscore elements of the
work that deviate from the norm and, Berg says, pose barriers to its “understanding”
and, consequently, its greater acceptance. Berg’s central argument is that a richness
of materials and multiplicity of innovative forms make Schoenberg’s music difficult

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278 pro mundo—pro domo

to understand. Difficulty is a property of the music, Berg contends, not a failing, and
it brings the work to a higher artistic level than other contemporary music, from
which such complexity is absent.
Coming four years after his last major essay, “Vienna’s Music Criticism,” Berg
in this article picks up familiar themes, although without the polemical edge that
had characterized his writings of 1920. Great music of the present day, Berg sug-
gests, is difficult music, complex in materials and unifying elements, not for listeners
seeking easy entertainment. Its greatness also comes from its continuity with tradi-
tional musical forms from the past, especially the German past going back to Bach,
although these forms are brought forward in an evolved state. The article shows that
Berg’s interest in writing about music remained keen, now that Wozzeck was com-
pleted, and that his faith in the music of Schoenberg had not wavered.
From a study of documents in the Berg Collection of the Österreichische
Nationalbibliothek, Werner Grünzweig has shown that much of Berg’s analysis
had its origins in 1920 and 1921, when it formed a centerpiece in the book on
Schoenberg that Berg began to draft at that time, a project that he dropped to con-
centrate on the completion of Wozzeck.113 As in his earlier guides to Schoenberg’s
compositions, Berg’s analytic ideas stem largely from Schoenberg’s own outlook
on musical structure, which played an important role in Schoenberg’s teaching and
influenced the analytic writings of his students. For the wording of the title and
certain aspects of the content, Berg drew upon a brief essay by Schoenberg him-
self, “Warum neue Melodien schwerverständlich sind” (Why New Melodies are
Difficult to Understand, 1913).114 Here Schoenberg argues, as Berg does later, that
difficulty in contemporary music is necessary in the stage of its evolution reached
by the early twentieth century. New melodies, Schoenberg writes, are difficult to
understand because of the rapid and recondite development of motives, which
replaces simple repetitions and sequences. The developmental unfolding of these
motives, Schoenberg adds, is usually not progressive or even orderly, but can leap
precipitously back and forth among forms that are closely or distantly related.
Berg follows Schoenberg again when he rewrites the opening of Schoenberg’s
Quartet to remove the element of difficulty, by which Berg intends to show that the
more easily understood version is artistically inferior. Schoenberg had done some-
thing similar in his Harmonielehre, in which he rewrote the harmony of Papageno’s
“Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from Mozart’s Magic Flute to illustrate alternative
means for creating cadences.115 Berg had done this in the Pfitzner essay as well.
Berg also develops ideas on Schoenberg’s music that had been introduced some-
what earlier in writings by Anton Webern, Erwin Stein, Heinrich Jalowetz, and
Egon Wellesz. In their brief discussions of Schoenberg’s First Quartet, both Webern
and Wellesz had stressed the work’s thematicism in all voices and the origins of its
harmony in the conjunction of contrapuntal lines.116 In a 1920 article Stein held that
Schoenberg’s works contained a “free musical logic” that made architectonic forms
unnecessary, although for such works to be intelligible the average listener would

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need more advanced capacities.117 In a 1921 article Stein called attention to the
lack of periodicity and sequence in the Second String Quartet, stressing its organic
motivic work.118
Berg is at his most original in his harmonic reduction of the intricate opening
measures of the First Quartet.119 Here he intends to show just how Schoenberg’s
polyphony and freely moving lines form four-part harmony. He slows the rhythm
to whole and half notes, smoothes out the underlying voice leading, and elongates
some of the tones in the four polyphonic strands while eliminating as few notes
as possible. In Berg’s reading of the harmony, key exerts little constraint. Motions
to and from basic diatonic scale degrees in the key of D minor occur only in pass-
ing, and these are accorded no special weight. Berg’s emphasis is instead on smooth
voice leading and rhythmic simplification, by which he reveals an open-ended and
fluent harmonic substructure.
Although virtually all of Berg’s insights on Schoenberg’s music were well-known
by 1924, restating them had taken on a new urgency at that time. Schoenberg’s
leadership in modern music seemed at that moment to be threatened by newly
emerging styles that had far less of the difficulty that Berg found so praiseworthy
in his teacher’s compositions. Berg arrives at this central issue near the end of his
article. He compares Schoenberg’s richly difficult music to that of (unnamed) con-
temporary composers who go halfway with modernism—those intending to be
“modern but not extreme.” By 1924 there was new awareness in Schoenberg’s circle
that a major change in musical style had occurred after World War I throughout
European modern-music circles. The new taste in contemporary works—most
often designated by the critical term “neoclassicism”—threatened the long-standing
dominance of German modern music and Schoenberg’s own position of leader-
ship. Berg’s reiteration of the rich difficulty of Schoenberg’s music seems to have
been directed not so much to the lack of understanding by audiences of the time
as to audiences and critics whose allegiances were shifting to the less difficult neuer
Klassizismus of 1924.
Some of the composers whom Berg accuses of tepid modernism are easily iden-
tified. Darius Milhaud is likely the polytonalist whose “remaining musical proce-
dures dwindle under a frightful poverty of invention.” Berg may have had Erik Satie
in mind—his piano music was played by Edward Steuermann for the Society for
Private Musical Performances—as the one placing “false basses beneath primitive
harmonic phrases.” Almost certainly Berg was alluding to Igor Stravinsky for using
“many changes of meter and displacements of beat to disguise scantiness as formal
Before this time Berg and others in Schoenberg’s circle had good if distant rela-
tions with Stravinsky, on both a personal and an artistic level. But Berg’s article sig-
nals a change, one that may not have been foreseen by Schoenberg at this time and
was not welcomed by him. If, as is likely, Stravinsky read Berg’s article, he could not
have mistaken its attack upon his recent music, and he responded in kind. In an

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280 pro mundo—pro domo

article in the Prager Presse about a month after Berg’s analysis appeared, Stravinsky
distanced himself from Schoenberg’s modernism as something purely German and
a relic of the past: “Schönberg’s mentality and esthetic principles are unusual: he
reminds me of an Oscar Wilde in music or of the romantic Germans. He is closely
bound with the evolution of German music, and he seems to me like a disguised
Brahms.”120 The contretemps between Schoenberg and Stravinsky that followed on
the heels of these remarks is well-known.121
By 1924 Stravinsky had moved to the center of the debate about a new taste in
modernism. An especially relevant documentation in the German press for this
change occurs in the writings of the early 1920s by Adolf Weißmann, a prestigious
Berlin music critic who was a personal acquaintance of Berg’s and one of the few
influential writers who earlier had assessed Schoenberg’s historical standing in posi-
tive terms. In his 1922 Die Musik in der Weltkrise, a book cited by Berg in his article,
Weißmann attempted a broad assessment of the state of modern music throughout
the world, and he reached conclusions that supported German modernists as lead-
ers. Virtually all of the contemporary composers whom he discusses are Germans
and Austrians—Bruckner, Mahler, Strauss, Pfitzner, Schoenberg—and he foresees
the future of music as tending toward Schoenberg’s expressionism. Weißmann says
very little about the music of Stravinsky.
Two years later, in an article titled “Strawinsky” in Musikblätter des Anbruch,
Weißmann perceives an entirely new landscape in the world of contemporary
music. He places Stravinsky and the neuer Klassizismus (a term not mentioned in
the 1922 book) front and center as an alternative to Schoenbergian expressionism.
The Rite of Spring, he says, is the “most distinctive work since the beginning of the
20th century.” Stravinsky’s goal, Weißmann concludes, is “to counter the subjective,
emotional music that in Wagner seems to him artificial with something objective.”
Weißmann continues: “And while Arnold Schoenberg drew the ultimate, boldest
conclusions from German musical culture, Stravinsky is surely not to be placed in
the role of his enemy; instead, Schoenberg is perceived by Stravinsky himself as a
polar opposite.”122 Berg in his article quotes the first half of this sentence; the second
half, in which Stravinsky and Schoenberg are set apart explicitly as opposites, would
have been known to the readers of Anbruch, where Weißmann’s article had appeared
only a few months before. But Berg’s message is clear enough: Schoenberg’s music
represents a German tradition of substance and “difficulty,” and these are among its
principal virtues.
Berg concludes his study by looking to the future. He assures the reader that
Schoenberg’s achievements will maintain the “supremacy” of German music for the
next fifty years, and like so much of the article these words also stem from Schoenberg.
Berg’s conclusion resonates with Schoenberg’s famous comment made in July 1921
to Josef Rufer: “Today I have discovered something that will assure the supremacy
of German music for the next hundred years.”123 The assertion was evidently known
within Schoenberg’s circle at the time, and by it Berg hints that the features that he

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 281

has uncovered in the First Quartet apply not only to Schoenberg’s atonal music but
will reemerge also in the twelve-tone works that were about to appear.

Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto: An Open Letter (1925)

Berg wrote his Open Letter on the Chamber Concerto for the February 1925 issue
of Pult und Taktstock. This was a new journal published in Vienna by Universal
Edition, aimed at conductors and edited by Berg’s friend Erwin Stein. In the letter,
addressed to Schoenberg, Berg analyzes aspects of the Chamber Concerto, which
had just been completed in that month but was not yet fully orchestrated. He talks
about the work’s dedication to Schoenberg on the occasion of Schoenberg’s fiftieth
birthday, and, most important, he points to the pervasive appearance in it of things
that happen in threes—symbols, he says, that point to the three leading composers
of the Viennese School: Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg himself.
The Chamber Concerto marked a new direction in Berg’s music, one that
would characterize all of his remaining works. In it he uses aspects of Schoenberg’s
twelve-tone method without adopting it fully. He organizes the work—both in
large and small dimensions—in a symmetrical way in which sectional palindromes,
inversions, and retrogrades are prominent, and at the same time he brings in clas-
sical principles of design:  sonata form, theme and variations form, ternary form,
and rondo form. Intertwined with its formalistic element is an evident program-
maticism that refers to aspects of Berg’s personal life. The program is expressed
symbolically by numbers and by themes made from the musical letters of names.
Although all of these features—the intense formalism and symbolic programmati-
cism—are found in Berg’s earlier music, in the Chamber Concerto and later works
they become far more pervasive and systematic, their presence a virtual obsession
for Berg and evidently needed to stimulate his creativity.
As is apparent from the Open Letter, Berg wished to make at least part of his
programmatic and formalistic apparatus known to the musical world. This was dif-
ferent from Schoenberg’s outlook on his music at the same time, in which program-
maticism, when present at all, is never evident, but instead a closely guarded secret.
“My biography as such is highly uninteresting, and I consider the publication of any
details embarrassing,” he had told Berg.124
In a 1989 study of Berg’s compositional manuscripts for the Chamber Concerto,
Brenda Dalen discovered persuasive evidence that the programmatic dimension
of the work exists simultaneously on both an external level—the public tribute to
Schoenberg and the Viennese three—as well as on an interior and secretive level
that can only be partially reconstructed and was probably intended strictly for the
Berg’s private compositional use.125 On one sketch page Berg writes an outline
of the programmatic content of the piece, some of which is touched upon in the
Open Letter, some not. The three movements are headed “Friendship,” “Love,” and
“World,” and each of the variations in the first movement (“Friendship”) refers to

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282 pro mundo—pro domo

Berg’s fellow students from Schoenberg’s circle: Edward Steuermann, Erwin Stein,

Rudolf Kolisch, Josef Polnauer, and “the others (who follow after, wanting to over-
take, etc.).” The second movement, “Love,” contains a theme made from the notes
A–B (H in German)–D–E, the musical letters of the name Mathilde, Schoenberg’s
first wife, who died in October 1923 just before the movement was composed. The
theme is labeled by Berg “Math” in several sketch pages. In his sketches, Berg labels
another theme, which shadows the Mathilde theme, with the name “Melisande,”
and the theme resembles the Melisande motive in Schoenberg’s tone poem Pelleas
und Melisande (see Berg’s analysis of this work, p. 122, Example 3).
The exact programmatic meaning of these names and other symbols in the move-
ment is unknown, but they evidently constitute the multiple “human and spiritual
relations” that Berg in the Open Letter says that he “smuggled” into the work and
which apparently guided him in its creation. Dalen’s theory is that the love triangle
in Maeterlinck of Pelleas, Melisande, and Golaud is a reference to a similar entan-
glement involving Schoenberg, Mathilde, and Richard Gerstl, a Viennese painter
with whom Mathilde earlier had an affair, leading in 1908 to a temporary breakup
in Schoenberg’s marriage. But the Gerstl affair was some sixteen years distant when
Berg composed the Adagio of the Chamber Concerto, and other love triangles of
more recent vintage were readily available within Schoenberg’s circle. One is an
affair between Schoenberg and Hilda Merinsky, the wife of Edward Steuermann,
which was ongoing just as Berg composed the work in 1923 and 1924. The affair
was well-known in Schoenberg’s circle and was broken off when Schoenberg
announced his engagement to Gertrud Kolisch in August 1924.126
Whatever the exact meaning of the “secret program” of the Chamber Concerto,
its enigmatic intertwining with the public program—so proudly expressed by Berg
in his Open Letter—points to the late phase of Berg’s compositional life, toward
works, including Lulu and the Violin Concerto, in which such multilayered pro-
grammaticism is also present. It also signals a new viewpoint on Berg’s part concern-
ing musical analysis. Earlier, as in the guides to Schoenberg’s works, Berg stridently
rejected analysis of the extramusical dimension of a composition, but now, in 1925,
he revels in it. In this Berg is again the nonconformist. Before World War I the herme-
neutic approach to analysis of writers such as Hermann Kretzschmar, Paul Bekker,
and Richard Specht was dominant in German musical criticism, and Berg opposed
it then as irrelevant “drivel.” After the war a new absolutist spirit had entered into
musical aesthetics as part of the general movement toward neoclassicism. Stravinsky
spoke for this new direction in his 1924 remarks about his Octet: “My Octuor is not
an ‘emotive’ work but a musical composition based on objective elements which are
sufficient in themselves. . . . This sort of music has no other aim than to be sufficient
in itself. In general I consider that music is only able to solve musical problems; and
nothing else, neither the literary nor the picturesque, can be in music of any real
interest.”127 Berg at this time again distances himself from his contemporary culture
by becoming the willing programmaticist.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 283

The translation in this volume is based on Berg’s Open Letter as published in

the February 1925 issue of Pult und Taktstock, where it had the title “Alban Bergs
Kammerkonzert für Geige und Klavier mit Begleitung von dreizehn Bläsern” (Alban
Berg’s Chamber Concerto for Violin and Piano with Accompaniment of Thirteen
Winds). The Open Letter was reprinted—without Berg’s knowledge or permis-
sion—in the journal Melos in 1927, following the performance of the Chamber
Concerto in June of that year in Frankfurt at a concert of the International Society
for Contemporary Music. It was also reprinted by Willi Reich in his 1937 and
1963 studies of the composer with a few minor changes that Berg had presumably
approved. These changes are included in brackets in the translation in this volume.

Committed Response to a Noncommittal Survey (1925)

Berg’s “Committed Response to a Noncommittal Survey” was his contribution
to a call for articles by Universal Edition to appear in a yearbook marking the
twenty-fifth anniversary of the firm. On 13 May 1925 Berg received an invitation
from Hans Heinsheimer and Paul Stefan, who were the editors of the forthcoming
volume, to contribute an article in which authors were asked to comment, from a
personal perspective, on the course of music during the past quarter century and
look forward to the next twenty-five years.128
The yearbook 25 Jahre neue Musik, published in 1926, contained important
statements about the changing styles in modern music of the time. The volume had
twenty-five articles, including contributions by Schoenberg, Berg, Ernst Krenek,
Kurt Weill, G. Francesco Malipiero, Louis Gruenberg, and Josef Matthias Hauer.
These and other articles touched on virtually every aspect of musical culture of the
early twentieth century, including opera directing, dance, conducting, music edu-
cation, music criticism, jazz, and church music. Most important, several of its con-
tributors grappled with the meaning of the apparent change in style and taste in new
music that had occurred following the end of World War I, a change that seemed to
threaten Schoenberg’s leadership in the progressive movement in music. On one
side were the modernists allied to Schoenberg, on the other side a diverse group
of generally younger composers whom Berg earlier had identified disdainfully as
“representatives and defenders of the ‘New Classicism,’ and ‘New Objectivity,’ the
‘linearists,’ ‘physiologists,’ the ‘contrapuntists,’ and the ‘formalists.’ ”
The conflict between the two was Schoenberg’s subject in the lead article,
“Gesinnung oder Erkenntnis?” (Opinion or Insight?), one of his most important
essays.129 The difference between the two groups, Schoenberg contends, is between
those, like himself, who have obeyed the dictates and necessities of history, by
which triadic harmony and tonality had been relentlessly diminished in impor-
tance as a formal principle in great music, ultimately abandoned, and replaced by
atonality and twelve-tone composition. The other group, he says, ignores history
by willfully juggling styles and arbitrarily reviving a few superficial trappings of

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284 pro mundo—pro domo

triadic harmony and tonality. Their minds are in the present day, geared to styles
meant to please a contemporary audience. The great composers, on the other
hand, have insight into the past and future, and they connect these by dealing with
timeless musical ideas.
Universal Edition was equally invested in composers representing
Schoenberg’s viewpoint and the opposing neoclassic aesthetic. Ernst Krenek’s
contribution to the yearbook, the article “Musik in der Gegenwart” (Music of
Today), spoke from that opposing standpoint.130 By the turn of the twentieth
century, Krenek claims, modern music had lost touch with the society around
it. It was practiced by composers who made up their own rules to create music
only for those few who knew and accepted those rules. Music, Krenek concludes,
should return to its earlier social purposiveness, and this can only happen by
writing music for the here and now: “We want to live, look life in the face, and
say yes to it with a passionate heart. Then we will suddenly have art and not know
how it happened.”131
Berg had recently attacked Krenek’s idea of writing music for the here and
now in his article “Why Is Schoenberg’s Music So Difficult to Understand?,”
and in this shorter article he addresses related issues. He returns to a theme that
he mentioned in “Vienna’s Music Criticism,” in which he held that the critics’
lighthearted humor regarding new music is actually a subtle tool with which to
attack it. Music, he says, cannot be assessed or have its importance judged by
contemporaries, either the public or “expert” critics. It cannot, as Krenek held,
accommodate this audience, because great music lies outside of time, driven, as
Schoenberg had said, by timeless ideas whose validity become apparent only in a
utopian future.
Berg’s title for his article, “Verbindliche Antwort auf eine unverbindliche
Rundfrage,” is not readily translated into English, although it involves a word,
verbindlich, that appeared often in Berg’s vocabulary and was basic to his relations
with Schoenberg. As Berg normally used it, the word suggested a firm commitment,
obligation, and responsibility. The survey about music of the next twenty-five years,
Berg says in his title, was open and uncommitted; it invited responses that were
based on opinion or ephemeral tastes and values, and these are unreliable, shown as
such by the passage of time. Berg’s devotion to Schoenberg was verbindlich, commit-
ted and based on close reasoning.
In addition to the yearbook celebrating Universal Edition’s twenty-five years of
service to modern music, the editors also contemplated a surprise in-house pres-
ent for Emil Hertzka, the firm’s director, coming from Universal Edition’s compos-
ers. This would take the form of a portfolio of short tributes and greetings. On 13
July 1925 Hans Heinsheimer wrote to Berg to describe this surprise project: “We
want every composer to submit a page containing, if possible, a piece composed
for this occasion, or a handwritten copy of some older work, or possibly a written

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 285

dedication.”132 Berg’s contribution was a copy of two still unpublished songs, both
settings of Theodor Storm’s poem “Schließe mir die Augen beide.” He had com-
posed one of these in 1907 during his student period; the other had just been com-
pleted and contained his first outright use of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone method of
Berg attached this greeting:

Twenty-five years of Universal Edition—equivalent to the enormous

distance that music has traveled from tonal composition to composition
“with 12 tones,” from the C major triad:

to the “mother chord” (the 12-tone chord discovered by Fritz Heinrich

Klein, which also contains all 12 intervals):133

It is the everlasting merit of Emil Hertzka to have been the only publisher
to have gone this distance from its very beginning. To him are dedicated
the following two songs (on one and the same text by Theodor Storm),
which should illustrate this development. They were composed—one
toward the beginning, the other at the end of the quarter century 1900–
1925—by Alban Berg.134

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Two Analyses of the Lyric Suite (1926)

The Lyric Suite for string quartet (1925–26) was Berg’s first major twelve-tone com-
position and a work that continued the clarity of form and accessible expression
that Berg had begun in his Chamber Concerto of 1924. The Lyric Suite also contin-
ues along a path that Berg had traveled in his earlier music. Like all of his instrumen-
tal compositions, the Lyric Suite can be assessed as highly expressive programmatic
music, filled with musical symbols and references to Berg’s world, and also as an
intricate and ingeniously integrated formal structure.
Since 1977 attention to the Lyric Suite has been directed overwhelmingly to
the former dimension. In that year George Perle unraveled a “secret programme”
contained in the work following upon his discovery of a score annotated by Berg
and given to Hanna Fuchs-Robettin, with whom the composer had a brief affair
in 1925. In the score Berg pointed to a complex web of symbols embedded in the
music—mainly involving numbers and musical letters—as references to Hanna,
her children, and himself. This revelation placed the more overt programmatic ele-
ments of the score—quotations from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and Zemlinsky’s
Lyric Symphony, tempo markings with terms such as amoroso, estatico, appassionato,
delirando, and desolato, among other aspects of the work’s surface—in a meaningful
Berg’s own writings on the Lyric Suite stressed the formalistic element, espe-
cially his unique application of the twelve-tone idea that he had inherited from his
teacher, Schoenberg. From the time of its inception around 1921, Schoenberg’s
twelve-tone method was well-known to Berg. Although Schoenberg tended to be
secretive about his compositional techniques, he revealed the early stages of his new
method to his inner circle in a series of private conversations and semipublic lec-
tures between about 1921 and 1923.
Berg began to use the method in his music from 1925, although from the very
outset he adapted it to his own compositional purposes in a way that is very dif-
ferent from the classical procedures associated with Schoenberg or Webern. In an
essay titled “Zwölftonreihen Komposition” (Composition with Twelve-Tone Rows,
included later in this volume), Berg compared his independence in the twelve-tone
idea to the thinking of earlier composers who used a common syntax—major/
minor tonality—in highly varied and distinctive ways. In this later essay Berg says
that twelve-tone rows in his music were analogous to major or minor scales, both
existing in the background of a composition, not in the foreground like the tone
rows in Schoenberg’s music.
Berg worked out his own twelve-tone method as he composed the Lyric Suite,
and he described its basic features concisely—in a two-page handwritten enclosure
that he titled “(Komposition mit 12 Tönen)”—in a letter to Schoenberg dated 13
July 1926. This is the first of two analyses of the Lyric Suite that is translated in this
volume. The tone of the essay, as always with Berg when addressing Schoenberg, is

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 287

highly deferential. Berg avoids any references suggesting a programmatic dimen-

sion to the work, and he stresses aspects of his method of composing that had an
affinity with Schoenberg’s. He rejected the symmetrical all-interval row discovered
by his student Fritz Heinrich Klein, he says, because it lacked independent retro-
grade forms; he partitioned row forms among several polyphonic voices to acquire
motives independent of the row; and he occasionally slipped back into freely atonal
composition, he says, so as not to lose heart over the difficult new technique. All of
these observations were geared to please his teacher, but none is relevant per se to
the Lyric Suite.
Berg is especially cautious when he describes a motive whose four tones (he
gives them as C, E, F, and F♯) recur in differing orderings as segments of certain row
forms. The actual four tones used in the Lyric Suite are A, B♭, B, and F (A, B, H, and
F in German nomenclature), located in row transpositions that are different from
the ones that he showed his teacher. Berg may have feared that Schoenberg would
find his student’s initials, AB, in the real motive and then wonder who HF was.
Berg put such caution aside when he expanded upon his analysis in an out-
line prepared for Rudolf Kolisch, whose Neues Wiener Streichquartett was to
give the premiere of the Lyric Suite in January 1927. For Kolisch, Berg wrote out
nine pages of analytic notes on the work touching briefly on the form of each
movement, ways in which movements were connected, rhythmic and metric
ideas, basic motives, and twelve-tone techniques. In this analysis Berg did not
go beyond the stage of a handwritten draft, which he made on music paper in ink
with addenda in pencil. The draft is now found in the Rudolf Kolisch Collection
at the Library of Congress. Kolisch, or someone of his acquaintance, then made a
typed fair copy of the draft, with the musical examples clearly copied and pasted
in. This is the version of the essay that is translated in this volume, although ref-
erence is also made to Berg’s draft, since the typist made numerous errors and
omissions and was occasionally unable to read Berg’s handwriting. The type-
script is located in the Rudolf Kolisch Collection in the Houghton Library at
Harvard University.
At some point Willi Reich learned of the existence of the analytical draft in
Kolisch’s possession and acquired a copy of it, which he published in facsimile and
transcription in his Alban Berg: Bildnis im Wort (Zurich: Die Arche, 1959), giving it
the title “Neun Blätter zur ‘Lyrischen Suite für Streichquartett’ ” (Nine Pages on the
Lyric Suite for String Quartet). Although Reich’s transcription improves on that of
Kolisch’s typist, it too contains errors and omissions, not the least of which is that
Reich’s ninth page is out of place (it should be the fifth page, concerning the work’s
third movement). Reich included a shortened version of the analysis, without musi-
cal examples, in his 1963 study of Berg.
Although written in a terse outline form, Berg’s analysis is reasonably thor-
ough and indispensable for a basic understanding of the Lyric Suite.135 Berg makes
no explicit references to the secret symbolism of the work except to say that the

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288 pro mundo—pro domo

changing tone rows in successive movements suggests the “suffering of a fate” (a

term that he found in a critique by Julius Korngold).136 He does not attempt (as
he had done in his letter to Schoenberg) to make the twelve-tone element appear
Schoenbergian. He stresses especially the connection of movements, including
the twelve-tone movements and sections with those that are free, and he does not
depict the latter as coming from any loss of heart, as he had said to Schoenberg.
Unlike Schoenberg or Webern, Berg emphasizes details of his row technique even
in a rudimentary analysis, as though he considered such thinking basic to the work’s
understanding. This was sharply different from Schoenberg’s dim view of row analy-
ses. “I can’t utter too many warnings against overrating these analyses,” Schoenberg
wrote, “since after all they only lead to what I have always been dead against: seeing
how it is done, whereas I have always helped people to see what it is!”137 Berg also
made row analyses of parts of the Lyric Suite in later writings, as in a letter dated
27 November 1932 to Ernest Ansermet, who was preparing to conduct the string
orchestra version with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.138

Introducing Ernst Krenek (1928)

“Introducing Ernst Krenek” contains the text of a short address read by Berg in
Vienna on 3 January 1928 as an introduction to a longer lecture by Krenek con-
cerning his opera Jonny spielt auf. The event, sponsored by the Austrian Kulturbund
and Vienna’s Verein für Neue Musik, took place in the small auditorium of the
Musikverein three days after the stormy Vienna premiere of Krenek’s opera and in
the midst of the tumultuous eruption that this work provoked in Vienna’s musical
The issues raised by Krenek’s “jazz opera” were complex. Was it high art or
Kleinkunst, opera or operetta, serious or satiric? Did it represent a direction in mod-
ern music akin to the neuer Klassizismus, much discussed in the press at this time,
or was it an opportunistic attempt to please a shallow public with popular music in
the guise of opera?
Krenek’s Jonny spielt auf (1926, premiere 1927)—based on his own text—is
primarily in mold of operatic comedy. There are two pairs of lovers, the classical
musicians Max and Anita and the Americans Jonny (a jazz performer) and Yvonne;
and each pair comes from a different social station. A  string of ludicrous events
drives the lovers apart, but in the inevitable happy ending they come back together
when Jonny plays and sets the entire company to dancing as the chorus sings, “The
New World is coming across the sea with glitter and taking over old Europe by the
dance.” Krenek’s music has features that German critics of the 1920s termed neo-
classical: it is light in content and spirit, it contains tuneful imitations of the jazzy
music of German revue and variety, it is plainly tonal with a measure of astringent
dissonance, and it has a clarity of sound coming from linear textures and an orches-
tra that stresses winds and percussion.

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The Vienna premiere of Jonny in the Vienna Staatsoper was on New Year’s Eve
1927, a date traditionally reserved for operetta. Although the work was well received
on this occasion, having the same success that it had had up to this time elsewhere
in Europe, it was politically explosive, and it was strongly dismissed by influential
voices throughout Vienna’s artistic community.139 Julius Korngold, music critic of
the Neue freie Presse, wrote one of his longest and most vitriolic reviews on the day
after the first performance. He attacked every aspect of the work, down to its basic
aesthetic premises: “Every period wants its own music. But by the shallow and par-
tisan formulation that the machine and city noise define our times, not the inner
feelings of an unchanging humanity, then only machines and city din—and this is
just stating a fact—will be its music. And it will be only a robotic, untuned, and cha-
otic music; it will be jazz, a dance and entertainment music of disproportionately
elevated significance.”140
In his lecture for the Kulturbund, which took place two days after the publication
of Korngold’s scathing review, Krenek defended himself against the accusations.
Jonny is no more a jazz opera, he said, than Don Giovanni is a minuet opera. The
work mixes the serious and the comic, and it reflects upon the dilemma faced by
artists in a society where high art has ever less importance. Most of all, said Krenek,
the artist must write music for the society in which he lives, not for an imaginary
audience that may never again exist.141
Berg had cordial feelings toward Krenek. The two had met in Vienna in 1922
through Alma Mahler’s circle (Krenek was briefly married to Alma Mahler’s daugh-
ter Anna). The two musicians had carried on a lively correspondence concerning
Wozzeck, which Krenek had studied and admired as early as 1923.142 But Krenek’s
aesthetics—which were squarely in the neoclassical spirit of the 1920s—collided
head-on with those of Schoenberg, and this placed Berg in the delicate position
of having to balance his personal friendship with Krenek against his devotion to
the ideas of his teacher. After Krenek’s article “Musik in der Gegenwart” (Music of
Today) had appeared in 1926 in Universal Edition’s yearbook 25 Jahre neue Musik,143
Schoenberg lashed out at Krenek in several unpublished notes. In one of these,
titled “Krenek für leichte Musik” (Krenek for Light Music), Schoenberg attributes
Krenek’s ideas to sheer stupidity and suggests that Krenek was at home with whores
and pimps. “He regards it as self-gratification,” wrote Schoenberg, “if one can’t find
any loose [leicht] girl who will hear and feel with him. He wants only whores as
listeners, to impose on such loose ones [leichten] still looser [leichter] music.”144
Plainly, Berg would have to pick his words carefully in his greeting. Krenek, Berg
contends, is to be welcomed to Vienna because he is a native son, a modernist,
and—though not necessarily a participant in the musical direction represented by
the music of Mahler, Debussy, Reger, Schoenberg, and this school—still a com-
poser who has “taken a lively interest” in it. Krenek’s friendship with Berg would
strengthen in the years ahead, especially as Krenek moved artistically closer to the
Schoenberg school.

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290 pro mundo—pro domo

Berg’s main observation in his address is that this modernist movement was now
large and established worldwide, large enough to admit composers with differing
outlooks, and the movement was no longer a matter of partisanship or clique, as
Korngold had contended, no longer one faction among many. At the end of his intro-
duction Berg holds out an olive branch to Krenek on his return to Vienna—Krenek’s
native city and the home of musical modernism—reaffirming Krenek’s position in a
movement that Berg believed to be still dominant in music of the twentieth century.
Berg wrote out a draft of his untitled address in a notebook that he kept for such
purposes, then typed the essay in duplicate.145 Later he turned over a copy of the
typescript, with a few handwritten revisions, to Willi Reich, who gave it the title
“Vorstellung Ernst Kreneks” (Ernst Krenek’s Presentation) and published it, with
minor editorial alterations, in his 1937 study of the composer. The translation in
this volume—the first to appear in English—is titled “Introducing Ernst Krenek,”
which is intended to make its context clearer than does Reich’s title. It is based on
the typescript given to Reich.146

The “Problem of Opera” (1927–28)

“The ‘Problem of Opera’ ” is Berg’s most often reprinted and translated article. It is
a conflation of two short pieces that Berg wrote in 1927, both of them published in
that year, which he joined together in December 1927 to send to journals, newspa-
pers, and program editors when asked about Wozzeck or about the “crisis” in opera
that was widely perceived at this time.
“The ‘Problem of Opera’ ” began to take shape in the spring of 1927. In response
to an invitation to make a statement about Wozzeck, Berg wrote a short essay
that he titled “Pro Domo” and dated 23 May 1927.147 The source of this request
is not known. It may have come from a Russian publication in anticipation of the
Leningrad premiere of Wozzeck in June 1927, but it was not published in Russia
so far as is known. Or, more likely, it may have come from a representative of the
New York journal Modern Music, in which it was first published in November 1927
under the title “A Word about Wozzeck” in an English version made by an unnamed
translator (possibly Adolph Weiss). In the 1930s Berg corresponded with Minna
Lederman, the editor of Modern Music, but there are no existing letters between the
two from 1927.
If “Pro Domo” was actually intended for the American readers of Modern Music,
it may have been a response to a lengthy article by Olin Downes that appeared on 26
December 1926 in the New York Times—the first substantial description of Wozzeck to
be published in the United States.148 Composers of Schoenberg’s school, says Downes,
look upon music as an absolute language “owing nothing to outside materials or ideas,”
and in Wozzeck, Downes continues, he preserves “elements of long-established musi-
cal structures, those which have laid the foundations of instrumental and symphonic
music, such as the suite, sonata, fugue and various dance forms.”149

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Downes’s account shows his awareness of the point of view on Wozzeck that Berg
himself had earlier stressed—its formal innovation and the presence of forms drawn
from earlier instrumental music. In “Pro Domo” Berg tries to rein in this outlook,
to emphasize that he pursued no “novel theory” in Wozzeck—only a musical form
dictated by the fragmented text that he had chosen for this one work.
The second piece that later became part of “The ‘Problem of Opera’ ” was written
by Berg in October 1927 upon receiving a survey from Ludwig K. Mayer on behalf
of the Blätter der Staatsoper und der Städtischen Oper, the program book of the Berlin
Staatsoper Unter den Linden and Municipal Opera. The occasion was the forth-
coming Berlin premiere of Ernst Krenek’s opera Jonny spielt auf, and Mayer posed a
question to contemporary opera composers: “What do you think about the further
development of opera as suited to the times?”150
Berg’s untitled response was one of sixteen published in the October 1927 pro-
gram book. In it he casts doubt upon the importance of operatic trappings that were
“suited to the times,” such as the jazzy music for which Krenek’s opera had become
instantly famous. All development in art comes instead from masterpieces that
point to the future. In opera, Berg concludes, these will arise when the music is so
beautiful that good theater results.
By 1927 Berg was receiving multiple requests from editors for such short state-
ments about the future of opera and about his own Wozzeck, and he continued to
send out “Pro Domo” and the Berlin piece in response. In a letter of 22 December
1928, Alfred Burgartz, editor of the Neue Musik-Zeitung in Stuttgart, asked Berg for
an article for a forthcoming special issue on opera, and he hurriedly merged the two
earlier pieces, which he then titled “The ‘Problem of Opera.’ ” His use of quotation
marks, as always with Berg in such titles, is meant ironically to signify there was really
no problem with opera and that the term itself was misleading. He kept “Pro Domo”
as the subtitle of the second part and added “Pro Mundo” as the subtitle of the first.
The Latin term pro domo (for one’s own house) is often encountered in German
literature, almost never in English. It is used to introduce an observation made in
the writer’s own behalf or interest; the term pro mundo (for the world) is far less
common outside of the Latin language, but when used it suggests the opposite per-
spective from pro domo, that is, to designate an observation with general signifi-
cance or applicability. Berg unquestionably took the terms from Karl Kraus, who
occasionally uses them as a pair, as in the title of his 1912 collection of aphorisms,
Pro domo et mundo.
The translation in this volume is based on the text of “Das ‘Opernproblem’ ” as it
appeared in the Neue Musik-Zeitung (Stuttgart), 48/9.

The Voice in Opera (1928)

“The Voice in Opera” was Berg’s contribution to the 1929 yearbook of Universal
Edition, which followed up on the highly successful 1926  yearbook. The 1929

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292 pro mundo—pro domo

volume was more modest than that of three years before: it was published as a special
issue of the Musikblätter des Anbruch, appearing at the end of 1928, and its content
was limited to the single issue of the voice in modern music and musical culture. The
yearbook carried the title Gesang, and thirty-two short articles appeared, written by
composers, critics, singers, and scholars, who covered the topic from every conceiv-
able standpoint. In a letter from Universal Edition dated 15 September 1928, Berg
was invited to comment on the voice in modern opera in general and on the use of
the voice in his own music.151
In an introductory essay to the yearbook, Paul Stefan asserted that in new vocal
music the human voice had again risen to primacy and that “a connection with the
old masters of song is stressed and these imitated.”152 Berg’s response took the form
of the short article “Die Stimme in der Oper” (The Voice in Opera), which Berg
drafted in a notebook that he kept for such purposes, then typed for submission,
probably in October 1928.153 His remarks primarily concerned the appropriateness
of multiple styles of singing in opera, of which Wozzeck provided a prominent exam-
ple. These styles could and should, he says, range from bel canto and coloratura
singing to Sprechstimme, the later having the capacity to replace traditional operatic
The translation in this volume is based on the text of “Die Stimme in der
Oper” as it appeared in the Musikblätter des Anbruch (Gesang:  Jahrbuch 1929)
(November–December 1928).

What Is Atonal? A Dialogue (1930)

Berg’s dialogue “What Is Atonal?” was delivered on Radio Vienna on 23 April
1930. It took the form of a conversation between Berg and the music critic Julius
Bistron. In content it was a prelude to Berg’s Wozzeck Lecture, to which he gave
the related titled “The ‘Atonal Opera’ ” for its presentation at Vienna’s Musikverein
some three weeks later. Throughout this period Wozzeck was being performed by
the Vienna Opera.
Like the Wozzeck Lecture, the radio dialogue dealt with the misleading impli-
cations of the term “atonal” in the hands of music journalists, especially Julius
Korngold, the influential critic of the Neue freie Presse (although Korngold is
unnamed in the dialogue). Berg used the dialogue—as he later did the Lecture—
as a means to answer Korngold’s characterizations of atonality as anarchic,
unnatural, and willful, and also to defend Wozzeck against Korngold’s treatment
of the work in a review in the Neue freie Presse on 1 April 1930.154 Berg’s main
point was that atonal music differed from traditional German music only in its
harmonic language, all other features remaining deeply rooted in long-standing
musical laws and traditions. The term, he concluded, had become a means for
music journalists wrongly to characterize such music as lacking traditional values
or organization.

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 293

By 1930 the musical style associated with the term “atonal” was familiar to most
readers. As Berg notes, the word and the related “atonality” had begun to appear in
German critical writing on music early in the century, and it was soon being used
approvingly by several in Schoenberg’s circle to designate music with the innova-
tive harmonic language that Schoenberg and other progressive composers world-
wide had adopted by about 1908. Egon Wellesz may have been the first to use the
term specifically to describe Schoenberg’s new music in which a structural distinc-
tion between consonant and dissonant harmony was abandoned. In a 1911 arti-
cle Wellesz described Schoenberg’s Piano Pieces, op. 11: “They are atonal and do
away with the concept of dissonance.”155 Schoenberg himself took little note of the
term until the early 1920s, when he rejected it, largely on semantic grounds. “I am
a musician and have nothing to do with things atonal,” he declared in his revised
Harmonielehre of 1922.156 Berg’s rejection of the “diabolical” term “atonal” had a dif-
ferent motivation. He was willing to accept it in its limited sense designating music
in which there was no traditional tonal center, but he complained that it had been
taken over by critics—he had Korngold primarily in mind—who used it to suggest
that such harmonically innovative music had no logic or contact at all with musical
There is much uncertainty about the text of Berg’s radio dialogue and its relation
to the form in which it was spoken on 23 April 1930. There is no known recording
of the broadcast, and the text purporting to be a transcript of it was first published
in 1936 by Willi Reich in his journal 23: Eine Wiener Musikzeitschrift. In this version
Berg’s interlocutor is identified only as the “Opponent,” and Reich gives this expla-
nation in a foreword:

Alban Berg gave me the manuscript of the following dialogue, which was
spoken on Vienna Radio on 23 April 1930, with his agreement that it
be published at some point. Its publication at this time needs no further
explanation, but briefly this should be noted—
Although it was easy for the master to rebut the weak arguments of the
Opponent (who has in the meantime relapsed), still the modest occasion
gave him the incentive to make important and objective observations. In
addition to these, the dialogue has special importance as a personalized
document for the way in which Berg customarily debated, and it is a valu-
able prelude to a discussion of the rudiments of twelve-tone technique,
which is planned to start with the next issue of 23.157

Reich’s text as printed in 1936 is found in a typescript in the Berg Collection in the
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (F21.Berg.105, pp. 1–12). The source or origi-
nal purpose of this document is unknown. It may have been typed by Reich—it
has the appearance of Reich’s typing—and it could have been made either from a
recording of the radio broadcast itself or from some earlier written source. In the

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294 pro mundo—pro domo

Berg Collection there are also fragmentary notes, some typed and some handwrit-
ten by Berg, that appear to be preliminary drafts for the dialogue.158
Berg later made extensive handwritten revisions in this typescript, rewriting or
extending some passages and writing out eight musical examples that are referred
to in the document itself. Neither the revisions nor the musical examples appeared
in Reich’s version of 1936, but all are incorporated into the version of the text pub-
lished by Josef Rufer in his 1956 Musiker über Musik.159 Rufer’s version is plainly the
more definitive one, and it is the basis for the translation in this volume, with refer-
ence in the footnotes to alternative readings in Reich’s 1936 version.
The radio dialogue was not an interview or an extempore conversation between
Bistron and Berg. Reich gave further details on its origins in his 1968 book
Schönberg oder Der Konservative Revolutionär. There Reich says that Berg rehearsed
the forthcoming discussion with him, during which Berg’s words were recorded in
shorthand and these notes then presented to Bistron in advance of the broadcast.
A version of the shorthand record was then published by Reich in a journal article
of 1945 and later in his Schönberg book.160 Berg referred to his advance writing of
the dialogue in a letter to Schoenberg, in which he calls the broadcast a “lecture.”
“I have a long radio talk to prepare for the day after tomorrow (“What is atonal?”
in the form of a dialogue),” Berg wrote on 21 April 1930, continuing on 24 April,
“I couldn’t continue writing on Monday, after all. But now that yesterday’s lecture
[Vortrag] is successfully behind me (I mainly went after Korngold!), I have some
time again.”161
In 1930 Berg probably thought of Julius Bistron as a fair-minded though con-
servative critic. In 1917 Bistron had published a sympathetic conversation with
Schoenberg, “Arnold Schönbergs Zukunfstträume,” in which Schoenberg described
his innovative approach to teaching.162 Bistron was an authority on operetta—he
had himself composed music for the operetta Der Liebesteufel in 1920, and he later
wrote a biography of Imre Kálmán. His critiques and interviews appeared in the
Neues Wiener Journal, among other periodicals.
Shortly before the dialogue was broadcast on 23 April 1930, Bistron cre-
ated publicity for it in an article for the journal Radio-Wien, “Komponist
und Kritiker:  Zu meinem Dialog mit Alban Berg am Mittwoch, 23. April”
(Composer and Critic: Concerning My Dialogue with Alban Berg on Wednesday,
April 23rd).163

Lecture on Wozzeck: The “Atonal Opera” (1930)

Berg first delivered a public lecture on Wozzeck in the city of Oldenburg on 3
March 1929, two days in advance of the premiere of the work in that city. He had
told Schoenberg in a letter of 17 January 1929 that the lecture would be “a sort of
introduction to my opera,” although his text extended to some twenty-four typed
pages, had copious musical illustrations, and delved into the work with Berg’s

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 295

customary analytical detail. For the Oldenburg lecture the musical excerpts were
played by the orchestra of the Landestheater, conducted by Johannes Schüler,
with shorter examples given at the piano by the theater’s repetiteur, Winfried
Berg was evidently pleased with the Oldenburg lecture and its value for audiences
who were new to Wozzeck. During the next three years he repeated it, according to
Willi Reich, ten additional times, usually a day or two before a first performance of
the opera. Reich gives the following list of locations at which Berg presented the

Oldenburg, on 3 March 1929 before the premiere on 5 March;

Essen, before the premiere on 12 December 1929;
Aachen, on 16 February 1930, before the premiere on 21 February;
Vienna, on 15 May 1930, after the premiere of the opera on 30 March 1930;
Düsseldorf, before the premiere on 10 April 1930;
Königsberg, before the premiere on 13 May 1930;
Gera, on 9 November 1930, before the premiere on 11 November 1930;
Darmstadt, on 25 February 1931, before the premiere on 28 February 1931;
Frankfurt, broadcast on the Southwest German Radio on 19 April 1931, the day
of the premiere;
Leipzig, before the premiere on 11 October 1931; and
Zürich, before the premiere on 17 October 1931.

Berg repeatedly revised the text of his lecture for these readings, and seven versions
in total are found in the Berg Collection at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.
These represent three basic stages through which the lecture evolved, each exist-
ing in multiple variants. The earliest (catalogued as Berg.104/vi and vii) consists
of an incomplete typed draft and its carbon copy, the original of which is heavily
revised and continued in pencil. Berg evidently made the draft as he prepared for
the upcoming Oldenburg lecture.
The second stage contains versions that Berg actually read, beginning in
Oldenburg in March 1929. For these he retyped the heavily revised earlier draft and
made at least one carbon copy (Berg.104/v and iv, respectively). On the first page of
104/v he wrote “altes Orig” (old original), and this version ends with Berg thanking
Schüler and his orchestra for their assistance, suggesting that this was the text that
he read in Oldenburg.
At some point between the time of the Oldenburg lecture and its presentation in
Vienna on 15 May 1930, Berg retyped the lecture yet again, this time in triplicate to
incorporate the handwritten revisions that he had made in earlier versions. The three
typed copies of this version, all of which appear to be carbon copies of a missing orig-
inal, are catalogued as Berg.104/i, ii, and iii. Berg entered still further revisions into
each of these three typescripts. Two of the versions from the third stage (Berg.104/i

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296 pro mundo—pro domo

and ii) were bound, with the words “Wozzeck-Vortrag” (Wozzeck Lecture) embossed
on their outer covers. Otherwise the typescripts contain no titles.
Only a few of the versions can be definitively connected with a reading in a specific
city. As mentioned above, Berg.104/v seems to be the version first read, in Oldenburg.
The version in 104/ii was the one read in Vienna and again (in a somewhat shortened
form) in Frankfurt. The presentation in Vienna had special importance for Berg. He
had been scheduled to give his lecture before the Vienna premiere of Wozzeck on 30
March, but the event was canceled and the lecture postponed until 15 May, when
it was presented by Berg under the sponsorship of Vienna’s Kulturbund.165 For this
occasion the lecture was advertised with the title “The ‘Atonal Opera,’ ” the use of
quotations, as always with Berg, suggesting irony and disapproval of the term. Berg
reported on it to Schoenberg: “On 15 May my lecture: ‘The Atonal Opera’ in the
Kulturbund, which was so well attended that more than 100 people had to be turned
away.”166 No one of the existing versions clearly contains Berg’s definitive text. Prior to
giving the lecture in a particular city, Berg seems to have gone back and forth among
the versions that he had on hand to choose one best suited to the occasion, to which
he would then make additional changes. For example, for the reading in Darmstadt in
February 1931 he must have considered three existing versions (Berg.104/i, iii, and
iv), because the texts for each of these ends with a statement of thanks to the orches-
tra of that theater and its conductor, Karl Böhm. The Vienna version, contained in
Berg.104/ii, is the one chosen for translation in this volume. It is most complete of
all, the only one to have a distinctive ending, the only one that Berg considered hav-
ing published, and the one that he may have marked “final version” (although this is
a reading of words that were written unclearly).167
Berg made handwritten notes on the first page of the bound typescript in
Berg.104/ii indicating that this was the text read in Vienna on 15 May 1930 and
again, in an abbreviated form, for the Southwest German Radio in Frankfurt on 19
April 1931. He also writes that the pianist’s copy was sent to Ernst Schoen, the gen-
eral director of Frankfurt Radio. Schoen (1894–1960) had long been an advocate
for new music and intellectual content on radio. Only weeks before Berg’s lecture,
at Schoen’s invitation, Schoenberg delivered a radio lecture on his Variations for
Orchestra, op. 31. Following Berg’s lecture in Frankfurt, Schoen wrote to Berg to
propose publishing the two lectures together in some form. Schoenberg had agreed
in principle, and Berg also seemed sympathetic to the idea provided that his many
musical examples could be included.
Schoen’s reply was evidently encouraging, since on 24 October Berg sent him a
typescript of the lecture, again insisting that the musical examples be included in
any publication but plainly willing to have the lecture published. Nothing came of
Schoen’s plans, and on 8 March 1932 Berg wrote again to ask that his typescript be
Judging from Reich’s recollections, Berg’s willingness in 1931 to have the lecture
published represents a change of heart from two years before. Reich recalled: “On

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 297

our journey back from Oldenburg [in March 1929] he gave me a copy of his lecture
notes. He had not been able to deal with all the parts of the opera with equal thorough-
ness, and consequently he expressly forbade that it should be published.”169 Reich
then wrote his own analysis of Wozzeck under Berg’s supervision in which he made
many references to and quotations from Berg’s lecture. This study was excerpted as
“A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck” and published in a translation by Adolph
Weiss as a supplement to the journal Modern Music in advance of the New York pre-
miere of Wozzeck in November 1931.170 Reich’s complete analysis, which is far more
general, less analytical, and illustrated with far fewer musical examples than is Berg’s
lecture, appeared in his 1937 and 1963 studies of the composer.
Berg’s Lecture on Wozzeck has been generally known since 1957 from the ver-
sion of it included as an appendix in Hans Redlich’s 1957 studies of Berg.171 In his
prefatory notes to the English version of the Lecture, Redlich writes, “The present
complete publication of the Lecture is based on a revised copy of the typescript.
This contains numerous corrections and insertions from Berg’s own hand which
sometimes amount to a complete change of opinion.”172 The source for Redlich’s
typescript with Berg’s “numerous corrections and insertions” is uncertain; it is not
the same as any of the seven in the Berg Collection. Redlich’s reading is closest to
the one in Berg.104/v, the version presumably read in Oldenburg in March 1929,
but, among many small discrepancies, it lacks two paragraphs that Berg had entered
in pencil in 104/v. This omitted passage reads:

I emphasize this accordance with rules so insistently because I  need to

repeat yet again that in so-called atonal music, as we of the Vienna School
understand it, there is no question of a willful or free composing. Quite
the opposite! Even if harmony following upon Wagner’s chromaticism
has continually expanded, eventually surpassing the keys just as major
and minor surpassed the seven church modes, everything else essential
to music is preserved in this so-called atonal music. Only in music that is
based on the great tradition of German music—with its moving harmony,
its diverse rhythm, especially with its polyphony and immeasurable rich-
ness of forms and shapes—is there a straight path leading from Bach to
our own time.
The music of Wozzeck does not stray from this path of German music—
and when I think of music pure and simple it is the only one, the only one
that I find to be music at all—and this is what I have intended to show
when I have underscored a traditional accordance with rules in my theo-
retical discussion.

It is possible that Redlich thought it best, shortly after the end of World War II,
simply to omit Berg’s nationalistic words, although Redlich says that his text follows
Berg’s text verbatim.

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298 pro mundo—pro domo

In the Wozzeck Lecture Berg reintroduces and expands upon ideas about
Wozzeck that he had stated in earlier publications. From “The Musical Forms in
My Opera Wozzeck” (1924) he brings forward a description of the work’s closed
forms, stressing, as before, that these were needed on account of the fragmented
nature of Büchner’s text. From “The Voice in Opera” (1928) Berg repeats his
description of his treatment of voices in the work, stressing their relevance to
German melodic styles rather than those of Italian vocal music. From “Vienna’s
Music Criticism” (1920) he continues his defense of the atonal style against the
distorted exaggerations of journalists by underscoring its basis in long-standing
traditions and accepted rules.
But much of what Berg brings out about Wozzeck is done from a new perspective,
more typical of the composer of the Chamber Concerto, Lyric Suite, and much of
Lulu than the composer of 1922. For example, Berg stresses the work’s symmetry
and circularity more than ever before. The whole opera is an ABA form, he con-
tends, in which the end could easily connect to the beginning. He points to the exis-
tence of retrograde motions at the beginnings and ends of symmetrical passages. He
underscores numeric symbolism, for example the pervasive presence of the number
7 in Act 3, scene 1.
Berg’s main objective in all of his Wozzeck lectures is to underscore the structural
regularity and traditional elements of the work and thus to oppose the caricature
of such critics as Julius Korngold, who held that all atonal music was arbitrary and
nonmusical. As he had done in earlier writings on the opera—though here in far
greater detail—Berg enumerates the forms encountered in the work and the dra-
matic necessity behind them. For an analysis of the drama itself and its characters,
he relied on other authorities. In one version of the lecture (Berg.104/iii) he quotes
from an interpretation by his friend Heinrich Jalowetz—an author on whom Berg
frequently relied—that Jalowetz had given in a lecture before the Cologne premiere
of Wozzeck on 11 October 1930.173 In Jalowetz’s reading, Wozzeck is a complex
mythic figure, akin to operatic heroes ranging from Orpheus to the Dutchman; he
is far more than a simple or realistic symbol of poverty. In the Vienna lecture Berg’s
authority on the character Wozzeck is a literary critic named Otto Brües, who had
written an article on Büchner in 1929 for the Berlin journal Das Nationaltheater.
Brües compares Wozzeck to Job—the individual called on to affirm God despite
misfortune. According to Brües’s reading, Wozzeck’s affirmation takes the form of
suicide rather than faith.
In basic observations about Wozzeck, all versions of Berg’s lecture text are simi-
lar to the Oldenburg “old original.” Most of the subsequent changes involve musi-
cal examples, which Berg sometimes expanded or contracted (often depending on
whether an orchestra would be on hand or only a piano). In the Vienna text he also
used the lecture as an opportunity to answer a specific, scathing critique of Wozzeck
made by Julius Korngold that had appeared on the front page of the Neue freie Presse
on 1 April 1930, two days after the Vienna premiere. In Wozzeck, as in all atonal

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 299

music, Korngold could only find anarchy and screaming in the place of singing.
“Atonal composition cannot produce true or melodious material for singing,” he
The translation in this volume follows the version of the Wozzeck Lecture in the
Berg Collection of the Austrian Library, F21.Berg.104/ii. Major variants with other
versions of the Lecture are noted in the annotations.

Credo (1930)
Berg submitted his “Credo” to the Berlin journal Die Musik for their January 1930
issue, which was to be devoted to the music of J. S. Bach. The articles that appeared
in this issue were mostly scholarly studies, including a lengthy analysis of Art of
the Fugue by Willi Apel, then a doctoral student in musicology at the University of
Berlin. Berg’s short article was more controversial: in it he quoted from the assess-
ment of Bach from Hugo Riemanns Musik-Lexikon and rewrote certain passages to
propose parallels between Bach in his time and Schoenberg in the present day.
The underlying idea of the article, like so much in Berg’s writings, came ulti-
mately from Schoenberg’s teaching. Schoenberg held that the history of musical
styles was driven through cycles by the manipulation and ultimate exhaustion of
musical space. When the way of presenting ideas in one period collapsed, it was
replaced by some other. For example, in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and early eigh-
teenth centuries, two-dimensional musical space was filled by polyphonic forms
using mainly diatonic tonal resources. The musical substance in this style was made
from a single voice, which could be deployed in a variety of configurations using
contrapuntal methods.175
The next major period in Schoenberg’s history of musical style, extending from
the early eighteenth century to near the present, was that of “homophonic-melodic”
composition. Such music was expanded not by unraveling and reassembling, but by
“developing variation” of a main theme or motive and by ever greater enrichment
of tonality by the complete chromatic.176 A genius was needed to push one era into
the next, and in the early eighteenth century that figure was J. S. Bach. By the early
twentieth century free chromaticization and the homophonic-melodic style had
been exhausted, and thus another cycle was completed. A return to counterpoint
and a structuring of chromatic pitch resources became inevitable.
Schoenberg’s narrative of music history, his interpretation of Bach’s pivotal
role, and, by implication, Schoenberg’s own historical position at the nexus
between two later periods was repeated often in the writings of his students.
Erwin Stein, in the widely read article “Neue Formprinzipien” (1924), for exam-
ple, writes: “The crisis of musical form through which we are going today may be
compared to the transition period between Bach’s polyphony and the homopho-
nic style of the classics. Only, the relation is reversed now: we are returning to a
polyphonic style.”177

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300 pro mundo—pro domo

Although it was audacious for Berg explicitly to compare Schoenberg to Bach,

this analogy was present in Schoenberg’s thinking and came to the surface in his
writings shortly after Berg’s article appeared. In his 1931 essay “National Music,”
Schoenberg wrote, “So if at the climax of contrapuntal art, in Bach, something quite
new simultaneously begins—the art of development through motivic variation—
and in our time, at the climax of art based on harmonic relationships, the art of
composing with ‘twelve tones related only to each other’ begins, one sees that the
epochs are very similar.”178
A backlash against Berg’s comparison of Schoenberg to Bach was predictable.
One that caused Berg especial distress was a notice that appeared on 14 January
1930 in the Fränkischer Kurier, a Nuremberg newspaper:

Literary Plagiarism
A shocking “plagiarism” is reported from the January issue, devoted to
Bach, of the Berlin periodical Die Musik. Alban Berg, the composer of the
opera Wozzeck, student and literary campaigner for Arnold Schoenberg,
has rewritten outright an essential part of Hugo Riemann’s description of
J. S. Bach from his Musiklexikon, with a few necessary changes and replac-
ing the name Bach with Schoenberg.179

Although the accusation of plagiarism was plainly ludicrous, Berg took it seriously.
He asked Bernhard Schuster, editor of Die Musik, to print a notice rejecting the
claim (which Schuster did not do), and he sent a lengthy rebuttal of the accusation
to the Nuremberg newspaper, demanding that it be published. In his letter, dated
24 January 1930, Berg asserts that his “Credo” “represents my own opinion about
Bach as well as a confession of belief regarding Arnold Schoenberg. . . . I have force-
fully stressed the indisputable parallelism that I see between the creations of these
two masters.”180
On 31 January 1930 the Fränkischer Kurier printed Berg’s rebuttal, although in a
considerably edited form.
The translation of “Credo” in this volume is based on the reading in the Die Musik
22 ( January 1930).

A Few Remarks on Staging the Opera Wozzeck (1930)

By early 1930 Wozzeck had established itself on the operatic stage, and premier per-
formances were in the offing throughout Germany. Berg took a very keen interest in
all details of the work’s staging and performance, and he was invariably present for
new productions and ready to collaborate with the performers, especially to ensure
that his intentions in the music were understood and observed. With these goals in
mind, he set down in early 1930 “A Few Remarks on Staging the Opera Wozzeck.”

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 301

The document is similar to remarks written by Wagner to guide the staging of his
operas and to Ricordi’s Disposizioni sceniche for Verdi’s operas. It is likely that Berg
intended his notes to be circulated by Universal Edition along with rented perform-
ing materials, although it is unknown if this was ever done, and the remarks were not
published in Berg’s lifetime.
Berg’s instructions contain unique information about the general mood that he
intended in Wozzeck—relaxed rather than tense or frantic, generally soft rather than
loud—as well as much practical advice for the orchestra, conductor, and singers.
He gives valuable information on the performance of Schoenbergian Sprechstimme
(speaking voice), which is notated, as in Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire and Die glück-
liche Hand, by a normal note with an ex through the stem. In the preface to the
Wozzeck score Berg had already outlined what he intended in the performance of
speaking voice, relying largely on Schoenberg’s instruction printed in the score of
Pierrot lunaire:

The performance of “speaking voice,” which is prescribed in some scenes

of the opera (Act 1, scene 2; Act 2, scenes 3 and 4; and Act 3, scenes 1 and
4), proceeds in the manner of a rhythmic declamation. See the Foreword to
Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot melodramas and also the instructions in the
score of Die glückliche Hand. Here are excerpts from them:

The melody in the voice part indicated by special note shapes “is not intended
to be sung. The performer has the duty of transforming this into a speech melody
with a careful regard for the indicated pitches. This is done by:

1. sustaining the rhythm (and note values) precisely, as in singing, that is, with
no more freedom than one would allow oneself in a sung melody;
2. being clearly conscious of the distinction between sung tone and spoken
tone. The sung tone holds fast to an unchanging pitch, but the spoken tone
only hints at it, by which the relationships of the individual pitches to one
another are correspondingly maintained.

The performer must guard against falling into singsong. That is absolutely not
intended. But neither should he strive for realistic or natural speaking. Quite
the opposite, the distinction between normal speaking and speaking that is rel-
evant to a musical form should be made clear. But it should never remind one
of song.”
In cases where the speaking voice is not represented by pitch and rhythm, it
is a matter of normal speaking, therefore of a quite natural and realistic conversa-
tion with the supporting music. (See Act 1, scene 3; Act 2, scene 4; and Act 3,
scenes 4 and 5.)

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302 pro mundo—pro domo

The “Few Remarks” are valuable most of all for their ideas on stage design and
direction. First and foremost, Berg admonishes operatic producers to be mindful
of the scenic and dramatic implications fixed within the music itself. These had
to control and guide its stage realization, or the work would be incoherent. Berg
makes clear that he intended mainly a realistic type of staging, not the reinterpretive
Regieoper that was then (as now) widely practiced in German operatic circles. Berg
spoke out against the trend toward Regieoper again in “Should Wagner Stagings Be
Modernized?” Berg’s remarks on staging conform in general to those that he made
in his correspondence with Erich Kleiber regarding the premiere of the opera in
Berlin, where the mise-en-scène was created by Panos Aravantinos and the stage
direction by Franz Ludwig Hörth. In a letter to Kleiber dated 1 June 1925, Berg
advised that the indoor scenes could be sparely staged, while the outdoor scenes
should be clearly realistic. “In general I  did not imagine what one calls a purely
expressionistic stage set,” he concludes.181
Berg, to his distress, had encountered Regieoper in the production of Wozzeck in
Essen in December 1929, which may have provoked him to set down his remarks on
staging. He was especially upset by the work of the stage designer in Essen, Caspar
Neher (1897–1962). By 1929 Neher had risen to great prominence in German the-
ater circles for his controversial stage conceptions, most of them done in collabo-
ration with Bertolt Brecht. Only a year before, Neher had scored a huge triumph
with his staging of Kurt Weill’s Die Dreigroschenoper in Berlin and a new production
of Bizet’s Carmen at the Krolloper in Berlin. Neher’s productions were known for
their abstraction, lack of realistic illusion, and unvaryingly bright lighting—all of
which Berg specifically rejects for Wozzeck in his “Few Remarks.” Berg reported to
Schoenberg from Essen expressing his dismay: “I must do my utmost to see that
Wozzeck isn’t staged as the ‘Two-Penny Opera’ by C. Neher based on Büchner and
Berg turned over the typescript of his “Few Remarks” to Willi Reich, and Reich
first published it, in a considerably edited form, in his 1937 study of the composer. For
that publication, Reich chose the title “Praktische Anweisungen zur Einstudierung
des Wozzeck” (Practical Instructions for the Production of Wozzeck).183 The essay is
translated here for the first time with Berg’s own title (“Einige Bemerkungen zum
Studium der Oper Wozzeck von Alban Berg,”) and the text from his original type-
script of 1930.

Commemorative Address for Emil Hertzka (1932)

From 1907 until his death in 1932, Emil Hertzka (born in 1869) was director of
the Viennese publishing house Universal Edition, whose reputation was based on
its catalog of works by contemporary composers, including those of the Viennese
School. The firm itself had been founded in 1901 as a consortium of existing

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E s s ay s , L ec t ure s , and A naly s e s 303

Viennese publishers and music dealers.184 The new imprint at first specialized in
music of the Viennese classical composers and was intended to rival the editions of
large German houses, especially Schott and Breitkopf, in this repertoire. Soon after
Hertzka became director in 1907, the emphasis shifted from classic to contempo-
rary, as Universal Edition concluded contracts with Mahler, Schoenberg, Schreker,
later Berg, Webern, Bartók, and ultimately a long list of other leading international
figures throughout the world of modern music.
The range of Hertzka’s program for his firm was remarkably diverse. In addition
to supporting contemporary composers, he also founded journals for new music,
including the Musikblätter des Anbruch (1919–37) and Pult und Taktstock (1924–
30). He published theoretical treatises by Schoenberg and Heinrich Schenker,
among others, and he took on the monumental musical edition Denkmäler der
Tonkunst in Österreich under the editorship of Guido Adler.
Berg first had contact with Hertzka in 1911 as Schoenberg’s representative. Soon
thereafter Hertzka commissioned Berg to make the piano reductions of Mahler’s
Eighth Symphony and Franz Schreker’s opera Der ferne Klang (1911) and to pre-
pare the vocal score of and write a guide to Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder (1912–13). In
1923 Hertzka took over the publication of Wozzeck and Berg’s later compositions,
and in 1927 he provided Berg with a monthly advance on future compositions. The
fruitful collaboration between Berg and Universal Edition lasted until Hertzka’s
death in 1932.
Taking their cue from Schoenberg, composers of the Viennese School often
expressed strained relations with Hertzka.185 The letters between Berg and
Schoenberg refer to him occasionally as “disorganized,” “cheap,” and a “scoundrel.”
“Someone should tear the bearded mask off the face of this old prattler!,” Berg
exclaimed to Schoenberg in a letter of 1912.186
But Berg was well aware of the element of optimism and foresight that motivated
Hertzka, and an exploration of the delicate balance between financial realism and
artistic idealism formed the basic subject of his commemorative address following
Hertzka’s death on 9 May 1932. Hertzka was succeeded as director of the firm by
three of his former assistants: Hans Heinsheimer, Hugo Winter, and Alfred Kalmus.
They organized a commemorative concert and celebration for Hertza on 20 June
1932 in the small auditorium of the Musikverein (see Figure 4).
Heinsheimer and Winter first invited Schoenberg to give a commemorative
address, but since Schoenberg was still residing in Barcelona, he declined and
offered instead to submit a written obituary.187 Heinsheimer then turned to Berg on
20 May, asking him to give a talk at the event—“a short appreciation,” Heinsheimer
said, “in the name of the firm’s composers for its deceased director.”188 As a tribute to
Hertzka, Universal Edition also founded an “Emil Hertzka-Preis” for new composi-
tions, which was awarded yearly from 1933 to 1937, and Berg was a member of the
selection jury.

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304 pro mundo—pro domo

Figure 4 Program, Gedächtnisfeier für Emil Hertzka.

Berg’s address is one of his most skillful public statements. He avoids the typical
eulogy of Hertzka as an individual and focuses instead on the more complex issue
of Hertzka’s achievement in a world in which commerce intermingled with art. He
stresses that idealism can successfully exist in the real world of business. Berg also
returns to a theme that he addressed in other essays and lectures: that there exists
in the world of modern music only a single movement, and that owing in part to
Hertzka’s nurturing it had grown from an early phase of interest groups and cliques
to worldwide dominance.
The translation in this volume is based on the typescript from which Berg read
his lecture, found in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, F21.Berg.110/ii.

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The Teacher
Genius is always didactic. Its speech is instructive, its deeds are models, its works
are revelations. In it resides the teacher, the prophet, the Messiah; and the spirit of
language—which comprehends the essence of genius better than those individu-
als who mishandle language—gives to the creative artist the name “master” and
says of him that he “creates a movement.” This realization alone should convince the
times of Arnold Schoenberg’s predestination for the profession of teacher, if these
times had an insight into the significance of this artist and man. It is only natural
that our times have no such insight, for if the time in which we live had the capac-
ity for this insight, if it had an understanding of something that is as contrary to its
essence as being outside of time, then the timely would not be the opposite of the
eternal. So only by this realization, that artists in general are called to teach, can the
specifics of Schoenberg’s way of teaching be rightly judged. Inseparable from his
artistry and distinguished humanity, his uniquely valid way of teaching is furthered
by his pronounced will to this profession, which, as in every great artistic will—
creativity, performance, criticism, or teaching per se—will produce the highest
results. An exhaustive appreciation of this marvel coming from such assumptions
and conditions would amount to unraveling the enigma of genius and fathoming
the secrets of the godhead, which like measuring the immeasurable and limiting the
unlimited are doomed to fail. An attempt is all that can be made, an attempt akin
to depicting the beauty, richness, and sublimity of the ocean’s waves. Giving in to
its unending motions, the lucky swimmer is borne out toward eternity by the high-
est waves, lightly and proudly oblivious of those who crash upon the rocks of their
spiritual-intellectual barrenness or those who stay back in the safe harbors of their
Alban Berg

Alban Berg, “Der Lehrer,” Arnold Schönberg (Munich: R. Piper, 1912), 89–90. Translated by Bryan
R. Simms © 2013.


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306 pro mundo—pro domo

On Willem Mengelberg and the

Concertgebouw Orchestra
March 1928
To the Editors of De Telegraaf in Amsterdam:
You have asked me about my position regarding the Concertgebouw, its orchestra,
and its conductor, Willem Mengelberg.
How could I not love a concert hall in which I first heard Arnold Schoenberg’s
Five Orchestra Pieces, not admire an orchestra that played it as they did, and this
long before the war, while even today no Viennese orchestra has found it worth the
effort to perform this work. And how could I not honor a conductor whom Gustav
Mahler treated as his equal! Gustav Mahler, who had no equal.
It is a great joy for me to tell you this openly, even though I know that you expected
me to say nothing else but this expression of my love, admiration, and honor.
Alban Berg

Alban Berg, typed letter to the editors of De Telegraaf, Amsterdam, dated March 1928. Translated
by Bryan R.  Simms © 2013, from a copy of Berg’s letter, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek,
Musiksammlung, F21.Berg.480/476.

On the Hundredth Anniversary of Franz Schubert’s Death

How fundamentally different my attitude toward the music of Schubert is from the
popular one can be gathered solely from the pang I feel each time I hear his name
mentioned in the same breath as that of Johann Strauss. This conjunction is encoun-
tered especially in Vienna, but also everywhere where people think of our “Music
City” as near to heaven, hung full with violins for which Schubert and Johann
Strauss wrote their deathless melodies.1
I will concede this—that the “Unfinished” could only have come into being “on
the beautiful, blue Danube.” But we must first state as fact that it is a sin against the
Holy Ghost not to perceive how infinitely far the music of the one, born in the vicin-
ity of where Beethoven died, is from the other, who even in his life’s most inspired
moments could never free himself from the people.
But perhaps such a proximity in artistic judgment should not cause wonder at a
time when people don’t know whether to choose a Ten Thousand Dollar Symphony
or a Threepenny Opera.2
Still, it is only right and proper [recht und billig]—that is, it serves us right
and doesn’t cost much—to celebrate in the year when Franz Schubert has

Alban Berg, untitled typescript enclosed in a letter to Monty Jacobs, carbon copy in the
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung, F21.Berg.480/172. Translated by Bryan
R. Simms © 2013.

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Tr ibute s 307

been dead a hundred years and [Heinrich] Berté would have been seventy.3 My
Alban Berg

For Adolf Loos: Double Acrostic Distichs for the

Tenth of December
Adolf Loos: these nine
letters are perhaps a
Deemed similar to the nine muses
of Apollo, the god of light; l
Or they are—taken apart
by removing the first five, b
Like the four life-giving elements
—without ornament!— a
Fire, water, air
and finally earth. Or is it n
Left to the first five?
The five senses provide the measure here b
Or do the three syllables
work magic, like the Graces? e
Often—sometimes for fun—
the number game at the end is repeatable. r
Set such games aside! For your path
comes to no end. g

Alban Berg, “Doppel-Akrostische Distichen für den zehnten Dezember,” Adolf Loos:  Zum 60.
Geburtstag (Vienna: Richard Lanyi, 1930). Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

On Winfried Zillig
(from a letter from Alban Berg, composer of Wozzeck):

I congratulate you on Zillig! It has always been clear to me that you will find no
better musical collaborator for your theatrical work, and I know too that by “accept-
ing” his opera [Rosse] the choice you and the intendant have made has fallen on the
most significant among the young generation of composers. And I know this from
the best of sources—from his scores. A glance at this music would convince every
musician who can read music that here is someone with something to say that has

Alban Berg, “Ueber Winfried Zillig,” Theaterwelt: Programmschrift der Städtischen Bühnen Düsseldorf,
8/7–8 (1933): 85. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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308 pro mundo—pro domo

not yet been said and someone who knows how to say it clearly. This is what matters
most for me when I want to perceive and value an artwork. I can prove that this is
true of Zillig’s music and also testify that someone who creates it is an artist.
So again, I congratulate you, dear Herr Horenstein, on him and his work!
Alban Berg

To Karl Kraus

Allow me, honored Karl Kraus, to greet you on your sixtieth birthday, as one
whose hundredth birthday will be celebrated by the whole world—both the

Alban Berg, “Gestatten Sie mir, Verehrter Herr Karl Kraus . . . ,” Stimmen über Karl Kraus zum 60.
Geburtstag (Vienna: Richard Lanyi, 1934), 43. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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German-speaking and Austrian-thinking worlds—as one of the great Austrian art-

ists, as one of the greatest German masters.
With steadfast loyalty, your
Alban Berg

Handel and Bach
It is fortunate that Handel and Bach were born in 1685, not two hundred
years later. For otherwise the origins of the one would be questioned, and the
music of the other would be deemed cultural bolshevism. I would be happy to
demonstrate this.
Alban Berg

Alban Berg, untitled handwritten draft, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung,

F21.Berg.480/65/5, (1935). Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

Faith, Hope, and Love: For Schoenberg’s Sixtieth Birthday

G Faith and hope—and love
for German music, which
L I learned from you as from none other—
you awakened in me.
A At the same time there also grew
within me faith, hope—
U and love for you—
you, my master and friend.
B Both friendship and teaching you gave me
over three decades—
E a time which through you
gained lasting values.
H Today, where far from your homeland and
far too from the city that underestimated
O the one in whom it will later take pride—
ah, how often it has been true—
F far too from the nation
whose music and language you speak. . . .

Alban Berg, untitled acrostic poem beginning “Glauben und Hoffen—und Liebe . . . ,” in Arnold
Schönberg zum 60. Geburtstag (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1934), 61. Translated by Bryan R. Simms
© 2013.

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310 pro mundo—pro domo

F your birthday is most joyously celebrated

while your German and Austrian homeland
N remains hardly aware
of its infinite value.
U But all the prouder
will this homeland celebrate
N in the year
nineteen hundred seventy-four—
G faithfully, hopefully, and lovingly—
what it underestimates today.
AND though unnecessary for me again
to express this wish,
L dearest and truest friend,
as in decades past
I to celebrate your birthday
by one of my works—
E a dedication ten years ago
of the Chamber Concerto,
B an offering of a student, as was that of the
Orchestra Pieces twenty years back—
E so again today, Lulu,
the opera, is dedicated to you!

Commentary on Tributes
The Teacher (1912)
In the spring of 1911 Schoenberg’s students collaborated on a plan for a publica-
tion to honor their master, one that would call attention especially to Schoenberg’s
great skill in teaching. The students settled on a monograph for their tribute—the
first such devoted to Schoenberg—that would outline his music and end with a
collection of short statements made by eight of his students concerning teaching.
Berg ultimately took over the main editorial responsibility for the project, and it
was brought out by the publisher Reinhard Piper in Munich (Piper was also the
publisher of the contemporaneous almanac Der blaue Reiter, in which the Viennese
composers were well represented). The book, titled simply Arnold Schönberg,
appeared in February 1912.
Schoenberg was aware of his students’ project, but the scope of the book and
the flattering praise that it contained took him by surprise. On February 25 Webern

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gave him a copy, and Schoenberg then confided his feelings about it to his diary: “I
find myself spoken about too effusively,” he wrote. “I am too young for such praise,
have still achieved too little, completed too little. . . . But on the other hand I was so
overwhelmed by the great love that it expressed that it made me happy, to the extent
that something like that can make one happy.”4
The final section of the book, subtitled “The Teacher,” contains eight brief state-
ments from Schoenberg’s students. Karl Linke stressed Schoenberg’s energy and his
skillful teaching methods; Egon Wellesz praised Schoenberg’s insightful analysis of
classical works; Robert Neumann extolled his way of developing a student’s person-
ality; Erwin Stein found that Schoenberg had taught him how to think; Heinrich
Jalowetz recalled his studies as forming both his artistic and human conscience; and
Karl Horwitz recalled how Schoenberg had insisted that students not imitate his
style of composition.
The last two statements were reserved for Webern and Berg. In his article
Webern attempted to explain the similarity of music by Schoenberg’s students
and the music of the master himself. This congruence came, Webern said, from
some hidden artistic necessity that surpasses understanding.5 In his article
Berg had intended to take a “broad viewpoint,” as he told Webern in a letter of
January 1912, and he does so by using a pronounced hyperbole to describe his
teacher. Berg describes Schoenberg as a type of god—miraculous, infinite, mes-
sianic, beyond time. This was probably just the sort of praise that Schoenberg
thought excessive, and Berg himself later told his student Willi Reich that he
did not wish to have the article reprinted in Reich’s journal 23:  Eine Wiener

On Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra (1928)

Willem Mengelberg (1871–1951) was the musical director of the Amsterdam
Concertgebouw Orchestra for fifty years, from 1895 to 1945, during which
time he brought this orchestra to the great level of distinction that it still enjoys.
Mengelberg’s repertoire was broad, and he was best-known for his interest
in the late romantic German symphonic literature, especially the sympho-
nies  of Mahler and the tone poems of Richard Strauss. He frequently per-
formed the music of Schoenberg, especially the romantic works such as Pelleas
und Melisande, and he conducted Berg’s Lulu Symphony with his orchestra in
In March 1914 Berg accompanied Schoenberg, Webern, and Erwin Stein
to Amsterdam to hear the Concertgebouw Orchestra perform Schoenberg’s
Orchestra Pieces, op.  16, which Schoenberg conducted.7 Berg’s brief tribute to
Mengelberg and his orchestra was a response to a questionnaire circulated by the

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Amsterdam newspaper De Telegraaf in 1928, the fortieth anniversary of both the

auditorium and orchestra. It appeared in a Dutch translation in De Telegraaf on
8 April 1928.

On the Hundredth Anniversary of Franz Schubert’s Death (1928)

Throughout the world of classical music, 1928 was a Schubert year, honoring this
composer on the hundredth anniversary of his death. Musical organizations
throughout the world performed his works, tributes were published, and in Vienna
the Ministry of Culture designated November 17–25 as Schubert Week.
Berg’s tribute to Schubert was given as a response to the Berlin Vossische Zeitung,
whose feuilletonist, Monty Jacobs, contacted leading contemporary composers
to pose the question, “What did and does Franz Schubert mean to you and to the
development of your musical personality? How do you see his work today?”8 Berg’s
response was printed along with tributes by Alfredo Casella, Egon Wellesz, and
Ernst Krenek, among other figures.
In his reply to the question about Schubert, Berg speaks out cynically and satiri-
cally on familiar topics—the debasement of taste among contemporary audiences,
the unbridgeable divide separating art music from popular or even semipopular
music, and the general commercialization of musical culture. He pokes fun at Kurt
Weill’s Die Dreigroschenoper, which had opened in Berlin only months before and
had already taken the operatic world by storm, and also to a “Ten Thousand Dollar
Symphony.” This refers to Kurt Atterberg’s Symphony no 6 in C Major, which had
recently received an award of $10,000, given by Columbia Records, as the winning
entry in a competition organized by the American Schubert Centennial Committee
for the best new symphonic composition in the form of a symphony or variations
on Schubert themes. On 25 June 1928 Walter Damrosch, on behalf of the inter-
national jury, announced that Kurt Atterberg had won the competition and its
large monetary prize for what was immediately dubbed the “Ten Thousand Dollar
Symphony” (or, more simply, the “Dollar Symphony”). Atterberg’s work was pub-
lished by Universal Edition and recorded by Columbia.
Berg’s tribute was published on 18 November 1928 in the entertainment section
of the Vossische Zeitung and was reprinted in the same paper on 18 December 1928.
The title “Zu Franz Schuberts 100. Todestag” (On the Hundredth Anniversary of
Franz Schubert’s Death) was given it by Willi Reich in his 1937 book on Berg.

For Adolf Loos: Double Acrostic Distichs for the Tenth of

December (1930)
The architect and essayist Adolf Loos (1870–1933) was an admired figure by all
in Schoenberg’s circle. Schoenberg had met him in 1905 through the Mahlers, and

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Berg did so shortly thereafter, forming a warm friendship. Loos regularly attended
concerts of Schoenberg and his students, and he was a reliable supporter, both per-
sonally and artistically.
Loos made his mark on the arts in Vienna first through his essays and lectures.
He was most noted for his opposition to ornament in the modern arts and crafts.
In his 1908 lecture “Ornament and Crime,” he held that the evolution of culture
was synonymous with the removal of ornament from objects of everyday use.
“The urge to decorate one’s face or use erotic symbols is the origin of the fine
arts, but for a modern adult to do so is criminal or degenerate,” he said.9 Loos’s
use of polemic, showing the influence of writings by his friend Karl Kraus, and
his idealism about the arts and commitment to modernism resonated strongly
with Berg.
Beginning in 1910 Loos’s reputation as an architect began to flower, especially
with the completion in that year of his house on Michaelerplatz in the center of
Vienna (see Figure 6). Its elegant symmetrical facade, stripped of ornament, made
it a forerunner of the International Style of architecture associated later with Le
Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Mies Van der Rohe.
For his sixtieth birthday on 10 December 1930, Loos’s friends and students
organized several tributes.10 An exhibit of his works was assembled and displayed
first in Vienna’s Hagenbund, later traveling to several other European cities. Loos’s

Figure 6 Adolf Loos, house on the Michaelerplatz (Vienna)

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students had the idea of creating a festschrift with greetings from Loos’s friends and
colleagues. Forty-two short tributes were published, including statements by Berg,
Schoenberg, Webern, Karl Kraus, Oskar Kokoschka, Maurice Maeterlinck, Ezra
Pound, Rudolf Serkin, and Stefan Zweig. The editor of the volume (unnamed in
the publication itself) was Franz Glück, who corrected certain errors in the submis-
sions, including Berg’s, who had thought that Loos’s birthday was on the twelfth of
December, not the tenth.11
For his tribute Berg created a highly complex poem using the verse form of the
distich and also a double acrostic. The classic distich, used by such modern German
poets as Goethe, Schiller, Mörike, and Hölderlin, consisted of a series of couplets
that typically alternated lines in hexameter and pentameter (Berg’s is made up
entirely of hexameters). Additionally, Berg spelled out the name “Adolf Loos” with
the first letters of each line, and the name “Alban Berg” with the last letters. Creating
the poem cost him considerable effort, and he worked out the poem in sketches and
diagrams such as the one seen in Figure 7.12
The prose translation in this volume is made from the version of Berg’s poem that
appeared in the first edition, 1930, of the Loos Festschrift.

On Winfried Zillig (1933)
Winfried Zillig (1905–1963) was a distinguished composer, conductor, pia-
nist, and scholar. Born in Würzburg, he came in 1925 to Vienna to study with
Schoenberg, and he continued these studies in Berlin in Schoenberg’s class at
the Academy of Arts. He then worked as a repetiteur in several German opera
houses: first in Berlin under Erich Kleiber, then in Oldenburg, Düsseldorf (from
1932 to 1937), Essen, and Poznan. All the while he composed—operas, film
music, concertos, chamber music, vocal works—in a style that was compatible
with others in Schoenberg’s circle. Following World War II, Zillig continued to
conduct and compose, and at the invitation of Schoenberg’s widow he completed
the scoring of a major fragment of Schoenberg’s oratorio Die Jakobsleiter, which
was published in 1974.
Berg came to admire Zillig most for his extraordinary skill as a pianist and
repetiteur. Zillig had played the musical examples for Berg’s first presentation of
his Wozzeck Lecture, given in Oldenburg in March 1929, and at Berg’s request the
Vienna Opera brought him in to help rehearse Wozzeck for its premiere there in
March 1930. Berg described his work to Schoenberg:  “And what a job he did!!!
Except for the 4-hand passages (in which I assisted him) he played every note of the
reduction and sang and spoke all the roles as if it were Puccini.”13
Zillig’s participation in the Viennese rehearsals became an issue for Berg
following the highly negative review by Julius Korngold in the Neue freie Presse
on 1 April 1930. Korngold reported rumors that the work was so difficult that

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Figure 7 Alban Berg, sketch for “For Adolf Loos: Double Acrostic Distichs for the Tenth of
December,” Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, F21.Berg.111, p. 12r

no local pianists could master it—only a specialist “from Germany” could do

so. Berg responded to this mistaken notion in his “Critique of the Critique:
Conversation with Alban Berg and Clemens Krauss” in the Neues Wiener Journal
(2 April 1930).

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In 1932 Zillig was hired by the Düsseldorf Stadttheater as an assistant to the

principal conductor, Jascha Horenstein, and Zillig’s opera Rosse was staged there in
February 1933. On 27 January 1933 Horenstein wrote to Berg to ask him to write
something on Zillig’s behalf for the program book for the forthcoming premiere,14
and Berg responded with the glowing praise that is translated here.

To Karl Kraus (1931)
Karl Kraus (1874–1936) was Berg’s favorite writer and lecturer, the one who exerted
the greatest influence on his thinking about culture, writing, and speaking. Kraus
had little personal contact with musicians, including those in Schoenberg’s circle,
and he apparently had little interest in modern music. His influence on Berg was
instead exerted through his many lectures in Vienna and through his monthly jour-
nal, Die Fackel (The Torch), which he founded in 1899 and wrote single-handedly
from 1911 until 1936.
In its pages Kraus carried on a relentless satire directed at everything in con-
temporary society that seemed dishonest or hypocritical—especially the Viennese
press, the courts and their antiquated laws, sham ethics, and Austrian militarism.
“From Karl Kraus I  first learned how to express an idea in words,” Berg told his
friend Soma Morgenstern. “From him I learned how the newspapers that we read
not only lie and cheat but also corrupt us. He taught an entire generation a deep
respect for language.”15
As Morgenstern also observed, Berg’s attitude to Kraus was one of nearly reli-
gious idolatry, expressed at a level of intensity that was exceeded only by Berg’s idol-
atry of Schoenberg. On the occasion of Kraus’s fiftieth birthday in 1924, Berg finally
approached Kraus directly in the form of a letter of admiration—a rambling and
effusive document in which Berg thanks Kraus for the high standards of his writing
and the delight and inspiration that it brought.16
On the occasion of Kraus’s sixtieth birthday in 1934, a group of his friends, led
by the architect Karl Jaray, planned a festschrift of greetings, along same lines as the
Loos festschrift of four years earlier. Jaray wrote to Berg to ask for a contribution,
and Berg complied with the request in July 1934. Berg’s greeting—made in a single
sentence—is most remarkable for what it does not say. In addition to its brevity, its
tone is muted and almost casual, totally unlike the effusive outpouring of ten years
earlier. The reasons for the coolness are uncertain, but as Berg grew older he may
have wished to present himself as an independent artist and to dispel his reputation
as a follower of others.
As was typical of many greetings that Berg wrote at the time, a small excerpt
from his music was appended, here drawn from Act 2, mm. 318–24, of Lulu, where
Alwa praises Lulu as “a soul in the next world rubbing the sleep from its eyes.” These
were the words with which Kraus had begun a 1905 lecture on Frank Wedekind’s
Pandora’s Box, attended by Berg.17 Since they are spoken by Alwa, Berg’s alter ego in

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the opera, they and their music express the depth of Berg’s respect for Kraus and for
Kraus’s role in Berg’s own development as an artist.

Handel and Bach (1935)

Berg’s statement about Handel and Bach was a response to a survey sent out by
the Berlin journal Das Echo asking for comments on these two great German
masters to coincide with the 250th anniversary of their birth.18 Berg’s brief
response, like most of the short statements of his later years, was filled with cyni-
cism. If these two masters had been born in 1885 (as was Berg), he writes, then
their racial origins would be questioned and they would be accused of “cultural
Berg had long been pestered by questions concerning his racial origins, and he
was forced repeatedly to deny that he was Jewish.19 The idea that his music, like that
of others in Schoenberg’s circle, was an example of “cultural bolshevism” was also
gaining traction in the press at this time. The suspected bolshevist threat to German
culture had been a recurrent issue in the right-wing and pro-Catholic literature well
before the Nazis came to power in 1933, although after that time it became a con-
venient label by which to denounce atonal and twelve-tone music. In the article
“Deutsche Kulturpolitik” of 1932, the German chancellor, Franz von Papen, gave a
broad definition of cultural bolshevism and its menace:

That is why the current bearers of state power must have the courage to
name by name the enemy so that the decision itself can include the people
in their will for renewal, to compose themselves internally and clearly con-
ceive its goal. This enemy is cultural bolshevism in whatever form it takes
and wherever it works to subvert the spiritual foundation of our existence,
loyalty to our people, as well as faith in the eternal truths of Christianity.
Among the followers of this enemy must be counted all individuals who do
not love the arduous fate of the German people as their own and assume
their part in bearing it.20

No doubt because of Berg’s ridicule of Nazi racial and cultural ideas, his statement
on Handel and Berg was not published in Das Echo. Instead, Berg turned a fair copy
of the letter over to Willi Reich to be published in Reich’s journal 23, which was
done later in 1935. Reich added this commentary:

Allow me to attempt to invert this theme in the way that I learned in my

counterpoint studies with you:
It is unfortunate that Alban Berg was born in 1885 and not 200 years
earlier. For then his origins would be questioned as little as his music would
be deemed cultural bolshevism.

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318 pro mundo—pro domo

I too would be happy to demonstrate this, but I would rather value

our good fortune that Alban Berg appeared in 1885 and grew to become a
master of German music.
In true love and admiration . . . your Willi Reich.21

Faith, Hope, and Love: For Schoenberg’s Sixtieth Birthday (1934)

Berg’s acrostic poem on the phrase “Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe” (faith, hope, love)—
addressed to Schoenberg on his sixtieth birthday—was his final public tribute to his
teacher and friend of thirty years. Schoenberg had recently moved with his family to
the Los Angeles area, and Berg had already told him of his plan to dedicate the opera
Lulu to him upon its completion.22
The poem “Faith, Hope, and Love” was Berg’s contribution to a festschrift pub-
lished by Universal Edition to honor Schoenberg on his sixtieth birthday. Berg’s
poem is similar to, although somewhat simpler than, the one that he had devised
for the Loos festschrift in 1930: an acrostic poem using a free distich form, in which
numbers—here threes and tens—play a prominent role. Schoenberg’s earlier praise
for the Loos poem may have led Berg to return to the form on Schoenberg’s behalf.23
The three terms of the acrostic—faith, hope, and love—are the three Christian
virtues mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “In a word, there are three things that
last forever: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of them all is love.” Berg’s allu-
sion to Christianity—virtually the only one in all of his writings—may have been
provoked by the politics in Germany and Austria of this time, in which the atonal
style had become associated with Jewish artists and the idiom itself associated with
an un-Christian “cultural bolshevism.” Berg returned to this point in his contempo-
raneous tribute “Handel and Bach.”
The translation of “Faith, Hope, and Love” is based on the text as published in
Arnold Schönberg zum 60. Geburtstag (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1934); Berg’s type-
script is found in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, F21.Berg.480/417/1.24

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With the Composer of Wozzeck: A Conversation with
Alban Berg, by Carl Marilaun
Neues Wiener Journal, 20 January 1926
Since Alban Berg is Viennese and lives in Vienna, we have to go to Berlin to see
his extraordinarily interesting Wozzeck performed in the Staatsoper there, this work
endorsed by [Max von] Schillings and conducted by [Erich] Kleiber.1 The fund of
goodwill that Vienna extends to a musician who is rich in promise but verifiably
not yet established, one with a reputation for loathsome “atonality,” seems quickly
exhausted. Because of this we must be lucky and have a really good nose to sniff out
a composition by the forty-year-old Berg in a Viennese concert season.
In his early years he made a reputation as one of the leading champions of Arnold
Schoenberg’s circle. Alban Berg is a student of Schoenberg, one of the most conve-
nient and ready-made designations used in musically sensible Vienna to have no
more trouble with a young, inconvenient artist. One makes up with the master, if he
lives to be fifty, by conferring on him the uncommonly distinguished title “Citizen
of Vienna,” something that is also tax free.2 “A student of . . .”—nothing more needs
to be said. All the same, Alban Berg is not completely unknown in Viennese musical
circles. Opportunities to get to know his works have just been assiduously avoided.
But people have a good and unforgiving memory for the stormy and highly incau-
tious emotional outbursts that the insouciant youth Alban Berg made in support of
the ridiculed Schoenberg.
What does Berg himself—who has long outgrown his student years despite
maintaining the same reverence for his teacher—think about such things? He
doesn’t dwell on them. He is neither embittered nor resentful nor even surprised
that the Viennese artist must go to Berlin to be recognized in Vienna. “Earlier,” he
says rather offhandedly and with no trace of understandable sarcasm, “it would have
surprised me if it had occurred to anyone to think of me as a creative Viennese artist.
That has not happened until now. And I think that I might enjoy this demonstrable
absence of involvement here for quite a time yet. I live here—that’s all. It does not
lack for deeper meaning, if you will, that I installed windows with frosted glass in my

C[arl] M[arilaun], “Beim Komponisten des Wozzeck: Ein Gespräch mit Alban Berg,” Neues Wiener
Journal, 20 January 1926. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.


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residence. I can’t be seen through them and they also spare me from seeing what is
going on in our beloved Vienna.
“I compose without much concern for the classification—as shallow as it is
clichéd—of my works as to their favor or lack thereof. For the last fifteen years
I myself have taught students, some of whom will certainly make a name for them-
selves as composers, conductors, or theorists. But no one has yet taken note of this
activity, certainly not in Vienna. It was left to Berlin a year ago to offer me a teaching
position at the state academy, an offer that for personal reasons I have not yet been
able to accept.3 As concerns my compositions, none of the existing major Viennese
concert organizations has shown any desire to perform them. Again, this happened
in Berlin, where Wozzeck, written years ago, was accepted. They threw themselves
into the opera, prepared it lovingly and conscientiously, and refuted the myth of its
“unperformability” with a downright glittering performance.
When I attended the rehearsals of the State Opera there, I made a rather surpris-
ing discovery for someone from Vienna: none of the performers complained that the
work was unperformable, unsingable, or the like. None of the singers protested that
this sort of thing could “not be sung.” I heard nothing from any of the orchestra musi-
cians, like “Hey, Herr Berg, that can’t be played!” And the director almost faultlessly
solved the difficult matter of creating fifteen scenes with the quickest of changes.
Moreover, I  made the discovery, quite depressing for an educated Viennese,
that an author there is in no way considered a burdensome, disruptive meddler at
rehearsals—a nobody whom one casually pats on the shoulder—instead, he is a
man who, it is assumed, is likely to know something about his own work! Every
one of the outstanding performers gave it his best, and for that reason a perfor-
mance came about with which I was entirely in agreement and which also exceeded
my expectations. In the four weeks since the premiere, Wozzeck has been repeated
five times, each performance well attended. The opera has now been translated into
Czech and is being considered for performance at the Prague National Theater.4
To be honest, I should also mention that [Fritz] Stiedry had the idea of bringing
Wozzeck to Vienna, a plan that could not be realized on account of the crisis at the
Volksoper.5 Of course Vienna has concerns, large and small, other than providing
delusions of grandeur to a “modern” composer with a performance. Such people
are put into a box and marked, for example, “atonalists.” This is a person who will no
longer abide by the old rules that served from Bach to Wagner and Brahms; he is of
the opinion that music was first written by Arnold Schoenberg.
When applied to me and my works, it follows that these are of no value at all.
Like all the Schoenberg students, it is my goal to travel on the same path and in
the same direction as did the classicists. One who has advanced so far as to be able
accurately to interpret their works feels himself as much a student of Mozart as of
Schoenberg. It was Schoenberg, moreover, who always pointed us toward the clas-
sicists, not stopping with Wagner and Brahms. If I were to name the artists whose
work, according to my outlook, lies on the path from Bach to the present—those

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Inte r v iews 321

whom I love and honor as “classicists”—I would, in addition to the greatest, Gustav
Mahler, name only Reger, Debussy, Zemlinsky, and Webern. In their works I find the
same elements that made up the greatness of our classicists, that is, melody, motivic
and thematic work, harmonic richness, artfully formed structure, polyphony, and
rhythm. Where even one of these components seems lacking, the musical artwork,
in my estimation, falls below what we have come to understand as German music.
With this confession let me say that I never imagined to have founded a “new
style of opera.” By opera I  understand drama that is reinforced by means of my
music. This is the sole artistic tendency that guided me in composing Wozzeck. But
certain slogans that are attached to the works of a modern musician are stronger
than anything the artist himself can say. Slogans are coined without asking us. And
God would have to give us a long life, if we think it important, still to be around to
see these changed . . .”

A Chat with Alban Berg, by Oskar Baum

Prager Presse, 12 November 1926
All the verbal fog about “theoretical, nonsensical, dogmatic music” that scoff-
ers spread about Schoenberg’s circle, spread by those who have so easily become
“expert,” evaporates immediately when one makes living contact with the music
itself or meets one of its genuine representatives. In his Wozzeck Alban Berg—com-
pletely one of a kind, a strong personality with roots reaching deeply into natural
soil—offers the clearest proof of the fertile, practical power of this new, intellectual-
ized tonal language. How convincing is the charming freshness of Viennese dialect
in the squabbling over the most complex intellectual questions, over the dialectic
veil, to put it more finely, that shrouds the most difficult intellectual problems. It is a
striking illustration that this tendency toward a thorough earnestness in the special-
ized and objective understanding of art still comes closer to the primal powers of
inspiration than do those romantics, with their ringing words, who rely so readily
on things unnameable and unanalyzable.
I found Alban Berg in high spirits over the impression made by the dress
rehearsal in the Czech National Theater. “It is not simply,” he said, “that the trans-
lation of Wozzeck comes so close to the original; it is more the extraordinarily
spirited presentation, especially in several scenes, as though the work in this lan-
guage has found a more natural, more fundamental expression. In the depths of
the soul of the folk, the essential sameness of the human soul in all its national
varieties becomes most apparent. In this particular case we must consider that

Oskar Baum, “Unterhaltung mit Alban Berg,” Prager Presse, 12 November 1926. Translated by
Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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322 pro mundo—pro domo

the living archetype that Büchner’s play evokes from the real world was most
likely a Slavic type. More important than this surprise, which I received from the
language, is the extraordinarily musical conduct of this performance, for which
I  have the greatest admiration. With what genial powers of insight and natural
sovereignty has [Otakar] Ostrčil handled this operatic score, probably the most
difficult one in all of music until now! And what a troupe there is standing before
and behind him! The main impediment to the immediate effect of difficult new
music is that one must be satisfied in a performance most times with intellectual-
ity and technical mastery of the material. Intelligent singers, more than blooming
voices, must usually be sent into the fray. Furthermore, the general style of sing-
ing is still largely determined by Wagner. What real pleasure I have had here in
hearing beautiful voices, those that are the best trained in musical intelligence
and singing technique, take on these most difficult challenges with gusto. And not
only the principal roles, but also the most diverse voice types, which are needed
in the important episodes, have been available with these qualifications. Then the
orchestra. Rarely does one hear a body of sound of such uniformly high value, the
rich and warm string tone, the winds so mellow and lithe even at the extremes of
register, the delicate percussion.
How did “Wozzeck” originate? Shortly before the war I quite accidentally saw in
a small Viennese theater [Albert] Steinrück’s portrayal of the drama, even before
I knew of a single word by Büchner. Immediately there arose in me an inescapable
necessity to create music for this work. In the scanty vacations from my hard mili-
tary service, scene after scene came about. Büchner certainly didn’t foresee the pos-
sibility of a musical treatment, but there is so much unspoken in those febrile scenes
that the necessity that I felt perhaps arose naturally. This is my sole dramatic work up
to now. My most recent works are a Chamber Concerto for piano and violin as solo
instruments with a wind band of thirteen in accompaniment. This was composed
for Schoenberg’s fiftieth birthday. And a Lyric Suite for string quartet, which is dedi-
cated to Zemlinsky. The former will be shortly premiered by Edward Steuermann;
the latter by the Kolisch Quartet. Certainly I remain interested in the stage. I am
looking for an appropriate libretto, to the extent that “looking for” is the right phrase
for waiting for a gift from persuasive inspiration. The next performance of Wozzeck
will be in Petersburg city.
We spoke long on the intellectual and technical problems of music of today and
tomorrow before I said farewell. “Dramatists step forth!” was the thought that long
pursued me: “Here truly is new artistic soil for bold and fertile conquest!” It is no
accident that just this artist, who wants nothing more than to be rooted in the pres-
ent and to make speculative reflections with successful outcomes, has given the
heightened force of contemporaneity to this drama by music and by reconciling
primitive folk myth with refined artistic will. This is a drama that takes up the most
gnawing problems of our time and the most fruitful and difficult questions that
shake and shape our epoch.

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Inte r v iews 323

Conversation with Alban Berg: Impressions from a

Wozzeck Performance in Leningrad, by “Iron”
Neues Wiener Journal, 23 June 1927
Alban Berg is what is termed a “modern composer” [Neutöner]. This term is bandied
around and suggests a composer whose music at all costs sounds completely different
from all that has come before. Alban Berg—whatever attitude one has toward him—
cannot be dismissed with this term. First, because he is inspired, and second, because
he follows a system. He doesn’t wallow about in new sounds; instead, he has a goal that
he steadfastly pursues. Whoever talks with him about music is brought along new paths,
whether willingly or not. But such debates are not pointless arguments, as they so often
are with modern composers over current issues concerning sound. There is no theoreti-
cal chatter, for example, about tonal versus atonal, in which both sides lose track of what
either term is about. For this composer it all comes down to one thing: “Say with tones
in the most concise way and in the least time what a more prolix melodiousness might
need minutes, even hours to say.” This sentence could serve as Alban Berg’s formal creed.
His purely artistic faith is expressed in his works. But what he says about the forms in
his work sounds so utterly sensible that one immediately gets on well with his ideas and
artistic intentions. Just bear in mind the motto “succinct form of expression.” If we think
about this during the five hours of Götterdämmerung or Meistersinger, we will begin to
see the direction of his new path. “In a polyphonic style,” says Alban Berg, “we can say
in two measures what is needed for the melodic form of an eight- or sixteen-measure
period. You can figure out how much time this saves in a dramatic work.” Alban Berg
has enough interesting ideas whose utterance would give proof of a well-considered out-
look. But when Alban Berg has something to say, he takes up the pen himself. This time
he had less need to talk about musical matters in general because he had just returned
from Leningrad, where he attended the Russian premiere of his Wozzeck.
“I have had Wozzeck in mind,” he relates, “since 1914. Albert Steinrück played the
title role at the Kammerspiele in Büchner’s play. There was no one there for the per-
formance—I was among the few who attended. But from that day on I firmly resolved
to make an opera out of Wozzeck, and that’s what happened. This work has already
experienced much, and I along with it. First Berlin, then the Prague intermezzo, over
which I was wrongly accused of political issues that were supposedly connected to
my artistic outlook. Fortunately, the artistic authorities in Prague knew better about
me personally and knew that there was not a true word spoken in all the hubbub. The
things that I experienced in Leningrad were more pleasant. I was invited there, as
many other German artists have been in recent times, to be present for the premiere
of Wozzeck. My experiences were entirely of an artistic nature, and in the short time

Iron, “Gespräch mit Alban Berg, Eindrücke von einer Wozzeck-Aufführung in Leningrad,” Neues
Wiener Journal, 23 June 1927. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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324 pro mundo—pro domo

that I was on Russian soil I received a remarkable impression of the intensive musical
activities in this country. It is not just the many musical events in this city that make
this impression on the visitor. Much more striking is the keen interest of the people.
One must experience how they inquire into the intentions of an artist and the intel-
lectual exertion that they make to try to understand these intentions.
“A premiere in Leningrad is an event that is discussed throughout the city for
weeks in advance. This is different from us. As I was brought from the train station
to my accommodations, I was absolutely astounded to see my name and that of my
work posted on the corners of every house, every signboard, and every advertising
column. In this way I came to see that in Leningrad a premiere is not just something
for the few, whose chitchat then determines whether others will become interested in
the work after the premiere. This far-reaching engagement of so large a city may seem
at first a bit oppressive to him who is not accustomed to it. I arrived just before the
dress rehearsal, which was open to the public, and I planned to sit completely incog-
nito in the parquet to hear the performance. But this plan was quickly overturned.
“Before the curtain went up, the regisseur came out on the apron and announced
my presence. The acclamation that greeted his words was such that I could only leave
my seat and thank him, since the speaker had indicated the area in which I was sitting.
Concerning the performance itself I can say only good things. No effort or expense
was spared on the scenery to create a total impression of the highest quality. I scarcely
need to emphasize that it was a stylized scene design—in Russia these are taken for
granted. Every operetta, every play is done there in a way that is notably different
from the normal performances in our theaters. The Russian audiences would view a
traditional staging as something strange. Musically everything was done to a T. It was
rehearsed for half a year. The entire opera was double-cast, with complete equality
between the two. It was especially notable that the second cast in Leningrad was not
considered to be at a lower level; instead, it was a precondition for the company that
for each role in each opera there would be two equal singers available.
“I can report with gratification that it was a success and that I received exclusively
good reviews. Artistically, the Leningrad days were for me an exceedingly interest-
ing experience, which was so strong that it did not occur to me to become preoc-
cupied with other things that elicit so much interest abroad.”

Berg’s Wozzeck in Leningrad: Remarks by the Composer

Neues Wiener Tagblatt, 26 June 1927
When we discuss new opera, we think first about the work of Alban Berg. We praise
the power of expression in his music, its artful working out, the felicitous choice

“Bergs ‘Wozzek’ in Leningrad: Aeußerungen des Komponisten.” Neues Wiener Tagblatt, 26 June

1927. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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Inte r v iews 325

of text. At the very least we find Wozzeck noteworthy as the first attempt to apply
the expressive capacity of atonal music to a work on a grand scale. And there is
an additional reason to see Wozzeck as more than just another opera—its success.
Despite much opposition, Wozzeck has had in Berlin sixteen performances to date,
a very impressive number for a complex new opera. At the Prague National Theater
its full artistic success was overshadowed by a political ruckus. A short time ago,
Leningrad made a go of it with Berg’s opera. With great auspiciousness. If a work is
accepted in three cities of such diverse character as Berlin, Prague, and Leningrad,
then we are no longer justified to see its success coming from the fulsome praise
of a clique.
Alban Berg, who attended the Russian premiere, spoke about this:  “It was
not without trepidation that I went to Leningrad. How would a conductor and
singers who were little familiar with the most recent operatic music find their
way through my complex score? But I was most pleasantly surprised. [Vladimir]
Dranishnikov, the conductor, did a splendid job. The staging, created by [Sergei]
Radlov, was ultramodern, as it usually is in Russia. When I was writing my opera
I did not have an expressionistic-constructivist staging in mind; I couldn’t imag-
ine it because this sort of staging came about only later. But it fit in rather well
with the work. The translation of the text by the poet [Mikhail] Kusmin was
praised as masterful.
“All the roles of the opera, as in Prague, were double-cast. The singers were all
equally good, and especially Frau [Tatiana] Pavlovskaia, Russia’s leading Salome.
They sang Wozzeck with the right bel canto. Yes, a modern opera needs to be as
beautifully sung as [Verdi’s] Il trovatore. With the same plasticity of phrasing. If this
is not done, then the effect will be as muddled as reading aloud with no consider-
ation of punctuation.
“The opera audience in Leningrad is not much different from what it was when it
was St. Petersburg. The public comes to the theater in the same numbers as before,
but it is now a new public. How they value modern music in Russia is shown by
a toast made by a young Russian composer at a banquet given for me. It ended,
‘Let us raise our glasses to Arnold Schoenberg, the greatest teacher among all living
composers!’ ”
I posed this question to Alban Berg: “In an interview in Prague, the conduc-
tor [Franz] Schalk said that he would like to perform Wozzeck in Vienna. But the
author and publisher would not license the work to the Staatsoper. Where do
things stand with this?” Alban Berg answered evasively: “We think that the time
for this is not yet right. The next Wozzeck premiere may take place in Moscow.
If there are one or two first performances of Wozzeck yearly, that’s more than
enough. My opera will not suddenly triumph like a pop song, but for that reason
it will be around longer.
“I would like to compose something more for the stage. But I am not an opera
composer in the sense that I can compose just any text for the marketplace. For two

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326 pro mundo—pro domo

years I’ve been looking for a text that will speak to me like Büchner’s drama. Now
I’ve given up the search.”

A Conversation with Alban Berg, by Oskar Jancke

Aachener Anzeiger, 20 February 1930
It is always a delight to be in touch with the creative personalities of our time. So out
of personal interest I took the opportunity to ask Alban Berg—who was brought for
a few days to Aachen by the first performance of his opera Wozzeck and by an invita-
tion to lecture—for a talk. The fact that this talk turned almost entirely on Wozzeck
and that during it I felt myself more and more to be a representative of the inter-
ested public were the reasons that I give it here in a somewhat concentrated form,
although still just as it took place. The gracious and unconstrained way in which
Alban Berg responded to me—the listeners at the lecture on Sunday were [simi-
larly] amazed at his clear and pedagogically adroit analyses—could be recorded
only in a precise shorthand.
The conversation began something like this:  “Some days ago, Béla Bartók, in
reference to your arrival and the performance of Wozzeck, stressed how much, in
a medium-sized city, is being done for contemporary music. He was especially
encouraged to find a large and appreciative audience for his presentations. We hope
that the premiere of Wozzeck will also find here an open and, to an extent, experi-
enced public. It would be interesting to learn from you how the audiences in other
cities have reacted to the Wozzeck premieres.”
Alban Berg:  “The audiences have always been sympathetic. The very first per-
formance at the Berlin Opera was a great and decisive success. So too the perfor-
mances in Leningrad and Prague. In Prague the work was set aside, but this was
because of machinations by Czech nationalistic groups. They opposed me as an
Austrian and because of the allegedly defeatist tendency of my work. It was also
said that I was a Jew. Even though my music would be no different, this ‘reproach’
amuses me all the more since both my father (who came from Nuremberg) and my
mother (Viennese) are Catholic, and my father owned one of the two large stores in
Vienna that sold sacred books, prayer books, and the like. The leading Prague circles
and the leading Prague music critics were vigorously opposed to the ban. People
like Leoš Janáček, who was then still alive, raised their voices in my behalf. In vain,
unfortunately. They tried to attack my work in other ways. A rumor was spread that
rehearsals for this difficult work were too much for the total schedule of a repertory
theater. At the time this hindered other performances of Wozzeck, until Oldenburg
last season showed splendidly that this was not the case. In little Oldenburg the

Oskar Jancke, “Gespräch mit Alban Berg,” Aachener Anzeiger:  Politisches Tageblatt, 20 February
1930. Translated by Bryan R. Simms © 2013.

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Inte r v iews 327

work was given an inspired performance. In one season it was done no fewer than
ten times. Also Essen has recorded eight performances to date. Some ten stages have
contracted to perform the work so far, among them Cologne, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart,
Hagen, Lübeck, Weimar, Königsberg (as the festival opera for the Allgemeines
Deutsches Tonkünstlerfest), and Vienna. The next performance is in Vienna, where
I shall return from here to take part in the rehearsals, which are already fully under-
way, at the Opera.”

[OJ:] “Happily, it is clear that till now the public in general has afforded the
work a very good reception, despite its having to grapple with music that it
finds unfamiliar. Do you think that the text, based on Büchner’s ingenious
poem, facilitates the understanding of your music?”
Alban Berg : “Yes, but also the reverse. The music also aids in understanding the
poem. Basically I have done nothing more than to produce it on a higher
level. In my view, the music has neutralized the fragmentary character of
Büchner’s drama.”
[OJ:] “How did you come to this text? And where were the inner point of
contact with Büchner’s drama that moved you to set it musically?”
Alban Berg : “One of your questions is easily answered. Before the war, I saw
Wozzeck in Vienna, with Albert Steinrück in the title role. I immediately
decided to compose it—it grasped me that strongly. This leads me to
the answer to your other question. There was probably some natural
relationship between me and this poem. But let me emphasize that
Wozzeck is no simple ‘we-poor-people’ play. What happened to Wozzeck
can happen to any poor person, regardless of what type of clothing he
wears. It can happen to anyone who is subjugated by others and cannot
defend himself.”
[OJ:] “So from what you say there was no simple ‘operatic adaptation’ of
Büchner’s Wozzeck. How does your composition compare, say, with
Richard Wagner’s music drama?” Alban Berg responded here by referring
to his lecture and said only briefly that his work resembled pre-Wagnerian
works in certain formal respects. We spoke then about Arnold Schoenberg,
and I  remarked that he, Berg, is almost always labeled a “Schoenberg
student.” I then asked if he feels himself indebted to this master.
Alban Berg : “I proudly consider myself his student, even today, although
I haven’t studied with him now for twenty years. But I would like to stop
being called a ‘student.’ I  have been influenced by Schoenberg but also,
for example, by Beethoven, Bach, Wagner, Mahler. I  am one of those
who, in the meantime, have taken up Schoenberg’s twelve-tone system.
I belong as well to Schoenberg’s circle, the ‘Viennese School,’ as it has been
called. All the moderns have learned from Schoenberg. But Stravinsky
or Hindemith expresses himself differently from us.—We have grown

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328 pro mundo—pro domo

out of a homophonic into a polyphonic period. Everything that German

music has always had—richness of forms, harmonic richness, chord steps,
polyphony, etc.—characterizes Schoenberg’s music and that of his circle,
while other contemporaries are focused one-sidedly on some single thing,
be it rhythmic, harmonic, or polyphonic.”
[OJ:] “The Aachen public is not unacquainted with Schoenberg’s or with your
chamber music. Schoenberg’s Piano Pieces, op. 11, and George songs, and
your Lyric Suite, masterfully played by the Vienna String Quartet, have
been performed here, so the Wozzeck premiere occurs at a propitious time.
You have already attended a rehearsal of Wozzeck. Can you say how things
are going at the theater?”

“The work is progressing really marvelously,” Alban Berg said more or less lit-
erally, and it was plain that he meant this praise to be genuine. What he added
about details and individuals must for obvious reasons be kept quiet. Perhaps these
can be revealed after the premiere. The direction and staging received his special
approval. A  realistic tone prevails, something that he considers essential for his
work. I then asked Herr Berg in what respects he has changed the orchestration for
our performance.
Alban Berg:“The balance between winds and strings is easily endangered if, with
orchestras that are not so large, there are too few strings. The Wozzeck score relies
heavily on the sound of the winds and would suffer in performance by smaller
string numbers. So in the new arrangement the number of winds is reduced, from
winds and brass in fours to winds and brass in threes. You might think that the wind
dynamics have suffered a loss by a quarter, but this is not so. Winds and brass in
fours appeared only rarely, mainly in the orchestral tuttis. In those passages where
only three or two or even one wind is used—and this is the case in most places
throughout the entire score—the so-called reduction is not noticeable. Of course
there are many pages in this score, often soloistic or like chamber music, that have
undergone no change at all. The new arrangement comes, by the way, from the con-
ductor Erwin Stein (editor of the periodical Pult und Taktstock), who did the work
to my complete satisfaction. Also, the limited space in many orchestra pits makes
the change in orchestration important. With it we are able, for example, to have the
string choir in Aachen at about the same size as in Essen, which is very beneficial for
the sound in performance.”
My last question concerned the composer’s new works. A concert aria for orches-
tra, Der Wein (text from Les fleurs du mal by Baudelaire, in a translation by Stefan
George), will soon have its premiere at the music festival in Königsberg. Further off
is the composition of a new opera on a text by a well-known dramatist, a work to
which the composer has long been attracted. Its revision as libretto caused him great
difficulty, which Alban Berg now sees as being overcome.

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Critique of the Critique: Conversation with Alban Berg

and Clemens Krauss, by Otto König
Neues Wiener Journal, 2 April 1930
The Vienna Opera has recorded a triumphant success: Sunday’s premiere of Wozzeck.
It was a glorious evening for the house, the conductor, the Philharmonic, the ensem-
bles, and the composer, above all a glorious evening for Viennese art. Except for
[Gunnar] Graarud, all who participated in this sensational success—from Clemens
Krauss, Alban Berg, [Lothar] Wallerstein, [Oskar] Strnad, down to the singing
roles—call our city home.6 “I am proud and fortunate,” said Clemens Krauss, “that
we could achieve this kind of success with the work of a Viennese composer. From
the start, I never doubted that we would do ourselves proud with Wozzeck, but in the
theater all too often things turn out differently from what one expects. This time we
had a pleasant surprise and everyone who had feared that the Viennese would reject
this ‘opera without melody’ was proved wrong. It showed us once again that Vienna’s
opera audiences have a very fine feeling for what is genuine, what is dictated by hon-
est artistic intentions. Certainly, much in this work was surprising for and foreign to
many listeners. But they felt inwardly that no one was trying to elbow his way in just
to be talked about or noticed [épater le bourgeois]; [it seemed] instead that a great
and serious artist was building here upon what we have acquired from our greats and
that he seeks new paths, new forms of musical expression that are appropriate to the
times. It would have been quite impossible to produce this difficult work, which our
artists were taking up for the first time, in a way that would receive such flattering
critical praise as it did and which we all proudly and gratefully accepted if these artists
did not have their hearts in it and did not recognize the work as something good. Of
course it was an exaggeration to write that we needed a hundred rehearsals. In all, we
had some twenty orchestral rehearsals and of course I held I don’t know how many
individual rehearsals. But I think we couldn’t be criticized