1. Traumleben (Julius Hart) >>> text | sources

2. Alles (Richard Dehmel) >>> text | sources

3. Mädchenlied (Paul Remer) >>> text | sources

4. Verlassen (Hermann Conradi) >>> text | sources

5. Ghasel (Gottfried Keller) >>> text | sources

6. Am Wegrand (John Henry Mackay) >>> text | sources

7. Lockung (Kurt Aram) >>> text | sources

8. Der Wanderer (Friedrich Nietzsche) >>> text | sources

DURATION: ca. 20 Min.

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

After spending one and a half years in Berlin Schönberg returned to Vienna in the late summer of 1903, and began to teach theory of harmony and counterpoint in Eugenie Schwarzwald’s school. During this time, the composer’s creative activities were reduced, but in the late autumn and winter of the same year he took them up again, mainly sketching vocal compositions. Three of the eight songs which Schönberg later put together under the opus number 6 (“Verlassen”/“Forsaken”, “Traumleben”/“Dream-Life”, “Ghasel”) were composed between December 1903 and January 1904, the remainder were written in September and October of 1905. Especially remarkable in the songs is the increasing density of their motival structure, a restriction to small intervallic connections, important for thematic coherence, very different from the wide melodic arches of some of his songs before 1900. Such a return to short themes or even intervallic cells can be founded on an increasing weakening of the cadential unifying strength of the tonality, for which the composer of course had to seek a form-building substitute. In the opus 6 songs this is provided by means of uniform progressions of movement. In the composition “Alles” (“Everything”) on a poem by Richard Dehmel, an interval structure with minor seconds is responsible for the formal construction; two themes developing from this are counterpointed by a movement of sixteenth notes which runs through almost the whole song. In opus 6/4, on a poem by the naturalistic poet Hermann Conradi (“Verlassen”), Schönberg attempts to conjure up a formal cohesion mainly by using bass ostinati. With the admirable motival concentration and contrapunctal richness of its structure, Anton Webern’s remark about Schönberg’s D minor string quartet, written at the same time, seems to apply to this song also: “everything is thematic.” In the song “Ghasel” also, the idea of contrapunctal density replaces a unifying of the rhythmical progress; it seems to be shot through with elaborate canon-like forms. In the seventh song “Lockung” (“Temptation”) Schönberg’s step towards, as he put it, a “floating tonality,” becomes clear. In the “Theory of Harmony,” a slackening of the bond with the root of the chord as an indicator of such “floating tonality” is described. This slackening “does not stand clearly alone” but “allows other rivaling roots to exist at the same time,” and in this connection Schönberg himself points to the song “Lockung,” which “expresses E-flat major, without an E-flat triad being heard once in the whole piece.” The final “Wanderer,” at the same time the longest in the cycle, relies in the form of its dialogue, which is close to the poem, less on the principles of motival knotting as on contrasting forms made with sound colour, thereby clearly echoing the way the opus 2 songs were constructed.

Matthias Schmidt | © Arnold Schönberg Center