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DURATION: ca. 8 Min.

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

Arnold Schönberg's development as a composer must have begun while he was taking violin lessons: "As a child of less than nine years, I had started composing little, and later large pieces for two violins, in imitation of such music as I used to play with my teacher or with a cousin of mine. When I could play violin duets of Viotti, Pleyel and others, I imitated their style. So I learned to compose to the extent that I learned to play the violin." With the money that Schönberg had earned teaching German, he bought the scores to works by Beethoven: "[...] they were the Third and the Fourth Symphonies, two of the Razumovsky quartets and the Great Fugue, Opus 133. From then on, I had a desire to write string quartets." A decisive encounter was with the violinist and later doctor Oskar Adler, Schönberg's schoolboy friend from their time at Realschule, who not only provided him with a first foundation in theory of harmony and ear training but with whom he also played the classic string quartet literature up to the 19th century in a circle of friends. From then on, Schönberg tested his compositional skills in numerous quartet projects, completing the String Quartet in D Major in 1897, his first surviving composition on a larger scale.
Schönberg's Scherzo in F Major was originally the second movement of his String Quartet in D Major. But the common feature of this piece and the later Intermezzo is limited to the entry of the theme in the viola solo. The Scherzo theme is built first on two- and then three-tone motifs and is taken up by the violin in a continuation that is somewhat more extensive motivically. In the long development, Schönberg again displays his early mastery of musical craftsmanship, no less in evidence here than in the opening movement of the D-Major Quartet. In the trio, the sound becomes somewhat lighter, with Schönberg making skilled reference in several rhythmic and motivic figurations to the thematic continuation of the first section, rather neglected until now. Given this high degree of compositional density, it may seem surprising that Zemlinsky prompted his pupil to replace this movement with the incomparably lighter Intermezzo. Probably he believed that, following the opening movement of the Quartet, another similarly complex movement might disturb the balance of the composition.

Eike Feß
© Arnold Schönberg Center