Five Pieces for Orchestra, op. 16 (1909), revised 1922, 1949
3 fl,2 pic, 3 ob, ca, 4 cl, b cl, 3 bsn, c bsn; 6 hns, 3 tpt, 4 bone, tuba; timp, xyl, cym, tgle, tamtam, GC; celeste, harp, strings
first performed Sept. 3, 1912 at Queen's Hall in London
(everybody has those)
II. The Past (everybody has that, too)
III. Chord-Colors (technical)
IV. Peripeteia (general enough, I think)
V. The Obbligato (perhaps better the "fully developed" or the "endless") Recitative
Schoenberg's opus 16 is one of the most important compositions of its time in that it represents a significant innovation in orchestral style. The instruments are used for individual and collective timbre rather than for effect. This piece represents Schoenberg's earliest composition from his "atonal" style, in which timbre ("emancipation of tone color") is released from its subordination to pitch. The innovative use of Klangfarbenmelodie is analogous to a kind of musical emancipation of psychic innerness, which belongs to Expressionist syntax. The function of chromatic motion indicates forward motion towards events of intense chromatic density, which act as points of arrival.
Schoenberg's atonal works avoided employing material used in traditional tonal works, which merely balanced lengths of sections. Schoenberg's innovative solution was to briefly state materials and then immediately develop them, avoiding recapitulations or "celebrations" of the tonic key or repetition of themes, resulting in drastically shortened forms.
The Five Pieces for Orchestra were originally published without titles, with Schoenberg supplying only tempo markings. Schoenberg added the titles in later editions, confiding that he added titles only when he felt old enough to withstand being called a romantic. Originally conceived with titles describing precise "spiritual states" or "inner" sense perceptions, the titles were removed to avoid programmatic interpretations; however, Schoenberg's own statements from his diary show he associated music with extra-musical ideas:
"Letter from Peters, making an appointment with me for Wednesday in Berlin, in order to get to know me personally. Wants titles for the orchestral pieces-for publisher's reasons. Maybe I'll give in, for I've found titles that are at least possible. On the whole, unsympathetic to the idea. For the wonderful thing about music is that one can say everything in it, so that he who knows understands everything; and yet one hasn't given away one's secrets-the things one doesn't admit even to oneself. But titles give you away! (emphasis added). If words were necessary they would be there in the first place. But art says more than words. Now, the titles which I may provide give nothing away, because some of them are very obscure and others highly technical... However, there should be a note that these titles were added for technical reasons of publication and not to give a "poetic" content."
The titles suggest that "Premonitions" reflects Schoenberg's fear of the unknown; i.e., beginning of his atonal stylistic period. While the first movement hints of things to come, "Yesteryears"-incorporates a most traditional form from "the past". The title of the third movement, "Farben" was additionally altered in the 1925 edition to "Summer Morning by a Lake (Colors)" which has been explained by Wellesz in his l921 biography of Schoenberg as resembling "an effect comparable with the quivering reflection of the sun of a sheet of water". In "Peripetia", a word that comes from Greek drama, meaning a sudden reverse of circumstances, themes from mvt. I reappear, which is a literal sudden reversal to previously stated material and ideas (Schoenberg's premonitions come true). The final movement represents Schoenberg's first athematic composition.
Five Pieces for Orchestra was later arranged in 1925 by Schoenberg for chamber ensemble and further revised in a 1949 edition in order to pro- mote regular performance due to its previously unusual orchestration which required a very large orchestra.
1. Premonitions 9 June 1909
-timbre: fluttertongue in low brass; w/ trills, string pizz., spic., muted brass; unusual effects
-avoidance of octave creates dense harmonic textures
-4ths, 5ths, tritone, augmented triads
-avoids triads in thirds
-motivic; 3-note ostinato
-melodic cells (sixteenth-note figure)
-irregular create isorhythmic effect
-Return; use of cells
-expo. mm. 1-25; first phrase mm. 1-6; next phrase, rhythmic augmentation of cello motive (mm. 1-3)-like an inversion
-sequence of 3-note motif
-development: material "weaved" into contrapuntal "web" by juxtapositions, creating new relationships; ostinato in cellos from exposition material; superimpositions of ostinato in augmentation, followed by 4-part canon at the quarter-note
2. Yesteryears 15 June 1909
-string harmonics, ponticello; celeste;, muted brass
-resultant from counterpoint
-meters change in each new section
-hemiola; resultant rhythms from contrapuntal amalgamations
-theme developed as rhythmic variants
-use of canon
-amalgamation of material results in thick textures, complex rhythms
3. Farben 1 July 1909, Steinakirchen
"The succession of chords must take place so inadvertently that the entrance of the various instruments may in no way be heard, and the change be detected only by the shift in instrumental color."
-alternations of timbre (Klangfarben)
-string harmonics, ponticello, tremolos
-static harmony gradually shifts
-disjunct motivic fragments
-pulse-sometimes feels like non-pulse
-dependence on Klangfarben; changes of orchestral color replace changes of pitch: substitutions of instrumental groups sound the same chords
-as harmony gradually changes, short melodic motifs are introduced
4. Peripeteia 18 July, 1909
-intense thick sonorities ("rude")
-muted brass, string pizz.
-extremely disjunct intervals
-variation by octave displacement
-varied rhythmic contour-complex
-distorted (expressionist mindset)
-additive; returns to mvt. 1 material, use of materials
at original pitch levels (last 8 mm.)
-melody alternates with muted horns
-expo. mm. 1-13; moves forward immediately into development; dense juxtapositions of motives, material
-illusion of presenting in an instant the previous generations' experience that was regarded as an unfolding process (composition-concept)
5. Obligato Recitative 11 Aug 1909, Steinakirchen
-string ponticello, tremolo, pizz.
-resultant from counterpoint
-shifting melodic textures
-pulse-simple triple meter; waltz (Viennese nostalgia)
-complex variations; syncopation
-principal melody never repeats previous material-runs throughout entire movement w/ constantly changing instrumentation (aspect of variation)
-brevity, intensity of expression
-wide emotional gamut (expressionist)
Work as a Whole
-constant repeated use of all 12 tones on a revolving
-12 tones treated equally-atonal or pantonal
-unity achieved through use of motivic development-play of intervallic combinations that provide gestalt
-soloistic use of timbre
-brevity-intensity of expression
-ostinato serves as points of tension which are released by sudden bursts of energy or relatively stable or calm events.
-expressionist undertones expressed in titles; idea of spiritual states
-overall use of Klangfarben, providing contrast throughout work
-consistent creative orchestration, particularly in strings, brass
-abrupt contrasts-use of Klangfarben-wide variety of
-exact orchestration markings and detail
-use of extreme ranges
-each part of ensemble individualized by its specific timbre-most of the time superimpositions of timbre avoids juxtaposition of two instruments from the same family-aspect of variation
-each phrase given new timbre-character by timbre, rather than on harmonic structure
-rude brass sonorities/delicate celeste, harp
-traditional points of reference-thematic motivic development
-generally uses small groups of solo instruments-chamber music sound in which combinations shift
-lengths of individual movements; sections
Bailey, Walter B. Programmatic Elements in the Works of Schoenberg. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1984. 131-32
Burkhart, Charles. "Schoenberg's Farben: An Analysis of Op. 16, No. 3," Perspectives of New Music 12: 141-72.
Lansky, Paul. "Pitch Class Consciousness," Perspectives of New Music 13/1: 30-56.
Newman, Ernest. "Schonberg's Five Orchestral Pieces, 1914," Testament of Music, ed. by Herbert Van Thal. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963. 111-13
Payne, Anthony. "The Five Orchestral Pieces." Chap. in Schoenberg. London: Oxford University Press, 1968 (Oxford Studies of Composers, 5).
Rahn, John. "Analysis Two: Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra: Farben , op. 16, no. 3." Chap. in Basic Atonal Theory. New York: Longman, 1980.
Rosen, Charles. Arnold Schoenberg. New York: The Viking Press, 1975. 47-9, 86
Stuckenschmidt, H. H. Arnold Schoenberg. Translated by Edith Temple Roberts and Humphrey Searle. New York: Grove Press, Inc. 52-3, 72
Thompson, Kenneth. A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Composers (1911-1971). London: Faber & Faber, 1973. 471
Wellesz, Egon. Arnold Schonberg . Translated by W. H. Kerridge. New York: Da Capo Press, 1969. 121-24.