Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet was Balanchine's first abstract made for the stage at the New York State Theater (City Ballet had previously performed on the smaller stage of City Center of Music and Drama, its home since its founding until its move to the New York State Theater.)
Balanchine is quoted as saying that chamber music was unsuited to full ballets, chamber pieces being "too long, with too many repeats, and [are] meant for small rooms." Schoenberg expressed similar feelings about the Brahms Piano Quartet; that it "is always very badly played, as the better the pianist, the louder he plays, and one hears nothing of the strings." He orchestrated it at the instigation of conductor Otto Klemperer who conducted its premiere performance in 1937, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
^ abThe Balanchine Foundation website states that the premiere was held April 21 following a preview at the annual City Ballet gala benefit April 19 and that Kent Stowell partnered Patricia McBride in the second movement Intermezzo, whereas the NYCB website gives Conrad Ludlow as Ms. McBride's partner and April 12 as the date of the premiere.