Violin Concerto (Schoenberg)

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The Violin Concerto (Op. 36) by Arnold Schoenberg dates from Schoenberg's time in the United States, where he had moved in 1933 to escape the Nazis. The piece was written in 1936, the same year as the String Quartet No. 4. At the time of its completion, Schoenberg was living in Brentwood, California, and had just accepted a teaching position at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Style and form[edit]

Schoenberg had made a return to tonal writing upon his move to America and, though the Violin Concerto uses twelve-tone technique, its neoclassical form demanded a mimesis of tonal melody, and hence a renunciation of the motivic technique used in his earlier work in favour of a thematic structure (Rosen 1996, 101). The basic row of the concerto is:

A–B–E–B–E–F–C–C–G–A–D–F

While the row is not necessary for understanding any good twelve-note piece, an awareness of it in this concerto is useful because the row is very much in the foreground, and is quite obviously abstracted from Schoenberg's concrete melodic-thematic thinking (Keller 1961, 157).

It is in a three movement fast-slow-fast form, traditional for concertos:

  1. Poco allegro—Vivace. Opinion is divided about the form of the first movement. According to one authority, it is in sonata form (Keller 1961, 157), while another asserts it is a large ternary form, concluding with a cadenza and a coda (Mead 1985, 140). It employs a wide variety of row forms, often in families associated by hexachordal content (Mead 1985, 141).
  2. Andante grazioso
  3. Finale: Allegro. The last movement is a rondo with an unusually dynamic development. It only gradually becomes clear that the underlying character is that of a march. There is a second cadenza just before the end, which rounds off the whole work in cyclic fashion (Keller 1961, 157).

The concerto was premiered on December 6, 1940, by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski with Louis Krasner as the soloist (Krasner had previously given the premiere of the Violin Concerto by Schoenberg's pupil, Alban Berg). Krasner later made a recording of the concerto, with Dimitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

The concerto was first published in 1939 by G. Schirmer.

Instrumentation[edit]

The orchestra calls for 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes, piccolo clarinet, clarinet, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, glockenspiel, xylophone, bass drum, cymbals, tamtam, snare drum, triangle, tambourine, and strings.

Sources[edit]

  • Keller, Hans. 1961. "No Bridge to Nowhere: An Introduction to Stravinsky's Movements and Schoenberg's Violin Concerto". The Musical Times 102, no. 1417 (March): 156–58.
  • Mead, Andrew. 1985. "Large-Scale Strategy in Arnold Schoenberg's Twelve-Tone Music". Perspectives of New Music 24, no. 1 (Fall-Winter): 120–57.
  • Rosen, Charles. 1996. Arnold Schoenberg, with a new preface. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-72643-6.

Further reading[edit]

  • Earle, Ben. 2003. "Taste, Power, and Trying to Understand Op. 36: British Attempts to Popularize Schoenberg". Music & Letters 84, no. 4 (November): 608–43.
  • Hall, Anne C. 1975. "A Comparison of Manuscript and Printed Scores of Schoenberg's Violin Concerto". Perspectives of New Music 14, no. 1 (Autumn-Winter, 1975): 182–96.
  • Klemm, Eberhardt. 1966. "Zur Theorie einiger Reihen-Kombinationen". Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 23, no. 3:170–212.

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