Chamber Symphony No. 1 (Schoenberg)

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The Chamber Symphony No. 1 in E major, Op. 9 (also known by its title in German Kammersymphonie, für 15 soloinstrumente, or simply as Kammersymphonie) is a composition by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg.

It was finished in 1906 and premiered on February 8, 1907 in Vienna by the Rosé Quartet together with a wind ensemble from the Vienna Philharmonic, under the composer's baton. Schoenberg again conducted the piece, as part of the famed Skandalkonzert in 1913, in which the heterodox tonalities of Schoenberg's Symphony and, more so, of his student Alban Berg's works incited the attendees to riot in protest and prematurely end the concert.[citation needed]

The first British performance was on 6 May 1921[1] (or possibly on 16 April)[2] at the Aeolian Hall, London, conducted by Edward Clark, Schoenberg's champion and former student. The players included Charles Woodhouse (violin), John Barbirolli (cello), Léon Goossens (oboe), Aubrey Brain and Alfred Brain (horns).[3]

The piece is a well-known example of the use of quartal harmony.


The Chamber Symphony is a single-movement work which lasts approximately 20 minutes. Even though it is listed as one movement, the form can be considered as subdivided into as many as five continuous movements. Schoenberg himself outlined the following form using the rehearsal numbers as reference points:

Schoenberg makes use of a "motto" theme constructed of fourths.[6] The "motto" theme helps delineate the structural articulation points in the piece.

 \relative c { \clef bass \numericTimeSignature \time 4/4 \key e \major \set Staff.instrumentName = #"Hrn" \partial 4*1 d\ff \bar "||" g c \clef treble f bes8. ees16 | ees4 }

The "motto" theme first appears in measure 5 and is framed by two cadence which introduce the two main key areas. Cadence 1 in F major:

 { \new PianoStaff << \new Staff \relative c'' { \clef treble \key e \major \time 2/2 \tempo "Langsam" << { aes1\fp~ | aes4 aes'2.~ | aes4 aes,2.~ | aes4 <a'! a,!>2\fermata } \\ { r2 bes,,\f | ees1( | e! | f2.) } >> \bar "||" } \new Staff \relative c { \clef bass \key e \major \time 2/2 << { r2 c2\f | s2 bes'~ | bes1~ | bes4 a2 } \\ { s1 | f1 | s1 | s2. } \\ { \stemDown s1 | r2 <c g>_( | <e c ges>1 | <f c f,>2.) } >> \bar "||" } >> }

Cadence 2 in E major:

 { \new PianoStaff << \new Staff \relative c''' { \clef treble \key e \major \numericTimeSignature \time 4/4 \tempo "Sehr rasch" \partial 4*1 << { dis!8.( cis!16 | c2~ c8) b( dis!8. cis!16) | c4.( b8 a gis fis dis! | <e b>4) } \\ { <b' g dis!>4\ff | <a fis dis!>2\fp\> <gis! e>4\! <b b,> | <a fis dis!>4\fp\> <gis! e>\! r2 | s4 } >> \bar "" } \new Staff \relative c { \clef bass \key e \major \numericTimeSignature \time 4/4 cis!8[ r16 f] | a8 r \times2/3 { a,->\ff d,-> d'-> } gis!2-> | \times 2/3 { a8-> d,-> d'-> } gis2-> \times 2/3 { a,,8-> d,-> d'-> } | gis!4 \bar "" } >> }

Schoenberg's concept of developing variation can be observed in the relationship of the Scherzo theme to the rising chromatic line in the 2nd Violin part in Cadence 1,

 \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 3/4 \key ees \major \tempo "sehr rasch" \set Staff.instrumentName = #"Ob" aes2.->\fff | a-> \bar "||" \numericTimeSignature \time 2/2 bes-> aes8 g | bes4 aes8 g bes4 }

as well as in the relationship of the slow movement theme to Cadence 2.[7]

 \relative c''' { \clef treble \numericTimeSignature \time 4/4 \key g \major \tempo "sehr langsam" \set Staff.instrumentName = #"1Vln" \partial 4*1 g!8.( fis16 | f4 a8. f16 ees4) }


Schoenberg claimed in later years that the work "was a first attempt to create a chamber orchestra."[4]


It is scored for the following instruments:1 Flute/Piccolo, 1 Oboe, 1 English Horn, 1 E-flat Clarinet, 1 Clarinet, 1 Bass Clarinet, 1 Bassoon, 1 Contrabassoon, 2 Horns, and Strings ( 1 1st Violin, 1 2nd Violin, 1 Viola, 1 Cello, 1 Double Bass)

Schoenberg respected the classical arrangement of the musicians on stage, instructing that all strings should be seated in the front row, the winds in the second row, and all the bass sounds should be grouped together. Although this composition is commonly called a chamber work, its performance requires a conductor.[8][5] Some critics have claimed that an ensemble formed of ten winds and only five strings is inherently unbalanced; however, some of the voices are doubled so that no instrument is playing one-on-one against another. Nevertheless the piece requires highly trained musicians.[4]


  • The composer himself arranged this piece for piano four hands in 1906.[9] He also revised the composition for large orchestra in 1923 and again in 1935, which was catalogued as Op. 9b.[10] The latter was premiered in Los Angeles by Schoenberg himself.
  • Fellow composer Alban Berg also arranged the composition for two pianos in 1914.[11]
  • Between 1922 and 1923, Schoenberg's disciple Anton Webern made two different arrangements for this composition: the first arrangement was scored for violin, flute, clarinet, cello, and piano;[12] the second was scored for piano, two violins, viola, and cello.[13] The first arrangement was intended to be played alongside Pierrot Lunaire, which is similarly scored.[14]

Notable recordings[edit]

Chamber Symphony No. 1 is one of the most recorded of Schoenberg's works and has received attention from conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Riccardo Chailly, Claudio Abbado, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Zubin Mehta, and chamber groups such as the Hyperion Ensemble, Hagen Quartett and Orpheus. A 1998 performance conducted by Robert Craft on the Koch International Classics label and reissued in 2007 on Naxos received a positive critical response.[15][16]


  1. ^ Jennifer Ruth Doctor, 2007, The BBC and Ultra-Modern Music, 1922-1936: Shaping a Nation's Tastes, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521035864, Note 44, p.425.
  2. ^ British Library, Notable Acquisitions 1985-1994
  3. ^ Jennifer Doctor, The BBC and Ultra-Modern Music, 1922-1936: Shaping a Nation's Tastes
  4. ^ a b c Robert Craft (2007). "Liner notes from the CD 8.557523 from the Naxos catalogue". Naxos. Hong Kong: Naxos Digital Services Ltd. Retrieved July 25, 2011. [...] a first attempt to create a chamber orchestra. 
  5. ^ a b Arnold Schönberg - Kammersymphonie (PDF) (in German). Vienna: Universal Edition. pp. 4–6. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  6. ^ Walter Frisch, The Early Works of Arnold Schoenberg, 1893–1908 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993): p. 223.
  7. ^ Walter Frisch, The Early Works of Arnold Schoenberg, 1893–1908 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993): p. 225-6.
  8. ^ Arnold Schoenberg. Kammersymphonie für 15 soloinstrumente (PDF) (in German, English, French, and Italian). Vienna: Universal Edition. p. 2. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Kammersymphonie [Chamber symphony] no. 1, op. 9 (1906) (arr. Arnold Schoenberg (piano 4 hands))". Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  10. ^ "Kammersymphonie [Chamber symphony] no. 1, op. 9b (1906) (arr. Arnold Schoenberg (1922) (orchestra); rev. Arnold Schoenberg (1935))". Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Kammersymphonie [Chamber symphony] no. 1, op. 9 (1906) (arr. Alban Berg (1914) (2 pianos))". Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  12. ^ "Kammersymphonie [Chamber symphony] no. 1, op. 9 (1906) (arr. Anton Webern (1923) (flute, clarinet, violin, violoncello, piano))". Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  13. ^ "Kammersymphonie [Chamber symphony] no. 1, op. 9 (1906) (arr. Anton Webern (1923) (piano, 2 violins, viola, violoncello))". Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  14. ^ Richard Whitehouse (2011). "Liner notes from the CD 8.572442 from the Naxos catalogue". Naxos. Hong Kong: Naxos Digital Services Ltd. Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Reviews for the CD 8.557523 from the Naxos catalogue". MusicWeb International, Gramophone, Limelight, David's Review Corner. Hong Kong: Naxos Digital Services Ltd. March–August 2007. Retrieved July 23, 2011. 
  16. ^ Blair Sanderson (2007). "Review for the CD 8.557523 from the Naxos catalogue.". Santa Clara: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 23, 2011. 7 stars out of 10 

External links[edit]