In contrast to the striding Brahmsian rhetoric of the Op. 1 songs or the delicate world evoked by Dehmel’s poetry in Op. 2, the six songs of Op. 3 are united neither by mood nor by the poet set therein. Even more confusingly, one of them was written a few years before the others (contemporaneously with the Gurre-Lieder), and one other was significantly revised from an earlier version.

Between the writing of the earlier songs in Op. 3 and the latter ones came the premiere of Schoenberg’s now famous Verklarte Nacht, Op. 4, which was met with hostility and incomprehension from critics. This set, bookended by two songs on the topic of independence in the face of adversity and criticism, could be seen as a declaration of Schoenberg’s devotion to his chosen path.

1. Wie Georg von Frundsberg von sich selber sang (How Georg von Frundsberg Sang to Himself)

Form ABA’

A:
Mein Fleiß und Müh hab ich nie gespart
Und allzeit gewahrt dem Herren mein;
Zum Besten sein schickt ich mich drein,
Gnad, Gunst verhofft, dochs Gemüt zu Hof
Verkehrt sich oft.

B:
Wer sich zukauft, der lauft weit vor
Und kömmt empor, doch wer lang Zeit
Nach Ehren streit, muß dannen weit,
Das sehr mich kränkt, mein treuer Dienst
Bleibt unerkennt.

A’:
Kein Dank noch Lohn davon ich bring,
Man wiegt g’ring und hat mein gar
Vergessen zwar, groß Not, Gefahr
Ich bestanden han, was Freude soll
Ich haben dran?

The first song, to a text from the German folk poetry anthology Des knaben Wunderhorn, opens with the striding octaves and chords that characterized the Opus 1 songs, but the chromatic relationships that saturate this song cloud the harmony almost immediately. All 12 notes of the chromatic scale appear in the short introduction, which introduces the two most important motifs in the song, a striding stepwise line and a triplet turn figure. These, as well as a syncopation that also appears in the intro, will be developed in the course of this short song and gain new features.

The defiant voice enters, confirming the key of D-flat major with its first phrase, swaggering with a new rhythmic freedom that runs up against both the steady quarter notes of the piano and the bar lines themselves. A second, more expansive phrase, beginning with an appoggiatura on E-flat, is accompanied by florid figuration and increasing emphasis on syncopations. When the turn figure returns, it is immediately echoed by the singer (for the only time in the song) at the words “doch’s Gemut zu Hof” (but to the court), and here the first A section trails off as the syncopated chords dominate the treble and the turn figure the bass.

The middle section is initially motivated by the combination of these elements, but the turn figure gains a new continuation in an upwards leap which brings on a stormier section of indeterminate orientation. The singer briefly aligns with the left hand of the piano, but in a sudden turn to E major, at the words “Nach Ehren streit, muß dannen weit,” (Who fights for honor must be far away). At the end of the middle section a chromatic version of the stepwise motif and a matching inversion in the bass are paired with the syncopations, a crescendo leading to the repeat of the initial strain.

The E-flat appoggiatura once again colors the D-flat major chord at the beginning, and the accompaniment is broad and richly filled out, but the return of the turn motif is answered with new music drawing on the earlier motifs and especially on the crescendo at the end of the middle section. The climax comes on a cadence echoing the chromatic motion heard throughout the piece, and a brief coda merges the appoggiatura and the turn motifs, coming to a close in solid D-flat major.

2. Die Aufgeregten (The Agitated)

Form ABA’

A:
Welche tiefbewegten Lebensläufchen,
Welche Leidenschaft, welch wilder Schmerz!
B:
Eine Bachwelle und ein Sandhäufchen
Brachen gegenseitig sich das Herz!

Eine Biene summte hohl und stieß
Ihren Stachel in ein Rosendüftchen,
Und ein holder Schmetterling zerriß
Den azurnen Frack im Sturm der Mailüftchen!

Und die Blume schloß ihr Heiligtümchen
Sterbend über dem verspritzten Tau!
A’:
Welche tiefbewegten Lebensläufchen,
Welche Leidenschaft, welch wilder Schmerz!

Schoenberg sets the lines bookending this poem by Gottfried Keller with an anguished refrain, bursting outward, accompanied only by strident chords, and ending on the dominant of an implied G minor. The restrained central section then begins immediately in the region of F minor, though the tonality is extremely fluid and slips from key to key, even reaching a moment of serenity in G-flat major at “Mailüftchen” (May breezes), but this soon disintegrates and the anguish of the refrain returns, exactly as before, but with an exceedingly short coda that reaches an uneasy F major before promptly evaporating.

3. Warnung (Warning)

Form: ABA’

A:
Mein Hund, du, hat dich bloß beknurrt,
Und ich hab’ ihn vergiftet;
Und ich hasse jeden Menschen,
Der Zwietracht stiftet.

B:
Zwei blutrote Nelken
Schick’ ich dir, mein Blut du,
An der einen eine Knospe;
Den dreien sei gut, du,
Bis ich komme.

Ich komme heute Nacht noch;
Sei allein, sei allein du!
A’:
Gestern, als ich ankam,
Starrtest du mit Jemand
Ins Abendrot hinein — Du:
Denk an meinen Hund!

Translation

Schoenberg responded to the murderous jealousy of the character in Verklärte Nacht poet Richard Dehmel’s Warnung with a skitterish, nervously jumping setting. The dark key of B-flat minor and the main three note motif are established at the very opening. A rising flurry of notes explodes into a dominant ninth chord on G, and pauses, but the music continues in G-flat major, where the main motif is taken up again and reinterpreted as tender.

At first, this new face seems to dominate, but the lover’s rage gradually rises to the surface, and the music comes to an agitated crescendo. Once more replaced by the tender entreaties in G-flat, the music quickly morphs as the lover gets held up on the thought that his beloved should be alone, and the motifs of the initial section return in the piano in their original form, though the singer’s material is different. A flurry of notes finishes on a half-diminished seventh chord on A-flat, and the lover delivers his warning to a chromatically moving series of altered chords, quiet and eerie. A final outburst in the piano betrays the anger the singer does not express, and the song comes to a quiet close with the opening motifs.

4. Hochzeitslied (Wedding Song)

Form: AA’
A:
So voll und reich wand noch das Leben
Nimmer euch seinen Kranz,
Und auf den Trauben spielt in kühnem
Schimmer der Hoffnung Glanz.
Im Laube welch ein Glüh’n des farbigen Saftes,
Und wie die Töne klar zusammenfließen!
Ergreift das Alles, schafft es,
Erlebt es im Genießen!
A’:
Der Jugend Allmacht kocht in eures Blutes
Feuriger Kraft,
Nach Taten drängt, nach Schöpfung freien Mutes
Der frische Saft.
So spannt denn eurer Welt tollkühne Bogen,
Die schlanken Säulen hebt zum Himmelzelt;
Füllt mit des Herzens Flammenwogen
Die neue Welt!

The third song sets a text by Jens Peter Jacobsen, the poet of the Gurrelieder, and dates from the time of that work’s composition. Its unclouded optimism and more openly diatonic language contrast with the rest of the set, but the rhythmic freedom of the vocal line clearly marks it, like the other songs, as being from a later time than the earlier opuses. Its noble character gives a different perspective on love than the anguished subjects of the preceding two poems.

The two sections are set very similarly, though the contrasting modulation in the first is to the key of B-flat major and that in the second to the key of B major. Both end with a cadence using a Neapolitan sixth chord moving to the dominant. The second stanza is slightly lengthened by a brief extension after the contrasting modulation and by a short coda, which leads to a final cadence using the Neapolitan sixth as before.

5. Geübtes Herz (A Practiced Heart)

Form: ABA’

A:
Weise nicht von dir mein schlichtes Herz,
Weil es schon so viel geliebet!
Einer Geige gleicht es, die geübet
Lang ein Meister unter Lust und Schmerz.

B:
Und je länger er darauf gespielt,
Stieg ihr Wert zum höchsten Preise;
Denn sie tönt mit sichrer Kraft die Weise,
Die ein Kund’ger ihren Saiten stiehlt.

A’:
Also spielte manche Meisterin
In mein Herz die rechte Seele.
Nun ist’s wert, daß man es dir empfehle,
Lasse nicht den köstlichen Gewinn!

On the other side of the divide from the barely checked wrath of Dehmel’s lover in Warnung, the subject of Keller’s Geübtes Herz speaks honestly and with tender feeling. Schoenberg responded with the most beautiful and subtle song in the Opus 3 set. His setting begins by presenting the main musical motifs of the song, a gently rocking melodic line and a harmonic ambivalence between the keys of B major and its relative minor of G-sharp. The singer takes these elements up and expands them outwards with a wide-ranging melody. Note especially the return to the tonic chord on the word “Herz” (heart). The singer takes up the main motif for the next line of the stanza, accompanied by flowing arpeggios in the piano line.

With barely any sense of a break, the middle stanza begins at a slightly faster tempo and enters new harmonic territory, getting carried away in ecstatic reverie, until the headlong rush is brought to a halt on a turn away from the area of B major to the area of G-sharp minor, and the forward motion comes to a standstill. The third stanza is set to a different melodic line and accompanied differently in the piano, though the earlier rocking motif returns in a modified version sequencing its first few notes, which takes over both hands of the piano part. Here, the word “Herz,” corresponding to the first stanza, affirms the key of G-sharp minor. The rhetoric of the first stanza returns gradually, until a pause on the word “emphele” (recommend) begins a slowly descending series of chords shifting towards B minor. The affirmation of B major is followed by a recurrence of the main motif, gently wafting to rest.

6. Freihold (Freehold)

Form: AA’A”

A:
Soviel Raben nachts auffliegen,
Soviel Feinde sind auf mich,
Soviel Herz an Herz sich schmiegen,
Soviel Herzen fliehen mich.
Ich steh allein, ja ganz allein,
Wie am Weg der dunkle Stein.

A’:
Doch der Stein, es gilt als Marke,
Wachend über Menschentun:
Daß dem Schwachen auch der Starke
Laß das Seine sicher ruh’n.
Wind und Regen trotzt der Stein,
Unzerstörbar und allein.

A”:
Wohl, so will auch ich vollenden,
Unrecht dämmen, bis es bricht.
Mag sein Gift der Neid verschwenden,
Mich erlegt er nicht;
Blitze, schreibet auf den Stein:
“Wer will frei sein, geh’ allein!”

The final song of Op. 3 sets a poem by Hermann Lingg comparing the speaker’s constancy and fortitude to a stone, unmarred by enemies or nature. Schoenberg’s setting begins in a cloudy G minor with a limping marching gait of 3/4, solid and dragging. This opening gives way to a refrain with large chords in the accompaniment and “heroic” fifths in the voice as the music asserts itself confidently in B-flat major. The second stanza proceeds in much the same way, although both accompaniment and vocal melody are varied, but the third stanza begins swaggering in a bright B-flat major. The final refrain begins, like the others, in that same key, but the sudden appearance of an F-sharp major chord on the last word leads to an abrupt close in the key of G major, bringing Opus 3 to a dazzling close.


Buy at ArkivMusic:

Schoenberg: Complete Songs

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2 thoughts on “Opus 3: Sechs Lieder (1899-1903)

  1. An immediate favourite set: I enjoyed the assertive confidence, beginning with the first song from Des Knaben Wunderhorn and concluding with the final rock-solid affirmation. I hear premonitions of the piano pieces and of the heavy perfumes of the Hanging Gardens. Yes, I hear the declaration, now that you point it out. These are songs to turn to in opposition to tyranny and adversity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the support.

      After this, of course, I’ll be leaving songs aside for a little bit, and instead analyze two of Schoenberg’s most popular pieces. It might take more than a single week for each, as I want to make sure I treat each work thoroughly, but I’ll continue to publish at least something weekly.

      Liked by 1 person

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