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Compositional Process in Arnold Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra Op.

Michael Crawford

Dr. Laura Emmery
19 April 2015

Robert U. ranging from a lyrical line with unobtrusive sustained chords to heavily accented strikes from the percussion section. as revealed by these sketches. . 154-155.. I will describe his preliminary sketches by referencing the documents held at the Arnold Schönberg Center. 50. theme. I will then focus on the sketches for the theme and first variation while providing more holistic observations. is a large-scale work comprised of eleven distinct sections: an introduction. While the introduction and finale are free developments of motivic material. Vol. After providing background information on Schoenberg and his work. While the completed piece has been analyzed by numerous scholars. April 1964.Crawford 1 Arnold Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra. pp.” The Musical Quarterly. The piece demonstrates Schoenberg’s ability to develop a single theme into countless variants while maintaining connections between highly imaginative sections. It is the compositional process. nine variations. and a finale. 2 Ibid. displays myriad textures and timbres. “Schoenberg’s Variation Seminar.2 Schoenberg’s preliminary work has not received such attention. which. My interest in studying this work emerges from its significance among Schoenberg’s compositions as well as serial music as a whole. No.1 Much of the contrast between the variations emerge from a colorful use of the orchestra. the variations adhere to the melodic tone row introduced in the theme. 1 Nelson. 2. over the course of the piece. These sketches consist of a careful planning of the tone row in all of its variants and the tools that Schoenberg constructed for himself to aid in composing. that I aim to understand in my studies. completed in 1928.

which received a premiere at the Wiener Tonkünstlerverein. who acted as his musical mentors.11 The work begins in D minor but drifts into vagrant harmonies. O. an 1899 string sextet based on the poetry of Richard Dehmel. 44-32 Ibid. Schoenberg continued to learn through his friendships with David Josef Bach and Oskar Adler." Grove Music Online.8 While this work. developed Schoenberg’s abilities by encouraging him to express a text that had affected him strongly. Arnold (Franz Walter). reflects Brahms’s writing.Crawford 2 Schoenberg was born in 1874 to non-musical parents. and he began composing shortly after. Kammersymphonie No.15 Written two years later.5 Compositions during his teenage years are tonal and fairly conventional. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. set in Classical four-movement form. Web. who had studied composition at Vienna Conservatory.6 Schoenberg took a major leap forward when he began receiving instruction from Alexander von Zemlinsky. 26 April 2015. showing Brahmsian influence and reflecting his lack of musical background.17 3 Neighbour. 1 was another step in this direction.12 Definition of formal structure in tonal terms was thus not as significant as it had been in his earlier works.13 Schoenberg instead relied on his skill for developing material in a way that reinforced the structure of the piece in order to give it a sense of direction. "Schonerg [Schönberg]. W.16 Schoenberg used perfect fourths and the whole tone scale as the foundations for both melodic and harmonic structure.4 Though he received no formal instruction.9 Verklärte Nacht.10 The 1904 String Quartet in D minor furthered Schoenberg’s efforts to find his own voice. where tonality becomes ambiguous. Schoenberg composed his String Quartet in D Major.3 His musical education began with violin lessons at the age of eight.14 This ability would prove to be a crucial tool when Schoenberg later abandoned tonality.7 Assisted by Zemlinsky’s critiques. . Schoenberg succeeded in developing a characteristic style.

and composed themes using rows set to rhythmic patterns that he would skillfully vary as the piece progressed. Serenade Op.24 Between 1920 and 1936. Schoenberg wrote only one or two dominant lines and overlaid his music with a number of other motifs. 25. the composer’s works displayed a great deal of individuality.31 . With this composition.Crawford 3 This lack of distinction between melodic and harmonic elements corresponds to the move toward atonality.19 This piece marked the beginning of his free atonal period.29 Rather than using highly contrapuntal textures. eventually arriving at the emancipation of dissonance in The Book of Hanging Gardens. an oratorio started in 1916.23 These marked the beginning of a new and highly prolific period in Schoenberg’s career. demonstrates Schoenberg’s transition from free atonality to serialism.18 Following these developments.20 Die Jakobsleiter.28 He deliberately used transformations of row forms that could not be followed aurally.30 This produced multiple layers of meaning beneath those most apparent. 24 and the Suite for Piano Op.27 It is in this period that the Variations for Orchestra emerged.22 By 1923. Schoenberg had composed the fully serial works. the piece relies on permutations of hexachords to unite thematic material and contains symmetrically built chords.25 Each piece contained an expansive scope and was entirely unique. treated rows as motifs. Schoenberg’s efforts displayed a similar direction as he weakened the tendency for dissonances to resolve. as seen in his four-movement Wind Quintet that contains sonata and rondo forms. Schoenberg established a style for his serial music that would remain throughout the rest of his life.26 Schoenberg also brought back Classical forms.21 Exhibiting great amounts of dissonance in six or more largely independent parts.

Schoenberg drew vertical lines separating each member of the row. a cardboard panel on which Schoenberg attached strips of paper that display various forms of the row. Paul. At the beginning of the theme. Web. The most intriguing part of this series is sketch 1594.34 Having provided contextual information on the Variations for Orchestra. These strips are removable and would have allowed Schoenberg to rearrange them.33 As the theme weaves onwards. “Serialism.” Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. The accompanimental harmonies also exhibit combinatoriality.5Schoenberg’s preliminary planning displays an impressive comprehensiveness. 34 Ibid. lining them up in various ways to observe row relationships. and proceeded to write out all of its 532 Griffiths. Oxford Music Online. 26 April 2015. he extensively sketched out the forms of the tone row featured in the theme and variations. Before beginning to compose. Since P10 is combinatorial with I7. This would have served as a useful compositional tool. featuring P10. The collection contains eleven such pages. filled with all transpositions and inversions of the prime form written neatly with special attention to alignment. By following P10 with RI7.Crawford 4 Inversional hexachordal combinatoriality plays a major role in the structure of the piece. this structure continues to hold true.32 The first phrase. the last hexachords of each row are complementary. I will begin the sketch analysis.33 Ibid. labeled T. Schoenberg juxtaposes complementary hexachords in his arrangement of the melodic lines. is succeeded by RI7. Schoenberg began with the prime form. he sets the melodic P10 with harmonies derived from the contents of I7. . Schoenberg succeeds in placing the last hexachords of the combinatorial rows next to each other to form an aggregate. ensuring that pitches in the same position across the row forms were easily distinguishable. Throughout the theme.

It appears that he avoided transposing the entire row down an octave in most cases. the direction of motion varies between the two rows. This decision may have stemmed from a desire to keep the row within the staff as it was transposed higher. each of which he set on its own row below the prime. Rather than using integer notation to show the transposition level. Schoenberg used traditional intervals with an integer indicating the basic interval and a sign signifying its quality. These notations reflect the differences between modern analysis of serial music and the methods of its early practitioners. T-2 indicates a minor second. while T+6 and T-7 begin with a tritone up. Another eye-catching component from these preliminary writings was a graphic sketch comprised of square holes cut into a sheet of blank manuscript paper (sketch 1592). This can be seen in the two prime forms beginning in measures 34 and 52 of the finished score. Reversing a few interval directions were inconsequential compromises. Twelve out .Crawford 5 transpositions. He placed the inverted forms to the right of the transpositions. While the interval classes are maintained. this reversal occurs in the tritone between the eighth and ninth row positions. because such inversions would inevitably occur in the process of composing. Schoenberg did not always maintain the direction of the tritones in his transpositions and inversions. since it would maintain the original interval rather than inverting it. and so on. T through T-6 begin with a tritone down. In the inversions. T+2 a major second. A reasonable way to accomplish this was to place octave displacements where tritones occurred. Schoenberg’s motivation to keep the rows within the staff most likely resulted from practical rather than musical reasons. since he wrote the rows on a series of relatively thin strips of paper that barely allow for notes above or below the staff. because it would result in leger lines below the staff. T5 a perfect fifth. resulting from the transposition of the first pitch down an octave.

10 and . and instrumentation are largely set. Schoenberg composes on a reduced score of three staves with the cello melody on its own line. three wind voices on the second line. 1926. harmony. and a retrograde inversion by rotating 180 degrees. An inversion could be achieved by flipping the page vertically. Dated May 2. a retrograde by flipping horizontally. these evolve to more closely resemble the final version. Following these outlines of row forms. The lack of pitch indications and the use of holes instead of markings on the page allow for this single sketch to represent all forms of the row. 9. and the accompanimental rhythms. the rough versions of the theme begin to appear. the row that the squares on the first page signify is [1758629T430E]. While a note that is two lines higher than another on a staff could indicate several different intervals depending on the accompanying accidentals. because it represents the intervals between the members of the row more accurately than the same idea in musical notation. the cello melody corresponds exactly to the final version. Here. which is an inversion of the row discussed previously. there is a progression from simpler planning to more complete drafts. Beginning in m. In a later sketch (1597). and the double bass and bassoon on the lowest line. the visual representation eliminates that ambiguity by establishing a one-to-one correspondence between the physical placement of the note and its distance from those around it. This would have acted as yet another tool to aid Schoenberg in composing. Adjacent squares were connected by a line to clarify their relationships.Crawford 6 of thirteen of these staves had holes cut in them with no staff having more than one hole. Though these sketches are not arranged chronologically. This is a graphic representation of a tone row. This sketch can prove useful in visualizing the contour of the row. From the beginning of the theme until m. Interpreting the lowest staff as pitch class C and the highest as B. the sketches begin with a two-staff reduction of the theme and harmonies with no indications of instrumentation (sketch 1613).

was a later addition. At this stage. He creates a sense of variation through the accompanimental figures instead. Throughout the . however. 52. this sketch appears to have little in common with the first sketch. While this sketch has a fair amount of material. A later sketch of the first variation (1556) takes a very different form that closely resembles the finished score. these sketches include material that did not make it into the final score. but the material is much more of a rough sketch. the basic concept behind the variation remains unchanged. a few correspondences can be found.Crawford 7 continuing for five measures. it bears little resemblance to the completed version and was crossed out by Schoenberg. that Schoenberg initially intended to include the melody from the theme in a form that was largely unaltered from its first presentation. including detailed notation of a new rhythmic motif and indications of the instrumentation. Following this section. At a glance. Other notable additions include the use of the English horn instead of a second clarinet. however. the melody from the theme appears in a highly recognizable form. the melodic lines and the phrase structure for the entire theme are completed. the insertion of the countermelody at m. The harp part in the final score. On the opposite side of the same sketch. and the voicing and rhythms of the harmonies are nearly set. which remains unchanged in the final score. Like the initial sketch. and more detailed dynamic markings. a much more finalized version of the theme appears. This is reinforced by the fact that Schoenberg has crossed out nearly the entire page. which merely echoes the chords sounded by the orchestra. It is worth noting. Schoenberg’s early efforts at writing the first variation appear on the bottom half of the same page. as it does not appear here. The first two measures feature a diminution of the melody that maintains the pitch classes and contour.

which mainly contains thematic material. the opening figures of the introduction in clarinet and bassoon appear briefly at the top of sketch 1599 amidst sketches for the second and third variations. beginning with m. Its placement on the page suggests that it was written after much of the theme was already sketched out. The appearance of these fragments explains the drastic change in measure numbering that occurs in the more complete version of the theme found in sketch 1598. beginning at one. Furthermore. 32. with the same writing utensil that he used for notating the music. the contour is retained but rhythmic values are altered. For example. As in the earlier sketch. 1. There is nearly continuous rhythmic motion in both sketches. on the bottom right corner of sketch 1597. Schoenberg writes out the characteristic motif from the introduction that begins at m. Considering that an earlier version of the introduction concludes on m. 33 instead of m. This fragment is obviously preliminary. he marked over all of these numbers in a darker color. Similar writings appear on the first line of sketch 1614. Fragments from various sections sometimes appear alongside the sketches of another section. In a later effort. since the metrical divisions and pitches do not match the final version. Schoenberg initially marked measure numbers. it becomes apparent that Schoenberg had not finished writing the . fragmented motifs surround the melodic line. 8 in the final score. resulting not from a single line but from the intricate interlocking of several parts. It was thus the implementation of the concept that differed between the two sketches rather than the concept itself. which is the reverse side of what is likely to be an earlier sketch of the theme.Crawford 8 remainder of the variation. The sketches suggest a non-linear compositional process where the sections are not composed in the order that they appear in the finished score.

increasing each of them by one. An analysis of these sketches approached with a firm theoretical understanding of the completed work will yield a wealth of knowledge. Comparing sketch 1598 to the finished score reveals that the measure numbers of the finished theme begin on thirty-four instead of thirty-three as in the sketch.Crawford 9 introduction at the time that he composed the theme. Rather than transitioning from the moving figure in m. and the second through ninth variations. and there remains much work to be done involving the introduction. This was far from an all-encompassing sketch study. he made significant contributions to musical construction and range of expression. In doing so. Schoenberg’s measure numbers reveal another addition to an earlier section—more subtle than the last but one that probably caused him some frustration and resulted in a fair amount of tedious work. . A detailed look at the composer’s sketches has brought a different perspective on the work than what analyses of the finished composition have had to offer. This addition probably occurred after he had finished composing the third variation. finale. shedding light on the careful planning that Schoenberg underwent as part of a compositional process involving many drafts and revisions. Schoenberg elected to add a measure of repose with a sustained chord in the horns. The Variations for Orchestra is a monumental piece in the realm of serial composition and marks a point where Schoenberg was able to firmly establish a style of his own. 4 of the finished score directly into a similar line at m. This inconsistency brought my attention to a later sketch of the theme (1555) where Schoenberg had overwritten measure numbers. Looking back to the beginning of the introduction in sketch 1554 revealed the reason for these edits. This view becomes even more plausible after taking into account that the introduction is a development of the thematic material. since the changes to measure numbers extends to the end of this section. 6.

No. "Schonerg [Schönberg]. “Schoenberg’s Variation Seminar. Web. W. Oxford Music Online. Web.Crawford 10 Works Cited Griffiths. 154-155. “Serialism. Oxford University> Nelson. 2. 50. Oxford Music Online." Grove Music Online. pp. 26 April 2015.” Grove Music Online. <http://www.” The Musical Quarterly. April 1964. Robert> Neighbour.oxfordmusiconline. .oxfordmusiconline. Vol. Arnold (Franz Walter). Oxford University Press. <http://www. Paul. O. 26 April 2015.