Schoenberg : GurreliederMunich, 2009 (Video)
Director: Mariss Jansons
Archivos para descarga:
Arnold Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (Songs of Gurre)
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) was one of the most controversial figures of music in the 20th-century.
As a Viennese musical amateur he was, in his early compositions, greatly influenced by Wagner, Brahms and Mahler. He met the latter in 1903, shortly after the composition of the Gurrelieder but long before the completion of its orchestration, and they became great friends. He studied privately with Alexander von Zemlinsky, whose sister, Mathilde, he married in 1901. Also in that year he moved to Berlin where he became Kapellmeister of Ernst von Wolzogen’s Überbrettl, a sort of artistic cabaret which produced works of Richard Dehmel and Franz Wedekind. In addition to his duties as Kapellmeister Schoenberg did a great deal of operetta orchestration, which constantly interrupted his composition. In his works between the Gurrelieder and Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 of 1912, and the Four Orchestral Songs, Op. 22 of 1913-5, following a trend which was already implicit in his earlier works. Schoenberg, by increasing use of the possibilities of chromaticism, had reached a stage of development where his music was almost strictly atonal, properly understood - i.e. a position where the normal tonal functions had almost entirely disappeared from his music. At about this time he took up painting. He studied with Oskar Kokoschka and painted in the expressionist idiom.
With Schoenberg’s next composition, the Five Piano Pieces, Op. 23 of 1923, we find the first use of the "tone-row", the first example of rigorous Twelve-Tone or Dodecaphonic, music. Traces of this technique, which was to be of such overwhelming influence on the development of music which followed, can be found in early Stravinsky (The Song of the Nightingale) and Bartók, and can even be traced back as far as Beethoven (the Grosse Fuge, Op. 133) and Bach (Ein harmonisches Labyrinth), but it was Schoenberg who first raised it to an organizing principle to replace that musical organization previously provided by the tonal system. While Schoenberg claimed that this principle was purely personal idiom, a personal solution to the organizational problems introduced by the exigencies of the transcendental trend of modern music, it has been codified by his followers, among them Alban Berg, Anton von Webern, Wenst Krenek, René Leibowitz and Luigi Dallapiccola, and representatives in almost every country of the world except those under the political influence of Russia, where the technique was regarded as decadent, and has been utilized to some extent by many composers, such as Hindemith, who not only are not dodecaphonists, but who vigorously deny the validity of the technique. It was in this idiom that the greater part of Schoenberg’s later works, such as the Violin Concerto (1936), the Ode to Napoleon (1942) and A Survivor from Warsaw (1947) were written, though the technique was used by Schoenberg with a greater and greater degree of flexibility in his later years. Schoenberg fled Hitler’s Germany in 1933 and settled in the United States, where he died in 1951 a bitter man, widely despised for his innovations and his music, which are undoubtedly among the most important of the 20th-century.
The year 1900, during which Schoenberg’s first major work, the Gurrelieder, was begun and almost entirely completed, somehow seems the obvious - the fatal - year for this work to have been conceived. Whatever the validity of such an impression may be, the fact remains that the composer whose name will forever be remembered as the most representative composer, almost the very symbol, of the music of the first half of the 20th-century, created this immense portico on the threshold of the century, separating the two centuries which today are regarded in everyone’s mind as two distinct eras, two different worlds. The Gurrelieder constitute both the final synthesis of the musical tradition of the 19th-century and the beginning of a new world of sound which was to become the specific acquisition of the musical activity of the 20th-century.
The extension of the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic idioms of the 19th-century which occurs in the Gurrelieder has been so minutely discussed by Alan Berg in his Führer to the Gurrelieder that only a few general remarks are necessary. The evolution of the tonal system has been based on the growing awareness of the totality of resources of the chromatic scale. This, too, is mainly due to the accomplishment of the romantic composers, and here again Schoenberg’s synthesis is complete. One may look at this and understand it from various points of view. In the realm of harmony, for example, Schoenberg’s most remarkable achievement (one which is already fully realized in the Gurrelieder) is the extension of the tonal regions revolving around the tonic center, as well as the extension and boldness of the harmonic structures as such.
Schoenberg takes up Beethoven’s boldest innovation, the inclusion within the symphony of the human voice. One of the reasons for this extension resides in the dramatic impulse of the work. There is, nevertheless, a purely musical reason for it also. The various human voices used here (two tenors, very different from each other, one soprano, one mezzo-soprano, one bass, a speaker, a male chorus, and a mixed chorus) extend the possibilities of tone color. In this respect the three main sections of the Gurrelieder show a careful planning of very subtle contrasts.
It is perhaps in the dramatic extension of the 19th-century symphonic form that is found in the Gurrelieder that we come to the most important aspect of the problem of its relationship to the past, for it is certainly the dialectical situation which embraces both the drama and the symphony in the music of the 19th-century which determines its essential aspect.
Dramatically, we find here all the romantic elements. The "plot" deals almost entirely with supernatural and legendary elements. Nature, again, plays an important part, and the Liebestod is perhaps one of its essential characteristics. Musically, the various structural elements are knitted together in such a way as to enhance the progression of the drama and, although there is comparatively small usage of the leitmotiv technique, the various characters in the plot are clearly defined in terms of contrasting themes or motives, and even in terms of a specific tone color. A full discussion of these matters appears in Berg’s Führer.
Having discussed the various elements which characterize Schoenberg’s first major work in terms of the past, we must now analyze its significance as regards the new elements it contains. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is the first work in which a transgression of the limits of the classical symphony takes place. Beethoven’s successors, however, still had to attach the problem of the symphony as such. We have seen that Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder which we have called a drama-symphony, cannot be called a symphony without the addition of many concepts the very essence of which are alien to the symphony. In other words, one may safely state that the symphonic form is here completely transcended.
As to the orchestra itself, it is very often treated in an entirely novel manner. We have already mentioned the specific use made here of autonomous groups of instruments, and we must now add that tone color is never sought for its own sake, but that it always fulfills a very precise constructional end. Alban Berg’s analysis shows how every song is characterized by its own style of instrumentation as well as by certain sonorities. Many sections of the work prefigure Schoenberg’s later techniques which were to transform some of the most ingrown concepts of orchestration.
The fact that the Gurrelieder present a series of dramatic structures within a rigorously organized symphonic continuity, or, vice versa, a series of symphonic structures within a rigorously organized dramatic continuity, is certainly a novelty of itself. Actually, it is in this aspect of the work that some of the essential features of Schoenberg’s future development lay. It seems obvious indeed that some of Schoenberg’s boldest innovations may be found in the realm of musical forms as such. Many of his later works, such as Erwartung, Die Glückliche Hand, Pierrot Lunaire, Ode to Napoleon, A Survivor from Warsaw, completely transcend any given formal category, and the quality which characterizes them most is their dramatic impulse. Schoenberg may, with justice, be called the most dramatic composer of our time; although his actual operatic output is very small he has, in this respect, continued and developed the great musical-dramatic tradition of the 19th-century. Again, his merit does not stop at this for, once more, his essential contribution lies in the fact that he was able to renew the very possibilities of dramatic music. We now know that this renewal was due, to a large extent, to the symphonic organization of dramatic structures. However, there are other factors which contribute to this process, and at least one of these must be mentioned here, namely the invention of a new dramatic mode of expression, the Sprechgesang (spoken melody) which is used for the first time in the Speaker’s melodrama in Part Three of Gurrelieder.
During the first years of the 20th-century the Gurrelieder obtained a unique reputation, even among the works of Schoenberg whose music in general was known to a relatively small group of people. For many years those few who had seen this extraordinary score spoke of the marvels it contained, without, due to the overwhelming means required for its performance, ever expecting to hear it. Today many more people know of Schoenberg’s music, though it is still true that very few have heard the Gurrelieder.
The original Danish poem of the Gurrelieder by Jens Peter Jacobsen, the German translation for which Arnold Schoenberg chose for the text of his most monumental work, derives from the medieval Danish legend of Waldemar and Tove. The original legend was based on actual personages and events of Danish history, but through the centuries it became overlain with Danish legendary and mythical elements, as well as elements derived from the corpus of European mythology in general, to become the great legend of medieval Denmark, in a sense the Danish Nibelungenlied or the Danish Tristan.
In 1157 Valdemar the Great married Sofie, a half-sister of the Danish King Knud Magnusson (Knud V) and the daughter of a Polish princess and a Russian prince. They had two sons, Knud and Valdemar, both of whom became kings, and six daughters. Sofie, who became Helvig in later versions of the story, is depicted in the legends as the embodiment of feminine vindictiveness; there is no historical basis for this, and contemporary sources speak of her in favorable terms.
Helvig was the wife of Valdemar Atterdag as well as the sister of Valdemar Dosmer, Duke of Schleswig. The marriage of Valdemar Atterdag and Helvig was part of a complicated series of negotiations which led to the coronation of Valdemar in 1340. The Chancellor of Valdemar Atterdag, his Embedsmand, was Henning Podebusk, who died in 1388. During the protracted absence of Valdemar, Henning took over as his deputy. Although originally a supporter of Otto, Valdemar’s brother and rival for the throne, Henning was won over to Valdemar’s faction and was never disloyal throughout a long period of service, extending even into the reign of Margrete.
There is historical evidence, although rather slight, for the existence of a real Tove. She lived in the 12th-century and was mistress of Valdemar the Great in his youth and mother of his illegitimate son, Kristoffer, who died young.
In the earlier versions of the story the locale varied widely; it was Rosenius who first localized it at Gurre. Legend had it that the castle of Gurre was built by Valdemar Atterdag, and that it was his favorite residence. It is known that he died there, although his body was taken to Soro for burial beside the other ancient kings of Denmark.
A number of medieval Danish ballads (Folkeviser) are about Tove and Valdemar. These Danish ballads, which were originally sung and danced to, as in the Faeroe Islands today, were not written down until the 15th- and 16th-centuries. According to the popular tradition preserved in the ballads the story is briefly as follows: Valdemar discovers Tove (or Tovelille -- "Little Tove" -- as she is almost always called) in a small castle all alone, enters and gains her love. She is the sister of Henning Podebusk. This meeting occurs in Rügen, an island in the Baltic, where Valdemar has gone to deal with his brother, Otto. After several days of passion, Valdemar returns to Sjaeland (Zealand) with Tove and her brother, and builds for Tove the castle of Gurre. This is to be the retreat, the isle of continuing. Valdemar’s queen, Helvig, suffers her rival but waits for a moment of vengeance, which comes during an absence of Valdemar, as Tove is entering her bath. Helvig induces her lover, Folkvard Lavmandsson, to bolt the door of the bath-chamber and force live stream into the room. Tove dies, screaming in agony. On Valdemar’s return an equally terrible vengeance is meted out to Folkvard, who is rammed into a barrel bristling with nails and rolled about until he is lacerated to ribbons. This gruesome episode is entirely typical of Danish folklore, which is heavily streaked with horror, acts of summary vengeance, and a loathsome fondness for serpents of all kinds. However, even in this there is a grain of truth, for a man named Folkvard Lavmandsson was indeed put to death in this manner, although for a different crime.
The sequel to the story is the withdrawal inwards of Valdemar, and his search for Tove, prolonged even beyond his death. The accursed huntsman must follow her phantom throughout eternity, striking fear into the countryside as he gallops through the woods and over the plains. Legends like that of Valdemar Atterdag’s wild ride are extremely widespread in Europe, the protagonist varying from one country to the next.
Jacobsen’s Gurrelieder appeared in German for the first time in 1899 in the complete edition of his works entitled and translated by Marie Herzfeld and Robert Franz Arnold (Jens Peter Jacobsen: Gesammelte Worke, 3 Volumes, Eugen Diederichs, Florence and Leipzig; the Gurrelieder appear in Volume I, Novellen, Briefe, Gedichte). Robert Franz Arnold (originally Levisohn) (1872-1938), who edited and translated the first volume, was Professor of Literature in Vienna and a noted translator and critic. Among his more important translations are works by Milton (Lycidas and Il Penseroso) and Jacobsen. His works of literary criticism covered many fields, e.g. Renaissance Culture, The Modern Drama, and a comprehensive Bibliography of the German Stage. He prepared not only the first edition of the Gurrelieder for the Herzfeld edition of 1899 but a second version in 1921.
It is probable that Schoenberg became familiar with the Jacobsen poem in Arnold’s translation in the early part of 1899, or possibly even a few months earlier, since the volume of poems, letters and short stories was being edited in Vienna at that time. There are a number of discrepancies between the text of the first German edition and the text which Schoenberg actually used, which would seem to indicate that Schoenberg became familiar with the work while the translation was still in draft. These variations are occasionally nothing more than the substitution of a synonym, as for example leise for milde, but there are many such changes, and sometimes the alterations are considerable.
Although Arnold had done a considerable amount of research on the historical background of the Gurrelieder, and appended to the first edition a résumé of his researches on the subject, his knowledge of the Danish language was far from profound and his translation is inaccurate in detail, often grossly so. There are numerous places where the sense of the original is misrepresented, reversed or reduced to absurdity.
One can imagine the young Schoenberg, at the beginning of his career and steeped in the world-view of the 19th-century, with only a few songs and one large-scale instrumental chamber work, Verklärte Nacht, to his credit, coming upon Robert Franz Arnold’s translation of Jacobsen’s Gurrelieder, probably still in manuscript, and finding a work which fairly cried out to him for musical treatment on the vastest of scales.
The work was not completed until 1911 -- eleven years later -- and produced its own black moments of despair for its creator, but it was, from the moment it was conceived in the mind of Schoenberg, fated to be an end and a beginning, even as the subject itself, a glorious finale to a dying era and the embryo bearing in itself the potentialities of what was to come.