Arnold Schoenberg, Serenade op. 24, Hans Rosbaud and the Donaueschinger Musiktage Festival in 1924 and 1958 on #neuguitars #blog #ArnoldSchoenberg
Label: Col Legno – WWE 12CD 31899
Released: 1996 Cd box 12 cd
Serenade Op. 24 Für Klarinette Und Orchester Voice
2-4–Sonett Von Petrarca3:30
2-6–Lied (Ohne Worte)2:28
CreditsOrchestra SWF-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden
Conductor – Hans Rosbaud
Booklet Editor – Brigitte Weinmann, Tomas Zierhofer-Kin
Compiled By [Selection Of Photographs] – Südwestfunk, Baden-Baden
Concept By [Conception], Compiled By [Selection Of Texts], Compiled By [Selection Of Photographs] – Armin Köhler
Layout – Gottfried Goiginger, Selke Verlag Salzburg, Graphics Division
Liner Notes – Josef Häusler
Liner Notes [Translation (English)] – Diana Loos
Producer – Wulf Weinmann
The Donaueschingen Music Festival can boast of being the oldest and longest lasting new music festival in the world. This long period, however, does not consist of an unbroken chain of years. There have been periods, in fact, in which the Festival did not take place, in which it migrated to other places, in which the Nazi dictatorship led to the overturning of those avant-garde objectives that the “founding fathers” had set for themselves in 1921, thus following a path that was immediately confirmed in the most brilliant way by the resounding success achieved by Paul Hindemith, little known at the time. The history of the Festival can therefore be divided into a series of temporal phases of different duration, the most complete of which is given by an uninterrupted series of annual events from 1951 onwards. Very often in this period Donaueschingen has become a real musical reference point, sometimes taking up phenomena that had seen the light elsewhere, often helping them to obtain greater resonance, better visibility. In one way or another Donaueschingen made music history in a lively and active sense, as evidenced by the brilliant statistics it can show: between 31 July 1921 and October 1995 some 375 compositions received their world premiere; in addition, around 90 German and European premieres took place, not to mention many parallel events in the jazz sessions which have become a regular part of the Festival since the early 1970s. This tradition began shortly after the First World War and was, surprisingly, the result of princely patronage. The Furstenberg princes had resided in Donaueschingen since the early 18th century, and of course they had their own court orchestra and court theater, and also established a collection of paintings that are still worth seeing today; Mozart was a guest in the castle, as was Franz Liszt. But around 1920/21 all this was already history: the court theater, burned in the mid-19th century, had not been rebuilt, although there was still a musical director, whose name was Heinrich Burkard and whose main duties they were giving piano lessons to the children of the House of Furstenberg and organizing and cataloging the vast contents of the musical archive handed down from past times.
When Willy Rehberg – director of the Mannheim Academy of Music – proposed his plan to organize a music festival that could offer young post-war composers the opportunity to have their music performed and appreciated, Burkard enthusiastically welcomed the suggestion, finding a positive response in the Furstenberg family. Burkard must have been a man who was familiar with the musical and political situation, with the various directions of thought and teaching and with the significance of the artistic representatives in Germany and Austria at that time; in any case he managed in a short time to arouse sympathy in many places for his risky project and to arouse the interest of personalities such as Ferruccio Busoni, Richard Strauss, Hans Pfitzner, Artur Nikisch to the point of being willing to join the “committee honorary “, which contemporary custom invariably required, and” consecrating “the company through the luster of their names. The strong resonance aroused by the DonaueSchingen initiative is well documented by the fact that as early as 1921 no less than 137 composers submitted their works for over 400 Lieder, 44 string quartets and 84 piano compositions. The decisive criteria for inclusion in the program were exclusively the inner content of the works and the creative artistic force expressed, regardless of which musical language was used. The emphasis had been placed on drawing attention to talented composers, not yet known or little known, and to works by composers already underway, but little known. The year that interests us most is 1924, which seems to be perhaps the most significant of the entire first phase of Donaueschingen. In 1924 the working committee had to review its positions:“In order to give as detailed a picture as possible of the different colours and ramifications of contemporary music and to embrace as wide a field as possible, tests can be presented of a line of thought which forces us to discuss its problems in such broad terms as possible, even if we are not convinced of the fruitfulness of these experiments as far as the future is concerned.”. What was referred to? A glance at the program leaves hardly any doubts: the music of the early Viennese period and the themes linked to that key word: “dodecaphonic music”. Donaueschingen in 1924 presented compositions by Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern. Schoenberg himself conducted the first public performance of a key work dating back to that period of radical change that took place after 1920, the Serenade op. 24, whose fourth bottom movement – the setting of a Petrarch sonnet – represented one of his first twelve-tone compositions. No one in Donaueschingen seemed to have noticed the new principles of musical construction, but the work left a strong overall impression. “To this critic” the illustrious Erwin Kroll wrote in the Berlin Allgemeine Musikzeitung, “this work seems to be a cold music of the intellect, but he does not want to deny that the past master of expressionism, greeted with fanatic jubilation, perhaps gave a immeasurable contribution to the dictionary and grammar of the musical language of the future. “
Schoenberg conducted the Serenade in Donaueschingen on 20 July 1924. As with other compositions of those years, Schoenberg worked on the Serenade for several years, with the first sketches dating back to 1920 and the final version completed in April 1923. The score was published by Wilhelm Hansen Verlag (Copenhagen) in 1924. Thus wrote Schoenberg to Prince Fustenberg, thanking him for the invitation to the Festival:
May it please Your Highness, May I, first and foremost, most respectfully thank you from the bottom of my heart for the extremely gratifying words that Your Highness has had the goodness to address to me? The splendid enterprise in Donaueschingen is something I have long admired: this enterprise that is reminiscent of the fairest, alas bygone, days of art when a prince stood as a protector before an artist, showing the rabble that art, a matter for princes, is beyond the judgment of common people. And only the authority of such personages, in that it permits the artist to participate in the distinctive position bestowed by a higher power, is able to demonstrate this demarcation in a sensuously tangible manner to all who are merely educated, who have merely worked their way up, and to make manifest the difference between those who have become what they are and those who were born what they are; between those who arrive at a position and occupation by indirect means and those who are directly born to it. If I may really be permitted to respond to this summons, it would, I must confess, be very much to my own liking to do so with my latest work, the Serenade and, in accordance with your wish, to conduct it myself. It must however be mentioned that this unfortunately cannot be actually a first performance, since the latter will take place— though privately, not in public—on the 2nd May, a performance for which we are just now having the final rehearsals. Yet I will—if Your Highness attaches importance to it—do all that is in my power to secure my publisher’s agreement that it shall be at least the first public performance in Germany. Once more thanking Your Highness most respectfully for all your flattering and kind words, I remain, with deep veneration and respect, Arnold Schoenberg
The Serenade, op. 24 is, as the title suggests, one of Schoenberg’s most relaxing and seductive scores. Leoš Janáček, listening to him at an I.S.C.M. festival, he described it as a piece of ‘Viennese strumming’. It was started in 1920, but most of the music dates back to 1923. It thus retraces the final stages of the research period that led to the adoption of the dodecaphonic method, and the warmth and joy of the music certainly testify to a certain relief and return. confidence as the way forward began to seem clear and certain. The work is in seven characteristic movements, many of which use various types of serial technique. The ensemble consists of seven instruments – clarinet, bass clarinet, mandolin, guitar and string trio – with the addition of a bass or baritone soloist in the fourth movement. The sound world recalls not only the most clownish moments of Pierrot Lunaire, but also the almost contemporary chamber works of other composers – most notably Stravinsky’s Ragtime and The Soldier’s Tale – and some commentators have even claimed to detect a jazz influence; but as far as I’m concerned I don’t really agree. The first movement is a cheeky march in a sonata form, the clarinets lead it while the mandolin, guitar and strings add tapping or plucked rhythmic figures that seem to roll over each other with enthusiasm. This is followed by a gracefully balanced minuet and a trio with a viola solo whose high notes recall the movement of the “Serenata” of the Pierrot Lunaire. The third movement is a set of five variations and coda on a meditative theme (of eleven bars, using eleven tones of the chromatic scale arranged in a series of fourteen notes) announced by the clarinet. Although the variations maintain the proportions of the main theme, they are notable for their rhythmic flexibility and material inventiveness. The only twelve-note movement is the fourth, a setting from Sonnet n. 217 by Petrarch (“If I could avenge myself on her”). The method is applied in a rather primitive way, since the vocal part consists of thirteen rotations of the original untransposed line, while the ensemble derives the accompanying figures more freely from the same source. It requires extremely sensitive singing to avoid the impression of a lower level of inspiration than the other movements. The larger section of the work follows: the delightful “Dance Scene”, the design of which is expanded (as in some other movements) by the use of formal repetitions. Two main characters of the dance alternate: a lively and whimsical waltz and a delicate and soulful Austrian host, complete with Mahlerian overtones in the melody. The sixth movement is a song without words, a silent miniature of twenty-six bars of rapt beauty, through whose muted plots a wide melody arches gracefully. Then the seventh movement, a potpourri that uses the march of the first movement as a basis and which reviews the themes of the other movements in an affectionate review.
Unfortunately we do not have a recording of that event, but that of 1924 was not the only time that the Serenade was performed at the Donaueschingen Music Festival. It will be necessary to wait until 1958 for the director Hans Rosbaud to return to direct it, again at the Festival.
“There is nothing I long for more intensely (if for anything) than to be taken for a better sort of Tchaikovsky—for heaven’s sake: a bit better, but really that’s all.“1
This comment by Arnold Schoenberg is found in a letter to Hans Rosbaud dated May 12, 1947. Rosbaud was one of the conductors who did more than anyone of his generation to satisfy Schoenberg’s desire to be regarded not as a bizarre twelve-tone “experimenter”, but as a full-fledged composer. Hans Rosbaud was born in Graz, Austria, in 1895. He completed his musical training at the Hoch’sche Conservatory in Frankfurt (together with his contemporary fellow student Paul Hindemith) and remained in Germany throughout his career. Before 1945 he held positions in Mainz, Frankfurt, Munster and (since 1941) in German-occupied Strasbourg; after 1945 he accepted assignments in Munich and Baden-Baden, joining the latter to the direction of the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich. From the late 1920s until his death in 1962, Rosbaud was one of the leading European exponents of modern music. His carefully prepared and performed performances earned him the gratitude of composers and the admiration of critics and the public. With much of his career spent in the service of German radio, a large number of his performances (including many first performances) have been recorded, leaving, as in the case of the Donaueschingen Music Festival, a precious legacy that spans more than thirty ‘ years. The music of Rosbaud Schoenberg’s compatriot, along with that of Alban Berg and Anton Webern, had a place of honor in the conductor’s affection, while the warm personal relationship between Rosbaud and Schoenberg is documented in their twenty-year correspondence, mostly of which it still remains unpublished. Rosbaud’s efforts in favor of Schoenberg and his music bore fruit already in the late Weimar period, while in the postwar years, after the forced hiatus of the Nazi era, Rosbaud became known as Schoenberg’s conductor par excellence. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Festival called Rosenbaud to conduct the Serenade, 34 years after its first performance, at the head of the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra (SWR Baden-Baden Freiburg Symphony Orchestra), a German radio orchestra, founded in 1946, located in the German cities of Baden-Baden and Freiburg, of which Rosbaud was the first director. Rosbaud was already known as a champion of modern music and Heinrich Strobel, the music director in charge of the orchestra, shared this sympathy for contemporary music. Thus modern music performances were the centerpiece of the orchestra. The orchestra was initially sponsored by Südwestfunk (SWF), a public broadcasting company based in Baden-Baden. In 1998 SWF merged into Südwestrundfunk (“Southwest Broadcasting”), which also assumed responsibility for the orchestra. The last conductor of the orchestra was François-Xavier Roth, with whom he gave his final concert on 17 July 2016 in Freiburg.
1Arnold Schoenberg, Letters, ed. Erwin Stein, trans. Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), 243 (letter of 12 May 1947).
In order to listen to this recording it is necessary to buy the box set of 12 CDs, dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the festival entitled “Various – 75 Jahre Donaueschinger Musiktage 1921-1996”, produced in 1996 by the independent record company Col Legno in Germany. You will find the Serenade at the beginning of the second cd. A small investment, almost antiques, but it’s worth it. Who was the guitarist? I haven’t been able to find out yet.
Other versions of this recording: