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TEXT: Maurice Maeterlinck, aus Gedichte, deutsche Übersetzung von K. L. Ammer (Pseudonym für Karl Klammer) und Friedrich von Oppeln-Bronikowski, Jena 1906

Universal Edition
Belmont Music Publishers (USA, Canada, Mexico)

Schönberg began drafting his Lied “Herzgewächse,” to a poem from Maurice Maeterlinck’s “Serres Chaudes” (published in English as Hothouse Blooms) for high soprano, celesta, harmonium and harp on 4 December 1911 and completed the composition just five days later. At the time, he was maintaining an intensive intellectual exchange with the painter Vassily Kandinsky; during that same month, Schönberg had taken part in the Blauer Reiter exhibit in Munich by showing some of his own paintings. Kandinsky was especially impressed by the directness of the paintings’ expressivity, imparted in a penetrating pictorial language which Kandinsky, not without admiration, called “Nurmalerei” (“purely painting”).

He himself introduced a direct association with Schönberg’s music; the score of “Herzgewächse” was printed as an appendix to the Blauer Reiter exhibit’s almanac, published in 1912. Thus the almanac gained a musical work which experimented with tone colors in a manner which was especially strong in its expression; the coloristic opulence of an orchestral movement resounds in a chamber music setting, borne by the tones of a harmonium.

Astonishingly, the first performance authorized by Schönberg did not take place until 17 April 1928 as part of a subscription concert given by Rudolf Kolisch’s Wiener Streichquartett. (Since the piece had been available in print since 1920 and there must have been opportunities for other performances, Schönberg spoke merely of a “premiere in Vienna”).

The vocal part is perhaps the most technically difficult in Schönberg’s entire oeuvre; the scope lies initially within the low octave range, but soon leaps much wider. Toward the end, the part calls for the F above the treble staff in quadruple piano, before dropping again into the low octave.

The soprano Marianne Rau-Hoeglauer, who had a range from low G-sharp to the F above the staff, had tumultuous success when she sang the Vienna premiere in 1928. Impressed by the opulence of color in Schönberg’s score, Alban Berg reported on the event to the composer, who was unable to be present: “We reveled in those sounds, sounds we had scarcely dreamed of. It is so wonderful; every one of your works creates an unprecedented sensation in the listener on first hearing – even if it is 20 years old, like this one [. . .] The performance was fabulous in every way. There were moments such as at the words ‘sinnbildhaft ist seiner Blumen Zier’ and the entire ending when we completely forgot to breathe – and that’s how it affected everyone in the hall, I’d venture to say – not just me. And it was the same – only more so - during the second performance of the Lied – which was not given for, say, pedagogical reasons; the musicians were actually forced into it by the audience, which simply would not cease applauding.”

Matthias Schmidt | © Arnold Schönberg Center