1. Unentrinnbar (Arnold Schönberg) >>> text | sources

2. Du sollst nicht, du mußt (Arnold Schönberg) >>> text | sources

3. Mond und Menschen (von Tschan-Jo-Su aus: »Die chinesische Flöte«) >>> text | sources

4. Der Wunsch des Liebhabers (von Tschan-Jo-Su aus: »Die chinesische Flöte«) >>> text | sources

DURATION: ca. 8 Min.

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

It was a friend of Goethe by the name of Carl Friedrich Zelter who fostered a flourishing of bourgeois choral singing in the early 19th century. Yet the newly founded choral societies tended toward a splitting toward different repertoires even at that early stage; the Berliner Singakademie dedicated itself to nourishing older music (especially Johann Sebastian Bach’s), while the Berliner Liedertafel (founded in 1809) concentrated on contemporary works.
The gap between the two focuses widened even farther when a powerful restoration movement - Caecilianism - seized hold of both the Protestant and the Catholic churches. From that time on, only church music approved by the Council of Trident was performed, and contemporary endeavors were obliged to work along those traditional models. Thus the gap soon grew larger as music moved in different directions.
On the one hand, the Liedertafel’s development was marked by an unmistakable chauvinistic undertone while, on the other, the church choruses under the influence of Caecilianism became insular, largely estranged from the music of their time.  Only the oratorio choruses devoted themselves to their contemporaries along with their fixation with Bach and Händel, thus beginning a tradition to which Berlioz, Liszt, Brahms and the Schönberg of the Gurre-Lieder could link up – although Schönberg already called for a modern, adaptable chamber chorus in his Friede auf Erden (1907) and, since such ensembles did not appear until the 1950s, the work was initially deemed unperformable.
Not until 18 years later did Schönberg return to the a capella chorus style, when he composed the Four Pieces for Mixed Chorus op. 27.  Notwithstanding the twelve-tone language, the first piece in particular is strongly reminiscent of the choral settings handed down from the 19th century, with the intonation difficulties due to the dodecaphony compensated by markedly light rhythm deployment.
The four-voice texture accords firmly with the tradition of tried-and-true balance of construction and sound, whereby the melodic idiom also adheres to those principles of simplicity; two row permutations are intertwined – the basic set and its inversion, transposed down a fifth.
Intellectually, No. 2, Du sollst nicht, is closely related to Die Jakobsleiter and Moses und Aron. Schönberg biographers agree that this piece constitutes a significant step in his return to the Jewish faith. Whereas Die Jakobsleiter still constitutes an eclectic mix of ideas originating with Balzac, Strindberg and anthroposophy, this chorus propounds a recapitulation of the Jewish prohibition of images as a theological certainty.
For the third and fourth choruses Schönberg selected a favorite source of the Vienna School, the anthology The Chinese Flute by Hans Bethge. No. 3, Mond und Menschen, juxtaposes the constancy of the moon’s orbit and the vagabond uncertainty of human life. No. 4, Der Wunsch des Liebhabers, is attended by four instruments: mandolin, clarinet, violin and cello. The chorus and the instruments are closely interwoven; one instrument plays the melody in the form of the basic set or inversion while the other three accompany, the mandolin representing the Lover, its fulsome manner recalling the custom of serenading.

Agnes Grond
© Arnold Schönberg Center