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DURATION: ca. 7 Min.

PUBLISHER: Belmont Music Publishers

Arnold Schönberg's development as a composer must have begun while he was taking violin lessons: "As a child of less than nine years, I had started composing little, and later large pieces for two violins, in imitation of such music as I used to play with my teacher or with a cousin of mine. When I could play violin duets of Viotti, Pleyel and others, I imitated their style. So I learned to compose to the extent that I learned to play the violin." With the money that Schönberg had earned teaching German, he bought the scores to works by Beethoven: "[...] they were the Third and the Fourth Symphonies, two of the Razumovsky quartets and the Great Fugue, Opus 133. From then on, I had a desire to write string quartets." A decisive encounter was with the violinist and later doctor Oskar Adler, Schönberg's schoolboy friend from their time at Realschule, who not only provided him with a first foundation in theory of harmony and ear training but with whom he also played the classic string quartet literature up to the 19th century in a circle of friends. From then on, Schönberg tested his compositional skills in numerous quartet projects, completing the String Quartet in D Major in 1897, his first surviving composition on a larger scale. "
The four string quartets that I have published had at least five or six predecessors. The habit of writing so many string quartets developed gradually." One of the first predecessors is the Presto in C Major for string quartet, which was published posthumously. Stylistically, the undated piece may be assigned to the period before 1897, making it one of his earliest known works. The structure of the movement is a sonata rondo, in which the fugato refrain, which is at first exposed, alternates with long developmental passages. Motivic links are more important than a melodic line in the upper voice; only after the second reprise of the refrain is there a short melodic episode in the first violin. The model of Beethoven definitely shines through in Schönberg's preference for the large context over memorable melody and in the careful, motivically linked character of the transitions. As Schönberg said in 1931, from Beethoven he learned »die Kunst der Entwicklung der Themen und Sätze«.(the art of developing themes and movements).

Eike Feß
© Arnold Schönberg Center