Preface to Volume 5 A

The main section of this volume contains four complete compositions; there are fragments of three unfinished compositions in the appendix.

The four works in the main section are of entirely different substance and weight. This is reflected in the order in which they appear in the volume.

The Variations on a Recitative for Organ Op. 40, one of the most significant examples of Schoenberg’s later essays in tonality, constitute a work of the greatest importance. It is the only one of the seven compositions published here to have appeared in print before. The Variations were written in 1941 at the instigation of the H. W. Gray publishing house, which had asked Schoenberg to compose a work for the Contemporary Organ Series. Complying with this request, Schoenberg began work on the Sonata for organ, only to break it off and change to the Variations on a Recitative. The printed edition, which was edited by Carl Weinrich and published by H. W. Gray in 1947, is an arrangement for practical purposes. Schoenberg, who gave his consent first of all to the publication of this “practical edition”, expressed his disapproval of Weinrich’s registration directions (but these only) two years later. As regards notational procedures, there is a basic difference between Weinrich’s edition and Schoenberg’s fair copy. Weinrich used the generally recognised organ notation in arranging the Variations. Schoenberg’s own notation of organ pieces bears the same relationship to the standard organ notation as his notation of “transposing” instruments bears to the universally accepted notation of these instruments. It is a literal notation: the written notes do not indicate the keys which are to be played but the notes which are to sound; compared with the normal organ notation, therefore, Schoenberg’s notation often exceeds the range covered by the manual and pedal keys. Schoenberg explained this in a letter to Carl Weinrich (16th May, 1944): I write always the pitch which I want to hear: never transpositions are used, also not in the upper or lower octave; not in the manuals, nor in the pedal.

The version of the Second Chamber Symphony Op. 38B is also to be considered as a work displaying a large measure of independence. This is borne out by a few external features. Schoenberg wrote the fair copy on blueprint paper – thus making dissemination possible – and provided it with a copyright mark; but the high regard in which Schoenberg held this version is indicated most clearly by the fact that he gave it an opus number. That Op. 38B constitutes an independent version is further proved by internal musical features. Not only does it frequently diverge from the orchestral version as regards dynamics, bowing and phrase marks – this could simply arise from the fact that it has been arranged for different instruments, and would be quite conceivable in a piano score – but, even more important, it contains a few alterations of “principal voice” signs. The frequent and at times radical changes in pitch (cf. the list in Vol. 5 of Series B), however, represent the most independent features of the piano version. This assumes even greater importance when one bears in mind that Op. 38B is the final autograph source of the Second Chamber Symphony. We learn this from the dates placed at the ends of movements: whereas the fair copy (short score) of the orchestral version, on which the score printed by G. Schirmer is also based, has the dates August 15, 1939 and October 21, 1939 at the end of the 1st and 2nd movements respectively, the piano version contains the notes XII, 25, 1941 at the end of the 1st movement and finished Brentwood Park January 12, 1942 Arnold Schoenberg at the end of the 2nd movement.

The Six Pieces for Piano Duet bear all the characteristics of an early work. We can presume from the dedicatory notice to Fräulein Bella Cohn (14th February, 1896) that the 21-year-old composer wrote them as occasional pieces.

The piano score (for piano duet) of the First Chamber Symphony Op. 9, which was also written at an early date (it is not based on the edition of the Chamber Symphony published by Universal Edition in 1912), does not constitute an independent version. Schoenberg’s sole purpose in arranging the work in this reduced version was, in conformity with the custom of the time, to achieve a wider dissemination. The condition of the manuscript shows that it was used frequently: there are numerous later corrections and insertions throughout, and the lower right hand corner of each page has become discoloured through pageturning.

One of Schoenberg’s own undated remarks in the margin of the first page (cf. facsimile 3) would suggest that he did not think very highly of his own piano score: Das ist alles viel zu überladen!!! Immer nur halb so viel Stimmen! (It is all much too overloaded!!! There should always be just half as many parts!). This is also supported by the fact that Felix Greissle’s piano score (for piano duet), which was published by Universal Edition in 1924, was undertaken with Schoenberg’s approval and probably even under his supervision. Both piano scores have a very unusual feature in common; the technical direction concerning the positions of the players’ hands relative to the keyboard in those passages where crossing of hands is necessary. Greissle uses special signs, whereas Schoenberg writes “hoch” (high) and “tief” (low). Judging from the notation used in Greissle’s score, “hoch” is to be interpreted as signifying that the performer has to play right at the back of the keys and above his partner’s hand, and “tief” as signifying that the performer has to play right at the front of the keys and below his partner’s hand – so that the keyboard is divided up, as it were, into two manuals.

The fact that fragments have also been included in this volume of Series A requires an explanation. In the first place, the assertion that the non-completion of a work implies ipso facto its inferiority must be categorically denied – particularly when one takes the great importance of Schoenberg’s fragments into consideration. Presupposing this, the question as to the importance of fragments should be reduced to the question of their quantity and of how definitive they are in the compositional process. The four fragments published in this volume are to be regarded as definitive fair copies which are of sufficient length for the compositional conception (they are all dodecaphonic) to be made clear. The most important of these fragments is undoubtedly the Molto moderato of the Sonata for organ, a movement which has been played in public several times already. The editor is particularly grateful to Mr. O. W. Neighbour (London), who, as the owner of the autograph of the Six Pieces for Piano Duet, not only made this source accessible but also answered specific questions willingly. He is also obliged to Mr. Carl Weinrich (Princeton) for providing information about the preparation of his edition of the Variations for Organ and for permitting a scrutiny of his correspondence with Schoenberg. The editor also wishes to thank Prof. Dr. Rudolf Stephan (Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Reinhold Brinkmann (Marburg) for supporting the work on this volume in various ways, and the members of the Berlin Research Establishment, particularly Mr. Tadeusz Okuljar.

Christian Martin Schmidt (Translated by A. C. Howie)