2019 Season
Epic
Transfigured Night
21/09/2019
Michael Fowler Centre,
Wellington
Arnold Schoenberg's 'Verklaerte Nacht' matched with both Bach and Beethoven's String Quartet 14
Verklaerte Nacht
Arnold Schoenberg

Concerto #1 in D minor
Johann Sebastian Bach

String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131
Ludwig van Beethoven

This is the work where Schoenberg bid farewell to the 19th century and the Romantic style with one last great work in that grand tradition. He was yet to find his unique voice, the 12-tone compositional method of the Second Viennese School. For now, however, the modernity of this piece rests as much as anything in its subject matter of trust, forgiveness and acceptance outside the social norms. The five sections are based on the stanzas of a poem by Richard Dehmel. A couple walk in the moonlight woods; the woman confesses that she is carrying another man’s child; the man forgives her. “Look how brightly the universe shines,” he says. “You are voyaging with me on a cold sea, but there is the glow of an inner warmth from you in me, from me in you. That warmth will transfigure the stranger’s child….you have transfused me with splendour. You have made a child out of me.”

This keyboard concerto is thought to have been arranged from a lost violin concerto in D minor. Bach also used some themes from his earlier cantatas. Here, perhaps wishing to create a body of works featuring the harpsichord, Bach wove them all into a concerto whose sense of drama hints at Vivaldi’s influence.

Even close to the end of his life, Beethoven was still experimenting. Though written for a small group, this late string quartet was one of his last works on a grand scale, comprising of seven movements. Two of those movements serve as introductions to the following movements, leaving us with a fugue, a compressed sonata-form, a theme and variations, a scherzo-trio, and another sonata-form allegro. Throughout, the ideas suggested in the opening movement are reworked with Beethoven’s characteristic genius.



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