2. mouvement: Andante grazioso
3. mouvement: Finale. Allegro
DURATION: ca. 31 Min.
DATE: 1934 (oder 1935) - September 1936
FIRST PERFORMANCE: 6. Dezember 1940, Philadelphia (Louis Krasner, Violine; Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra; Dir. Leopold Stokowski)
FIRST PRINT AND EARLY EDITIONS: G. Schirmer, New York Dezember 1939
DEDICATION: »Meinem lieben Freund und Kampfgenossen Dr. Anton von Webern«
Universal Edition PH 460 (Taschenpartitur)
G. Schirmer: ED 44272 (Partitur); ST 38238 (Klavierauszug)
The Violin Concerto is one of the first larger works which Schönberg turned to following his emigration to the USA. However, only a few sketches from the composer's legacy reveal that he intended to write an instrumental concerto in 1934. The most important sections of the work were not composed until the following year after a lengthy break: the first movement was followed in quick succession by the two remaining movements in the summer of 1936 (after the Fourth String Quartet was completed). Sketches from the years 1922 and 1927 confirm that Schönberg already planned to write a violin concerto before, although this hardly developed beyond the beginnings of a larger-scale work. The question of whether sonata and concerto form can be combined in orchestral music was examined by Schönberg for the first time in the violin concerto. The supposed incompatibility of the demand for a densely structured, polyphonic compositional technique and the traditional concessions to the brilliant and effective virtuosity of the solo part was evidently a fundamental compositional incentive for the composer. The beginning of each movement is characterised by two overlapping row constellations as a combination of the original row and the inversion, untransposed or transposed by a fifth respectively. In addition, the row constellation that is based on the principal part is initially presented horizontally each time. The row technique cannot be systematised within the movement and reveals numerous irregularities in the interpretation of the strict methodology. Although Schönberg intended the form of his concerto to have a "classical" three-movement structure, the recapitulation of the first movement, for example, is hardly more than the exposition and its form is altered by a developmental section which extends almost until the end of the movement. In such a construction, the virtuoso shaping of the violin part is ultimately entirely absorbed and also strangely defamiliarised by the thematic work. From time to time, the "Strenge mit knirschendem Prunk [stringency with scrunching pomp]" (Rudolf Stephan) which distinguishes this work seems to turn against the instrument and its ability to be played in the motivic and thematic organisation: the dense, thematic complex does not shy away from an extreme harshness of sound which occasionally approaches pure noisiness. Louis Krasner, who played the solo part when the work was premiered, told Schönberg about the rehearsals: "Stokowski was very satisfied in today's rehearsal and commented on the work's highly emotional character. My dear maestro - your concerto gives violinists something that is hardly possible to estimate."
© Arnold Schönberg Center