Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
Transfigured Night, op 4
Zwei Menschen gehn durch
kahlen, kalten Hain;
Der Mond läuft mit, sie schaun hinein.
Der Mond läuft über hohe Eichen
Kein Wölkchen trübt das Himmelslicht,
In das die schwarzen Zacken reichen.
Die Stimme eines Weibes spricht:
Ich trag ein Kind, und nit von Dir
ich geh in Sünde neben Dir.
Ich hab mich schwer an mir vergangen.
Ich glaubte nicht mehr an ein Glück
Und hatte doch ein schwer Verlangen
Nach Lebensinhalt, nach Mutterglück
Und Pflicht; da hab ich mich erfrecht,
Da liess ich schaudernd mein Geschlecht
Von einem fremden Mann umfangen,
Und hab mich noch dafür gesegnet.
Nun hat das Leben sich gerächt:
Nun bin ich Dir, o Dir begegnet.
Sie geht mit ungelenkem Schritt.
Sie schaut empor, der Mond läuft mit.
Ihr dunkler Blick ertrinkt in Licht.
Die Stimme eines Mannes spricht:
Das Kind, das Du empfangen hast,
sei Deiner Seele keine Last,
O sieh, wie klar das Weltall schimmert!
Es ist ein Glanz um Alles her,
Du treibst mit mir auf kaltem Meer,
Doch eine eigne Wärme flimmert
Von Dir in mich, von mir in Dich.
Die wird das fremde Kind verklären
Du wirst es mir, von mir gebären;
Du hast den Glanz in mich gebracht,
Du hast mich selbst zum Kind gemacht.
Er fasst sie um die starken Hüften.
Ihr Atem küsst sich in den Lüften.
Zwei Menschen gehn durch hohe, helle Nacht.
Schoenberg wrote the following about his "Transfigured Night":
"At the end of 19th century, the foremost representatives of the 'Zeitgeist' in poetry were Detlev von
Liliencron, Hugo von Hoffmannstahl and Richard Dehmel. But in music, after Brahms' death, many young composers followed the model of Richard Strauss, by composing programme music. This explains the origin of "Transfigured Night"; it is programme music, illustrating and expressing the poem of Richard
Dehmel. My composition was, perhaps somewhat different from other
illustrative compositions, firstly, by not being for orchestra but for a chamber group and secondly, because it does not illustrate any action of drama, but was restricted to portray nature and to express human feelings. It seems that, due to this attitude, my composition has gained qualities, which can also satisfy if one does not know what it illustrates, or in other words, it offers the possibility to be appreciated as 'pure' music. Thus it can perhaps make you forget the poem which many a person today might call rather repulsive. Nevertheless, much of the poem deserves appreciation because of its highly poetic presentation of emotions provoked by the beauty of nature, and for the distinguished moral attitude in dealing with a staggeringly difficult
(N.B. Please note that the following list of tracks is only to assist the listener’s comprehension of Schoenberg’s own analysis of this programme music. In no way do they signify the musical form of Verklärte
1…Promenading in a park,
…in a clear, cold moonlight night,
...the woman confesses a tragedy to the man in a dramatic outburst.
… She had married a man whom she did not love. She was unhappy and lonely in this marriage,
…but forced herself to remain faithful,
Track 7… and finally obeying the maternal instinct, she is now with child from a man she does not love. She has even considered herself praiseworthy for fulfilling her duty towards the demands of nature.
8… A climatic ascension, elaborating the motif, expresses her self accusation of her great sin.
Track 9… In desperation she now walks beside the man with whom she has fallen in love, fearing his verdict will destroy her.
…But the voice of a man speaks, a man whose generosity is as sublime as his love.
Track 11…The preceding first half of the composition ends in E flat minor (a) of which, as a transition, only the B flat (b) remains, in order to connect with the extreme contrast of D major
(c).Harmonics (a) adorned by muted runs (b) expresses the beauty of the moonlight.
Track 12…and above a glittering accompaniment,
Track 13…a secondary theme is introduced,
Track 14…which soon changes into a duet between the violin and cello. This section reflects the mood of a man whose love, in harmony with the splendour and radiance of nature, is capable of ignoring the tragic situation: “the child you bear must not be a burden to your soul”.
Track 15… Having reached a climax, this duet is connected by a transition with a new theme. Its melody expressing the “warmth that flows from one of us into the other”; the warmth of love is followed by repetitions and elaborations of previous themes. It leads, finally, to another new theme, which corresponds to the mans’s dignified resolution: this warmth “will transfigure your child”, so as to become “my own”.
16…An ascension leads to the climax, a repetition of the man’s theme
10) a the beginning of the second part.
A long coda section concludes the work. Its material consists of themes of the preceding parts, all of them modified anew, so as to glorify the miracles of nature that have changed this night of tragedy into a transfigured night. Track 17
It shall not be forgotten that this work, at its first performance in Vienna (Tuesday, March 18, 1902 by the Rosé Quartet of the Imperial and Royal Court Opera orchestra) was hissed and caused riots and fist fights. But it very soon became very successful."