Second Viennese School XII – Anton Webern’s “Wie Bin Ich Froh!”

“Wie Bin Ich Froh” is the first of three lieds in Opus 25. Webern has written this album in 1934-35 based on poems by Hildegard Jone.

“What great delight!
Once more now all the green’s unfurled and shines so bright!
And still the world is overgrown with flowers!
Once more I in creation’s portal live my hours,
And yet am mortal.”

Webern has used  dodecaphonic scale and series of rhythmic figuration which are repeated throughout this short piece. In voice part rhythms are simple, consisted of quarter and eighth notes, mixed with eighth-note triolets. In piano part sixteenth-note triolets gives accompaniment part a commenting role and makes the music more active. Big leaps both in voice and piano part drag the attention of listener.

The piece’s tempo is slow (quarter note equals 60). In the first two bars, piano accompaniment introduces all the rhythmic patterns which are going to be used later in the piece. Moreover, all degrees of dodecaphonic scale are used in these two bars.

“What great delight!”

In the phrase in order to depict the word ‘delight’ Webern has used an ascending leap from e to D# and then F#. The phrase’s dynamic is forte, showing the bright sense of words, followed by decrescendo, ending with piano and ritardando. Accompaniment follows the sam figuration and dynamic strategy.

“Once more now all the green’s unfurled and shines so bright”

Tempo is back to its original mode. The phrase is longer and more lively and dynamic changes help it. “Once more now” is an descending motion, because Webern wants to emphasize on the contrast of the words ‘all the green’s’ by descending motion and dotted quarter-note as the longest division for ‘green’. The phrase’s climax happens on ‘unfurled’, with major seventh ascending leap from A to G#. G# is the highest note of this phrase, emphasized by forte, depicting the sense of lengthening. Stopped by a short rest (eighth-note), the phrase continues in a gentler manner, with decrescendo, piano and general descending motion. The only ascending leap is placed on the word ‘shines’ reflecting brightness.

“And still the world is overgrown with flowers!”

In order to depict the sense of steadiness, Webern uses the same note (G) for ‘and still’. In order to deliver the feeling of earth he has used relatively low register (B,G#) and successfully highlighted ‘is overgrown’ with high (A); and as it is followed with ‘by flowers’ Webern uses successive leaps in contrary motions.

“Once more I in creation’s portal live my hours’

Webern considers a long duration for ‘in creation’s portal’ consisting of 3.5 beats. Also, in terms of intervals, it occupies a relatively large span (minor 9th). Dynamic is forte throughout the phrase, with a small decrescendo at the end. ‘Live my hours’ is marked with ritardando, emphasizing length and regularity of lifetime.

“and yet am mortal”

The last phrase, a short one, with slower tempo (quarter-note equals 42), piano dynamic with decrescendo at the end reflects mortality and Webern beautifully ends the piece with an ascending leap depicting the rising of human’s soul leaving body at the time of death.


Second Viennese School XI – Alban Berg’s Lied “im Zimmer”

“Im Zimmer” is one of the miniature lieds in Alban Berg’s collection of “Seven Early pieces”, written in 1907, when Berg was only 22 years old. This collection of pieces was among the ones, that impressed Schoenberg 2 years later and encouraged him to accept Berg as his pupil. At the time of composing pieces, Berg was a self-taught composer, who hardly knew about musical theory and form. But his vigorous understanding of music and his ability to represent the feelings and words through it is astonishing.

The poem’s words are by Johannes Schlaf, the German poet, author and playwright.

Here is the English translation of text:

An autumn night.

“The evening looks in with its dying light.

A fire gaily burns,

crackles and brightly glows by turns.

So! My head upon your knee: that’s happiness!

When my eyes your lovely face caress,

How silently the minutes flee!”

As witnessed above, the poem is a romantic one, full of images and Berg has perceived and appreciated it properly. He has portrayed the feeling of the words in tempo and dynamic changes, harmonic alterations and textural modifications. The first two phrases are calm, picturing a peaceful autumn night, when daylight is becoming more and more dim. Berg has used low dynamics and general descending motion in order to show that the days is about to come to end, but at the same time, for the sake of generally positive mood of the piece, he has kept the harmonies bright and the texture is almost transparent (because of rare and soft dissonances, relatively high registered and gentle accompaniment).

The second phrase which is a bit more flowing, starts with an up-beat, which highlights the sense of liveliness. “The fire gaily burns, crackles and brightly glows by turns.” The accelerated tempo, directly corresponds with freely moving fire flames and jumping crackles. In the accompaniment, staccato leaps in both hands of piano, playing defused notes, perfectly resemble crackles and the word “bright” is (Ab) the highest note of the sub-phrase “crackles and brightly glows by turns.” as well as rhythmically the longest note.

The third phrase “So! My head upon your knee: that’s happiness!” is the climatic one in this music. The poem becomes emotionally intense, so that Berg uses frequent harmonic dissonances and tempo changes. Also, music depicts the climax through high dynamics, wide leaps, syncopations, 16th notes in the left hand of accompaniment and wider register. At the end of the phrase, tempo and dynamic decrease and Berg makes preparation for the last word of the sub-phrase “ruht” which means “to rest” by decreasing the tempo and dynamic and a dotted half note. He also prepares the mood for the last phrase of the piece, returning to the romantic, peaceful mood of beginning of the piece.

The very last phrase “How silently the minutes flee!” is rhythmically quite close to the first phrase. Intervals are mainly conjunct, and in case of being disjunct, they are not too far from each other. The phrase has an arch-form. It begins with a descending motion, which depicts the word “silently”, and Berg uses disjunct intervals in order to emphasize on the lowness of the word “silent”, and when it comes to the “flee of moments” he completes the arch by stepwise ascending motion and right before ending the piece he uses a “G” as 16th note to represent the flowing character of the moments, that resolves to the note “F” for the sake of keeping the static and calm mood of the piece until the very last moment of it.

Second Viennese School (X) – Suite for Piano Op. 25 (4)

This is the last post about Schoenberg’s Prelude from Suite Op. 25, in which I talk about phrases and harmonic relations between them. This prelude basically consists of 4-measure phrases, however the one located in the center of the piece, is longer, but Schoenberg has reached balance by first of all putting it in the center of the piece, and breaking it in some points by fermatas and rests between the sub-phrases. The first phrase, from 1st to the middle of 5th measure, starts and ends characteristic intervallic relations, which are repeated later in the piece. The minor second ascending movement in right hand, imitated in the left hand signals Schoenberg’s emphasis on such a figure throughout the piece. The sub-phrase ends in measure 3 with the same intervallic pattern in right hand and this time modified in the left hand (ascending major 9th). At the end of the phrase Schoenberg uses descending minor second in the right hand, imitated by descending minor 9th in left hand. Also left hand follows the same intervallic pattern with right hand from measure 1-3. And finally, the rests at the end of this phrase, long with corresponding with the rests at the beginning of the phrase, isolate it from the next one.

The second phrase with same length, starts from the middle of the second beat of measure 5 and ends on the first 8th note from the last beat of measure 9. Right hand, following the descending motion started in the phrase, moves to the lower octave. The phrase starts with retrograded version of right hand’s figure in the first measure, this time divided among both hands and left hand’s figure in the first measure can be followed in measure 7, with register changes, as well as rhythmic diminution. Also, minor and major second intervals appeared with sixteenth note values in the first, are repeated frequently in both similar and inverted versions. Also, in measure 7 and 8 right hand repeats a more modified, but still recognizable version of right hand’s first figure in measure 1. As the beginning of first phrase has been emphasized with ascending second interval, beginning of second phrase follows the same strategy and the endings of both measures are also same (descending minor second followed by rest).

Third phrase, starting with a different temporal and expressive character (etwas ruhiger, dolce) and even rhythmically larger values, is characterized by leaps in descending motion (diminished  5th in right and minor 6th in left hand), but still the diminished 5th interval is the corresponding point with the first and second phrases. This phrase starts from the second half of second beat in measure 9, ends with three successive double nots emphasized with fermatas on the first beat of measure 16 and is the longest phrase (doubled length of 1st and 2nd measure). Smaller rhythmic figurations and more intertwined motives rise the tension of the piece. The characteristic (E,F,G,Db) figure appears in left hand, all in descending motion and accelerated 16th notes. The note Db is also modified to D natural. In measure 14 the contrast between left and right hand both harmonically and rhythmically. Left hand plays the characteristic motive of first measure (Bb,Cb,Db,G), but minor second motions are replaced by major 7th intervals. In right hand the 32nd notes, although slowed down by ritardando, are in contrast with dotted 8th notes of left hand. Also in terms of intervallic relations, right hand’s motive is less characteristic than left hand’s. In measure 15 and 16, fermatas signal the end of third phrase. Two groups of 8th-note figures in right hand are followed with a chord by right hand in measure 16 and are accompanied by chords in left hand. In measure 15 and 16, the interval between each figure in right hand becomes smaller (perfect5th, minor 3rd) and eventually the phrase ends with the characteristic descending minor second. And although left hand plays chords against right hand in measure 15, it ends the phrase with minor second descending melodic figure (F,E).

Fourth phrase, starting form the middle of 16th measure profoundly corresponds with the first measure, but it is a bit smaller than the first measure. Both hands play first measures motives, but this time they have switched them. Also, the (E,F,Db,G) figure is rhythmically augmented. Although we do not hear any descending minor second interval closing the phrase, the rest at the end of measure 19 signals the end of it.

Fifth phrase (from 20 to 24) begins with rhythmically changed first measure’s figure in right hand, accentuated by rests between the  portions of figures, while just a touch of left hand’s figure hardly corresponds not with right hand’s figure in measure 2 and 3 (B,C,A,Bb). Tension of the last phrase is even more than the third (middle) phrase, by bigger leaps, accelerando, appearing at the very beginning of it, more complicated rhythmic relations, crescendo and the highest dynamic level than other phrases. In contrast with the general idea of ending the phrases with descending motion, Schoenberg has used leaps in both hands with fortissimo dynamics, which is actually balances the energy with the beginning of the piece, with piano dynamics and stepwise motions.


In the next post, I will analyze a lied by Alban Berg.


Second Viennese School (IX) – Suite for Piano Op. 25 (3)

In this post, I try to present my own rhythmic analysis of the Prelude of Suite Op. 25. There are few stereotypes, appearing in different instances of the music, either in the same manner with their first statement, or as modified version of it. The most rife rhythmic pattern is the repetitive 16th notes, appearing in groups of 2, 3, 4 or 6 same pitches. This pattern is first stated in measure 3 and repeated in 4, 7, 8, 9, 12 (two groups of 32nd notes shifting to each other), 13 and 14 (the longest instance of occurrence of this pattern), 18,19. The other typical rhythmical pattern is group of successive dotted eighth notes, first used in the very first bar, repeating either with the same number of repetitions and rhythmic values, smaller less repetitive groups or smaller values, such as dotted 16th notes. In addition to bar 1, this figure is used in bars 7 (group of 2 dotted eighth notes), 8 (between left and right hand) 14,16 (dotted 16th notes) and 17. Also right hand’s phrase in 1-2 measures is repeated in several ways throughout the piece, in some cases exactly the same, and in many instances modified through augmentation, diminution, small value changes, and fragmentation and inversion. For instance, in measure 2-3 left hand imitates exactly the same pattern with right hand in measure 1, but the inverted  manner. In measure 5, left hand plays similar pattern this time with rests between the notes and diminution in the tail of the motif. The head-motif (two successive eighth-notes and a quarter note) appears in measure 5, right hand, with inverted motion and rest (which equals a quarter note). It is followed by the tail of the phrase appeared in measure 6 in left hand, which results in hearing the whole phrase divided between two hands and in two different registers. In measure 10, just the tail of the phrase is heard in the right hand. The second beat of measure 12 presents the head-motif in double notes, with the same rhythmic value, but in opposite motion and different intervals. In measure 13, the pattern is enharmonized in the right hand and measure 15 emphasizes it by using double-notes, fermatas and leaps. Measure 17 presents a modified version of the tail of measure 1’s phrase in left hand. Instead of (8th, dotted-8th, 32nd note), there comes (dotted 8th, 32nd, 8th), followed by the original version in measure 18 again in left hand.

Second Viennese School (VIII) – Suite for Piano Op. 25 (2)



In this post, I will continue with the analysis of measures 15-16 of Prelude Op.25 from Richard Kurth’s article.

As observed, in measure 15 the same dyads used in the beginning of the prelude, appear in harmonic manner. {Db,G} in the left hand is actually {2,3} taken from P0 and I6. The first double note {F,E} played by right hand is {0,1} from P0, and {Bb,A} is {0,1} from I6. On the second beat, {Ab,Gb} in the left hand is {4,6} from both P0 and I6, {Eb,D} in the right hand corresponds with {5,7} from P0, and finally {C,B} is {5,7} from I6. P0 dyads in this measure are on strong and I6 dyads are on weak beats. But the balance between them is reached through the fermatas on tetrachords on the weak beat, followed by a rest.

In measure 16, the {Eb,D} in right hand is derived from {8,9} in I6 and {F,E} in the left hand is I6’s {10,11}. These two dyads are articulated from each other by rhythmic and register difference. What is spectacular about the P0 dyads {F,E} and {Eb,D} appeared in measure 15 and 16 is that both of them show up harmonically and in a strict timing in measure, while treated in a melodic and free rhythmical manner in measure 16. Also {Bb,A} and {C,B} dyads appearing both in measure 15 and 16 (as tetrachord) are treated as off-beat in 15 and down-beat in 16. Moreover, the horizontal motion of right hand’s dyads in measure 15 gives us two groups of <F4,Bb3,Eb4, C4> and <E5,A4,D5,B4> carrying exactly the same intervals (perfect 5th and minor 3rd), while keeping the same interval between two voices throughout the measure. In the same measure leaf hand carries two different types of chromatic motion; one is <G3,Gb3,F3,E3> which is a direct chromatic descending motion, and <Db3,Ab2,C3,A2> that holds a chromatic relation between Db and C as well as A and Ab, which is virtually the rhythmically augmented imitation of <F4,Bb3,Eb4,C4> in the right hand.

The rhythmic relation between the three passages in each hand is the similar with a different ratio among the hands. In right hand, 8 notes are followed by 16th notes, while in left hand, the eighth note at the beginning of measure 16 is preceded by quarter notes in measure 15, which delivers the concept of imitation in the left hand, dragging the attention from right hand to left.


Second Viennese School (VII) – Suite for Piano Op. 25 (1)


As mentioned in the last post, Mosaic Polyphony is a method for analyzing 12-tone music. This post includes the rhythmic and harmonic analysis of three first measure of Schoenberg’s Prelude from Suite Op. 25 according to the text I am reading these days. The importance of rhythmic analysis becomes bolder by considering that actually rhythm plays a crucial role in formal structure of this music.

First comes some explanation which helps the reader finding the relation between letters and numbers in the two upper photos:

W1: the order-number mosaic

M1: pitch-class mosaic

“In each row, W1 groups together the pitch-class dyads of M1, in different positions, but in a manner consistent with W1 over both rows. Since P0 and P6 project the same pitch-class dyads in different positions and different orders, the mosaic already suggests certain rhythmic and formal implications for the music’s discourse.” (Kurth, P.190)

“antecedent-consequent” will refer to structures in a single individual dyad stratum, while the special locution “ANTecedent-CONsequent” will refer to more complex and developed structures among two or more dyad strata in combination.” (Kurth, P.193)

The tritones {G,Db}, {Db,G}, {D,G#}, {Ab,D} used in both P0 and P6 are all enharmonic tritones used with different rhythmic patterns and proportions. However the melodic contour in {G4,Db5} and {Db3,G3} is ascending and in {Ab4,Dd} and {D3,G#2(Ab2)} is descending and the register differentiation of these figures creates a kind of balance among them. Moreover, The span between D4 and Db5 equals the span between G#2 and G3, as if <G4,Db5,Ab4,D4> (ANTecedent)is answered by <Db3,G3,D3,G#2> (CONsequent). Also, all these figures contain the rhythmic value of a dotted quarter note, which, in some cases, is completed by a following rest. By observing this passage more carefully, we witness that the dyad {Bb3,Cb4} (especially the note Bb3, which appears at the beginning as well as the end of the passage in measure 3) works as a core, that ANTecedent and CONsequent appear in different inverted versions about this dyad.  and so the harmonic and rhythmic symmetry is obvious in this passage. These balanced passages (in terms of rhythms, pitch and register), flow in between a rather freer rhythmic (but still following the dotter quarter pattern) gestures appearing in measures 1-3.

The other recurring figure appearing 4 times in this passage consists of these dyads: {Gb4,Eb4}, {C3,A2}, {F#2(Gb2),Eb2}, {C4,A3}. By considering {Gb4,Eb4} as antecedent and {F#2,Eb2} as consequent (since they are enharmonic), the echo quality of {F#2,Eb2}, especially since it has appeared in a lower register than {Gb4,Eb4} with a lower dynamic, and lower rhythmic value, will be revealed. The rhythmic correspondence between these two figures is looser. In opposition, {C3,A2} is answered by higher-registered and louder {C4,A3} on the exactly similar rhythmic attack, which delivers a strong relation between two figures. Another kind of grouping can be observed in this passage which considers <Gb3,Eb4,C4,A3> as ANTecedent and <C3,A2,F#2(=Gb2),Eb2> as CONsequent which is enveloped by ANTecedent. ANTecedent is derived from P0, and CONsequent from P6 and the registers of these two groups are totally independent from each other, but within each group the close-position between two figures is considered by the composer. And as in the previous analyzed passage which was placed around the figure (Bb,Cb), in this passage the appearance of the  figure {E5,F5} at the beginning of the piece, creates a perfect symmetry between these two passages.

The Second Viennese School (VI)

I have started reading an article, called “Mosaic Polyphony: Formal Balance, Imbalance, and Phrase Formation in the Prelude of Schoenberg’s Suite, Op. 25”, by Richard B. Kurth. He suggests “mosaic isomorphism” as a method of analysis by Donald Martino and Andrew Mead for this piece, that is applicable to any work composed in the twelve-tone system. Isomorphism is a concept in mathematics that means “a one-to-one correspondence between two sets that preserves binary relationships between elements of the sets.” (Britannica, Academic Edition)

Through isomorphism, in music, first each passage is separately analyzed in terms of intervallic and rhythmic relations. In the next step, through a more fundamental division, the smaller, yet independent group of two tones are observed. This leads us to a precise and detailed understanding of the relations between the two pitches of each cell (dyad: a two-member group) and later in the passages. The result would be perception of the logic that the composer has chosen and followed in order to achieve balance or even imbalance throughout the piece in terms of pitch and rhythm. Concerning pitch, the result of analysis will be finding the intervallic relation between each two pitches, where and how often do they appear, whether there is a relation between the dyads containing pitches with the same interval and if yes, do they complete, follow or oppose each other. Moreover during the process of analysis we might even notice the probable modifications executed to the pitches of similar dyads by the composer.

The explanation of author about how the method approaches the rhythm of music is: “The form-producing aspect of these rhythmic relationships between subunits must be conceived analytically twofold. It must be considered on the one hand with regard to specific ‘quantitative’ relations between duration and rhythmic alignments and, on the other, with regard to more abstract ‘qualitative’ relations- that is, allowing for the fact that one subunit may precede, follow, or overlap another in temporal progressions.” (Kurth, 192)

For the coming week I will continue with summarizing this article as well as presenting some examples taken from the Prelude of Op. 25 Suite.

Works cited:

  • Kurth, Richard B. Mosaic Polyphony: Formal Balance, Imbalance, and Phrase Formation in the Prelude of Schoenberg’s Suite, Op. 25. Theory Spectrum, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Autumn, 1992), pp. 188-208. Web.