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The Guitar in Arnold Schoenberg´s Serenade, Opus 24: Antecedents and Legacy

Jeremy Bass

https://www.academia.edu/27841

Whence the guitar in Arnold Schoenberg’s Serenade, opus 24? The Serenade dates from 1923; it is neoclassical in style, and has seven movements lasting over a half an hour in all. It is scored for clarinet, bass clarinet, mandolin, guitar, violin, viola, and cello. In its central movement, a deep male voice intones the Sonnet, No. 217, of the medieval Italian poet Petrarch. The other movements evoke classical forms, fitting for movements of a serenade. The first movement is a march, the second a menuet, and the third a theme and variations. After the sonnet, there is a “dance scene,” a brief Lied ohne Worte, and a finale that recapitulates material from other movements, especially the march, which returns to close the work. The inclusion of a substantial guitar part, unprecedented and unrepeated in Schoenberg’s works, marks the entrance of this instrument into the music of the twentieth-century avant-garde. Yet what are we to make of this event? Schoenberg’s selection of the guitar was not only realistic given the availability of competent guitarists in his milieu; the guitar provides important clues about the provenance of the Serenade, while this work served to establish the viability of the guitar in twentieth century chamber music, not least by setting a precedent for the music of Schoenberg’s successors. The echoes of the Serenade may be traced through the chamber music of Schoenberg’s disciples and followers, including the great Spanish composer Roberto Gerhard. The question of how much one piece or composer influences another can never be entirely clear. Asking this question is nonetheless essential to our understanding of the ways in which music affects us, and changes through us…)

The Guitar in Arnold Schoenberg´s Serenade, Opus 24: Antecedents and Legacy

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