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Dolenko, Elena

Schoenberg: The Early Years [Molodoy Schoenberg]

Ph.D. Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow, 2003
(elenadolenko@hotmail.com)

This Schoenberg study explores the origins of the career of the great man, who was well in advance of his time. Proposing an innovative analytical approach to Schoenberg's creative output by revealing some crucial dramatic parallels between his music and his painting, it re-examines the stylistic features of Schoenberg's oeuvre up to early 1909 with the focus on establishing typical Jugendstil characteristics in his music. Since there are still some methodological gaps in studies of the Jugendstil in music, the dissertation first provides background information on the conceptual data base of the Jugendstil recognized in contiguous fields of research (e.g. in art studies), in order then to apply its basic criteria to music. By dint of the approach employed, the research sheds new light on the most far-reaching works of this period, specifically on Verklärte Nacht, Pelleas and Melisande, the First and Second String Quartets and, last but not least, on Das Buch der hängenden Gärten.

The thesis challenges the conventional view of the concept of Klangfarbenmelodie, generally regarded as distributed melody, viz. melody whose constituents are usually consigned to instruments of diverse timbres. Detailed examination of primary evidence contained in Schoenberg's theoretical writings and his correspondence contributes in no small way to greater in-depth understanding of the concept's message and tells us much about the term's genesis. When building upon the analyses of such music pieces as the tomb scene from Pelleas and Melisande, the introduction to the fourth movement of the Second String Quartet or the Piano Piece Op. 11/2 -- pieces cited by Schoenberg himself in his letter to Josef Rufer of 19 January 1951, when pointing to examples of Klangfarbenmelodie in his music, -- the concept's intrinsic implication becomes apparent. It was a sort of counterpoint, the dissertation claims, that Schoenberg actually implied by Klangfarbenmelodie.

Adopting the analytical approach of Jusef Cohn who was probably the first to apply mathematical strategies of research to defining the sonal density of musical texture, the study investigates the Orchestral Piece Op. 16/3, concentrating on its very original compositional feature: aiming at maintenance of balance, Schoenberg equipoises the timbre monotony in the piece's first section by considerable swings of sonal density, and vice versa -- the comparative constancy of sonal density in the third section is brilliantly counteracted by the profusion and originality of the timbre combinations developed.