1. Am Scheideweg (Arnold Schönberg) >>> text | sources

2. Vielseitigkeit (Arnold Schönberg) >>> text | sources

3. Der neue Klassizismus (Arnold Schönberg) >>> text | sources

DURATION: ca. 11 Min.

Universal Edition
Belmont Music Publishers (USA, Canada, Mexico)

Schönberg composed the Three Satires for Mixed Chorus when he was 51 and at the high-point of his career; shortly before beginning the piece, he had been appointed Ferruccio Busoni’s successor at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste, the twelve-tone technique had established itself to a certain degree, and Schönberg was recognized as a composer as never before.
Yet in himself he remained as sensitive as ever; “ I wrote [the Saitres] when I was very much angered by attacks of some of my younger contemporaries at this time and I wanted to give them a warning that it is not good to attack me,” he explained in a letter to the american composer Amadeo de Filippi. His words were aimed at four groups he wished to target, as he writes in the foreword of the piece; those “who seek their personal salvation in the middle of the [compositional] road,” those who are oriented to the past, who look backwards instead of forwards,” the “folklorists” and lastly, “all the ‘…ists’ in whom I can only see mannerists.”
Although it is intended as an immediate response to current trends, the Satires’ message is still clear enough today. Am Scheideweg is directed at those exploiting tonal and atonal principles alike without being aware of origins or consequences. The text “Tonal” corresponds to a C major triad which had already worked its way into the twelve-tone row. Schönberg places this tonal cell deliberately (contrary to the principle of avoiding blatant major/minor groupings so as not to invoke a tonal focus) to reflect in the music the tonal/atonal contrast in the text; he also uses canon to send a tremor through those who despise the art of refined polyphony, joining the basic set and the cancrizans to make a 23-note double row and executing it as a four-part canon at the unison, which ends with a coda consisting of the basic set in stretto.
The rhythmic structure is conspicuous in this piece and the next one, Vielseitigkeit, notable in the way it contrasts with the complex ordering of the pitches. The visual impression alone of the Vielseitigkeit score gives a sense of the multilayered polyphonic texture; based on sophisticated mirrorings of the row, the piece is reminiscent of the “eye music” of the 15th and 16th centuries, the recurrent succession C-E-G remaining for the most part in the sonic background.
No. 3, “Der neue Klassizismus,“ is a cantata for  mixed chorus with viola, cello and piano accompaniment. It predominantly targets the musicologist Hugo Riemann (although Schönberg does not mention him specifically in the foreword); in his music encyclopedia (the 1916 edition) Riemann had spoken derisively of passages in Schönberg’s Harmonielehre, an attack from which the composer had not yet recovered in 1926 (when he was writing the Satires, when Riemann had long since died and when the passages in question had been deleted many years earlier).
Otherwise, Stravinsky was the main target. Obviously modeled on Baroque cantata form, the extended recitative Dem kann die Macht der Zeiten nichts mehr anhaben – “The forces of time can no longer touch him” – marked “perhaps solo” – precedes an aria for bass and chorus, Die Hauptsache ist der Entschluß – “The decision is the main thing” – which includes a varied reprise. Another recitative develops the initial material segues to a triple fugue, its subjects taken from the same row. The instruments’ role is to support the vocal lines, a precautionary measure going back to Schönberg’s choral work Friede auf Erden.
The Satires conclude with three canons composed diatonically. Schönberg justifies the procedure in a separate foreword, saying that he wanted to prove that he was able to compose diatonic canons, a technique which “although not appreciated very much, is still considered difficult” – and canon happens to be the traditional form which comes closest to meeting the requirements of the twelve-tone method.

Agnes Grond
© Arnold Schönberg Center