Arnold Schönberg – Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte op. 42 / A Survivor from Warsaw op. 46
(b. Vienna, September 13, 1874 – d. Los Angeles, July 13, 1951)
The composer Arnold Schönberg, born in Vienna in 1874, plays an extraordinary role in the history of music, as he was the first to consistently and definitively abandon tonality. He names Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms as his most important teachers. His compositional output can be divided into three periods: a first, late romantic and tonal period, a phase of free tonality, and finally the period of twelve-tone technique or dodecaphony. His final creative period began with the composition of his Fünf Klavierstücke op. 23 (1920–1923). The group of Viennese composers that formed around Schönberg, which also included his two prominent students Alban Berg and Anton Webern, is known as the „Second Viennese School“. The music of this group was not understood by the public, which is why the “Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen” was founded in 1918. In 1933 Arnold Schönberg had to emigrate to the USA for political reasons. Many of his most impressive compositions were written in America, such as Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte op. 42 or A Survivor from Warsaw op. 46. In these two works, Schönberg deals with the world political situation of the 1940s. While Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte can be seen as a rejection of dictatorship and a glorification of democracy, A Survivor from Warsaw represents a commitment to Jewish identity.
Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte op. 42
Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte op. 42 exists in two versions: one for string quartet, piano, and speaker, and one for string orchestra, piano, and speaker. It was commissioned by the League of Composers to Schönberg, who composed the work between March and June of 1942. He was inspired by Beethoven’s Eroica and Wellington’s Victory, two works by Beethoven with political connotations. The composition’s textual basis goes back to the British George Gordon Byron (1788–1824) – better known as Lord Byron – and was a reaction to Napoleon’s abdication in April 1814. Schönberg’s work can be read as a protest against the tyranny of the time: Although the title alludes to the historical figure Napoleon, it certainly refers to the dictator Adolf Hitler. After the completion of the work, attempts were made by Schönberg to perform his composition in public. It was only under Artur Rodzinski with the New York Philharmonics that the work was first heard on 23 November 1942, after Schönberg had made the necessary changes in the score. On 25 November of the same year, the performance was repeated and broadcast nationwide. …
Full preface / Komplettes Vorwort > HERE