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Object #19 / Arnold Schönberg: Behold the Sun

Gurre-Lieder, sketch outlining the progression of the final chorus
Text: Jens Peter Jacobsen (German: Robert Franz Arnold)
1900/11

Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien

“In March 1900, Schönberg began in Vienna the composition of a work on a larger scale than anything he had hitherto attempted – the choral work Gurre-Lieder. He was at the time conductor of several choral societies. […] One spring night, after a convivial party, he made an excursion with the Mödlinger Choral Society to the Anninger, a mountain in the neighbourhood. The stroll through the forest in the early morning mist, together with the sunrise, gave him his first inspiration for the third part of the melodrama, The Summer Wind’s Wild Chase, and for the final chorus, Behold the Sun.” (Egon Wellesz, 1921)
Schönberg uses colossal instrumentation for his setting of the text by Jens Peter Jacobsen: five soloists and narrator, three four-part male choruses, one eight-part mixed chorus, and huge orchestra. The concluding hymn to the sun describes nature’s awakening early one summer’s morning. This puts into perspective what has gone before: the story that has been told is a saga that belongs to the darkness of the night and – in the bright sunlight of the day – is far removed from reality.

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