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Object #22 / Arnold Schönberg: Nature, op. 8/1

Text: Heinrich Hart
Title page of the original version for voice and orchestra
1903–4

Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien

Schönberg’s setting of a text by Heinrich Hart conjures up images of nature in the music. The poem addresses the unity of time, nature, and experience. The first verse describes the flowing, cyclical transition from day to night, river to sea, and life to death. Schönberg depicts this transition in a setting that explores various aspects of motivic and harmonic symmetry. As a contrast with the first verse, the sequenced repetition of several motifs, a much quicker harmonic rhythm, and stronger rhythmic activity are all conspicuous in the song’s middle section. It is possible that the text, which portrays battling spirits, induced this musical shift. The dramaturgy of the third verse steers towards the message in the text that nature is the final resting place for all things.

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