Masterclass: Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht

Schoenberg manuscript

Thomas Kemp gives practical advice on interpreting this passionate and evocative work for strings

In August 1950 the Hollywood Quartet, with violist Alvin Dinkin and cellist Kurt Reher, recorded the original sextet version of Verklärte Nacht under Schoenberg’s supervision for Capitol Records. The composer was so delighted with the sessions that he offered to write the sleeve notes, which are highly revealing and brilliantly succinct. In the notes, Schoenberg places Verklärte Nacht in its cultural context as programme music inspired by the tone poems of Richard Strauss, ‘illustrating and giving musical expression to the poem of Richard Dehmel’. He goes on to say that the music does not illustrate any action or drama but is rather ‘restricted to portray nature and to express human emotions’. The music expresses the meaning behind the poem…

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