DURATION: ca. 15 Min.
DATE: 12. März - 12. Juni 1942 (Erste Niederschrift der Quartettfassung, Orchesterfassung vor dem 29. Juli 1943)
FIRST PERFORMANCE: 23. November 1944, New York, Carnegie Hall (Orchesterfassung; New York Philharmonic Orchestra; Dir. Artur Rodzinsky; Mack Harrell, Sprecher; Eduard Steuermann, Klavier); 10. Juli 1946, London, Goldsmith's Hall (Quartettfassung; Aeolian String Quartet; Cuthbert Kelly, Sprecher; Else Cross, Klavier)
Fassung für Streichquartett, Klavier und Sprecher (1942);
Fassung für Streichorchester, Klavier und Sprecher (1942)
FIRST PRINT: G. Schirmer, New York, (Herbst) 1944 (Orchesterfassung); G. Schirmer, New York, (April) 1945 (Quartettfassung) (Nr. 40981 Partitur und Stimmen)
SALES MATERIAL: Belmont Music Publishers (USA, Canada, Mexico): Bel 1008 (Partitur); Bel 1008P (Fassung für Kammerbesetzung)
G. Schirmer: Orchestermaterial leihweise
The impetus for this composition was twofold: 8 December 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Schönberg heard President Roosevelt’s “day of infamy” radio address; and in January 1942 Schönberg received a commission from the League of Composers for a short chamber work. The League celebrated its 20th anniversary by commissioning several 10- to 20-minute works. Schönberg accepted the commission and composed the work between 12 March and 12 June 1942. However, it seems that Schönberg was not satisfied that his work would receive an adequate performance at the League of Composers’ concert, and he declined to send them the piece. He and his students searched for suitable performers and venues, but the “Ode” was not premiered publicly until 23 November 1944. Schönberg exercised great care in choosing the text; he wanted to compose something on a text by Lord Byron, for the poet’s support of Greece’s struggle for independence mirrored Schönberg’s allegiances to the Europe struggling against Hitler. Of his decision to compose the piece, Schönberg wrote: “I knew it was the moral duty of intelligentsia to take a stand against tyranny.” He combined the “Marseillaise” and the motive from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at the moment when the speaker declaims, “the earthquake voice of victory.” In a letter of 8 September 1943 to his former pupil Heinrich Jalowetz, who had prepared the piece for a recording with a singer, Schönberg insisted that the singer must have “the number of shades, essential to express one hundred and seventy kinds of derision, sarcasm, hatred, ridicule, contempt, condemnation, etc., which I tried to portray in my music.” He further contrasts the performance of this work to his intentions in “Pierrot lunaire” (another work for small ensemble and ‘Sprechstimme’): “The recitation in ‘Pierrot lunaire’ is so as if the voice would be an instrument like the other five. But in contrast to that, here the recitation must be as realistically natural as if there were no music at all.” Schönberg heard the piece live only in a rehearsal that took place before the concert in honor of his 75th birthday (the performance at which his Phantasy received its premiere). Leonard Stein, who witnessed this occasion, remembered, “The speaker was William Schallert, I was the pianist, and the quartet was led by Adolph Koldofsky. In a special coaching session with the speaker, Schoenberg, his dark eyes flashing expressively while he recited lines from the work, emphasized, above all, their dramatic and expressive values. The inflections of pitch, marked so carefully in the score, were treated in a secondary manner. The main impression of the ‘Ode’ was, and remains, one of powerful dramatic expression.”
© Arnold Schönberg Center
‘Tis done – but yesterday a King!
And arm’d with Kings to strive –
And now thou art a nameless thing:
So abject – yet alive!
Is this the man of thousand thrones,
Who strew’d our earth with hostile bones,
And can he thus survive?
Since he, miscalled the Morning Star,
Nor man nor fiend hath fallen so far.
Ill-minded man, why scourge thy kind
Who bow’d so low the knee?
By gazing on thyself grown blind,
Thou taught’st the rest to see.
With might unquestion’d, – power to save, –
Thine only gift hath been the grave
To those that worshipped thee;
Nor till thy fall could mortals guess
Ambition’s less than littleness!
Thanks for that lesson – it will teach
To after-warriors more
Than high Philosophy can preach,
And vainly preach’d before.
That spell upon the minds of men
Breaks never to unite again,
That led them to adore
Those Pagod things of sabre sway,
With fronts of brass, and feet of clay.
The triumph, and the vanity,
The rapture of the strife –
The earthquake voice of Victory,
To thee the breath of life;
The sword, the sceptre, and that sway
Which man seem’d made but to obey
Wherewith renown was rife –
All quell’d! – Dark spirit! what must be
The madness of they memory!
The Desolator desolate!
The Victor overthrown!
The Arbiter of others’ fate
A Supplicant for his own!
Is it some yet imperial hope
That with such change can calmly cope?
Or dread of death alone?
To die a prince – or live a slave –
Thy choice is most ignobly brave!
He who of old would rend the oak,
Dream’d not of the rebound;
Chain’d by the trunk he vainly broke –
Alone – how look’d he round?
Thou in the sternness of thy strength
An equal deed hast done at length,
And darker fate hast found:
He fell, the forest prowler’s prey;
But thou must eat thy heart away!
The Roman, when his burning heart
Was slaked with blood of Rome,
Threw down the dagger – dared depart,
In savage grandeur, home. –
He dared depart in utter scorn
Of men that such a yoke had borne,
Yet left him such a doom!
His only glory was that hour
Of self-upheld abandon’d power.
The Spaniard, when the lust of sway
Had lost its quickening spell,
Cast crowns for rosaries away,
And empire for a cell;
A strict accountant of his beads,
A subtle disputant on creeds,
His dotage trifled well:
Yet letter had he neither known
A bigot’s shrine, nor despot’s throne.
But thou – from thy reluctant hand
The thunderbolt is wrung –
Too late thou leav’st the high command
To which thy weakness clung;
All Evil Spirit as thou art,
It is enough to grieve the heart
To see thine own unstrung;
To think that God’s fair world hath been
The footstool of a thing so mean;
And Earth hath spilt her blood for him,
Who thus can hoard his own!
And Monarchs bowed the trembling limb,
And thank’d him for a throne!
Fair Freedom! we may hold thee dear,
When thus thy mightiest foes their fear
In humblest guise have shown.
Oh! ne’er may tyrant leave behind
A brighter name to lure mankind!
Thine evil deeds are writ in gore,
Not written thus in vain –
Thy triumphs tell of fame no more
Or deepen every stain:
If thou hadst died as honour dies,
Some new Napoleon might arise,
To shame the world again –
But who would soar the solar height,
To set in such a starless night?
Weigh’d in the balance, hero dust
Is vile as vulgar clay;
Thy scales, Mortality! are just
To all that pass away:
But yet methought the living great
Some higher sparks should animate,
To dazzle and dismay:
Nor deem’d Contempt could thus make mirth
Of these, the Conquerors of the earth.
And she, proud Austria’s mournful flower,
Thy still imperial bride;
How bears her breast the torturing hour?
Still clings she to thy side?
Must she too bend, must she too share
Thy late repentance, long despair,
Thou throneless Homicide?
If still she loves thee, hoard that gem,
‘Tis worth thy vanish’d diadem!
Then haste thee to they sullen Isle,
And gaze upon the sea;
That element may meet thy smile –
It ne’er was ruled by thee!
Or trace with thine all idle hand
In loitering mood upon the sand
That Earth is now as free!
That Corinth’s pedagogue hath now
Transferr’d his by-word to thy brow.
Thou Timour! in his captive’s cage
What thoughts will there be thine,
While brooding in thy prison’d rage?
But one – ‘The world was mine!’
Unless, like he of Babylon,
All sense is with thy sceptre gone,
Life will not long confine
That spirit pour’d so widely forth –
So long obey’d – so little worth!
Or, like the thief of fire from heaven,
Wilt thou withstand the shock?
And share with him, the unforgiven,
His vulture and his rock!
Foredoom’d by God – by man accurst,
And that last act, though not thy worst,
The very Fiend’s arch mock;
He in his fall preserved his pride,
And, if a mortal, had as proudly died!
There was a day – there was an hour,
While earth was Gaul’s – Gaul thine –
When that immeasurable power
Unsated to resign
Had been an act of purer fame
Than gathers round Marengo’s name
And gilded thy decline,
Through the long twilight of all time,
Despite some passing clouds of crime.
But thou forsooth must be a king,
And don the purple vest, –
As if that foolish robe could wring
Remembrance from thy breast.
Where is that faded garment? where
The gewgaws thou wert fond to wear,
The star – the string – the crest?
Vain froward child of empire! say,
Are all thy playthings snatch’d away?
Where may the wearied eye repose
When gazing on the Great;
Where neither guilty glory glows,
Nor despicable state?
Yes – one – the first – the last – the best
The Cincinnatus of the West,
Whom envy dared not hate,
Bequeath’d the name of Washington,
To make man blush there was but one!