Arnold Schoenberg: Notturno for Strings and Harp


Composed in 1895, Arnold Schoenberg’s Notturno for Strings and Harp combines unusual scoring with a side of Schoenberg’s earlier style that people don’t always remember. This single-movement work set in Ab is scored for solo violin, harp and small string orchestra. There is a real sense of kinship between the instruments in Notturno, which highlights Schoenberg’s delicate touch. 


The Music

Throughout Notturno the atmosphere is calm and serene. The opening fluctuations from the strings sets the warm scene with a melody being introduced by the upper strings. The solo violin joins in to reiterate the melody, with the strings accompanying either pizzicator or arco. This creates a rich texture for the soloist to soar above. The gentle movement of the melody is accentuated by the harp, who plays sparkling arpeggio runs. 

The solo violin leads the way into the central section, which sees a development in the main theme. The soloist moves up towards the upper range of the instrument, which adds a shine to the music, as well as tugging on your heartstrings. After the climax of the piece explodes in colour, the dynamic and texture begins to decrease as the strings and harp lay the foundation for the final solo violin notes. The last note played by the soloist is the highest in the piece, and it is accompanied by the sparkling harp arpeggios and delicate strings.


Final Thoughts

Arnold Schoenberg’s Notturno for Strings and Harp is one of his most beautiful works. From the rich textures and timbres to the emotional solo writing, this piece is a real tear-jerker. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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