About this work
The German Lied was Schoenberg's primary medium of expression early in his career. Before the issuance of his first publication he had composed numerous songs; his Opp. 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 12, 14, and 15 are all collections of songs. Even his String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10, incorporates the voice into the third and fourth movements. It was in his works for voice and piano that Schoenberg gradually moved away from tonal composition. In December 1900, a public performance of the songs from the Op. 3 set elicited protests, one of many such reactions to premieres of Schoenberg's works. The six songs of Op. 3 were published in 1901 by Dreililien Verlag in Berlin, along with Schoenberg's Two Songs, Op. 1, and Four Songs, Op. 2. The Op. 3 songs are for mezzo soprano or baritone voice. In general, the songs show a marked advancement in technique over those of Op. 2. Greater chromaticism marks the Op. 3 set, especially in the bass lines and overall movement of harmonies.
Schoenberg found "Wie Georg von Frundsberg von sich selber sang" (How George of Frundsberg sang of himself) in Des Knaben Wunderhorn, a two-volume collection of German folk poetry edited by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano and published between 1805 and 1808. Schoenberg set "Georg von Frundsberg" in March 1903, emphasizing the defiant atmosphere of the poem, which is a soliloquy by a proud knight whose efforts to serve his court are ignored. Schoenberg's music uses developing variation, and features an easily discernible structure. "Die Aufgeregten" (The Excited Ones) is a poem by Gottfried Keller, set by Schoenberg in November 1903. An ironic rumination on human passion, the poem tells of the "savage grief" of bees, butterflies, and flowers tossed about by a May breeze. Uncharacteristically, Schoenberg frames the song with a prelude and postlude. A setting of Richard Dehmel's "Die Warnung" (The Warning), the third song of Op. 3, was composed in May 1899 and is one of several Dehmel texts Schoenberg set that year. "Die Warnung" is the most remarkable and successful of the Op. 3 songs, and the text is representative of both Dehmel's poems and works by numerous of his contemporaries. Imagery, not action or narrative, is the central theme. A man has poisoned his dog because it growled at the woman he loves. As he explains, "I hate everyone who causes disunion." The previous night the man saw the woman with another and tells her that tonight, when he comes to see her, she had better be alone. He gives her a warning: "You: remember my dog!" Rapid figurations in the piano convey the man's anger and every appearance of "Du" (you) is punctuated with fury.
"Hochzeitslied" (Wedding Song) is by Jens Peter Jacobsen, as translated by R. F. Arnold. The music was probably composed in 1900, the year in which Schoenberg set Jacobsen's Gurrelieder as a song cycle. As in the Gurrelieder settings, "Hochzeitslied" features melodies constructed of simple rhythmic ideas. Strophic in form, the song's melody is supported by block chords. Schoenberg set Gottfried Keller's Geübtes Herz (Experienced Heart) between September and November of 1903. The style is intensely lyrical, appropriate for a love song -- albeit an unusual one in which the heart speaks of how often it has loved. Schoenberg's subtle piano accompaniment highlights the voice. "Freihold" (Independence), by Lingg, set by Schoenberg in November, 1900, is another song of defiance. The protagonist is the Romantic archetype of the single man, secure in his lifestyle, resisting the torrents of nature (and life). Structurally the most straightforward of the set, "Freihold" features a boisterous refrain.