By way of introduction, the first section of this work will involve a brief description of the theory Neumann used to compose his cycle Op. 102 for baritone, soprano and piano. This theory, largely unknown outside of the German-speaking world is formally called the “Klangreihen – Kompositionslehre der dritten Wiener Kompositionsschule”, translated in this work as “Steinbauer’s tone-row compositional method”.This method of composition is a synthesis of various modern considerations developed over the last hundred years based on the division of the octave into 12 tones separated from each other by half steps instead of divided into scales of seven tones separated by different intervals. It began, in this form, not with the well-known work of Arnold Schoenberg, but several years earlier (circa 1913) with the work of Josef Matthias Hauer (1883-1959), an Austrian musician, composer and music theorist. Though both men began with the same basic ideas, they developed them in dramatically different directions.
Hauer, having documented his ideas very rarely and being a mere primary school teacher, was never truly recognized for his work next to Schoenberg, a prolific and well-known professor of composition. Hauer is not, however, the founder of this “Third Viennese School”; that title belongs to Othmar Steinbauer, a man even less well-known than Hauer Steinbauer, having studied with Schoenberg in Berlin, abandoned Schoenberg’s musical ideals and style of composition completely in 1928 and turned to Hauer, with whom he developed a close friendship in Vienna.
From 1930 until his death in 1962, Steinbauer worked on a compositional theory that began from very similar principles as those of Hauer, though their compositional paths also ended up going in very different directions from one another. Steinbauer died before publishing his work, and so his ideas remained unknown to the public with the exception of his composition students until one of them, Helmut Neumann (b.1938), completed and published them for the first time in 2002. Arnold Schoenberg attempted to break free from tonal ideas of dissonance and consonance- in effect to free composition from the rules of tonality which he believed were the result of hundreds of years of aural conditioning. He did so in his so-called “12-tone technique” of serialism. Hauer and Steinbauer, in contrast, believed in the need for strict rules in composition but also in a fundamental, human recognition of consonance and dissonance that had nothing to do with conditioning, but instead were a natural result of the overtone series and could be mathematically and physiologically explained.
Hauer, in contrast to Schoenberg, had no inclination to emancipate composition from dissonance, but instead searched for a method of harmonizing twelve-tone rows effectively and systematically, departing from the tonal system, but still regarding aesthetic principles as having importance. Hauer also developed a system of 44 “Tropen”, or divisions of the rows that gave further order to his compositional technique. Though Hauer later left this style of composition, it provided the basis for Steinbauer’s work.
Steinbauer referred to Hauer’s compositional style as the “strengen Satz” (strict composition), and looked for a way to develop a “freien Satz” (free composition). He did this by examining the way the tonal system functions in music and making analogies to the twelve-tone system. In tonal music, he reasoned, many tones are used that don’t strictly “belong” to the chord but which are generally borrowed from the scale in the same key.Therefore, the same principle could be applied in the twelve-tone system. Using what Steinbauer called “Reminiszenz-tönen” (reminiscent notes), he found the “Akkordfremden Töne” (non-chord tones) that he needed to be able to freely compose within this relatively strict system. Finally he developed a technique known as the “Vierklanggruppentechnik” (four-note-chord technique) which enabled him to systematically harmonize any twelve-tone row.
It is this work by Steinbauer which provides the basic compositional technique for the some 40-odd composers, many of whom studied personally with Steinbauer, and most of whom live in Austria and Germany. Among them is Helmut Neumann, the composer of the cycle which I have chosen to analyze. Neumann, after studying and working with a variety of compositional styles, chose to compose exclusively in the style of the “Third Viennese School” and his cycle, Op. 102, is no exception.
Julia Koci, soprano, Bryan Rothfuss, bariton, Chanda VanderHart, piano
Recorded in Vienna, Austria on Sept. 14 and 16, 2006
Asa Elmgren, soprano, Heimir Vium, bariton, Chanda VanderHart, piano
Recorded in Vienna, Austria on Sept. 23, 2006