Here is an essay on Verklaette Nacht. It starts like this:
Arguably the most influential composer of the twentieth century, and perhaps of all time, Schoenberg’s fame arose from his escape from tonality and his innovation of the serial method. While detractors still demonize him for having destroyed music, the largely self-taught and hugely inventive Schoenberg saw his work as a logical evolution of cherished tradition.
Another essay is entitled Why We’re Still Afraid of Schoenberg. I guess Arnold was a classical bad ass.
The piece — in English, the title is Transfigured Night — was inspired by a poem by Richard Dehmel. It’s not exactly upbeat. Here is the translation of the opening moments from Wikipedia:
Two people are walking through a bare, cold wood;
the moon keeps pace with them and draws their gaze.
The moon moves along above tall oak trees,
there is no wisp of cloud to obscure the radiance
to which the black, jagged tips reach up.
A woman’s voice speaks:
“I am carrying a child, and not by you.
I am walking here with you in a state of sin.
I have offended grievously against myself.
I despaired of happiness,
and yet I still felt a grievous longing
for life’s fullness, for a mother’s joys
Not a lot of laughs, to be sure. The video is worthwhile because it runs above has a chyron with lines from the poem. They really explain a lot about what is going on and made me feel less ignorant, but only marginally so. All kidding aside, you don’t have to be an expert to see that the six players — Arnaud Sussmann, Erin Keefe, David Kim, Teng Li, David Finckel and Priscilla Lee — are fabulous.