Schönberg’s “Drama with Music in one act” was first performed in the Vienna Volksoper on 14 October 1924, although it had been composed quite some time earlier. Schönberg had already published the text, as his first completed and separately published literary work, in the Merker already in 1911. It was written as soon as he had finished composing Erwartung (“Expectation”) between September 1909 and June 1910. Although Schönberg had at the same time started on drafts for the music but – unusually for a work that lasts only 20 minutes – it was only at the end of 1913, as he wrote to Franz Schreker, that he took the work at last “in his lucky hand.” Egon Wellesz characterized the composition as an exemplary work of musical expressionism, giving as his reason especially the use of “Strindberg’s technique of short scenes as a drama form of the individual seeking to make his way through an alien world instead of relying on human relationships.” And in fact, in the stylized characters and the static scenery, the influence particularly of Ein Traumspiel, but also of Der Vater or of the first part of Nach Damaskus can be seen.
Matthias Schmidt (c) Arnold Schönberg Center