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Arnold Schönberg: Die Jakobsleiter

  • for soli, mixed choir and orchestra
  • 4 4 5 4 - 4 3 3 1 - timp, hp, cel, pno, str; 2 off-stage ens; 2 heightened orchestra
  • Duration: 44’
  • Instrumentation details:
    piccolo
    1st flute
    2nd flute
    3rd flute
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    3rd oboe
    cor anglais
    clarinet in Eb
    1st clarinet in Bb(+cl(A))
    2nd clarinet in Bb
    3rd clarinet in Bb(+cl(A))
    bass clarinet in Bb
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    3rd bassoon
    contra bassoon
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    3rd horn in F
    4th horn in F
    1st trumpet in Bb
    2nd trumpet in Bb
    3rd trumpet in Bb
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    3rd trombone
    tuba
    timpani + percussion (triangle, cymbal, tam-tam, bass drum)
    harp
    celesta
    piano
    violin I
    violin II
    viola
    violoncello
    contrabass
    off-stage ensemble 1: violins
    harmonium
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    1st trumpet in Bb
    2nd trumpet in Bb
    3rd trumpet in Bb
    off-stage ensemble 2: violins
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    harmonium
    musicians on gallery 1: harmonium
    violins
    musicians on gallery 2: violins
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    3rd oboe
    cor anglais
    clarinet
    bass clarinet
    1st trumpet in Bb
    2nd trumpet in Bb
    3rd trumpet in Bb
    celesta
    harp
    harmonium
  • Choir: SMezzoSATBarB (12-stimmig)
  • Composer: Arnold Schönberg
  • Piano reduction: Winfried Zillig
  • Editor: Rudolf Stephan
  • Text author: Arnold Schönberg

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Work introduction

Arnold Schönberg described Jacob’s Ladder as an oratorio. The dramatic qualities of this work for soloists, choirs and orchestra, which was left as a fragment, make the composition suitable for staging – as it is now and again. Schönberg himself took on the role of librettist, using the Bible as a basis (Genesis, Chapter 28, Verses 1213), but also moving beyond Judaeo-Christian tradition. Schönberg conveys his message in suspense-filled solos, which are frequently employed as ‘sprechgesang’ (speech-song), as well as in stirring passages for choir. His Archangel Gabriel proclaims: ‘Ob rechts, ob links, vorwärts oder rückwärts, bergauf oder bergab – man hat weiterzugehen, ohne zu fragen, was vor oder hinter einem liegt’ (whether to the right, to the left, forwards or backwards, uphill or down – one must keep on going without asking what lies ahead or behind).

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