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The Song of the Wood-Dove closes part I of the Gurre-Lieder; the work was written in 1900-1911, based on the Gurresange poems by the Dane Jens Peter Jacobsen. The theme of Part I is the love-story of King Waldemar and Tove, the Wood-Dove singing in ballad-style of Tove’s death at the hands of jealous Queen Helwig, “Helwigs Falke war’s, der grausamen Gurres Taube zerriß” (“It was Helwig’s hawk who tore cruel Gurre’s dove apart”).
Motifs of reminiscence from the first nine previous songs of Part I provide the work’s structural material and another semantic layer in this section. The version for chamber orchestra seems to free the motifs from the context of their logical coherence, shifting the focus onto the motivic work of variation and combination, the short, succinct motives interweaving with the song-like element of symmetrical bar groupings. In terms of form, Schönberg thus achieves a quasi-sonata shape, in which he integrates strophe-like complexes, introduced by the recurring refrain melody, Weit flog ich, Klage sucht’ ich (“I flew afar, seeking lamentation”).
Stefanie Rauch © Arnold Schönberg Center