Arnold Schönberg: Die Jakobsleiter
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 12–13), 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).