Just as Berg’s Sonata Op. 1 evinces his esteem for Schönberg’s First Chamber Symphony (the fourth chords, the whole-tone row, embedded in a barely discernible key), the 4 Lieder from Op. 2 (especially the fourth) causes listeners to feel “air from another planet” (text by Stephan George, set by Schönberg in his Second String Quartet); the ground of functional harmony is abandoned more and more after the late-Romantic beginning in the first lied, as the music floats away to new harmonic spheres.
From the framework of this harmony, or perhaps mounted into it, emerge the densest, interlocked motifs and thematic developments in elaborate counterpoint. This compositional material is accentuated and illuminated by the scoring and, corresponding to the dramaturgic progress of the piano movement, transformed into a chamber-music setting; the Klangfarbe employed as a structuring element, reinforced in its effect by the text and its transmutation into atmosphere generated by musical metaphors, alluding to Berg’s procedure in orchestrating the Seven Early Lieder, only in a smaller instrumental and formal musical space.