Timeline: Schönberg’s op. 10

Note: Whilst the following briefly chronicles the sequence in which Schönberg composed his Second String Quartet, it is based on the much wider and fuller evidence, analysis and reasoning found in chapters 11-13 of the thesis.


1 September 1907: Whilst on holiday in Gmunden, Schönberg completes the first movement of his op.10, Second String Quartet, dating the manuscript (page 92, Sketchbook III), “1/9.1907″ (right). Schönberg typically used his long summer vacations to write major pieces, and 1907 was no exception. Indeed, he only turned to the first movement of op. 10, after abandoning his Second Chamber Symphony earlier during the vacation. It was a work that, as op. 38, he eventually completed in 1939.


There are few ostensible signs that Schönberg continued with his Second String Quartet in the months between the completion of the first movement at the beginning of September 1907 and his return to Gmunden in June 1908. This may have been due to a variety of reasons, not least his pressing financial situation and his need to earn income from teaching and other sources. He did, however, use the intervening period to produce between December 1907 and February 1908, two lieder for op. 14, Zwei Lieder für Gesang und Klavier and then, during spring 1908, perhaps a half-dozen songs for what would eventually become his song-cycle, op. 15, 15 Gedichte aus “Das Buch der hängenden Gärten” (Stefan George).

7 June 1908: Schönberg escorts his family – Mathilde, Trude and Görgi – plus his mother-in-law Clara and one of his maids to Gmunden, where, on the eastern bank of the Traunsee, he settled them in to their lakeside accommodation in Preslgütl (right), a farmhouse which, according to his insurance endorsement, he had rented until the second week of September.

9 June 1908: Schönberg returns to Vienna beginning an eighteen day separation from his family, during which he exchanged almost daily letters with his wife. These show that, amongst other things, he worked on a musical arrangement commissioned by his friend, the singer Edward Gärtner, decorated his children’s bedroom, drank and slept alone, and, to Mathilde’s disapproval, apparently took shopping trips to the leading Viennese department store, Gerngross. As for Mathilde, whilst she answered occasional questions regarding Gerstl amongst the nineteen letters and postcards that she wrote during June 1908, these actually show that Schönberg was apparently most concerned about her leisure, social and domestic activities in Gmunden and, above all, with her continuous need for funds.

23 June 1908: Mathilde expresses surprise that Schönberg had managed to resolve his financial difficulties, apparently through a 2000 Kronen loan from Heinrich Jalowetz. To Mathilde’s delight, Schönberg chooses to use some of the funds to purchase new beds for the couple’s bedroom.

26 June 1908: This turn of events appears to have signalled Schönberg’s departure for Gmunden, for, having led Mathilde to believe that he would travel on Saturday 27th, the same day as Gerstl, he arrived instead alone on the evening of Friday, 26 June. By then, the Zemlinskys and Schönberg’s student Viktor Krüger, were already in residence in farmhouses within close proximity to Preslgütl, which soon appears to have acted as the social centre for the group’s summer activities. Others followed shortly afterwards, including another of Schönberg’s students, Irene Bien, who stayed in the same property as Krüger.

27 June 1908: Gerstl travelled down the following day in the evening of Saturday, 27 June and, as in 1907, settled into Feramühle, Traunstein 18, some 500 metres from Preslgütl.

27/28 June 1908: Despite evident tensions between them, Webern, who had recently taken up the post of “Repetitor, Chordirektor und zweiter Dirigent des Kurorchesters” at the Sommertheater in Bad Ischl (approximately an hour away by train and boat), visits Schönberg for the weekend in Gmunden, probably staying with his friend, Gerstl in Feramühle. It is not inconceivable that it was during this visit that Webern introduced Schönberg to Stefan George’s Der siebente Ring, from which Schönberg identified Litanei and Entrueckung for use in the third and fourth movements of op.10.

Between 26 June and 5 July 1908: As can be deduced from his jovial letter to Horwitz of 5 July, Schönberg gives the impression of having been in a good-humoured, holiday mood at the beginning of his vacation. The weather was certainly fine during these first 10 days, and Schönberg, a good father, who was presumably keen to relax with his family, appears to have been in little rush to return to work. It is likely, however, that, perhaps during or following Webern’s visit, Schönberg took the opportunity to compose a musical sketch of Entrueckung, which he did on page 105 of his Sketchbook III, a self-bound collection of music manuscripts that he carried with him. Moreover, he inscribed the top left-hand corner of the page with the slightly inaccurate annotation, “Stefan George (123.7 Ring) III Satz Streich Quartett” (Entrueckung is actually on page 122), presumably with the intention of having this as the third movement of his Second String Quartet. However, he changed his mind at some point and, by the time he completed the work, Entrueckung has become the fourth and final movement.

ca. 3 July 1908: Perhaps prompted by Webern’s visit with George’s book, Schönberg writes to his student, Karl Horwitz, in Vienna, requesting the texts for Litanei and Entrueckung. Since Schönberg would have expected his student to reply promptly and the Austrian Post Office inevitably delivered the next day, it is probable that Schönberg wrote on 3 July, the day before Horwitz replied (see below) and a full eight days after his arrival in Gmunden. This suggests that Schönberg did not forget to bring the texts for Litanei and Entrueckung with him when he left Vienna, not least because his efficient nature would have required him to have written to Horwitz as soon as he arrived in Gmunden. The far greater likelihood is that Schönberg only decided to use the texts once he was on vacation. As such, one likely answer is that, in view of the page error in his annotation, Schönberg hastily took the poem directly from Webern’s copy whilst Webern was visiting from Bad Ischl.

Above: Horwitz’s letter to Schönberg, 4 July 1908

4 July 1908: Horwitz replies in a four page letter (above), using three of the sides to copy out the two texts. However, he does so without replicating George’s customary use of lower case and eschewal of umlauts. Schönberg later glued the letter to his Entrueckung sketch (see 28 July). As will be noted from the reproduction above, some of the letter’s text was damaged when it was later torn from the manuscript, but see the restored version here.

5 July 1908: Schönberg, in apparently good-natured mood, thanks Horwitz for the poems and congratulates him on his new bride (right), writing, “Jetzt kann ich erst anfangen” (now I can start at last). Schönberg appears to have done just that and probably began composing Litanei immediately. It may not, however, have been coincidence that on 5 July, the precise day that the poems from Horwitz arrived, the spell of fine weather that had greeted his arrival in Gmunden took a considerable turn for the worse and the much lower temperatures, cloudy skies and a few rainy days may have been all the encouragement that Schönberg needed to return to composition.

11 July 1908: Schönberg completes his musical adaptation of Litanei, which he produced outside of his sketchbook, dating the manuscript “11/7.1908″ (left). It was presumably now that Litanei became the vocal 3rd movement of op. 10. The day also saw the onset of a spell of generally warm, summery weather, during which Schönberg, presumably to take time with his family (see 18 July), appears to take a composing hiatus of, perhaps, 12-15 days. Gerstl, though, seems to have taken advantage of the conditions and began producing his series of outside portraits from Gmunden 1908, including Zemlinsky on the bank of the Traunsee outside Engelgut (see map), and Mathilde im Garten, almost certainly painted in the grounds of the Schönbergs’ summer farmhouse, Preslgütl.

18 July 1908: Schönberg writes a good-humoured letter to Jalowetz, asking him to buy half a kilogram of “Bitter-Mandel-Cakes” (bitter almond cakes or biscuits) on his behalf from a delicatessen in Vienna, apparently only known to Jalowetz, and send them to Gmunden for Mathilde – hardly the request that might be expected from one whose wife was in the middle of an affair. Schönberg offered to pay Jalowetz cash on delivery for the cakes. He also extended an invitation to Jalowetz, who, having recently become “Kapellmeister am Jubiläumstheater”, had remained in Vienna, to join them in Gmunden, which he may have done later. The letter gives a further impression of Schönberg’s holiday mood, to the point that he appears to have been sufficiently relaxed to defer the composition of the op. 10′s remaining movements, the second and fourth, until the final days of July.

ca. 20 July 1908: Karl Horwitz and his new wife, Mizzi, née Kochem arrive in Gmunden on honeymoon (see Horwitz’s letter of 4 July) and settled into Traunstein 13, about a kilometre along the lake from the Schönbergs (see map), where it seems the couple were later joined by Jalowetz.

ca. 22 July 1908: Incensed by the exclusion of his works from their summer exhibition, apparently advised to him by Viktor Hammer, Gerstl vents his anger at the Akademie and Lefler in a vitriolic letter to the Ministerium für Cultus und Unterricht (Ministry for Cultural Affairs and Education), which resulted in his exclusion from the school from the winter term, starting in October.

ca. 22/23 July: Perhaps prompted by the Akademie’s rejection, Gerstl now appears to display increasingly erratic, even manic behaviour that manifested itself in the wild brush and finger strokes with which he painted his two most extraordinary works from Gmunden 1908, first Schönberg with his family and then Schönberg with a group of friends (left), who may have included the recently arrived Karl and Mizzi Horwitz. The bright and sunny weather that persisted over these two days would have been perfect for Gerstl to paint his two group portraits, which he almost certainly did in the grounds of the Schönbergs’ farmhouse, Preslgütl, probably in full view of Schönberg and others in his circle,

ca. 25/26 July 1908: In 1928, Schönberg claimed that, having already made sketches for their beginnings, he wrote the second and fourth movements of his Second String Quartet “in barely 3 days”, later qualifying this by writing that he composed “three-fourths of both the second and […] fourth movements […] in one-and-a-half days each”. Since he wrote the second movement first and dated its completion on page 115, Sketchbook III as “27/7.1908″ (see right), it can be safely assumed that he did not return to composing the work until 25 or 26 July, some days after Gerstl had executed his two extraordinary group portraits. The movement is a scherzo, wherein the trio section quotes the tune of Alles ist hin from the popular Viennese Bänkellied, Ach, du lieber Augustin, a 17th century plague song, probably known to every child in Austria. The tune is the same as that used for The More We Get Together, whilst the first lines can be given as:

Ach, du lieber Augustin, Augustin, Augustin, Ach, du lieber Augustin, alles ist hin!
Geld ist weg, Gut ist weg, alles hin, Augustin. Ach, du lieber Augustin, alles ist hin!

It has been suggested that the phrase Alles ist hin, which Schönberg translated as “everything is lost”, has “a real emotional significance” and either represents the collapse of Schönberg’s marriage, even though this did not occur until a month after he incorporated the motif in the scherzo, or the dissolution of tonality. Either, however, are unlikely, as he had already toyed with the idea of using the Augustin reference several months previously. Moreover, Schönberg wrote that he used the tune in “a tragicomic manner”, later suggesting that Alles ist hin was “simply a quotation, nothing more, nothing less”.

Above: Reconstruction of how Schönberg glued Horwitz’s copy of Entrueckung to his sketch on page 105 of his Sketchbook III.

ca. 28 July 1908: Since Schönberg’s chosen biographer, Egon Wellesz, wrote in 1925, presumably with Schönberg’s approval, that “the second movement with voice, (i.e. Entrueckung) came into being” after Schönberg had completed the scherzo (i.e. “27/7.1908″ – see above), it must be presumed that the earliest that Schönberg could have returned to the movement, which, by now, had become the fourth, was 28 July 1908. It was also probably now that he glued Horwitz’s copy of the text for Entrueckung butterfly-fashion to his sketch on page 105 of his sketchbook III (see above) , obscuring his original annotation (see 26 June – 5 July) as he did so. Schönberg never dated the movement, although, in view of his claims to have written it “in one-and-a-half days”, it is reasonable to assert that he completed it either by the end of July 1908 at the earliest, or by the latest, the beginning of August. In any case, it can be safely assumed that he did not compose his seminal fourth movement, in which he famously made his first leap to atonality, until some days after Gerstl had painted his two astonishing group portraits. As such, it has to be asked whether Schönberg was in some, possibly subliminal way, influenced or impressed by the liberating expressionism of Gerstl’s art and, thereby, whether, following his somewhat more traditional approach to the second movement of his Second String Quartet, this was a crucial factor in prompting the new direction that he took in the fourth, when, nearly four weeks after Entrueckung’s first sketch, he crossed tonal boundaries for the first time.

ca. beginning August 1908: Soon after finishing the fourth movement, Schönberg wrote to Arnold Rosé, whose quartet would eventually give the first performance of the Second String Quartet, advising him that “Ich habe ein neues Streich-Quartett fertig” (I have finished a new string quartet). Rosé, who was probably still on holiday in Bad Aussee, replied on the back of Schönberg’s letter (far right), “I am looking forward to your newest work, and anticipate receiving the parts with great interest.” (Mahler-Rosé Collection, University of Western Ontario)

After 18 August 1908: The parts, however, took Schönberg longer than he anticipated, for, on finally sending them by registered post to Rosé, he apparently did so to Vienna, to where Rosé had returned around 18 or 19 August, writing frustratedly to the conductor: “Ich habe recht lange dazu gebraucht mir die Stimmen fertig zu bringen” (It has taken me a long time to finish the parts). This, though, may have been because Schönberg had not yet finished the fourth movement when he wrote his first letter, for he had advised Rosé therein that the movement was circa 9 minutes long, whereas the final version is actually 11. Schönberg also wrote in this second letter that he would like to attend rehearsals of his new piece in Vienna and that he would be staying at most a week longer in Vienna, another indication that it can be dated as late as the third or fourth week of August 1908

26 August 1908: However, his plans were shattered by the sudden eruption of the his marital crisis on 26 August, when Mathilde and Gerstl were found in a compromising situation. Schönberg refused to accept Mathilde’s pleas of mercy and the lovers fled back to Vienna. As evidenced by his reaction and the rawness of his emotions in his Testamenstentwurf, probably written in Gmunden directly after the discovery of Mathilde’s infidelity, Schönberg was clearly shocked by the event, which strongly suggests that, although he may have had his suspicions, he had not, at that point, believed that his wife was having an affair with Gerstl. This, of course, in turn further invalidates those theories that assert that Schönberg’s feelings concerning his marital situation and the behaviour of his wife were, in some way, represented in by Schönberg in his Second String Quartet.

28 August 1908: Schönberg returns to Vienna.

30 August 1908: Mathilde leaves Gerstl after 3 days in a pension in Nußdorf, a northern suburb of Vienna, and returns to the family home.

October 1908: Rehearsals continue for the Second String Quartet with Marie Gutheil-Schoder, who was Schönberg’s choice to sing the soprano parts of the third and fourth movements. Schönberg mentions these rehearsals in a couple of postcards to Berg, dated 8 and 19 October 1908.

4 November 1908: Gerstl kills himself in his new studio in Liechtensteinstraße 20, where later that evening he is discovered having hung and stabbed himself in front of his mirror (see Gerstl – A Life in Words).

21 December 1908: The Rosé Quartet and Marie Gutheil-Schoder give the first performance of Schönberg’s Second String Quartet at Vienna’s Bosendorfer-Saal to audience uproar and disapproval. Schönberg pointedly dedicated the work to Mathilde, replacing his original inscription on the autograph copy with the simple, and probably sardonic, “Meiner Frau”.

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