Merry Christmas from Ahnold

“Silent Night” begins with the notes G A G E. “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” starts with the same pitches, G G G A G G E. Arnold Schoenberg was delighted by this coincidence, and in 1921 wrote a little work for piano, string trio, and harmonium, in which one tune morphs into the other. Called Weihnachtsmusik, it’s absolutely charming – and not one new-music fan in thirty that I talk to has ever heard of it. In fact, it’s the one Schoenberg piece about which I feel most affectionate, and I almost have to assume that Schoenberg’s fans hide it because they’re ashamed that he wrote something so damn lovely. I’m adding it to Postclassic Radio, but I also put it here on my website, as a Christmas gift to you for reading me. The recording is an old Decca vinyl record by David Atherton and the London Sinfonietta, and I’ve never seen another. It was well after this, by the way, that Schoenberg asserted, “There’s a lot of great music left to be written in C Major.”


  1. T.D. says

    I guess I’m one of the few who also know and like this piece. Have even recommended it (unheeded) to others. There’s a CD recording on Disques Montaigne by the Arditti Quartet (and another whose name I forget), on one of their Schoenberg releases, and also on the “1974-1994” compilation (which is where I first heard it).

  2. says

    106. Weihnachtsmusik [Christmas music] (1921)
    (2 violins, violoncello, harmonium, piano)
    London Sinfonietta members (Nona Liddell, violin; Joan Atherton, violin; Jennifer Ward Clarke, violoncello; David Atherton, harmonium; John Constable, piano) (recorded: Petersham, England, 17 October 1973 – 6 May 1974) (5:55)
    *Decca SXLK 6660/64 stereo (1974) LP
    London SXLK 6660/64 stereo (1974?) LP
    *EvaTone Soundsheets 843262S stereo (1974?) 7″ square LP
    Telefunken 6.35268 HM stereo (1975?) LP
    London (Japan) SLC 2453/57 stereo (pre 1978) LP
    Decca 414 171-1 stereo (1985?) LP
    Decca 414 171-4 stereo (1985?) cassette
    *London Enterprise 414 171-1 LE stereo (1985) LP
    *London Enterprise 414 171-4 LE stereo (1985) cassette
    Teldec 414 171-1 TV stereo (1986?) LP
    Decca 414 258-1 DJ2 stereo (1986?) LP
    Decca 414 258-4 DJ2 stereo (1986?) cassette
    Camerata de Versailles (Anne Fumet, violin; William Fitzpatrick?, violin; Jean-Jacques Wiederker, violoncello; Norbert Zabaly, harmonium; Mark Davies, piano); Amaury du Closel, conductor (recorded: France?) (4:23)
    *Auvidis AV 4842 digital stereo (1986) LP
    *Auvidis AV 6110 stereo DDD (1986) CD
    Valois 6110 stereo DDD (1991?) CD
    Arditti Quartet (Irvine Arditti, violin; David Alberman, violin; Rohan de Saram, violoncello); Louise Bessette, piano; Hakon Austbö, harmonium; Michel Béroff, conductor (recorded: live, Auditorium, Louvre, Paris, France, 13-22 November 1989) (6:00)
    *Disques Montaigne JM 001 (WM 334) stereo DDD (1989) CD
    *Auvidis Montaigne MO 789011 stereo DDD (1994) CD
    *Auvidis Montaigne MO 782070 stereo DDD (1995) CD
    *Montaigne Naïve MO 782160 stereo DDD (2002) CD
    Ensemble Stanislas (Alexis Galpérine, violin; Gee Lee, violin; Jean de Spengler, violoncello; Mari Shirotori, harmonium; Jeff Cohen, piano) (recorded: Théâtre de l’Atelier, Nancy, France, June & November 1991) (7:06)
    *Gallo CD-676 stereo DDD (1992) CD
    Taverner Consort Players; Andrew Parrott, conductor (5:10)
    *BBC Music Magazine BBC MM116 stereo DDD (1993) CD
    *BBC Music Magazine v. 2, n. 4 digital stereo (1993) cassette
    Wiener Streichquintett (Thomas Christian, violin; Peter Katt, violin; Michael Hell, violoncello); Alfred Mitterhofer, harmonium; Leonore Aumeier, piano (recorded: Funkhaus Saal 2, Georgsmarienhütte, Germany, 18-20 January 1997) (6:10)
    *CPO 999 588-2 stereo DDD (1998) CD

  3. says

    Danke Schoen!
    Thank you so much for posting Weihnachtsmusik [Christmas music] for Piano Quartet of Arnold Schoenberg – it is exquisit!
    Yes, it has made me look at him in an entirely different light. It is just like those who sing the praises of Pablo Picasso [not understanding that he was in control of the controlled distortion – because he could also paint the beautiful human form from the very begining!