Arnold Schönberg’s Waltzes for string orchestra will be performed to an international audience on January 1, 2022. Members of the Vienna Philharmonic will play these early pieces composed by the “conservative revolutionary” in the film during the interval of the New Year’s Concert.

March 1896: Under the patronage of professors from the Faculties of Law, Medicine and Technology at the University of Vienna, a ball for the academic community was held by Polyhymnia music society. The Etablissement Ronacher ballroom chosen for this carnival celebration had a capacity of 1,200 guests and was used for banquets, balls, soirées, weddings, and concerts. There are no details of the pieces that were performed by Polyhymnia’s amateur orchestra under the baton of Alexander Zemlinsky, but it is possible that a selection of the (undated) Waltzes for string orchestra by Arnold Schönberg were played on this occasion or at a similar event in the following year. The music society was disbanded in the fall of 1897.

According to Hanns Eisler, Schönberg’s “favorite music” included “to some extent Viennese songs and also waltzes by Johann Strauß”. Decades after the Waltzes were composed, Schönberg included music examples by composers such as Johann Strauß (father and son), Joseph Lanner, Franz Lehár and Johann Schrammel in his major work on music theory Der musikalische Gedanke (1934/36) [The Musical Idea] to explain the “broad understandability” of this repertoire and its “popular effect”. He could hardly have imagined that the Radetzky March by Johann Strauß (father) quoted in his book would be performed alongside his early waltzes to an audience of millions on New Year’s Day in 2022. The manuscript of the waltzes is stored in the archive of the Arnold Schönberg Center and is available to an audience of millions in the Online Catalogue of Works and Sources.


Neue Freie Presse 11338 (17. März 1896)

Neue Freie Presse 11338 (March 17, 1896)