Die glückliche Hand

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Die glückliche Hand
Opera by Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold schonberg man ray.jpg

The composer in 1927
TranslationThe Hand of Fate
Language German
Premiere24 October 1924 (1924-10-24)

Die glückliche Hand (The Hand of Fate), Op. 18, is a Drama mit Musik ("drama with music") by Arnold Schoenberg in four scenes. It was composed between 1910 and 1913. Like Erwartung , composed a year earlier, it was heavily influenced by Otto Weininger's book Sex and Character . [1] Unlike Erwartung, Schoenberg wrote the libretto for Die glückliche Hand himself. The first performance took place in Vienna on 24 October 1924. The underlying message of the piece is the idea that man continues to repeatedly make the same mistakes, and the plot is developed from events in Schoenberg’s personal life. [2]

In musical composition, the opus number is the "work number" that is assigned to a composition, or to a set of compositions, to indicate the chronological order of the composer's production. Opus numbers are used to distinguish among compositions with similar titles; the word is abbreviated as "Op." for a single work, or "Opp." when referring to more than one work.

Arnold Schoenberg Austrian-American composer

Arnold Schoenberg or Schönberg was an Austrian, and later American, composer, music theorist, teacher, writer, and painter. He was associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School. With the rise of the Nazi Party, Schoenberg's works were labeled degenerate music, because they were modernist and atonal. He immigrated to the United States in 1934.

<i>Erwartung</i> one-act monodrama by Arnold Schoenberg

Erwartung (Expectation), Op. 17, is a one-act monodrama in four scenes by Arnold Schoenberg to a libretto by Marie Pappenheim. Composed in 1909, it was not premiered until 6 June 1924 in Prague conducted by Alexander Zemlinsky with Marie Gutheil-Schoder as the soprano. The opera takes the unusual form of a monologue for solo soprano accompanied by a large orchestra. In performance, it lasts for about half an hour. It is sometimes paired with Béla Bartók's opera Bluebeard's Castle (1911), as the two works were roughly contemporary and share similar psychological themes. Schoenberg's succinct description of Erwartung was as follows:

In Erwartung the aim is to represent in slow motion everything that occurs during a single second of maximum spiritual excitement, stretching it out to half an hour.


Composition history

The subject of the drama is influenced by personal circumstances in Schoenberg’s life. Schoenberg’s music was not as well received as it had been in previous years. Also, two years before the composition of the piece, Mathilde, Schoenberg’s wife, had an affair with the painter Richard Gerstl and although she returned to Schoenberg this had a lasting effect on their relationship. [2]

Richard Gerstl Austrian artist

Richard Gerstl was an Austrian painter and draughtsman known for his expressive psychologically insightful portraits, his lack of critical acclaim during his lifetime, and his affair with the wife of Arnold Schoenberg which led to his suicide.


A baritone is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range lies between the bass and the tenor voice types. Originally from the Greek βαρύτονος (barýtonos), meaning heavy sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C (i.e. F2–F4) in choral music, and from the second A below middle C to the A above middle C (A2 to A4) in operatic music, but can be extended at either end. The baritone voice type is generally divided into the baryton-Martin baritone (light baritone), lyric baritone, Kavalierbariton, Verdi baritone, dramatic baritone, baryton-noble baritone, and the bass-baritone.


The drama takes place in one act in which there are four scenes. It lasts about twenty minutes.
The staging of Die glückliche Hand is complex, due to the range of scenic effects that must be combined with the use of coloured lighting.

The drama represents an inescapable cycle of man's plight as it starts and finishes with the male character struggling with the monster on his back. The male character sings about his love for a young woman (mime) but, despite this love, she leaves him for a well-dressed gentleman (mime). He senses that she has left him and eventually, when she returns, he forgives her and his happiness returns. Again the woman retreats. The woman is seen later with the gentleman, and the male soloist implores the women to stay with him but she escapes and kicks a rock at him. This rock turns into the monster that was originally seen on the man's back. Thus, the drama ends where it began.


The score calls for: piccolo, three flutes (3rd doubling on 2nd piccolo), three oboes, English horn, D clarinet, three clarinets (in B-flat and A), bass clarinet, three bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, four trombones, bass tuba, timpani, cymbals, bass drum, snare drum, tamtam, high and low bells, triangle, xylophone, glockenspiel, metal tubes, tambourine, hammer, harp, celesta, and strings. [3]

Piccolo small musical instrument of the flute family

The piccolo is a half-size flute, and a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments. The modern piccolo has most of the same fingerings as its larger sibling, the standard transverse flute, but the sound it produces is an octave higher than written. This gave rise to the name ottavino, which the instrument is called in the scores of Italian composers. It is also called flauto piccolo or flautino.

Flute musical instrument of the woodwind family

The flute is a family of musical instruments in the woodwind group. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel–Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge-blown aerophones. A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, flautist, flutist or, less commonly, fluter or flutenist.

Oboe musical instrument of the woodwind family

Oboes belong to the classification of double reed woodwind instruments. Oboes are usually made of wood, but there are also oboes made of synthetic materials. The most common oboe plays in the treble or soprano range. A soprano oboe measures roughly 65 cm long, with metal keys, a conical bore and a flared bell. Sound is produced by blowing into the reed at a sufficient air pressure, causing it to vibrate with the air column. The distinctive tone is versatile and has been described as "bright". When the word oboe is used alone, it is generally taken to mean the treble instrument rather than other instruments of the family, such as the bass oboe, the cor anglais, or oboe d'amore

See also

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  1. Schiff, David (August 8, 1999). "Schoenberg's Cool Eye For the Erotic". New York Times
  2. 1 2 Biersdorfer, J. D, ( May 22, 2009). "Setting the Stage With Shadows". New York Times
  3. Score with detailed stage directions (UE 1917)