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Arnold Schoenberg

Publisher: AMP

Ode to Napoleon (1942), 41
Work Notes
Available outside the USA only
G Schirmer Inc
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
16 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Programme Note
Arnold Schoenberg Ode to Napoleon (1942), 41
How I came to Compose the Ode to Napoleon [Opus 41], 1942

The League of Composers had asked me (1942) to write a piece of chamber music for their concert season. It should employ only a limited number of instruments. I had at once the idea that this piece must not ignore the agitation aroused in mankind against the crimes that provoked this war. I remembered Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, supporting repeal of the jus prime noctis, Schiller's Wilhelm Tell, Goethe's Egmont, Beethoven's Eroica and Wellington's Victory, and I knew it was the moral duty of intelligentsia to take a stand against tyranny.

But this was only my secondary motive. I had long speculated about the more profound meaning of the Nazi philosophy. There was one element that puzzled me extremely: the resemblence of the valueless individual being's life in respect to the totality of the community or its representative: the Queen or the Führer. I could not see why a whole generation of bees or of Germans should live only in order to produce another generation of the same sort, which on their part should also fulfill the same task: to keep the race alive. I even surmised that bees (or ants) instinctively believe their destiny was to be successors of mankind, when this had destroyed itself in the same manner in which our predecessors, the Giants, Magicians, Lindworms [Dragons], Dinosaurs and others had destroyed themselves and their world, so that first men knew only a few isolated specimens. Their and the ants' capacity of forming states and living according to laws -- senseless and primitive, as they might look to us -- this capacity, unique among animals, had an attractive similarity to our own life; and in our imagination we could muse a story, seeing them growing to dominating power, size and shape and creating a world of their own resembling very little the original beehive.

Without such a goal the life of the bees, with the killing of the drones and the thousands of offspring of the Queen seemed futile. Similarly all the sacrifices of the German Herrenvolk [Master Race] would not make sense, without a goal of world domination -- in which the single individual could vest much interest.

Before I started to write this text, I consulted Maeterlinck's Life of the Bees. I hoped to find there motives supporting my attitude. But the contrary happened: Maeterlinck's poetic philosophy gilds everything which was not gold itself. And so wonderful are his explanations that one might decline refuting them, even if one knew they were mere poetry. I had to abandon this plan. I had to find another subject fitting my purpose.

--Arnold Schoenberg

  • 01 JUL 2018
    Grafenegg, Germany
    Grafenegg Academy Orchestra
    Thomas Hampson, Bariton; Dennis Russell Davies, conductor
  • 07 APR 2018
    Berlin, Germany
    Michelangelo Quartet
    Paul McNamara, piano
  • 22 MAR 2018
    Internationales Musikfestival Heidelberger Frühling
    Heidelberg, Germany
    JACK Quartet
    Dörte Lyssewski, recitation; Igor Levit, piano
  • 10 DEC 2017
    London, United Kingdom
    Studierende der Universität für Musik Wien
    Prof. J.B. Matter, conductor

    Other Dates:
    13 December - Wien, Austria
  • 12 AUG 2017
    Salzburg, Austria
    Klangforum Wien
    Igor Levit, piano; Dörte Lyssewski, narrator
  • 11 MAY 2017
    München, Germany
    Münchener Kammerorchester
    Moritz Eggert, Voice and Piano; Andreas Ottensamer, Clarinet; Clemens Schuldt, conductor

    Other Dates:
    13 May - Ravensburg, Germany
  • 03 MAY 2017
    Luzern, Switzerland
    Luzerner Sinfonieorchester
    Thomas Quasthoff, voice; Constantinos Carydis, conductor

    Other Dates:
    4 May - Luzern, Switzerland
    5 May - Bologna, Italy
  • 22 NOV 2016
    Bilbao, Spain
    Ensemble Phoenix Basel
    Jürg Henneberger, conductor
  • 24 SEP 2016
    Beethovenfest Bonn
    Bonn, Germany
    Mahler Chamber Orchestra
    Pekka Kuusisto, Violin; Sunnyi Melles, Recitation; Teodor Currentzis, conductor
  • 20 JUN 2016
    Köln, Germany
    Ensemble musikFabrik

    Other Dates:
    1 July - Detmold, Germany
  • 04 JUN 2016
    Vienna, Austria
    Klangforum Wien
    Sunny Melles, Voice; Bas Wiegers, conductor
  • 28 APR 2016
    Hamburg, Germany
    Ensemble Resonanz
    Stefan Litwin, piano
  • 10 DEC 2015
    Lucerne, Switzerland
    Ensemble Metropolis
  • 26 NOV 2015
    Vienna, Austria
    Orchester des Konservatoriums Wien
  • 28 OCT 2015
    Cadogan Hall, London
    London Chamber Orchestra
  • 28 APR 2015
    Hamburg, Germany
    Ensemble Resonanz
  • 21 MAR 2015
    Stuttgart, Germany
    Stuttgarter Kammerorchester
    Matthias Foremny, conductor
  • 09 OCT 2014
    Wien, Austria
    Ensemble Wiener Collage
  • 17 AUG 2014
    Moritzburg, Germany
    Moritzburg Festival Orchester
    Heinrich Schiff, conductor
  • 08 MAY 2014
    Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London
    Guildhall Students
  • 28 NOV 2012
    Royal Festival Hall, London
    London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Sir Thomas Allen; Jurowski, conductor
  • 28 NOV 2012
    Royal Festival Hall, London
    London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Sir Thomas Allen; Jurowski, conductor
  • 18 SEP 2012
    Springe, Germany
    David Moss; Stefan Litwin, conductor
  • 09 JUN 2012
    Vienna, Austria
    Jean-Bernard Matter, conductor
  • 27 APR 2012
    Cardiff, WALES
    Welsh National Opera Orchestra
    Lothar Königs, conductor
  • 21 OCT 2009
    Finish Radio S.O./Robert McLoud
    Sakari Oramo, conductor
  • 04 AUG 2009
    Delft Chamber Music Festival
  • 05 JUN 2009
    Zurich, Switzerland
    Ensemble Collegium Novum

    Other Dates:
    6 June - Zurich, Switzerland
  • 24 MAY 2009
    Lisboa, Portugal
    Gulbenkian Symphony
    Lawrence Foster, conductor
  • 15 NOV 2008
    Australian National Academy of Music

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