Schoenberg’s “Weihnachtsmusik” (“Christmas Music”): A Chamber Fantasia

As dean of the Second Viennese School, Arnold Schoenberg was one of the twentieth century’s greatest exponents of atonal music. Yet, Schoenberg resisted dogma. Long after developing his twelve-tone system, he asserted that “there is still much good music to be written in C major.”

Weihnachtsmusik (“Christmas Music”) is one of the rare pieces in which Schoenberg embraces the tonal consonance of C major. Composed in 1921, the brief fantasia is scored for a chamber ensemble consisting of piano, string trio, and harmonium. It begins with the 1599 hymn tune, Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, harmonized by Michael Praetorius in 1609, and morphs into fragments of Silent Night. As the piece unfolds, the two melodies enter into a dreamy contrapuntal dialogue. Kyle Gann points out that both begin with the same sequence of four pitches (G-A-G-E). To my ear, there are also subtle intimations of Joy to the World, and echoes of the chamber music of Brahms.


  • Schoenberg: Weihnachtsmusik (“Christmas Music”), Andrew Parrott, Taverner Consort  Amazon 

Featured Image: “Portrait of Arnold Schoenberg” (1917), Egon Schiele

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

1 thought on “Schoenberg’s “Weihnachtsmusik” (“Christmas Music”): A Chamber Fantasia”

  1. Thanks for posting / reviewing this piece — It’s long been one of my favorites at Christmas time. I have the recording made by the Wiener Streichquintett (from their album “Waltz Reflections”) in rotation on my holiday playlist, but I’ve never heard this version before. Just lovely.


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