Soirée of modernity

Charles Ives meets Arnold Schönberg

Man in a suit with a tennis racket talks across a tennis net to three children in tennis clothing

Modernity under the Californian sun: Arnold Schönberg with his children Lawrence, Ronald and Nuria playing tennis in Santa Monica, 1948 © Arnold Schönberg Center, Vienna

Ives meets Schönberg: Charles Ives and Arnold Schönberg never met in person, but they knew each other very well. An evening of songs, piano and chamber music as well as original texts by the composers, who were born in different cultural circles in the same year, brings them into dialogue with each other. The montage promises to provide an insight into the thinking of two founders of New Music who, independently of each other, embarked on similar paths and created radically new forms of musical expression. The programme covers a wide range of topics, from purely aesthetic considerations to excursions into light music and open political confessions of faith, which still impress today as evidence of individual reactions to the world wars of the 20th century.

A double anniversary: to mark their 150th anniversaries, Stefan Litwin holds a “modernist soirée” celebrating Charles Ives and Arnold Schönberg, who were both born in 1874 – with a programme of music and literature, a Gesamtkunstwerk that reawakens the lost aura of each of their works. It is no coincidence that the piano virtuoso, born in Mexico City in 1960, who in addition to his professorship at the University of Music Saarland is a regular guest teacher in Europe and the USA, sees one of the main tasks of the performer to be “to alter the context, so that the piece can once more be understood from its original source.” The programme, hosted by the Austrian actor Michael Rotschopf acting as master of ceremonies, contains a selection of songs and instrumental pieces as well as excerpts from the writings, letters and diaries of both composers, who – one in Europe, one in the USA – made innovative contributions to modern music. Songs from Ives’s collection “114 Songs” meet a selection from Schönberg’s “Book of Hanging Gardens” op. 15. In addition to various piano pices and compositions for a piano quintet (with the Frankfurt-based Eliot Quartet) Schönberg’s “Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte” op. 41 will also be heard, which – in contrast with its ironic title – glorifies George Washington, turning him into Napoleon’s fictional opponent: a protest in sound against war, tyranny and the crimes of the Nazis.


A programme of music and literature, compiled by Stefan Litwin, with songs, instrumental pieces, excerpts from cycles of works and writings, letters and diaries by 

Arnold Schönberg (1874 – 1951)

including songs from the The Book of Hanging Gardens op. 15, ballads, piano pieces, the Ode an Napoleon op. 41, and the Petrarch sonnet (from op. 24)

Charles Ives (1874 – 1954)
among others with Songs from the collection 114 Songs, piano music and compositions for piano quintet

The concert will be followed by a get-together in honour of Ulrich Eckhardt, artistic director of the Berliner Festspiele from 1973 to 2000, in the foyer of the Chamber Music Hall on the occasion of his 90th birthday.


Peyee Chen – soprano
Tora Augestadmezzosoprano
Holger Falkbaritone
Michael Rotschopf – reciter and emcee
Stefan Litwin – piano

Eliot Quartett
Maryana Osipova – violin
Alexander Sachs – violin
Dmitry Hahalin – viola
Michael Preuss – violoncello

An event by Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin