Die Jakobsleiter

Die Jakobsleiter (Jacob's Ladder) is an oratorio by Arnold Schoenberg that marks his transition from a contextual or free atonality to the twelve-tone technique anticipated in the oratorio's use of hexachords. Though ultimately unfinished by Schoenberg the piece was prepared for performance by Schoenberg student Winfried Zillig at the request of Gertrude Schoenberg.

Schoenberg began the libretto in 1914-15, published it in 1917, and began the music in 1915, finishing most of his work on it in 1926,[2] and finished a small amount of orchestration in 1944, leaving 700 measures at his death.[3]

The piece is also notable for its use of developing variation.

The fragment received a partial premiere - 160 bars - in 1958, and was premiered as far as possible in Vienna on June 16, 1961, conducted by Rafael Kubelik.[2] All performances before 1968 were concert performances; the American premiere took place in 1968 at the Santa Fe Opera using a staging by director Bodo Igesz. It was repeated in 1980. In 1968 a "scenic performance" - the oratorio version of what for opera would be a staged performance - was given.[2] The score was first published in 1974 by the composer's publisher Belmont.[2]

Notable recordings include one on Columbia records, Robert Craft conducting and one with Siegmund Nimsgern as Gabriel, and with Ian Partridge, Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Mady Mesplé in other singing parts, conducted by Pierre Boulez, for CBS released in 1982.[4]


  1. Whittall, Arnold. 2008. The Cambridge Introduction to Serialism. Cambridge Introductions to Music, p.23. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-68200-8 (pbk).
  2. "Arnold Schönberg Center: Die Jakobsleiter" (in German). Retrieved November 18, 2013.
  3. Smither, Howard E. (2012). A History of the Oratorio: Vol. 4: The Oratorio in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, p.678. ISBN 9780807837788.
  4. OCLC 10139185


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