Bruce Quaglia

Nono's Schoenberg: Early Serial Constructs in the Variazioni Canoniche 

Luigi Nono's first publically performed work, Variazioni canoniche sulla serie dell'op. 41 di Arnold Schoenberg (1950), was nominally composed using the twelve-tone row from Schoenberg's setting of Byron's Ode to Napoleon. Analysis of that work demonstrates that the composer's examination of other serial works by Schoenberg also exerted an influence on his first major composition. My paper argues that in Op. 41 Nono found more than a texted theme of protest, but also an important model of Schoenbergian serial harmony that would have consequences for his own early conception of serial technique. Both works employ multiple partitions of the unordered hexachord 6-20, a source set which is hardly unique to Op.41, but which Schoenberg also used in the Suite Op. 29, and elsewhere. In Nono's Variazioni, the partitions yield a complex permutational strategy which is then combined with other related techniques that involve a systematic cellular rhythmic permutation. Nono's sketches reveal that he also considered rows from other twelve-tone works by Schoenberg. While Nono ultimately chose to allude overtly to Op. 41 in his title, his serial permutations isolate and reorder individual dyads within the row and consequently generate new hexachordal types that proliferate secondary relationships to other serial works by Schoenberg. Although the row for Schoenberg's Op. 31 Variations for Orchestra was never under consideration for use in the Variazioni, Nono's analysis of that score exposes a correlation of rhythmic and pitch-class structures which connects it to nascent rhythmic serial techniques present in the Variazioni.