Arnold Schoenberg’s epic, late-Romantic magnum opus, "Gurrelieder" (= Songs of Gurre) is based upon poems by the prominent Danish writer, Jens Peter Jacobsen (1847-85). who received his inspiration from medieval legends surrounding the castle of Gurre, located in the northern portion of the Danish island of Zealand. The legends concern King Waldemar the Great (1157-82), who is purported to have loved a young woman by the name of Tove-Lille ("Little Dove"). The legends, in turn, ultimately became associated with King Waldemar IV (1340-75), who, along with his wife, Helwig, lived in the Castle of Gurre.

The composer was born in Vienna, Austria, on September 13, 1874 and died in Los Angeles, California, on July 13, 1951. The first performance of Gurrelieder was given at the Musikvereinsaal in Vienna, on February 23, 1913.

The work is scored for:
  • tenor soloist (Waldemar)
  • soprano soloist (Tove)
  • mezzo-soprano or alto soloist (Wood-Dove)
  • bass soloist (Peasant)
  • tenor soloist (Klaus the Fool)
  • speaker who frequently uses the Sprechgesang technique
  • three four-part male choruses
  • eight-part mixed chorus
  • The following instruments: 4 piccolos, 8 flutes, 5 oboes, 2 English horns, 7 clarinets in A, 3 clarinets in B-flat, 2 clarinets in E-flat, 2 bass clarinets in B-flat, 3 bassoons, 2 contrabassoons, 10 horns, 4 Wagner tubas, 6 trumpets in F, B-flat, and C, bass trumpet in E-flat, alto trombone, 4 tenor-bass trombones, bass trombone in E-flat, double-bass trombone, double-bass tuba, six timpani, large tenor drum, cymbals, triangle, glockenspiel, side drum, bass drum, xylophone, rattle, some large iron chains, tam-tam, four harps, celesta, first and second violins, divided into ten parts, violas and cellos, divided into eight parts, double-basses.

  • Approximate performance time is 1 hour, 45 minutes.

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