Our archive recently acquired a dedication copy of Arnold Schönberg’s Theme and Variations op. 43b to Darius Milhaud.

Darius Milhaud’s Quatuor à Cordes was published by Heugel in Paris in 1949. In the archive of the Arnold Schönberg Center there is a pocket score of the piece with the dedication “à Arnold Schoenberg | son admirateur | Milhaud.” It may have been a birthday present – the composer had turned 75 in September of that year. But perhaps Milhaud also wanted to present his colleague with a successful compositional showpiece. The work actually contains three independent pieces: dividing the octet instrumentation reveals two string quartets, which Milhaud counted as Nos. 14 and 15 of his oeuvre. Schönberg, who had already produced many examples of complicated musical combinatorics with his puzzle canons, among other works, appreciated this gift. Perhaps he also recalled Milhaud’s visit to Mödling with Francis Poulenc, where the three composers spent “a wonderful afternoon” (Milhaud, 1970) in June 1922. Milhaud and Schönberg met again in exile in California. An amicable tone is certainly evident in the dedication of his orchestral work Theme and Variations op. 43b, which was also published as a study score in 1949: “À mon cher ami | Darius Milhaud | September 1949 | cordialment: Arnold Schoenberg | Merci beaucoup pour votre | double-quatuor – Oktett, octet or octuor – pardonnez mon ‘erreur de | plume’ (I mean: ‘error of the pen’) | ASch”