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Schoenberg and His World

Schoenberg and His World

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 350
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    Schoenberg and His World
    Book Description:

    As the twentieth century draws to a close, Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) is being acknowledged as one of its most significant and multifaceted composers.Schoenberg and His Worldexplores the richness of his genius through commentary and documents.

    Marilyn McCoy opens the volume with a concise chronology, based on the latest scholarship, of Schoenberg's life and works. Essays by Joseph Auner, Leon Botstein, Reinhold Brinkmann, J. Peter Burkholder, Severine Neff, and Rudolf Stephan examine aspects of his creative output, theoretical writings, relation to earlier music, and the socio-cultural contexts in which he worked.

    The documentary portions ofSchoenberg and His Worldcapture Schoenberg at critical periods of his career: during the first decades of the century, primarily in his native Vienna; from 1926 to 1933, in Berlin; and from 1933 on, in the U.S. Included here is the first complete translation into English of the remarkableFestschriftprepared for the 38-year-old Schoenberg by his pupils in 1912; it presciently explored the diverse talents as a composer, teacher, painter, and theorist for which he was later to be recognized. The Berlin years, when he held one of the most prestigious teaching positions in Europe, are represented by interviews with him and articles about his public lectures.

    The final portion of the volume, devoted to the theme Schoenberg and America, focuses on how the composer viewed--and was viewed by--the country where he spent his final eighteen years. Sabine Feisst brings together and comments upon sources which, contrary to much received opinion, attest to both the considerable impact that Schoenberg had upon his newly adopted land and his own deep involvement in its musical life.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3193-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. A Schoenberg Chronology
    (pp. 1-16)

    • Schoenberg and the Audience: Modernism, Music, and Politics in the Twentieth Century
      (pp. 19-54)

      It seems that the last twenty years of eclecticism in contemporary music may have finally undone what “Schoenberg’s followers” have “overdone” for nearly half a century. It is now respectable and even fashionable to concede that perhaps audiences have been right all along. Abstract, inaccessible, unfriendly, harsh, hard to follow, dense, even boring are still the adjectives applied by most concert-goers to Arnold Schoenberg’s music. The twentieth-century composer, once most highly respected by generations of academics, whose music and theoretical writings reveal a daunting intellect and capacity for analysis, and whose own legendary contempt for others became routinized posthumously among...

    • Schoenberg as Theorist: Three Forms of Presentation
      (pp. 55-84)

      The crucial fact about Schoenberg the theorist is contained in his own statement, “I am still more of a composer than a theorist.”¹ He is always conscious of the limitations of theory, including his own, and despite his constant efforts, all Schoenberg’s theoretical works afterHarmonielehreremain torsos.² Generations of students and disciples have taken up Schoenberg’s ideas and tried with varying degrees of success to make them whole.³ But the incompleteness of Schoenberg’s theoretical works is inevitable, mirroring his own philosophical and compositional conviction that any theory of art is inherently preliminary. For him it is not possible to...

    • Schoenberg and His Public in 1930: The Six Pieces for Male Chorus, Op. 35
      (pp. 85-125)

      Schoenberg begins his 1930 essay “My Public” with a sentence that would seem to sum up the well-established image of the isolated, embattled composer in self-imposed exile from the world: “Called upon to say something about my public, I have to confess: I do have one.” In the space of a few pages Schoenberg retraces the familiar stations of his troubled relationship with the public. He cites hissing and disturbances that greeted performances of his works, hostility and incomprehension of critics and musicians, and the short-lived popularity and subsequent rejection of his music by the younger generation after World War...

    • Schoenberg and Bach
      (pp. 126-140)

      The topic Schoenberg and Bach deserves a comprehensive treatment, especially because of its importance for understanding the origin and the language of the new music. Bach was the great stimulus for the new musical thought, and at the same time he furnished it with what we may call—borrowing the terminology of Arnold Gehlen—the “musical framework” (Aussenhalt).¹ After the tradition of classical forms and compositional methods gradually began to wane, Bach provided the model for this kind of musical framework, especially to the classicists, who sought to draw directly on the great works of the past. Bach also stimulated...

    • The Compressed Symphony: On the Historical Content of Schoenberg’s Op. 9
      (pp. 141-161)

      Schoenberg considered the First Chamber Symphony, Op. 9, one of his most important compositions. He wrote to Alexander Siloti in 1914: “It is my ewe lamb, one of my very best works, and yet up to now (owing to bad performances!!) it has hardly been understood by anyone.”¹ However, the work’s difficult reception history is not explained by poor performances alone but rather is caused by the innermost constitution of the work itself. And it is this constitution that legitimizes the work’s historical and aesthetic importance. The historical place of the work—a place it fills consciously—determines the difficulty...

    • Schoenberg the Reactionary
      (pp. 162-192)

      Born in 1874 in Vienna, the very center of the classical tradition, Arnold Schoenberg was acutely aware of his historical position at the end of a long line of composers from Bach through Brahms, Mahler, and Strauss. He began his career writing in a late Romantic style deeply influenced by Brahms and Wagner.¹ By the time of his death in Los Angeles in 1951, his Romantic, tonal music had been eclipsed by the two radically new idioms that he had pioneered and that made him famous: atonality and twelve-tone music. What is paradoxical about his career and his music is...


    • Editor’s Introduction
      (pp. 195-201)

      Schoenberg, whose following among pupils and members of his circle approached the cultlike, was honored on several occasions with books or special issues of periodicals devoted to him, his activities, and his music. These volumes were essentially in the tradition of the GermanFestschrift, or celebratory collections of essays presented to important scholar-teachers on milestone birthdays—with the important difference that in these cases all the contributions centered on Schoenberg. The SchoenbergFestschriftenare among the most important sources of information now available about the composer.¹

      Unique among them isArnold Schönberg, which appeared in February 1912, when the composer...

      (pp. 202-202)

      Arnold Schoenberg was born in Vienna on September 13, 1874. He lived there until 1901. In December of that year he moved to Berlin where he served as conductor for Wolzogen’s Buntes Theater for a short period of time, after which he served as a teacher of composition at the Stern Conservatory. In 1903 he returned to Vienna where he quickly gained a reputation as a highly regarded teacher of numerous students. In 1910 he was “permitted” to hold courses in composition at the imperial-royal Academy of Music and Representational Arts in Vienna as an adjunct instructor. In the fall...

      (pp. 203-203)

      Opp. 1, 2 and 3, Songs (composed 1898–1900); Op. 4, String Sextet,Verklärte Nacht(1899); these works are published by Verlag Dreililien, Berlin;Gurrelieder, text by J. P. Jacobsen, for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1900), to be released forthwith by Universal-Edition, Vienna; Op. 5,Pelleas and Melisande, symphonic poem for orchestra (1902), Universal-Edition; Op. 6, Eight Songs (ca. 1905), Dreililien; Op. 7, First String Quartet in D Minor (1905), Dreililien; Op. 8, Six Orchestral Songs (1904), U-E; Op. 9, Chamber Symphony (1906), Two Ballads for voice and piano (1907),Friede auf Erden, for mixed chorus a capella (1908), manuscripts;...

      (pp. 204-209)

      Artists who have arrived at a full understanding of themselves always say exactly what they are and not what others want to hear. Each wants to listen only to himself, or to only as much about another person as he can comprehend with his own self. If the boundary line of comprehensibility has been overstepped, then the very dissonances that originate between the artist and his audience will allegedly be found in his works as well. The artist could be considerate and attempt to control his feelings. But being considerate is a compromise that will one day seek revenge. There...

      (pp. 210-230)

      Arnold Schoenberg is an autodidact. For a short time he received instruction in composition from Alexander von Zemlinsky, but not so much by way of lessons as by friendly discussions.

      Nevertheless his works demonstrate the phenomenally high level of his ability and, in a marvelous way, hisHarmonielehreproclaims to the world the incredible wealth of his knowledge.

      The virtuosity of his ability has even been acknowledged by his opponents. They have spoken about his works as if they were theoretical speculations. They have called him a theoretician. The unprecedented art of his counterpoint has even been the subject of...

      (pp. 231-236)

      The important teacher is always effective through his example. Even if he does not demonstrate the skill to be learned, but only explains it, he influences by the example of his whole essence. A good textbook presupposes a certain suggestive personality who stands tangibly before his pupils in every sentence. Therefore Arnold Schoenberg had an absolute calling to writethemusical textbook. For he possesses that true multifacetedness based ononehomogenous spirit that permeates his whole essence. All his utterances become avowals and reveal a deeper unity that of itself serves as a model. That phenomenon is so extensive,...

      (pp. 238-241)

      The paintings of Schoenberg fall into two categories: those that are drawn perfectly true to nature, such as people or landscapes, and those that are intuitively conceived heads, which he calls “Visions.”

      Schoenberg himself refers to the first group as necessary finger exercises, does not value them especially, and is reluctant to exhibit them.

      The second group he paints, just as infrequently as the first, in order to bring to expression those stirrings of his soul that cannot find any musical form.

      These two kinds are outwardly quite different. Inwardly they stem from one and the same soul, which is...

      (pp. 243-249)

      A language that admits a listener to the work of a composer but fails when confronted by a painterly invention, that withholds the complement and even intends, in keeping with the noble indolence of an ageold incongruity, to close the door on the heated logic that opposes the viewer: this language has hidden, denunciatory capacities.

      Since it is known that there are no coincidences in language, this moral universe of speech, and that laws and new tablets above us break through the horizontal line of resistance, which seems antisocial but is in reality aesthetic, and mix the denominator with a...

      (pp. 250-262)

      What makes studying music with Schoenberg so fascinating is this enormous accumulation of energy contained in every word he speaks. Nothing ever becomes routine, formulaic, or rigid. It is characteristic that Schoenberg always walks back and forth when he develops something; because everything within him is in turmoil and motion. Lecturing for him always means developing, deflecting, making something fluid. Schoenberg never says what he knows, but rather what he thinks, what he thinks anew each time. Mere knowledge is a dead thing. It has been absorbed once, has been fixed in memory and slowly disintegrates there. Those who are...


    • Newspaper Accounts of His Lectures and Interviews, 1927–1933
      (pp. 265-282)

      Our access to Schoenberg’s words today is limited for the most part to the printed page. Often translated, and usually edited, his writings have come down to us filtered through various sensibilities, polished, grouped into collections, and presented with little indication of the contexts in which his ideas were formulated. Yet many of the most important writings were originally conceived as lectures for specific occasions, with all that that entails in terms of the topics chosen, organization, length, the manner in which ideas were presented, and a consideration of how an audience might respond. Those interested in recapturing "the grain...


    • Schoenberg on America: Articles, Speeches, Commentary
      (pp. 285-309)

      America seemed to hold a great attraction for Schoenberg from relatively early in his career. Already in the 1910s he made several attempts—all in vain—to tour the United States and conduct the American premieres ofGurreliederandPierrot lunaire. In the 1920s he contributed to American music periodicals and newspapers, where he answered questions about the future of music (“Arnold Schönberg: Foremost Representative of Modernistic School in Europe”) and the influence of jazz on “German” music (“Comment on Jazz”). In 1931 Schoenberg expressed his concern that a kind of fast-moving and stereotyped music production—what he called “Americanism...

    • American Composers on Schoenberg
      (pp. 310-336)
      Walter A. Kramar, Henry Cowell, Nicolas Slonimsky, Lou Harrison and Roger Sessions

      Reports about Schoenberg performances reached the American public before the 1910s, thanks to America’s close ties to the European musical tradition and strong interest in imports of music from Germany and Austria. When Schoenberg’s music was performed in the United States for the first time in 1913, the public was relatively polite, while most music critics reacted with a sense of outrage and sensational reviews. But a great number of budding American composers, among them Philip Clapp, Edward Burlingame Hill, Walter Kramer, and Roger Sessions, did not take the critics’ opinions for granted and came forward with their own open-minded...

  9. Index
    (pp. 337-350)
  10. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 351-353)