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Schoenberg, Arnold

Arnold Schoenberg [Schönberg] (1874–1951). Austrian composer, earliest representative of Viennese musical modernism, creator of the twelve-tone method of composition, teacher of Alban Berg, Anton von Webern, and other composers in Vienna, Berlin, and, from 1934 on, in the U.S.A. Although Schoenberg’s musical style had its origins partly in Brahms and the Viennese Classical composers, Schenker became increasingly antagonist toward him from around 1910 because he saw him as advancing the stylistic innovations of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, abandoning the Classical tonal tradition, and in the realm of theory espousing developing variation over repetition.

Relations between Schoenberg and Schenker
Contact between Schenker and Schoenberg was made first by the latter on September 12, 1903, after he had been engaged by Busoni to orchestrate Schenker’s Syrische Tänze für Pianoforte zu 4 Händen (Vienna: Weinberger, c.1899). The orchestration was not to Schenker’s taste because it “suggests the style of Richard Strauss,” but he evidently approved it, for the resulting performance took place on November 5, 1903. Schoenberg subsequently tried between November 10, 1903 and early 1904 to enlist Schenker’s participation in forming his Vereinigung schaffender Tonkünstler. Communications between the two continued into 1907, when Schoenberg drew Schenker’s attention to two concerts of his music (both of which Schenker attended and reported in his diary) and invited him to one of music by his pupils. The two evidently met several times, and were apparently on cordial terms until around 1910, when their relationship deteriorated.

The break-down was perhaps impelled by Hertzka’s contracting Schoenberg for Universal Edition in 1909 along with Mahler, Schreker, and Foerster; the issuing of UE’s 1910 catalogue containing Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet and Drei Klavierstücke, Op. 11 may have been the catalyst to Schenker’s antagonism. First private signs of this were Schenker’s allusion to “a publisher that places its main emphasis these days on anti-musical music” in his letter to Emil Hertzka of February 7, 1910, WSLB 52, which conveys Schenker’s disillusionment with Hertzka’s break from UE’s original 1901 commitment to an Austrian edition of the “classics.” His resentment at what he saw as Hertzka’s promotion of Schoenberg’s Harmonielehre over his own works emerges in WSLB 75, May 17, 1911, and three years later he suggests that UE should use its profits from Mahler’s and Schoenberg’s music to subsidize its publication of his own writings, OJ 5/16, [2], May 1914 (draft).

The first step in the public confrontation between the two, Schoenberg’s response to Schenker’s diatribes against Strauss and Reger in Harmonielehre (1906) and the Foreword to Kontrapunkt I (1910), was delivered in his own Harmonielehre (1911 and lengthened in the 1921 edition). Schenker first publicly named Schoenberg in his Erläuterungsausgabe of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata, Op.111 (1915), and his most sustained, personalised critique, of the chordal treatment of passing-tones in Schoenberg’s Harmonielehre, appeared in Das Meisterwerk in der Musik II (1926), pp. 30–37 (Eng. trans., II, 12–16).

The surviving correspondence
Correspondence between the two men comprises twelve personal letters from Schoenberg to Schenker, which survive only in photocopies in OJ 14/15 (see also OJ 60/2), plus one circular letter from Zemlinsky, Gutheil, and Schoenberg, and two invitations; none are known to have survived from Schenker to Schoenberg.

References to Schoenberg in Schenker’s correspondence include the following:

WSLB 75, May 17, 1911 (Schenker to Hertzka)

WSLB 120, June 9, 1912 (Schenker to Hertzka)

WSLB 200, February 19, 1914 (Schenker to Hertzka)

OJ 5/16, [2], May 1914 (Schenker to Hertzka, draft)

WSLB 211, May 5, 1914 (Schenker to Hertzka)

DLA 69.930/10, December 21, 1922 (Schenker Halm)

vC 10, June 1, 1927 (Schenker to Cube)

DLA 69.930/15, July 11, 1927 (Schenker to Halm)

vC 28, January 12, 1930 (Schenker to Cube)

OJ 5/18, 33, December 21, 1933 (Schenker to Jonas)

OJ 9/34, [42], October 4, 1934 (Cube to Schenker)

OJ 12/6, [39], November 28, 1934 (Jonas to Schenker)

OJ 12/6, [40], December 19, 1934 (Jonas to Schenker)

See especially:

Carl Dahlhaus, “Schoenberg and Schenker,” Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association 100 (1973–74), 209–15; reprinted in Schoenberg and the New Music: Essays by Carl Dahlhaus, ed. Derrick Puffett and Alfred Clayton (Cambridge: CUP, 1987), pp. 134–40

Bryan R. Simms, “New Documents in the Schoenberg–Schenker Polemic,” Perspectives of New Music, XVI (1977), 110–24

Charlotte E. Erwin and Bryan R. Simms, “Schoenberg’s Correspondence with Heinrich Schenker,” Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute V (1981), 23–43

Hellmut Federhofer, “Heinrich Schenkers Verhältnis zu Arnold Schönberg,” in Mitteilungen der Kommission für Musikforschung, No. 33 (1981), 369–90

Ian Bent, “’That Bright New Light’: Schenker, Universal Edition, and the Origins of the Erläuterung Series, 1901–1910’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 58/1 (Spring 2005), 69–138.

Arnold Schoenberg [Schönberg] (1874–1951). Austrian composer, earliest representative of Viennese musical modernism, creator of the twelve-tone method of composition, teacher of Alban Berg, Anton von Webern, and other composers in Vienna, Berlin, and, from 1934 on, in the U.S.A. Although...


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