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vC 14 : 4-29-28

Handwritten letter from Schenker to Cube, dated April 29, 1928

Lieber Herr von Cube!

Der erste Sonntag-Frühmorgen giebt mir Gelegenheit, Ihnen zu antworten. Die Widerstände, die von der Seite der Lehrer, der in dieser Frage entscheidenden Menschen“klasse”, kommen, sind nur zu begreiflich; sie fühlen, daß es nicht mehr so betriebsbequem bei den neuen Dingen zugehen kann, wie bei den berichtigten[sic] Harmonielehren “mit Schlüssel” zum Aufgabenbuch, nicht mehr so idiotischbequem abgehaspelt werden darf: Bdur – Cdur – fisdur – Miesdur1 – fmoll – Gisdur u.s.w., sondern daß der Kopf ein Wörtchen mitzureden hat, obendrein ein eigenartiger, auf reinste Musik abgezogener {2} Kopf mit tausend musikalischen Ohren. Das nur[?] des lieben Ich so brünstig gepflegte “Gefühl”, das nicht ohne eine gewisse Überhebung der angeblichen “Reflexion”2 sogar eines Beeth., eines Brahms entgegengestellt wird, bei dem es nur verwunderlich ist, daß gerade die reflektierenden Meister sinfonie-potent sind, während sie, die gefühlspotenten, sinfonie-impotent sind (wo es doch im Grunde umgekehrt sein müsste!), das selbstherrliche Gefühl soll zum Aberglauben geworfen werden – das geht den Lehrern zu weit. Hätte ich freilich diesen Herren die Tafel gedeckt ganz so, wie der betriebskundige Herr Riemann es um ihretwillen in seinen zahllosen “Katechismen” mit dem Ollendorf-Frage- u. Antwortspiel,3 in den “grossen” und “kleinen” Kompositionslehrbüchern (für jede “Perslage”[?]) bereichert getan, hätte ich durch Ausführung der allengesamtesten Literatur jede, jede Verlegenheit ihnen aus dem Wege geräumt, dann, dann hätte ich längst den zukommenden Platz auch bei ihnen erobert!4 {3} Soeben muß es sich in die Länge ziehen u. namentlich ist mein Tod die erste Vorbedingung. Die Sache macht aber glänzende Fortschritte . . .

Nun zur eigentlichen Sache. Sie erhalten längstens binnen einer Woche von der Kunsthandlung Artaria 2 Hammer.5 (Die frühere Serie ist durchgekauft, Artaria muß eine neue bestellen, dies ist der Grund der kleinen Verzögerung). Von diesen beiden Stücken wollen Sie, bitte, eines für sich selbst behalten, zur Erinnerung an die Kämpfe Ihrer Jugend, das andere aber bitte ich, da ein Verkauf nicht zu erwarten ist, an mich zurückzusenden.

Am Freitag brachte H. Vrieslander einen Wunsch von Ihnen vor, ich übernahm die Erfüllung desselben, um es kürzer zu machen.6

Einiges finden Sie in Riemanns Lexicon|7 u. in Kürschner.8 Die neuen Auflagen kenne ich freilich {4} nicht, weiß also nicht, ob Einstein|9 nicht noch mehr gekürzt hat, um ein paar Zeilen für irgendeinen Jazz-Schleuderer zu gewinnen. Doch glaube ich, daß ein äußeres Gerüst zu finden sein wird, bis auf das Todesdatum, das noch unbekannt ist.10

Ich kann sagen, daß alle unendlichen Schwierigkeiten, die ich gleich zu Anfang meiner Zwanzigerjahre zu bestehen hatte, da ich den aus fünf Personen bestehenden Familiennachlaß meines Vaters,11 der ein sehr gefeierter Landarzt war, aus dem Stunden–Ertrag zu versorgen hatte, in der Folge noch überboten wurden durch die Schwierigkeiten, die die Menschen, namentlich die Verleger, meine Arbeiten bereiteten. So unvergleichlich vielleicht meine menschliche Leistung bei den ersteren Schwierigkeiten gewesen, die Durchsetzung meiner Arbeiten darf ich {5} dennoch als die stärkere Leistung bezeichnen. Nirgend kam mir Hilfe, ich mußte den Widerstand in langjährigen Kämpfen brechen. Sogar der Lebensvertrag (mit der “U.E.” schützte mich nicht. So kam es, daß mehrere Serien-Arbeiten bis zur Stunde unvollendet bleiben mußten, “die letzten fünf Sonaten von Beeth_” entbehren noch das wichtigste[,] op.106, die Ausgaben der _Sonaten von Mozart u. Haydn, (auf die ich verträglich ein Recht hatte) konnten nicht zustandekommen, der “Tonwille” erfuhr äußersten Widerstand) (Vertragsbruch u. Sabotage) des eigenen Verlages, usw.12 Dieser Verlust an Arbeit, an Erfüllung von Aufgaben, die nur ich allein (als ihr Erfinder) meistern könnte, ist mein Schmerzlichstes geblieben, da er nicht mehr gutzumachen ist. Hätte der Verlag mir die Zeit zur Arbeit zur Verfügung gestellt, die er für {6} die eigensinnigen Kämpfe in Anspruch nahm, ich hätte noch viel Ersprießliches geleistet, das Allen gut bekommen wäre, auch dem Verlag.

Es fehlte in meinem Leben gewiß nicht an ehrende Aufforderungen u. Aufträgen von Seiten verschiedener Körperschaften. Alles zerschlug sich aber in dem Augenblick, da ich die Ausführung bekanntgab, da war alles zuviel des Guten u. überschritt die Vorstellungen der Werber. Weniger sollte es um die Sache gehe [corr], die ihnen ja völlig fremd war, als vielmehr um eine billige Ausführung (billig in jeder Hinsicht) sozusagen nur wie um sie selbst, die Auftraggeber auszuzeichnen u. zu ehren. Die Sache ging mir leer aus u. so kam es, daß ich auch den Lehrinstituten lieber auswich. Ich sah {7} an, daß ich den Kampf vom neutralen Zimmer aus zu führen habe.

Die aüßerste Armut getragen zu haben, war mir eine Seligkeit, ich bin auf diese Auszeichnung durch das Schicksal stolz. Oblag mir doch die wunderschöne Aufgabe, dem materiellen Minus durch ein geistiges Plus entgegenzurücken. (Nie beugte mich die Armut zu einem Demokraten, gar zu einem Sozialdemokraten[corr] herab, im Namen des ewig aristokratischen Geistes trug ich seit Kindheit den Kopf hoch über den Pöbel hinaus.) Nur weil ich dem Geist treu u. selbstlos diente, konnte ich finden, was nur zu finden von Oben beschert war.

Weitere Seligkeiten meines Lebens: Joachim,13 Meschaërt|14 als Vorbilder der so schwierigen Kunst des Vortrags. Die Kunstreise {8} mit M. verschaffte mir Einblick in die ganz einzige subtile Werkstatt dieses Sängers, den ich ohne Weiteres als den ersten Sänger aller Zeiten u. Zonen bezeichne. Er steht hoch über den stolzesten italienischen Typen aller Jahrhunderte, also einschließlich des Caruso,15 leider weiß die Welt um seinen Rang noch gar nichts, sie konnte es auch nicht fassen, da M. nie in der Oper sang, die ja den einzigen Kunsttrog16 der Menge bedeutet.

Und daß ich den letzten Brahms erleben, sahen, sprechen, aufführen hören dürfte, über dieses Glück musste ich Tränen schreiben, wenn ich es könnte. Ich wußte es immer, daß er der letzte Meister ist, daß die Musik tot ist, ich wußte es lange, lange bevor die Anderen es {9} zur Not begriffen haben. (S. Vorrede zum Kp.I)17 Dieser Schmerz um die sterbende Kunst trieb mich zur Arbeit, fieberhaft (Tag u. Nacht) warf ich die Gedanken aufs Papier inmitten bedrohtesten äußeren Lebens, rang mit den Verlegern, Lesern, nun sehe ich doch – Erfolg.

In Brahms sah ich den Abendhimmel der Kunst, seit diese Glut erloschen, ist es stockfinster in der Welt – für immer. Die Welt hat das hohe Glück der großen Meister nie genossen, nie begriffen, nie bedankt, daher ist die Kunst von ihr fort.

Ich muß schließen, die Gedanken tun weh. Vielleicht können Sie trotzdem {10} Einiges von dem hingeworfenen brauchen.

Eine Frage: hat Ihnen die “U.E.” die Werke zur Verfügung gestellt? Woher nehmen Sie denn diese??

Nach Galtür kommen heuer Prof Dunn, Prof. Oppel, Vriesl. mit H. Klaus|18 (zum 1. Mal in den Bergen), werden Sie auch dabei sein? Das wäre sehr schön.

Am 15. 6 verlasse ich diesmal (ausnahmsweise) Wien u. fahre langsam, schrittweise nach Galtür!

Mit herzlichsten Grüßen von mir u. meiner Frau

Ihr
[ sign’d: ] H Schenker
29. 4. 28

© In the public domain.
© Transcription William Drabkin, 2006.

Handwritten letter from Schenker to Cube, dated April 29, 1928

Dear Mr. von Cube,

The first Sunday morning gives me the opportunity of replying to you. The hostilities you encounter from the teachers, the “class” of people who decide in this matter, are all too understandable. They feel that, with the new things, they can no longer proceed with such businesslike smoothness as they can with the authorized harmony textbooks, “with keys” to the assignment book; they can no longer reel off [the answers] with such idiotic convenience—B flat major, C major, F sharp major, E flat major,1 F minor, G sharp major, and so on—but that their heads will have to join in the conversation, and moreover an very special head, stripped down down to the purest music, {2} with a thousand musical ears. The “feeling” [for music], so obsessively practised by their dear selves, which is set against the so-called “reflection”2 even of a Beethoven or Brahms—whereby it is merely surprising that it is the reflective masters who are capable of the symphonic where as they, who are capable of having feelings, are incapable of the symphonic (though in principle the opposite ought to have been the case!)—this high-handed feeling should be rejected as superstition, [but] that is more than the teachers are willing to accept. Had I, of course, laid the table for these men exactly as the business-wise Mr. Riemann had done for their sake, in his countless “catechisms” with the Ollendorf question-and-answer game,3 in his “great” and “short” composition textbooks (for every situation[?]), had I saved them each and every embarrassment by explaining the entire collected literature [of music], then, yes, then I would long ago have won the place that was owing [to me], even among them!4 {3} For now, things must drag on and, in fact, my death will be the first precondition [of the recognition of my theories]. The cause, however, is making magnificent progress….

Now for the matter at hand. You will receive from the art gallery Artaria two [copies of my portrait by] Hammer in at most a week.5 (The earlier series was sold out; Artaria has to order a new one, hence the short delay.) Of these two, please be so kind as to keep one for yourself, to remind you of the struggles of your youth; the other, however, I ask you to return to me, as it is not expected to be sold.

On Friday, Vrieslander came with a request from you; I took this on myself in order to expedite matters.6

You will find a few things [about me] in Riemann’s Lexicon, and in Kürschner.7 I am afraid I haven’t seen the latest editions, {4} and thus do not know whether Einstein8 has shortened my entry further in order to gain a few lines for some up-and-coming jazz star. Yet I believe that a basic outline may be found there—apart from the date of death, which is not yet known.9

I can say that I had to overcome all unending difficulties, right from my twenties, since I had to take care of a family of five which was left to me by [the death of] my father,10 a highly respected country doctor, and that, in the further course [of my life], these were further surpassed by the difficulties that people, i.e. publishers, created for my works. However incomparable my human achievement may have been, with regard to the former difficulties, the completion of my work may {5} nevertheless be reckoned as the greater accomplishment. I received no help anywhere, I had to overcome resistance in struggles that lasted many years. Even the life-long contract (with Universal Edition) did not protect me. Thus it turned out that several series of work have had to remain incomplete to this day: the Erläuterungsausgabe is missing the most important volume, on Op. 106;11 the editions of the sonatas of Mozart and Haydn, to which I had a contractual right, could not be realized; the Tonwille suffered the most extreme opposition from my own publishers (breach of contract and sabotage), and so on.12 This loss of work, of fulfillment of tasks, which I alone was able to master (as its discoverer), has remained the most painful thing for me, since it can no longer be made good. Had the publishing house granted me the time for work which it [instead] took up in {6} these stubborn struggles, I would have accomplished even more of value for the good of everyone, publisher included.

In my life, I was certainly short of invitations and assignments on the part of various organizations, which would have brought honour to me. But everything fell through in the moment that I gave notice of how I would realize them, since there was too much and this exceeded the expectations of the promoters. It was less a question of my cause, which was indeed an entirely closed book for them, than rather a cheap realization (cheap in every respect), to be accomplished only to confer distinction and the honor upon themselves, the clients. I came away empty-handed, and so it came about that I also preferred to keep clear even of the institutions of learning. I realized {7} that I would have to wage the battle from a neutral position.

To have endured the most extreme poverty was a blessing for me; I am very proud to have thus been marked out by fate. For it became my happy duty to set a spiritual plus against the material minus. (Never did poverty reduced me to becoming a democrat, still less a social democrat. In the name of the eternal aristocratic spirit, I have, since childhood, always held my head high above the mob.) Only by serving the spirit faithfully and selflessly was I able to find what was granted from above for me to find.

Further blessings of my life: Joachim,13 Messchaert14 as models of the very difficult art of performance. The concert tour {8} with Messchaert furnished me with insight into the utterly and uniquely subtle workshop of this singer, whom I readily acknowledge to be the greatest singers of all times and places. He towers above the proudest Italian examples of all centuries, including Caruso;15 unfortunately the world knows nothing of his rank, nor could they understand anything, since Messchaert never sang in the opera house, which is the only artistic trough from which the masses feed.16

And that I was able to experience Brahms late in life, to see him, to hear him speak, perform, is a joy about which I would have to write tears, if I were able to. I always knew that he was the last master, that music is dead is something I understood long, long before the others {9} were forced to admit this. (See the preface to Counterpoint, vol. 1.)17 This pain concerning the dying art drove me to work’ feverishly (day and night) I threw my ideas onto paper in the midst of a most threatened material existence, I struggled with publishers, with readers; and now I finally see—success.

In Brahms I saw the twilight sky of art; since this glow has been extinguished it has become totally dark over the world—forever. The world has never enjoyed, never understood, never shown its gratitude for the higher blessing of the great masters, and thus the art of music has gone from them.

I must close: these thoughts are painful to me. Perhaps you can nevertheless {10} make some use of what I have thrown down.

One question: did Universal Edition make my works available to you? From where, then, will you get these.

This year Prof. Dunn, Prof. Oppel, Vrieslander (with Herr Klaus:18 his first trip to the mountains) are coming to Galtür. Will you be there? That would be very nice. This [summer] I am leaving Vienna exceptionally [early], on June 15, and will travel slowly, in stages, to Galtür.

With most affectionate greetings from me and my wife,
Yours,
[ sign’d: ] H. Schenker

April 29, 1928

© Translation William Drabkin, 2006.

COMMENTARY:
Format: 10p letter, oblong format, holograph message and signature
Sender address: --
Recipient address: --

FOOTNOTES:

1 Schenker writes “Miesdur,” possibly in jest (“Mi” is the solmization syllable for E, and “Es” is the German for E flat), possibly in error. The chord sequence is entirely made up.

2 Reflexion: a theme that is discussed in the unpublished essay “Über den Niedergang der Kompositionskunst,” in which Schenker criticizes those who regard the Classical masters as “reflective,” rather than spontaneously creative. See Heinrich Schenker, “The Decline of the Art of Composition,” ed. and trans. William Drabkin, Music Analysis 24 (2005), especially pp. 39-40 (in English translation) and pp. 138-9 (in the German original).

3 This appears to be an allusion to the Nouveau cours de langue anglaise, selon la méthode d'Ollendorf (1906), which used the method of the catechism.

4 The idea of a substantial collection of theory books by a single author as a “meal,” to be consumed by musicians or teachers, is something Schenker’s returns to in his letter to Cube vC 21, November 20, 1928, where he compares his various types of composition—theory books, analyses, editions, Urlinie graphs—as a banquet similar to that provided by Riemann.

5 Victor Hammer [create biogfile and link]. Hammer made a mezzotint portrait of Schenker, dated 1926; and there is a bronze medallion on which this is inscribed. The two survive as OJ 72/14, items 7 and 18.

6 The implication of this statement is that Cube had asked Otto Vrieslander for information about Schenker’s life, and that Schenker decided to write to Cube himself. Otto Vrieslander [create biogfile and link]

7 Kürschner’s Gelehrtenlexicon.

8 Alfred Einstein (1880–1952), German musicologist who later emigrated to the USA; he was the editor of Riemanns Musiklexikon, 9th to 11th editions (1910–29). A typewritten copy of the article on Schenker in the 11th edition was pasted onto p.79 of the Schenker Scrapbook (OC, file 2). [creat biogfile and link]

9 Schenker is joking about the fact that, though he has an entry in an important dictionary of music, he is still alive.

10 When, Johann Schenker, died in 1887, five of his six children were alive. The eldest daughter, Rebecka, died two years later; she would probably have been in her mid-twenties at the time, though no birth certificates were issued for the first five Schenker children. At the time of his father’s death, Schenker was just twenty. See Hellmut Federhofer, Heinrich Schenker, nach Tagebüchern und Briefen (Hildesheim: Olms, 1985), pp. 4-5.

11 The preparation of an Erläuterungsausgabe of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata (Op. 106) was held up (and eventually abandoned) mainly becuase the autograph score could not be traced, and not because Schenker was in dispute with his publishers.

12 The long-running dispute between Schenker and Universal Edition, which led to the temporary severing of relationships between them, is extensively documented by Ian Bent and William Drabkin in the General Pefaces to the English edition of Der Tonwille, vols. 1-2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004-5).

13 Although Schenker did not know Joachim (1831-1907) personally—see his letter to Cube of July 13, 1928—he used his recollection of Joachim’s string quartet performances as a benchmark against which other chamber music ensembles were judged.

14 Click on Johannes Meschaert.

15 Schenker’s admiration for the artistry of the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) is noted in a diary entry of February 17, 1928, i.e. just two months earlier. See Federhofer, Nach Tagebüchern, p. 226.

16 Kunsttrog (“art-trough”), a derogatory neologism that likens the operatic audience to a herd of cattle.

17 Much of the foreword to Kontrapunkt, vol. 1 (1910) is indeed concerned with the artistic poverty of contemporary music, but the idea that Brahms was the last true master is implied rather than being stated outright.

18 Herr Klaus (not mentioned elsewhere in the Schenker-Cube correspondence).

SUMMARY:
S sympathizes with C over the hostilities he faces; contrasts his own theory to the approach of Riemann. —Has arranged for Hammer portraits to be sent to C [for bookshop exhibits], and directs him to biographical information about himself. —Describes the trials of his 20s, which were surpassed by the difficulties he faced later with publishers and organizations. —Upholds Joachim and Messchaert as models of performance art, and speaks of his contact with Brahms. —Asks whether C will be joining him in Galtür in the summer.

© Commentary, Footnotes, Summary William Drabkin 2006.

Drabkin, William
Schenker, Heinrich
DE
Cambridge University Faculty of Music-Ian Bent
Schenker, Heinrich; Cube, Felix-Eberhard von; harmony textbooks; key labels; Beethoven; Brahms; Riemann, Hugo; Katechismen; cathecisms; Ollendorf; Artaria; Hammer, Victor; Vrieslander, Otto; Lexicon; Kürschner Gelehrtenlexikon; Einstein, Alfred; jazz; Schenker, Johann; father; Erläuterungsausgaben; Op. 106; Hammerklavier; sonatas; Mozart; Haydn; Der Tonwille; Joachim, Joseph; Messchaert, Johannes; opera; Caruso; Kontrapunkt I; Counterpoint I; Galtür; Dunn, John Petrie; Oppel, Rheinhard; Klaus; Vienna
Handwritten letter from Schenker to Cube, dated April 29, 1928
vC 14
1928-04-29
2006-07-12
Cube
This document is deemed to be in the public domain as of January 1, 2006. Any claim to intellectual rights should be addressed to the Schenker Correspondence Project, Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge, at [email protected].
Felix-Eberhard von Cube (1928-87)—Heirs of F.-E. von Cube (1987-present day)
IPR: In the public domain; Image: Heirs of Felix-Eberhard von Cube; Transcription, Translation, Commentary, Footnotes, and Summary William Drabkin.
Vienna
1928

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