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German music critic and writer on music, and on social and aesthetic issues, who served as highly influential music critic of the Frankfurter Zeitung 1911-25, and was author of a monograph on Beethoven (1911).

Career Summary

Bekker studied violin in Berlin and began his career as an orchestral violinist and conductor. In 1906, he became music critic for the Berlin Neueste Nachrichten and in 1909 for the Berliner Allgemeine Zeitung. He moved to Frankfurt in 1911, and became chief critic for the Frankfurter Zeitung, in which capacity he was an advocate for new music (especially that of Mahler, Hindemith, Schoenberg, Schreker, Weill, and Krenek), and wrote about the theory of music criticism. He later took posts in the state theaters of Kassel (1925) and Wiesbaden (1927-33), before emigrating to New York in 1934 and resuming his work as a critic there.

Bekker wrote biographies on Oskar Fried (1907), Offenbach (1909), Beethoven (1911), Liszt (1912), Schreker (1919), and Wagner (1924), a study of Mahler's symphonies (1921), a history of the orchestra (1936), several books on opera, a study of German musical life (1916), and other topics.

Bekker and Schenker

During the period 1913-23, an animosity existed between Bekker and Schenker so sharp that it may even have damaged Schenker's relationships with his principal publisher, Universal Edition. Schenker criticized Bekker for the first time in the "Secondary Literature" sections of Die letzten fünf Sonaten von Beethoven ... op. 109 (1913), pp. 55-6; op. 110 (1914), pp. 83-4; op. 111 (1915), pp. 93-5; op. 101 (1920), pp. 79-81. He took Bekker to task for his espousal of hermeneutics ("why do [the hermeneuticists] besmirch the inimitably proud works of the masters with terminological excrement?"), his ignorance of technical musical matters ("Mr Bekker, who made himself out to be so well-versed in [the diminished-7th chord], failed to recognize it just because the chord happens to appear in a form other than that in the textbooks"), and his advocacy of modern music (op. 111, p. 94). Bekker reviewed these volumes unfavorably in the UE house-journal Musikblätter des Anbruch.

After years of silence, Bekker came out in 1922 with a broadside against Schenker ("[the combining of aesthetics with music theory] has been attempted on several occasions, sometimes in a doctrinaire manner as, for example, by Heinrich Schenker, whose method of measuring and counting has been prized by many as a learned approach") in a review of Ernst Kurth's Harmonielehre. A month later, he reviewed Schenker's facsimile edition of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata with the stinging reference to: "superfluous and sterile introductions by editors [...] such as the ridiculous comments by Schenker on Beethoven's autograph along with his 'Urlinie.' If such personal expectorations have to be published at all, then at least they are out-of-place in this context, and actually spoil the impression of such a publication."

Schenker cut part of his remarks on Bekker for Op. 101 (1920) at proof stage, and sought to include them, together with a response to the "Moonlight" facsimile and Kurth reviews, in the "Miscellanea" of Tonwille 2 (1922). However, Hertzka declined to publish this material (OC 52/566, May 3, 1922; OC 52/312-313: May 19, 1922), Bekker being a personal friend and a public supporter of UE's modern music publishing. (The complete text suppressed from Tonwille 2 is available in the English translation under Schenker's own title of "Musikkritik.") Subsequently, Schenker quoted in extenso a passage from Bekker's Beethoven (1911) regarding the first movement of the Fifth Symphony, with the concluding comment: "Now what would this phrase-monger have offered about the content of the first movement, had he known nothing of the legend?" Tonwille 5 (1923), p. 31, Eng. trans., I, p. 201).

No correspondence between Schenker and Bekker is known to exist.

Bibliography:

  • Bekker, Paul, Beethoven (Berlin: Schuster & Löffler, 1911; Eng. trans. London: J.M. Dent, 1927)
  • Bekker, Paul, "Romantische Harmonik," Frankfurter Zeitung, March 25, 1922 (OC 2/p. 60)
  • Bekker, Paul, "Musiker-Faksimiles," Frankfurter Zeitung April 25, 1922 (OC 2/p. 60)
  • Schenker, Heinrich, "Musikkritik," Der Tonwille: Pamphlets/Quarterly Publication ..., Eng. trans., ed. William Drabkin, 2 vols (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004-05), II, pp. 161-65 (OC 39/33-53)
  • Hailey, Christopher, ed., Paul Bekker/Franz Schreker: Briefwechsel (Aachen: Rimbaud, 1994)

Sources:

  • MGG (1949)
  • Baker's1971
  • NGDM2

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