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Member of the Vienna branch of the Jewish aristocratic banking family of Rothschild. Alphons Rothschild was a piano pupil of Schenker's for many years, and his most important patron.

Alphons von Rothschild

Alphons was eldest son of Albert Salomon von Rothschild (1844-1911) and Bettina (née Rothschild, 1858-92). He had two younger brothers, Louis Nathaniel (1882-1955) and Eugène Daniel (1884-1976). Like Schenker, Alphons studied law and took his Dr. Juris, but never practised. He showed no interest in entering the banking firm, leaving it to Louis Nathaniel, and preferring to devote himself to his philatelic interests and his art collection. Alphons married an Englishwoman, Clarice Sebag-Montefiore, on November 20, 1912, producing three children: Albert (1922-38), Bettina (1924-), and Gwendolyn Charlotte (1927-72).

At the annexation of Austria by Germany, Alphons and his family moved first on March 12, 1938 to Villar-sur-Ollon, Switzerland, then to London, and finally via Canada in 1940 to New York. Alphons died at Bar Harbor, Maine. (Louis, by contrast, was imprisoned for a year, then allowed to live in Vienna in return for a large ransom.) Relatively little is known of Alphons's life.

Rothschild's Art Collections

Alphons was an internationally regarded collector of postage stamps; he also owned a magnificent collection of artworks, including paintings (notably by Franz Hals, David Teniers, Jacob van Ruisdael, and other Dutch and Flemish masters), engravings (including many by Albrecht Dürer), furniture, clocks, illuminated manuscripts, silverware, porcelain, tapestries, and other items, inherited from his uncle, Nathaniel von Rothschild (1836-1905), and a large collection of musical instruments. (In a letter of January 20, 1909, Schenker remarked: " As heir to Baron Nathaniel, he possesses one of the most remarkable and most beautiful collections of instruments in Austria." (WSLB 36) -- One wonders whether this collection helped fuel Schenker's interest in the keyboard music of C. P. E. Bach.)

Alphons's collections were impounded and confiscated by the Gestapo and Austrian authorities in March 1938, along with his palace in Vienna IV, Theresianumgasse 18, and his property in the Czech Republic. They were taken to the Hofburg Palace, inventoried, and stored underground in the Alt Aussee salt mines near Salzburg at the time of the allied bombing, from where between 1947 and 1950 many of them were shipped to New York, but 250 of the finest were placed in Austrian museums, including musical instruments. (In 1999, the Austrian government finally announced the impending return of these artworks to the Rothschild family.)

Rothschild and Schenker

Alphons was apparently one of Schenker's earliest piano pupils--presumably in the 1890s, for in 1899 he was referred to as "your delightful erstwhile pupil" (November 7, 1899: OJ 9/23, [4], Ignaz Brüll to Schenker; cf. WSLB 39). Schenker's Syrische Tänze (originally called "Dances of the Hasidim") for piano 4-hands, published in October 1899, bear the rubric "Dedicated to Baron Alphons von Rothschild." Schenker's diaries record visits to Alphons's palace, the earliest surviving entry reading: "To lunch at Rothschild's with Dr. Salisa" (October 17, 1903: OJ 1/4, p. 10).

Schenker on several occasions thanked Alphons, notably in his letter of February 24, 1911 (draft OJ 5/34, [1], Federhofer (1985), p. 24):

A noble-spirited act of your participation in my great work gives me the happy occasion to express to you my heartfelt thanks and deep-felt gratitude. In an age such as the present one, in which the world is struck by the "plagues" of darkness, ignorance, characterlessness, betrayal, and other similar attributes, as Egypt once was by the infamous "ten plagues," it is to be doubly thankfully welcomed when a strong hand supports and promotes the one person who has decided to bring light to the darkness and to free the land from the plagues.

You know me sufficiently well, noble Baron, to know that I would never speak so if it were not the truth that speaks from out of me. Ostensibly it is really only two books: a harmony treatise and a counterpoint treatise; ostensibly books just like so many other books, and nevertheless I venture to say that you have made the world a more beautiful gift with your support of these books than a Carnegie with his millions.

And in August 1934, at the publication of Oswald Jonas's Das Wesen des musikalischen Kunstwerks, Schenker sent Alphons a copy with the remark (OJ 5/34, [2], vsn 1, draft letter, August 3, 1934):

[...] thanking you after more than 30 years for a second time for your kind participation in my life's work. Today I am in the happy position of being able to look back over a great artistic and moral success on the part of my assembled work [...] and to thank you not just figuratively but tangibly on behalf of the whole of musical humanity for your first act [of generosity].

Nevertheless, Schenker's abiding dislike of rich people, especially those who flaunted their wealth, prompted him often to criticize his own pupils and benefactors behind their backs; and Alphons was not entirely immune to private disparagement.

In the same letter of thanks (1934), Schenker spoke of a proposal made many years earlier:

Furtwängler has by other means fulfilled that dream from early days which, when you were very, very young, I expressed to you, highly esteemed Baron, as an aspiration. I put to you then the proposal of a Rothschild Orchestra, which I wanted to inaugurate so as to show the world the masterworks in a better light. Now fate has given me the satisfaction of seeing this wish fulfilled through F.

The precise chronology of this proposal is unclear (Schenker's first known contact with Furtwängler was in 1919, so perhaps between then and the mid-1920s). There is no mention of it in the correspondence with Furtwängler himself, and the dream remained unrealized.

In 1916, Schenker was invited by the president of the Rothschild Artists' Foundation to serve on the its college of jurors in collaboration with Guido Adler and Alfred Grünfeld (OJ 12/26, [2], December 3, 1916). Schenker declined; his letter is not known to survive, but a year later he stated: "I recently declined for the same reasons [shortage of suitably qualified candidate material] the most flattering summons to serve on the jury of the Rothschild Artists' Foundation (with Prof. Guido Adler and Prof. Alfred Grünfeld)" (December 3, 1917: OC 1/19-20, draft letter to Hugo Friedmann), and two years later he confided: "I declined to share jury duty with our music historian, Professor Guido Adler" (December 9, 1918: DLA 69.930/4, Schenker to Halm).

Alphons Rothschild's Patronage of Schenker

Schenker referred to him as "my patron" (Gönner; Mäzen). In 1899, the Rothschild Artists' Foundation awarded Schenker a grant of 600 Gulden, presumably for his activities as composer or performer (September 20, 1899: OJ 12/26, [1]). Alphons personally underwrote the publication costs of two of Schenker's theoretical writings: Harmonielehre (1906) and Kontrapunkt 1 (1910). These works were published by J. G. Cotta of Stuttgart in their "commissioning publishing house," i.e. at the author's cost. While correspondence with Alphons on this is not known to survive, an outline of the relevant events can be constructed from Schenker's diaries and correspondence with Cotta:

Harmonielehre (1906): "May ?, [1906], Alph. v . R. guarantees the financial advancement of the work" (OJ 1/5, p. 13); "November 14, 1906, Copies of the book sent to Baron R., [. . .]" (ibid, p. 27); "November 20, 1906: Telegram to R. in Paris. Utter despair and tension"; "November 22, 4,300 Marks received from R., letter in his own hand regarding the transfer of the sum" (ibid); "December 12, At Baron Alphons's: thanks for support; [he gives] non-commital answer regarding vol. II [= Kontrapunkt]" (ibid, p. 28); November 26, Cotta acknowledges receipt of the sum (CA 59 = OJ 59/9, [1]).

Kontrapunkt 1 (1910): Presumably sensing reluctance on Alphons's part, a year later Schenker tried to interest another of his benefactors, Mrs. Irene Mayerhofer, in the remaining volumes of Neue musikalische Theorien und Phantasien, but got short shrift: "Saturday [April] 20, [1907]: Mrs. I. M. refuses to inspect the 'planned' further volumes of my work (vols. II, III, IV). How childish." (OJ 1/6, p. 52). A glimmer of hope appeared a year later: "Monday February 17, [1908]: Baron Alphons thanks [me] for good wishes and invites [me] to pay him a visit. Now a glimmer of hope: perhaps he will once again, and willingly, bear the costs of Kontrapunkt." (OJ 1/7, p. 79). Unfortunately, that visit ended in farce:

Tuesday February 25, [1908]: At Alphons Rothschild's. No chance of bringing up the main issue in conversation. "Count Schafgottsch is on his way up," his servant suddenly informs [him]. "I won't stand for it, telling me someone 'is on his way up,' when he has not yet been announced," retorts Baron Alphons; Count Schafgottsch however--and herein lay the delicious irony of the situation--was already in the doorway. "Jewish" aristocracy! (OJ 1/7, p. 79)

The Kontrapunkt project took longer than Schenker had expected, and it was not until 1910 that the issue of finance became urgent: "April 13, [1910]: Prof. Rettich, whom I by chance encounter on the street, gives me hope of Baron Alphons's support for vol. II?" (OJ 1/9, p. 112). However, four months after publication, a letter from Cotta of February 7, 1911 reads: "The settlement of our invoice of October 4 in the amount of 4,592.65 Marks, which in your letter of October 21 you expected would be paid in January, has still not been received as of today" (CA 140); the matter was settled only on March 13, 1911 (OJ 9/31, [33] = CA 144), the excuse for the delay being the death first of Alphons's grandmother in Paris, then of his father on February 11.

A negative comment in Schenker's diary for 1913 suggests that the issue was still live in Schenker's mind: "So squalid is [Alphons's] mentality that he preferred to inquire after the level of my fee for lessons rather than whether I have completed the work that I had begun! He was afraid that I might start raising the unwelcome prospect of the second half-volume!" (OJ 2/5, p. 458: October 30, 1913).

Schenker's next volume intended for Cotta was Kontrapunkt 2, but by 1916 another long-time pupil, Sofie Deutsch, had left Schenker 10,000 Marks "for the purpose of publishing your future works [...] upon presentation of publishers' accounts" (January 26, 1916: OJ 10/4). Thus recourse to Rothschild--if by then even appropriate--was perhaps unnecessary. In the event, Universal Edition took over publication of the book from Cotta and did so on a commissioning basis.

Rothschild~Schenker Correspondence

Schenker's correspondence with Alphons von Rothschild survives as OJ 5/34 (drafts, Schenker to Rothschild: 1911-34: 2 items), OJ 13/32 (Rothschild to Schenker: undated: 4 items) and 12/26 (Rothschild Artists' Foundation: 1899, 1916: 2 items), and with Alphons's wife, Clarice, OJ 5/34a (Schenker to Clarice: undated: 1 item).

Sources:

  • Lillie, Sophie, Was einmal war: Handbuch der enteigneten Kunstsammlungen Wiens (Vienna: Czernin Verlag, 2003), pp. 1002-1110 "Dr. Alphonse Rothschild, Grossgrundbesitzsers Clarice Rothschild"
  • Federhofer, Hellmut, Heinrich Schenker nach Tagebücher un Briefen ... (Hildesheim: Olms, 1985)
  • Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York: Ktav, 1969)
  • Communication from The Rothschild Archive (February 2, 2004)

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Correspondence

Diaries