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German cultural historian and writer; Schenker's source for a bogus statement by Mozart.

Career Summary

Richard Benz was the son of a Lutheran pastor ministering in Dresden. From 1902 Richard studied successively in Heidelberg, Leipzig, and Munich, receiving his PhD from Heidelberg University in 1907 with a dissertation on Fairy-tale Poetry of the Romantic Era. From 1910 to the end of his life he worked in Heidelberg as a independent scholar. His principal interests lay in the fields of medieval folk literature, German culture, and the cultural history of the city of Heidelberg.

He had a long-standing interest also in the place of music in German culture, believing that music was the highest expression of the German spirit. His writings on music include:

  • Die Stunde der deutschen Musik (Jena: Diederichs, 1923‒27, 2/1930) [a copy of which was in Schenker's library at his death]
  • Das Ethos der Musik (Offenbach: Gerstung, 1926)
  • Franz Schubert, der Vollender der deutschen Musik (Jena: Diederichs, 1928)
  • Die Stunde des Wiederklanges (Jena: Eugen Diederichs, 1934)
  • Bachs Passion ‒ Die Nordische Tragödie (Leipzig: Reclam, 1935)
  • Bachs geistiges Reich (Munich: Beck, 1935)
  • Die deutsche Romantik (Leipzig: Reclam, 1937)
  • Goethe und Beethoven (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1942)

Benz and Schenker

There are many references to Benz in Schenker's diary between 1924 and 1933. Like Schenker he was an independent scholar who distanced himself from academia; and as a deeply conservative thinker believing that music had been in decline since Schubert and that music in the 20th century had forfeited the right to exist he must have seemed to Schenker someone with whom he had an affinity. Benz's article "Das Spiel des Dämons," Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, January 25, 1931 (preserved as OC 50/20) was the source of an alleged statement by Mozart (from a letter to Baron von Swieten included in the Schiedermair edition of Mozart letters in 1914 but shown to have been a forgery) that he heard a piece of music initially in a single instant. Benz writes: Mozart war sich über den bildhaft-plastischen Charakter seiner Gestaltungen vollkommen klar und hat die räumlich-visuelle Konzeption seiner Musik als den gleichen Eindruck beschrieben, der uns im vollendeten Werke zuteil wird: „Das erhitzt mir nun die Seele, da wird es immer größer; und ich breite es immer weiter und heller aus; und das Ding wird im Kopfe wahrlich mit einem Blick, gleichsam wie ein schönes Bild oder einen hübschen Menschen im Geist übersehe, und es auch gar nicht nacheinander, wie es hernach kommen muß in der Einbildung höre, sondern wie gleich alles zusammen.“
Mozart was completely clear about the graphic-physical character of his imageries, and has described his spatial-visual conception of his music as making the same impression as is conveyed to us in the finished work: "My spirit is enthralled, as it gets ever bigger; and I apply it ever wider and brighter; and the thing appears in my head truly in an instant, as if I see in my mind at a glance a beautiful picture or an attractive person, and I hear it in my imagination not at all successively, as is bound to occur afterward, but as if all together."

So taken was Schenker with this statement ‒ "a divine passage from a letter by Mozart" ‒ that he created a calling card with an excerpt, had it printed by Jahoda & Siegel, and distributed it to pupils and others. He also wrote an article about the letter: "Ein verschollener Brief von Mozart und das Geheimnis seines Schaffens," Der Kunstwart 44 (July 1931), pp. 660–66, copies of which are preserved as OJ 20/10 and OC 50/12, a draft in Jeanette's hand with Heinrich's emendations at OC 16/8‒24, 26, and a response to it at OC 2/p. 84.

Four other articles by Benz are preserved as OC 49/14 and 15, and OC C/1 and 2.

In 1924, Otto Erich Deutsch proposed asking Benz to give a series of lectures (diary February 1, 1924), to which Schenker replied: "if need be, the only format welcome to me would be a conversation at the piano in a private house, with well-meaning persons participating, directly or almost directly associated with me."

Sources

  • Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (1949 - Karl Laux)
  • Wikipedia (consulted Sep 27, 2018)

Contributors

  • Marko Deisinger and Ian Bent

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Correspondence

Diaries