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Planned series of small volumes, each containing an analysis of a single work or group of works, often referred to as "pamphlets" (Flugschriften) or "little pamphlets" (kleine Flugschriften).

History of the Project

The project can be traced back to 1910, when Schenker envisioned a third (never published) volume of his Neue Musikalische Theorien und Phantasien entitled Niedergang der Kompositionskunst (Decline of the Art of Composition). As a supplement to that volume, he planned a series, initially dubbed Handbibliothek (pocket library), of short guides to individual works, to be published by J. G. Cotta and inaugurated by a study of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The latter, the only item of the series to materialize, as the monograph Beethoven's Neunte Sinfonie (Vienna: UE), released on or after July 2, 1912, included in its Vorrede (Preface) the first public announcement of the series: If my labors on my principal work leave me sufficient time, I contemplate describing, in a newly founded "Little Library," with brief and concise words those necessities that hold sway in other masterworks by our geniuses. And I hope thereby to be able to offer more substantial contributions to the study of composition than are found in modern textbooks. (p. XII; trans. John Rothgeb, p. 8)

One of the earliest indications of items intended for analysis comes in a letter of March 18, 1913 to Emil Hertzka of UE: If we want to publish the Pamphlets under whatever title—and we do both want to do so—(for the Library there would be, for example, Mozart's G minor Symphony, Brahms's First (or Fourth) Symphony, Chopin, several Etudes (the most frequently played and the most difficult), Schubert, a few Lieder, etc., etc.) then we could—and we really should—give all the things that I want to offer an attractive gateway” (WSLB 149: March 18, 1913).

This suggests that the Kleine Bibliothek was a subset of the Flugschriften. Schenker had in mind "3–4 [pamphlets] a year, 40–50 pages long" (WSLB 211: May 5, 1914).

Contents of Series

Schenker's retrospective statement in a letter to Hertzka dated January 18, 1915 (WSLB 236) not only adumbrates the intended contents, and details the economics, but also exposes the strategic purpose behind the project at that time:

In pursuance of my overall plan ... I therefore offered you a "Little Library." In this, the ultimate truth would be told about our masterworks, and all the Kretzschmars, Spittas, Jahns, etc. would be confronted. Just as Breitkopf & Härtel sells Kretzschmar's analyses both singly at 20 Pfennigs, and has itself carried the three-volume work [...] through to its 5th edition (!!) within the shortest possible space of time, likewise, I thought to myself, UE should offer for sale, for example, my presentations of the Chopin Etudes:

a) singly at a price of 20 Heller

b) by set: Op.10, Op.25, and

c) complete: [Op.10 + Op.25].

Just imagine the same scheme applied to Brahms's four symphonies, chamber music, songs, choral odes, and piano pieces, to Mozart, Beethoven (III, V, VI, VII, VIII), etc, etc, and UE would have been able to take the whole of Germany by storm with my analyses, whose superiority over those of Kretzschmar would by now already have been recognized even by my enemies. (WSLB 236, p. 8)

Schenker also suggested that "the analyses could [...] even be offered to the public in the concert hall (just as Breitkopf und Härtel do with Kretzschmar's load of crap)" (WSLB 242: February 26, 1915).

That Schenker was actively realizing his plan is shown by diary entries such as the following from October 10, 1913: Sketches to the Chopin Prelude in F# minor for the Little Library.

No analysis of this work was ever published, but a series of undated sketches survives as OC 32/103–107 (with a calendar page from September 21–27, 1913 used as scrap paper).

Kleine Bibliothek to Tonwille

The Kleine Bibliothek plan was offered to UE, and also to Breitkopf & Härtel, Peters Verlag (September 15, 1916), and J. G. Cotta (CA 168-169, March 25, 1920) but made no headway, presumably on account of wartime and post-war conditions. The formal title proposed to Peters and Cotta was:

Kleine Bibliothek | Blätter zum Zeugnis unwandelbarer | Gesetze der Tonkunst | einer neuen Jugend dargebracht | von | Heinrich Schenker

Little Library | Leaves in Witness of the Immutable | Laws of Music | Offered to a New Generation of Youth | by | Heinrich Schenker

The project emerged after the war in modified form as a series of somewhat larger "issues" (Hefte), each containing several work-analyses (many previously envisioned for the Kleine Bibliothek), alongside theoretical articles, but now—fueled by Schenker's anger at the Versailles Treaty of 1919—with prominently placed polemical statements, under a title that parallels that for the Kleine Bibliothek:

Der Tonwille | Flugblätter | zum Zeugnis unwandelbarer Gesetze der Tonkunst | einer neuen Jugend dargebracht von | Heinrich Schenker

The Will of the Tone | Pamphlets | in Witness of the Immutable Laws of Music | Offered to a New Generation of Youth by | Heinrich Schenker

The utilitarian appearance of these pamphlets (published by UE, but under the fictitious imprint of the "Tonwille-Flugschriftenverlag") preserves some of the spirit of "dispatches from the front line" of the original intended publication.


  • Ian Bent

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