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Music theorist, musicologist, teacher, pupil first of Hans Weisse, then of Schenker.

Career Summary; Association with Schenker

Born in Vienna into the Wittgenstein family (his mother, Helene Salzer, was the sister of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the pianist Paul Wittgenstein), Salzer began his studies with Schenker in 1931. His earlier studies in theory and analysis were with Hans Weisse, starting in the 1920s. After Weisse's emigration to New York in 1931, he and three other former pupils of Weisse (Trude Kral, Greta Kraus, and Manfred Willfort) became Schenker's students, forming a "seminar" that met weekly. The published result of their studies was the Fünf Urlinie-Tafeln/Five Analyses in Sketchform (New York: David Mannes Music School, 1932; repr. New York: Dover, 1969, as Five Graphic Music Analyses). On the dissolution of the seminar in 1934 he began private study with Schenker.

Salzer also studied musicology with Guido Adler at Vienna University, writing a dissertation "Die Sonatenform bei Franz Schubert," and receiving a doctorate in 1926. He was a piano pupil of Malwine Brée (assistant to Theodor Leschetizky). In 1935 he received a diploma in conducting (with Oswald Kabasta) from the Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst (= Vienna Conservatory).

Salzer was to have been co-editor with Oswald Jonas of a monthly periodical (entitled Die Tonkunst ) devoted to Schenker's theory. The plan for this periodical had been proposed by Weisse in 1927, but it never came to fruition. After Schenker's death, Salzer and Jonas, who were both teaching at the newly established Schenker-Institut in the Neues Wiener Konservatorium, founded the journal Der Dreiklang (nine issues, 1937-38) in order to further the dissemination of Schenker's ideas.

In 1940, shortly after settling in New York, Salzer joined the faculty of the David Mannes Music School, taking over the position left vacant on Weisse's death. He served as Director from 1948 through 1955; under his leadership the school became a degree-granting college, and he was largely responsible for developing the "Techniques of Music" curriculum, based on Schenker's approach. He became Professor of Music at Queens College of the City University of New York in 1963; he taught there and later at the City University Graduate Center until the mid 1970s. He also continued to teach at Mannes, from 1962 to 1981.

Salzer's major publications include Sinn und Wesen der abendländischen Mehrstimmigkeit (Vienna: Saturn-Verlag, 1935), Structural Hearing: Tonal Coherence in Music (New York: Boni, 1952; reprinted New York: Dover, 1962 and 1982), and Counterpoint in Composition: The Study of Voice Leading, with Carl Schachter (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969; reprinted New York: Columbia University Press, 1989). He contributed important articles to The Music Forum, which he founded in 1967 with co-editor William J. Mitchell.


The Schenker/Salzer correspondence survives partly among the Salzer papers now deposited at the New York Public Library (27 items from Schenker to Salzer, 1930-1934, FS 40/1), partly in the Ernst Oster Collection at the New York Public Library (3 items from Salzer to Schenker, 1934, OC 44/2, 36, 37), and partly in the Oswald Jonas Memorial Collection at University of California, Riverside, Special Collections (2 items from Salzer to Schenker, 1932, 1934, OJ 14/1, one from Salzer to Jeanette Schenker, 1938, OJ 14/1, joint Salzer-Jonas correspondence with Jeanette Schenker, 1935, OJ 5/36, 12/6 [copy in 14/1], and correspondence between Salzer and Jonas, Oster, and Siegfried Müller, OJ 36/53, 169, 188, 214, 71/31). The legal agreement between Salzer and Jeanette Schenker over the Schenker papers, 1936, is preserved as FS, 40/2.

Sources and Further Reading:

  • Baker's1971
  • NGDM2 (2001 and online - Saul Novack, includes list of writings)
  • Fink, Evelyn, ed., Rebell und Visionär: Heinrich Schenker in Wien (Vienna: Lafite: 2003), pp. 19-26 [Schenker-Institut]
  • Schachter, Carl, "Felix Salzer (1904-1986)," and [anon.] "Felix Salzer," in Eybl, M. & Fink-Mennel, E., eds, Schenker-Traditionen: Eine Wiener Schule der Musiktheorie und ihre internationale Verbreitung (Vienna: Böhlau, 2006), pp. 105-11, 245-46 et passim
  • Slottow, Stephen, "Schenkerian Pedagogy in the Salzer and Oster Teaching Lines: An Oral History Approach," in Cadwallader, A., ed., Essays from the Fourth International Schenker Symposium (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2008), pp. 258-78


  • Hedi Siegel

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