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Austrian composer, earliest representative of Viennese musical modernism, creator of the twelve-tone method of composition, teacher of Alban Berg, Anton von Webern, and other composers in Vienna, Berlin, and, from 1934 on, in the USA.

Relations between Schoenberg and Schenker

Contact between Schenker and Schoenberg was made first by the latter on September 12, 1903, after he had been engaged by Busoni to orchestrate Schenker's Syrische Tänze für Pianoforte zu 4 Händen (Vienna: Weinberger, c.1899). The orchestration was not to Schenker's taste because it "suggests the style of Richard Strauss," but he evidently approved it, for the resulting performance took place on November 5, 1903. Schoenberg subsequently tried between November 10, 1903 and early 1904 to enlist Schenker's participation in forming the Vereinigung schaffender Tonkünstler (Association of Creative Musicians). Communications between the two continued into 1907, when Schoenberg drew Schenker's attention to two concerts of his music (both of which Schenker attended and reported in his diary) and invited him to one of music by his pupils. The two evidently met several times, and were apparently on cordial terms until around 1910, when their relationship deteriorated.

Although Schoenberg's musical style had its origins partly in Brahms and the Viennese Classical composers, Schenker became increasingly antagonistic toward him from around 1910 because he saw him as advancing the stylistic innovations of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, abandoning the Classical tonal tradition, and in the realm of theory espousing developing variation over repetition.

Breakdown of Cordialities

The breakdown between the two men was perhaps impelled by Emil Hertzka's contracting Schoenberg for Universal Edition in 1909 along with Mahler, Schreker, and Foerster; the issuing of UE's 1910 catalogue announcing Schoenberg's Second String Quartet and Drei Klavierstücke, Op. 11 may have been the catalyst for Schenker's antagonism. First private signs of this were Schenker's allusion to "a publisher that places its main emphasis these days on anti-musical music" in his letter to Hertzka of February 7, 1910, WSLB 52, which conveys Schenker's disillusionment with Hertzka's break from UE's original 1901 commitment to an Austrian edition of the "classics." His resentment at what he saw as Hertzka's promotion of Schoenberg's Harmonielehre over his own works emerges in WSLB 75, May 17, 1911, and three years later he suggests that UE should use its profits from Mahler's and Schoenberg's music to subsidize its publication of his own writings, OJ 5/16, [2], May 1914 (draft).

The first step in the public confrontation between the two, Schoenberg's response to Schenker's diatribes against Strauss and Reger in Harmonielehre (1906) and the Foreword to Kontrapunkt 1 (1910), was delivered in his own Harmonielehre (1911 and lengthened in the 1921 edition). Schenker's most sustained, personalised critique, of the chordal treatment of passing-tones in Schoenberg's Harmonielehre, appeared in Das Meisterwerk in der Musik, vol. II (1926), pp. 30-37 (Eng. transl., vol. II, 12-16).

Correspondence between Schoenberg and Schenker

Correspondence between the two men comprises twelve personal letters from Schoenberg to Schenker, which survive only in photocopies in OJ 14/15 (see also OJ 60/2), plus one circular letter from Zemlinsky, Gutheil, and Schoenberg, and two invitations; none are known to have survived from Schenker to Schoenberg.

Bibliography: See especially:

  • Dahlhaus, Carl, "Schoenberg and Schenker," Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association 100 (1973/74), 209-15; reprinted in Puffett, D. & Clayton, A., eds, Schoenberg and the New Music: Essays by Carl Dahlhaus (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987), pp. 134-40
  • Simms, Bryan R., "New Documents in the Schoenberg-Schenker Polemic, " Perspectives of New Music xvi/1 (1977), 110-24
  • Erwin, Charlotte E. & Simms, Bryan R., "Schoenberg's Correspondence with Heinrich Schenker," Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute v (1981), 23-43
  • Federhofer, Hellmut, "Heinrich Schenkers Verhältnis zu Arnold Schönberg," in Mitteilungen der Kommission für Musikforschung, No. 33 (1981), 369-90
  • Eybl, Martin, Die Befreiung des Augenblicks: Schönbergs Skandalkonzerte 1907 und 1908 (Vienna: Böhlau, 2004)
  • Bent, Ian, "'That Bright New Light': Schenker, Universal Edition, and the Origins of the Erläuterung Series, 1901-1910," Journal of the American Musicological Society 58/1 (Spring 2005), 69-138

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