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Single-author periodical by Heinrich Schenker. Der Tonwille was published between 1921 and 1924 inclusive, by Universal Edition of Vienna under the fictitious imprint of Tonwille-Flugblätterverlag, and distributed by Albert J. Gutmann in Vienna and Friedrich Hofmeister in Lepzig.

The Schopenhauerian keyword of the title – which we know was an afterthought – occurs only once in the pages of the journal: in the analysis of Beethoven Op. 2, No. 1 in Tonwille 2: "only now are we able to feel the fiery will of the tone (flammender Wille des Tones) E-flat in measure 22," i.e. the E-flat established in m. 22 (of the fourth movement) endures through the local modulations of the second subject to reassert itself in m. 40 and complete the three-note descent to C in m. 42. As Schenker says immediately after: "What long-distance hearing! (Welch ein Fernhören!).

The Constituent Parts

Der Tonwille was published in ten issues comprising nine physical publications:

Genesis and Publication History

The idea of Der Tonwille emerged first in 1910 as an illustrative offshoot of Schenker's theoretical series Neue Musikalische Theorien und Phantasien . It was initially dubbed Handbibliothek (pocket library), but during the course of the 1910s the title Kleine Bibliothek (Little Library) became firmly established in the minds of Schenker and UE along with the characterization Flugblätter. The concept was of a series of pamphlets, issued from time to time rather than on a regular schedule, each issue (Heft) to comprise two gatherings (i.e. 32 pages), a maximum of twelve issues to appear per year, the print-run to be initially 2,000 copies.

The terms of the contract for the work (which went through several revisions: OC 52/223, March 17(?), 1920; OC 52/560, March 23, 1920; OC 52/517, July 10, 1920), were themselves contentious, and Schenker took advice from the Association for the Protection of German Authors in Vienna in arguing his requirements. The title of the publication was changed seven months after the contract had been signed, at the suggestion of UE's director, Emil Hertzka (OC 52/249-250, Feb 23, 1921). The arrangement of a fictitious imprint, designed to permit Schenker to publish opinions with which UE did not wish to associate itself, had been agreed at a meeting of Hertzka with Heinrich and Jeanette Schenker on January 5, 1921 (OJ 3/2, p. 2309). The title eventually used for the first issue (1921) was: 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]

However, Der Tonwille's mode of publication was changed in 1924 from an occasional to a quarterly publication, the title adjusted to start Der Tonwille: Vierteljahrschrift: zum Zeugnis … […Quarterly Publication in Witness…], and the imprint modified to Tonwille-Verlag.

The ten issues of Der Tonwille were republished in collected form in December 1927 as three annual volumes (Jahrgänge), 1922 [= 1921/22], 1923, 1924 (jointly numbered UE 9602a‒c), this time with the publisher's own imprint "Universal-Edition / Wien, No. 9602 & Leipzig" (italics = handwritten). Unchanged as to internal contents except for new covers, Hertzka described them as "adapted to Tonwille's continuation as The Masterwork in Music." (WSLB 391 = OC 52/844). Copies survive as OC Books and Pamphlets/18–20.

Controversy with Universal Edition

From the submission of material for issue 2 of Der Tonwille onward, relations between Schenker and Universal Edition became steadily more acrimonious, Schenker harboring resentment at what he saw as Hertzka's "terroristic censorship" of his work, notably of his material attacking Paul Bekker and his polemics against France and French culture. In late 1924 and 1925 Schenker threatened to take UE to court for alleged financial mismanagement of the publication, failure to provide adequate publicity and to honor standing subscriptions, printing only 800 rather than 2,000 copies, and restriction of his right to free speech.

To counteract the alleged inadequate publicity, Schenker arranged for each of his pupils to distribute at least five copies of each issue, and at the initiative of Moriz Violin and the generosity ($100) of the Hamburg industrialist Max Temming copies were distributed to University music departments and research libraries, etc. Eventually, matters were placed in the hands of lawyers, a settlement being reached in December 1925 without the matter going to court. Well before this time, Schenker had discussed with the Munich publishing firms Piper Verlag and Drei Masken Verlag the possibility of their taking over the periodical, and this resulted in publication by Drei Masken Verlag of Das Meisterwerk in der Musik (1925, 1926, 1930), which is in effect the continuation of Der Tonwille.


Der Tonwille carries essentially three types of article: the analytical study of a single work or movement (which includes source studies and textual criticism, as well as performance and secondary literature); the short essay on a topic in Schenkerian theory or some aspect of music arising from it (e.g. listening, performance); and the free assemblage of polemics, selected verbal quotations, and aphorisms under the title "Vermischtes" [Miscellanea]. It was the last of these that gave rise most of all to such contention with the publisher. Issue 1 begins with a long polemical article, "Von der Sendung des deutschen Genies" [The Mission of German Genius], which sets the tone for the entire periodical and demonstrates the great impact that World War I and the Versailles Treaty had had on Schenker's thinking. This article, with its antagonism toward Latin and Anglo-Saxon nations, communists, the journalist profession, commerce, and international, cosmpolitan Jewry, had already aroused Hertzka's alarm with a view to foreign readerships.

The longest analytical articles are that on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, which is spread over three issues, and that on Brahms's Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, which occupies the bulk of issues 8/9. The article on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was issued together as a separate monograph in 1925. These exemplary analyses belong to the line of Schenker's large-scale treatments of masterworks; they were to be followed by his monumental studies of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor and Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, published in Meisterwerk II and III, respectively.


  • English translation: Der Tonwille: Pamphlets/Quarterly Publication in Witness of the Immutable Laws of Music, Offered to a New Generation of Youth …, ed. William Drabkin (New York: Oxford University Press), vol. I (issues 1–5) (2004), vol. II (issues 6–10) (2005) [The General Prefaces of these volumes give a more detailed account of the publication history and contents of the work]
  • Clark, Suzannah, "The Politics of the Urlinie in Schenker's Der Tonwille and Der freie Satz," Journal of the Royal Musical Association, cxxxii/1 (2007), 141–64
  • Lubben, Robert Joseph, Analytic Practice and Ideology in Heinrich Schenker's Der Tonwille (PhD diss., Brandeis University, 1995) [includes translations of twelve essays]
  • Lubben, Robert Joseph, "Schenker the Progressive: Analytic Practice in Der Tonwille," Music Theory Spectrum 15/1 (1993), 59–75


  • Ian Bent and William Drabkin

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