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Single-author, three-volume yearbook by Heinrich Schenker. — Das Meisterwerk in der Musik was published by Drei Masken Verlag of Munich between 1926 and 1931, the publication dates on its title pages being 1925, 1926, 1930.

The Constituent Parts

Das Meisterwerk in der Musik was published in three yearbooks:

Genesis and Publication History

Das Meisterwerk in der Musik arose out of the controversy between Schenker and Universal Edition, whose Director was Emil Hertzka, which had begun in 1922 over alleged suppression of content from issue 2 of Der Tonwille and came to a head in late 1924, extending throughout 1925. Already by late October 1924 Schenker was considering either Piper's Verlag or Drei Masken Verlag of Munich as the new home for Tonwille (letter to Moriz Violin: OJ 6/7, [10]), and was in direct contact with Alfred Einstein at Drei Masken Verlag by November 27 (OC 54/2).

Schenker had sought, if possible, a direct continuation of Der Tonwille in that format and bearing the same title. After consideration, Drei Masken Verlag decided that a new title was essential (OC 54/5-7), and in the format of a yearbook, each volume "being of the same extent as what amounted previously to four quarterly issues, i.e. 15 gatherings" of Der Tonwille, the proposed title being Das Meisterwerk in der Musik – Ein Jahrbuch von H. Schenker (OC 54/12, Jan 20, 1925). Their argument was that each volume would allow Schenker to prepare "material of greater scope," making each volume "larger and deeper." Drei Masken Verlag also sought a reduction in political content (OC 54/15, Jan 24, 1925), which was largely honored by Schenker.

The terms of the contract between Schenker and the publisher were discussed during February 1925 (OJ 54/20-22 and 25); the actual contract is not preserved with the correspondence. Schenker submitted the material for volume I on June 3, 1925 and proofs began to circulate in late November (OJ 54/142).

Over the course of the seven years of contact with Drei Masken Verlag (1924‒31) there were periods of discord. Already by December 9, 1925 the publisher complained at the number of changes on the galley-proofs and warned Schenker that he would be charged a proportion of the correction costs (OC 54/48). On June 21, 1926, in the month in which volume I was published and Schenker dispatched all the materials for volume II, the publisher shocked Schenker by declaring itself unable to commit to undertaking the latter before it had gauged the commercial success of volume I (OC 54/88 and 95, Schenker's response OC 54/96-99). By early December legal proceedings were threatened (OC 54/109), and conflict was avoided only by the intervention of Otto Erich Deutsch and undertakings by "a circle of pupils," Drei Masken Verlag finally agreeing to proceed with volume II (OC 54/119), Mandruck of Vienna being entrusted with the printing. To speed up the production, improve the layout of the ever more complex musical artwork, and keep the correction costs to a minimum, Otto Vrieslander prepared neat copies of many of the Urlinie graphs (OC 54/124, 129, 131–134, 140); he was not paid directly for this work by Schenker, but probably undertook it to honor an ongoing obligation to Anthony van Hoboken, Schenker's wealthy pupil and benefactor and Vrieslander’s erstwhile employer.

Having resumed work on a new monograph – on the "Eroica" Symphony – and mindful of the fact that Der freie Satz had largely been abandoned since the beginning of the decade, Schenker had little time to pursue shorter analytical pieces except as part of the work he undertook for his pupils. As the "Eroica" monograph neared completion, a prestigious German publisher was sought with assistance from Wilhelm Furtwängler and Karl Straube (see diary entries between April 18 and May 20, 1930). This having been turned down by both Peters and Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, after a two-year silence in the correspondence Schenker reverted to Drei Masken Verlag – thanks in part to the good relationship between Einstein and Deutsch – and the analysis of the symphony, together with its polemical introductory article, extensive text-critical notes, and the usual "Miscellanea," became Meisterwerk volume III. To save music typography costs, Schenker engaged the services of Georg Tomay, a Viennese engraver whose work he was able to supervise personally (correspondence: OC 54/195‒220; diary entries on this begin on May 24, 1930). The volume was published in mid-December 1930 (OC 54/256).

Types of Content

Das Meisterwerk in der Musik, like Der Tonwille, carries 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, in a format that Schenker devised first for his monograph Beethovens Neunte Sinfonie); the essay on a topic in theory or textual criticism; and the free assemblage of polemics, selected verbal quotations, and aphorisms under the title "Vermischtes" [Miscellanea]. There is, however, a progression across the three volumes: the number of analyses reduces from ten to four to one, the analyses themselves becoming longer; theory remains the same at four articles for volumes I and II, then disappears altogether from volume III; "Vermischtes" remains constant, but volume III contains the additional sharply polemical article "Rameau or Beethoven?".

Most prominent of all are two large-scale analyses of four-movement orchestral works: Mozart's G-minor Symphony (vol. II: 50 pages + 13 fold-out graphs) and Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony (vol. III: 72 pages + 35 Urlinie pages + nine fold-out graphic figures). These analyses take their place within the sequence of four symphonic analyses and four sonata analyses that span Schenker's middle career: Beethoven's Ninth (1912) ‒ Beethoven's Sonatas Opp. 109 (1913), 110 (1914), 111 (1915), 101 (1920) ‒ Beethoven's Fifth (1921‒23; 1927) ‒ Mozart's G minor (1926) ‒ Beethoven's Third (1930). And whereas the Fifth Symphony analysis had to be split across three issues of Tonwille, the greater length of the Meisterwerk yearbooks, precisely as Drei Masken Verlag had foreseen, permitted the last two analyses to be accommodated each within a single volume.

Specific continuity between Der Tonwille and Das Meisterwerk in der Musik is established by three elements: (1) the series of analyses of "short preludes" by J. S. Bach, five of which appeared in Tonwille 4‒5 and three in Meisterwerk I (more generally: the continued presentation of short analyses of single keyboard pieces); (2) the republication of the ground-breaking theoretical article "Erläuterungen" [Elucidations] from Tonwille 8/9 in Meisterwerk I and II; and (3) the continued presence of the "Vermischtes."

Design and Layout

Drei Masken Verlag had previously produced two music journals: four volumes of the Sammelbände für vergleichende Musikwissenschaft (1922‒23), edited by Carl Stumpf and E. M. von Hornbostel, and the Mozart-Jahrbuch (1923‒29), edited by Hermann Abert. It was agreed in February 1925 that the Mozart-Jahrbuch should serve as the design model for Das Meisterwerk in der Musik (OJ 54/23 and 25), the main divergence being the choice of typeface, for which Schenker requested Fraktur (i.e. German Gothic) rather than Antiqua (thus retaining the type style of Der Tonwille), to which request Drei Masken Verlag acquiesced.


  • English translation: Drabkin, William, ed., The Masterwork in Music: A Yearbook [team-translated] (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994–97)


  • Ian Bent and William Drabkin

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