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An edition of the Beethoven piano sonatas, each item accompanied by an Urlinie graph; scheme devised by Hertzka and Schenker in February 1922, but never carried out.

Genesis of the idea

Schenker submitted the Urlinie graphs of the Beethoven Sonata in F minor Op. 2, No. 1 and the Mozart Sonata in A minor K 310 to Universal Edition for Tonwille 2 in the Fall of 1921 and January/February 1922 respectively. When engraved, each graph, encompassing the entire sonata, occupied only a single sheet 13" x 9½" (33 x 24.5 cms), double-sided, folded once. Once Emil Hertzka saw proofs of these graphs, especially that of the Beethoven sonata covering four movements, he must have realized that an edition of a sonata complete with its Urlinie graph would give UE a "monopoly product." Thus the initiative for the Urlinie-Ausgabe came not from Schenker but from Hertkza.

Previously, Hertzka had wanted Schenker to use his periodical Der Tonwille in part as a parallel commentary to his complete edition of the Beethoven piano sonatas currently in train (e.g. diary OC 3/3, p. 2143); and indeed the article on Op. 2, No. 1 in Tonwille 2 did just that. However, on February 11, 1922, Hertzka wrote: Do you think it feasible for us to squeeze into the new individual Beethoven editions, and possibly into each sonata within the bound volumes, a page containing the Urlinie of the work in question? Is that a task that could at all be accomplished within a relatively short space of time? Cannot your wife, or one of your advanced pupils produce a preliminary draft for you, to which you could just provide an expert appraisal and the finishing touches? (OC 52/451)

By this scheme, the editions of individual sonatas would include only their Urlinie graphs, whereas the four-volume edition would also supply an explanation of the graphs. The title "Schenkers Urlinie-Ausgabe" was coined. Schenker took the scheme seriously, writing a detailed response on February 23 (OC 1B/10-11). In this he volunteered to word an announcement and to float the term "Urlinie-Ausgabe" in the forthcoming Tonwille issues, while at the same time inquiring about the logistics by which the seventeen sonatas already submitted, eleven of which were printed, without the new title or graphs would be handled, and disabusing Hertzka of the idea that his pupils were capable of providing first drafts of graphs. Hertzka replied that the Urlinien could be inserted into the existing stocks of the sonatas already printed (OC 52/452). Schenker's correspondence to UE at the time is not known to survive, but he evidently next asked about the economic workings of the plan, for on April 13 Hertzka went into some detail (OC 52/548); he also enclosed a draft supplementary agreement, to be appended to Schenker's contract for the Beethoven sonatas edition (April 10, 1920 ‒ OC 52/448), which states: the so-called 'Urlinie Edition' of each sonata will appear alongside the revised edition now being published, In this way, each individual sonata will be supplemented by the Urlinie and the Preliminary Remark that will serve to elucidate the latter. (OC 52/453)

Schenker's royalty was to be raised to reflect the increased work involved. The plan must have run into difficulties in May 1922, for Tonwille 2, published on June 10, includes no announcement, nor does it usher in the term "Urlinie-Ausgabe." The most likely stumbling block was Hertzka's letter to Schenker on May 2 (OC 52/564recto-565recto) refusing to publish Schenker's "Miscellanea" on grounds that Tonwille 2 as a whole was overlength and that the article contained only political, not musical material. An inflammatory situation arose between the two men that must have put paid to the scheme.

J. S. Bach, Kleine Präludien

Later in 1922, Schenker reported to Moriz Violin: "I am proceeding with the Urlinie Edition of the Short Preludes by J. S. Bach (all eighteen pieces, quite exquisite)" (OJ 6/7, [4], Dec 21, 1922), which suggests that he continued to take the concept of the Urlinie-Ausgabe seriously for some time.


  • William Drabkin, Ian Bent

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  • OC 1B/10-11 Handwritten letter from Schenker to Hertzka (UE), dated February 22‒23, 1922

    Schenker returns materials for the Fifth Symphony article, reports a delay in providing information for the facsimile edition of the "Spring" Sonata, and complains that he has futilely lavished time on the purification of the German language for the second edition of Die letzten fünf Sonaten ... Op. 109. — He agrees in principle to Hertzka's idea of an "Urlinie-Ausgabe" of the Beethoven sonatas, and agrees to announce it in Tonwille 2, but asks how the first seventeen sonatas are to be done retrospectively, and rejects the suggestion that his pupils might make the preparatory graphs.

  • OJ 8/4, [11] Handwritten postcard from Schenker to Moriz Violin, dated April 9, 1922

    Schenker apologizes for not having been in touch with Violin, mainly owing to overwork and a severe diabetic reaction, which required medical attention. He reports on a new series of Beethoven sonata editions – an "Urlinie-Ausgabe" – he is planning to undertake.

  • OJ 6/7, [5] Handwritten letter from Heinrich Schenker to Moriz Violin, dated July 9, 1923

    Having settled into country life in the Tyrol, Schenker returns to his work, in particular to the ongoing battles with Hertzka over the publication of Der Tonwille. He asks Violin’s opinion about a subscription plan for a periodical that would appear four times a year (instead of the current two), and hopes that his friend might spare a few days to visit him in Galtür.