Academic journal article Notes

Schoenberg's Program Notes and Musical Analyses

Academic journal article Notes

Schoenberg's Program Notes and Musical Analyses

Article excerpt

Schoenberg's Program Notes and Musical Analyses. Edited by J. Daniel Jenkins. (Schoenberg in Words, vol. 5.) New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. [xxix, 468 p. ISBN 978019538557 (hardcover), $105; ISBN 9780190866914 (paperback), $35.] Music examples, personalia, bibliography, discography, index.

Interest in the writings of Arnold Schoenberg has grown steadily since the appearance in 1950 of the original anthology Style and Idea-a slender volume containing fifteen of Schoenberg's essays (trans. Dika Newlin [New York: Philosophical Library, 1950]). Its contents introduced American readers to what was by then well known to those in German-speaking lands, that Schoenberg was an untiring and widely published writer on many topics, including music theory and pedagogy, his ideology concerning musical history and its future direction, and the analysis and understanding of his own music.

In the years following his death in 1951, Schoenberg's prodigious literary corpus came ever more fully into view. Leonard Stein's 1975 edition of Style and Idea (trans. Leo Black [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975]) ballooned to 104 essays, although Stein omitted Schoenberg's writings on his own music since, as he explained in the preface, these were to fill a volume of program notes that was then underway (p. 12).

A collection of program notes had earlier been in Schoenberg's mind as a companion to Style and Idea, although this plan never progressed beyond several lists of prospective titles-highly diverse in nature-drawn up by his assistants Dika Newlin and Richard Hoffmann. Several of the longest and most substantial of these program notes appeared in Ivan Vojtech's 1976 German edition of Stil und Gedanke (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1976), but another decade elapsed before a volume primarily devoted to Schoenberg's writings about his own works finally appeared. This was Arnold Schoenberg: Self-Portrait; A Collection of Articles, Program Notes, and Letters by the Composer about His Own Works (Pacific Palisades, CA: Belmont Music Publishers, 1988), edited by Nuria Schoenberg Nono, a collection of forty-nine texts including Schoenberg's lengthy analyses of a few works and shorter excerpts from his correspondence and miscellaneous manuscripts.

Schoenberg placed great importance on written introductions to his music that, as he stated himself, would aid audiences in "reading the themes and melodies during their sound, keeping them in memory, pursuing hence their evolution and development better" (p. 356). With almost no exceptions, his analyses are relatively short and untechnical, illustrating main themes, with these separated by concise descriptive texts. In a letter of 4 December 1912 to Alban Berg, who was preparing to write a guide to Gurrelieder, Schoenberg explained what a program note should be: "A list of the most important themes, in the order of the individual sections. And then an indication of the principal points at which these themes recur. . . . In other words, not a thorough treatment in which everything has to be said. . . . Nothing philosophical. Rather, aphoristic, unforced, unrelated, short discussions in loosely constructed paragraphs" ( The BergSchoenberg Correspondence, ed. Juliane Brand, Christopher Hailey, and Donald Harris [New York: W. W. Norton, 1987], 132). In the Gurrelieder guide, Berg could not bring himself to conform to Schoenberg's wish for brevity and simplicity, and he aimed instead for more thorough treatment despite his teacher's disapproval. In a letter of 12 November 1920, Schoenberg again instructed Berg how to write analyses of his music: "You shouldn't design them so that they are practically unintelligible without the score, but rather, so that they can be understood at a performance even without a score," he insisted (pp. 132, 293).

Schoenberg's admonitions are evident in the writings on his own music that form Schoenberg's Program Notes and Musical Analyses. …

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