What was Modernism?: Part 2
In the first part of this article, I was concerned to trace the course of Schoenberg’s development as an artist up to the outbreak of the First World War. As we have seen, one of the most remarkable aspects of this process was the new self-understanding that emerged from the personal and artistic crises of the composer’s earlier career. After a bitter and protracted struggle to make sense of himself and of his circumstances, the composer finally seems to have seized on a decidedly singular interpretation of his place in the grand order of things – one that performed the vitally necessary function of conferring a higher meaning on his sufferings, and which was also commensurate with his elevated estimate of his own self-worth, serving to affirm it rather than undermine it.
If we are to believe his own account, he had succumbed to a profound despondency about his life’s work and its future course which bordered on despair. In a letter to the artist Wassily Kandinsky, with whom he was very intimate for a time, he confessed that it would have been impossible for him to persist in his creative endeavours without the sustenance he drew from his religious faith, and that he could foresee ‘nothing less than the total collapse of things’ unless he found ‘support, in ever increasing measure, in a belief in something higher, beyond.’ In this overwrought frame of mind, Schoenberg had turned increasingly to religion for moral support and, to judge from a considerable body of highly suggestive evidence, both direct and indirect, came to believe that his sufferings were a portent that God had called him to be one of his ‘Chosen Ones’ in order to further His own inscrutable ends, in the manner of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets who came increasingly to exercise the composer’s imagination. This sense of having embraced a divinely appointed destiny is powerfully conveyed in a number of texts with unmistakable autobiographical resonances, such as the libretto of Die Jakobsleiter and two poems from his own hand which he set in his Four Pieces for Mixed Choir, Op. 27. In these writings, the artist is characterised as a kind of Nietzschean superman, as a tragic hero cum creator cum prophet, who is called to accomplish exceptional things, but who is damned on account of these very attainments to a lonely fate of isolation from his fellows and subject to endless misprision by a hostile and uncomprehending world.
In this way, Schoenberg continued to evolve the highly dramatic myth of his own self. What are we to make of Schoenberg’s assumption of the mantle of prophet and martyr, of his conviction of having being divinely chosen? It is clearly not possible for us to accept this self-portrayal uncritically and it is precisely here that the standard biographies of the composer disappoint us through their evasion of this crucial issue. The texts to which I have referred seem to cry out for psychological commentary, since we are now entirely disinclined to credit the existence of prophets, self-proclaimed ones most of all. Was Schoenberg simply unbalanced, a man prone to overweening vanity and grotesque extremes of self-delusion? Although this conclusion may seem justified on the face of it, we should be chary nonetheless of glib, reductionist explanations of this kind. For there can be little doubt, however we may choose to interpret the composer’s personal psychology, that these beliefs were sincerely held and their subjective validity was a matter of the utmost importance to the composer in maintaining an evidently precarious emotional balance.
To understand, however, is not necessarily to excuse, and it also must be admitted that many aspects of Schoenberg’s personality become increasingly disturbing from this point in his life onwards, particularly as far as his political and general social views are concerned. These too underwent a profound sea-change in the latter part of the composer’s career as a consequence of his newly-won self-understanding and it is to some consideration of them that we must now turn. Although they constitute an absorbing object of study in themselves, their greatest significance lies in what they reveal about Schoenberg’s artistic purpose. For in his case, probably to a greater extent than almost any other composer, his ideological beliefs inform his later creative work in an absolutely fundamental way, so much so that it is impossible for the critic to enter into any consideration of the music apart from the personality of the man.
‘I am not a German, not a European…’
Schoenberg’s increasing preoccupation with politics and religion in later life is difficult to account for in a wholly satisfactory manner. In his earlier years, Schoenberg appears to have taken little interest in political issues. And although he habitually referred to himself as being religious, neither does he seem to have occupied himself overmuch with the subject of formal religion. Like many Jews in his milieu, he chose as a young adult to convert to Christianity, but there is no evidence that he was excessively devout. This step was probably taken for pragmatic reasons: his Jewish background seems to have meant very little to him at this time and many ambitious young people in his position would have regarded it as a hindrance to easy social advancement, consequently abandoning it without regret. For although repressive legislation directed against Jews was a thing of the past by the time Schoenberg came to maturity, in many minds deep-seated and seemingly ineradicable prejudices remained – indeed, in Vienna itself, one of the most popular politicians around the turn of the century, the charismatic Karl Lueger, could be elected mayor largely on account of his outspoken anti-semitism rather than his actual policies, such as they were.
Whatever the reasons for his conversion, his religious beliefs could hardly be described as orthodox and certainly gave little hint of the change that was shortly to take place in him. His active interest in politics seemed to have been kindled much more suddenly. On the face of it, it would appear as though the catalyst was an incident which, while hardly trivial, nonetheless does not seem of itself entirely to account for his subsequent reaction. In June 1921, Schoenberg, accompanied by his family and some of his students, went for a holiday to the Austrian resort of Mattsee. It seems that anti-Semitic feeling was unusually intense in the area and the municipal authorities decided that summer to make it generally known that Jews were unwelcome there. Schoenberg himself received a postcard in due course to this effect and, beside himself with fury, he quit the place as soon as he could.
The effect of this unpleasant event on the highly-strung composer was distressing in the extreme and he seems to have experienced it as a profoundly traumatic occurrence. As I discussed in the previous part of this article, Schoenberg’s identification with German culture was as complete as can be imagined and his faith in its supremacy unquestioned. He had always been an ardent German nationalist and had steadfastly maintained his belief in the justness of the German cause throughout the recent World War. But his recent experience of blatant anti-semitism seems to have shattered his lifelong faith in that cause and robbed him not only of a fundamental determinant of his existence, but also of any secure sense of his very identity. Two years later, writing once again to Kandinsky, he revealed what a deep psychological wound he had sustained, how he had been compelled to learn that ‘I am not a German, not a European, perhaps scarcely even a human being (the Europeans, at least, prefer the most inferior of their races to me) – rather, that I am a Jew’. This is surely an extreme formulation, and if we are to accept the composer’s own account, it would appear that the event at Mattsee unleashed another psychological crisis of the first magnitude, perhaps greater than any that had gone before. It is probably impossible for us to assess at this remove why this occurrence should have affected Schoenberg quite so deeply. Whatever the underlying reasons, it undoubtedly reinforced his innate propensity to experience the world as a hostile and persecutory place. Its most far-reaching effect, however, was to transform his attitude towards his Jewish origins and to Judaism itself, and from this point onwards, these issues began to consume more and more of his intellectual energies, to the point where his engagement with them bordered on the obsessive. As he reflected on the place of the Jew in European society, the perennially vexing question of Jewish assimilation inevitably raised itself. Could Jews ever hope to become so thoroughly assimilated that the question of their ethnic origin became a matter of irrelevance? Certainly, one strand of liberal Jewish opinion hoped as much, and regarded it as only a matter of time before this state of affairs would come to pass.
Schoenberg’s thoughts on the matter form the sharpest contrast imaginable to such a view. In the space of a very short time, his previously lukewarm and unfocussed attitude to Judaism had undergone a metamorphosis. He came to the conclusion that his previous stance had been profoundly in error. Now, he found himself increasingly drawn to what was in many respects a religious fundamentalism of the most stringent and uncompromising kind, founded on a literal belief in the teachings of the Old Testament. His allegiance to the idea of German racial and cultural supremacy was abruptly withdrawn and redirected to the culture he had abandoned – to Judaism. He reaffirmed his faith in a central tenet of Jewish religious belief, that the Jews were God’s chosen people. As a consequence, for a Jew, the question of one’s ethnic origin was a far from trivial matter – it was, on the contrary, of supreme and overriding importance. Jews were bound by divine ordinance to maintain the integrity of their race and to preserve their distinctive way of life. ‘The Jews are a people by virtue of their religion and can only become a people again, be one and remain one through that religion’, runs one of the later entries in his notebooks. Assimilation could only be a great evil, as was any action that violated or compromised the purity of the Jewish ideal.
Schoenberg’s position consolidated rapidly around this standpoint. Anti-semitism, he contended, was ineradicable. It was useless to struggle against it. The innate superiority of the Jews would always provoke hostility and envy. Moreover, instead of lamenting the continued existence of anti-semitic prejudice, Jews should instead be grateful for it, since God had chosen to employ it as an instrument to punish them for abandoning the true path and recall them thereby to faithful observance of the law. Returning to the subject of assimilation some years later, as the Nazi peril intensified in menace, he formulated his views with characteristic bluntness: ‘We were not fated to disappear by merging with the Germans or any other peoples and becoming assimilated: and fortunately, the matter did not depend on the wishes, suggestions or proposals of any well-intentioned strangers, but on divine Providence alone. We had to remain Jews, and always, when Jewry was endangered by assimilation, Providence compelled us with a strong hand to comply with our duties as God’s chosen people, and employed the newly manifested racial anti-semitism as His instrument’.
The only satisfactory solution to the ‘Jewish question’, in his view, was a radical one. Jews everywhere, liberal and orthodox, had to unite in the task of obtaining a permanent homeland of their own, where they could live their distinctive way of life without fear of molestation or external interference. Over the subsequent decade, Schoenberg was absorbed in working out the implications of this personal brand of Zionism and formulating a practical plan for the realisation of his ideas. In the short term, he was content to settle for a homeland other than Palestine itself, although he was firmly of the view the Jewish claim on Palestine was inalienable and beyond dispute, describing it as a ‘self-evident, […] matter of fact, which needs no special mention and is not dependent on voting’. He was also quite prepared to countenance the use of physical force to wrest the Promised Land from its Arab occupants, invoking in legitimation of such a procedure the great Jewish territorial conquests portrayed in the Old Testament. One of the notebook entries from 1937 (in Schoenberg’s idiosyncratic English) runs: ‘Every religious man, who believes in the idea of the Lords elected people, also believes in the ownership of the promised land. But we know: These our [fore-]fathers […] did not get this land for nothing. They had to fulfil the duty of every nation, to conquer it, to fight for it, to fertilize the soil with their blood. There is no other way in the history of mankind, than that one. Never in history could freedom be bought less expensive. Never in history a people got a country by the generosity of other people….’
Der biblische Weg
At this critical juncture in Jewish history, he felt the time had come for Jewish intellectuals to set about mobilising popular Jewish opinion and win more extensive support for this cause. His own contribution, he decided, would be a three act play, Der biblische Weg [The Way of the Bible], which was expressly conceived as a piece of propaganda and aimed at as wide a potential audience as possible. He commenced work on it in 1922 or thereabouts, but made desultory progress until 1926, when he began to work at it more intensively. After some revisions, the piece was finally completed in July 1927. Der biblische Weg was Schoenberg’s most ambitious literary project to date and he had high hopes for it: he was in no doubt that his play would enjoy a tremendous popular success if staged. At the time of writing it, there had seemed little hope of having it produced, but after the Nazis came to power he urged the celebrated director Max Reinhardt to put it on not only in German, but also have it run simultaneously in English and French translations. In the event, the piece was never staged during Schoenberg’s lifetime, nor does it seem ever to have been mounted in the interval since his death. Although it is frankly difficult to imagine it holding the attention of an audience, since its literary and theatrical merits are decidedly slight, the piece is of the utmost interest nonetheless for what it reveals about Schoenberg’s attitudes, not only to Zionism, but also on questions of general social and political organisation.
The subject matter of the play is intimately related to that of Moses und Aron – the exodus of the Chosen People to the Promised Land. But while the opera deals with the ancient mythological prototype of this quest for a homeland, the play has a firmly contemporary, even slight futuristic setting, with elements of science-fiction. Its central hero, Max Aruns, is a popular Jewish leader who is at the helm of a movement to found a new Jewish state, ‘New Palestine’ [Neupalästina], in the imaginary land of Ammongäa. He unites the roles of prophet and politician, being God’s Chosen One, whose task it is to co-ordinate the latter-day exodus of millions of Jews from Europe. As the play opens, he is attempting to raise funds from international business interests to finance this colossal venture. We are introduced to various factions within his organisation, his enthusiastic followers and his opponents, who engage in energetic debate about the project and about the merits of Aruns himself. The long-awaited exodus to Ammongäa eventually comes to pass, but bitterly divisive conflict breaks out amongst the rival factions of Jewish settlers and, in a rather melodramatic dénouement, Aruns dies as an indirect result of the treachery of his enemies. At the close of the play, however, his cherished objective has been achieved in spite of their opposition.
Der biblische Weg is heavily didactic in tone. Apart from his desire to win support for the Zionist cause, Schoenberg’s principal concern is clearly to educate his fellow Jews to an ideal of citizenship in accord with what he regarded as a desirable state of political consciousness. The ‘New Palestine’, as Schoenberg envisaged it, was to be a newly reconstituted Sparta. Given the perennial hostility that Jews seemed fated to experience, there was no guarantee that they would ever be left unmolested, even within their own borders. The new state would thus have to devote considerable resources to building up its strength as a military power, both in order to defend itself and ensure that its neighbours would treat it with respect. ‘A state without might is not a state’, as he puts it in one of his notebook entries. Elsewhere, he bluntly states his belief that attack is the best form of defence, and that while reasons can always be found to justify an attack, ‘if necessary one can do without reasons’. Much of the subsidiary action in the play centres on Aruns’ desire to obtain a futuristic ‘ray-weapon’, which will enable the army to repel offensives from any point on the planet. We learn that this weapon works by consuming all the available oxygen in the atmosphere at the point of attack, thus killing the aggressor by asphyxiation – clearly what we would now call a weapon of mass destruction.
As a further measure, Aruns has taken steps to foster the fighting spirit of Jewish youth, by inculcating young people with the ancient biblical ideals of heroism and self-sacrifice. To this end, they partake in organised sporting activities to prepare them for army service and the active defence of their fatherland. Schoenberg himself was keenly concerned with physical fitness and believed it necessary for Jews everywhere to counteract stereotypes of themselves as puny, racially degenerate weaklings by engaging in vigorous exercise and various forms of strenuous corporeal training. The very opening scene of the play shows one of his ideal, physically robust Jews pouring scorn on a bookish younger man who disdains to play sport, preferring instead his intellectual pursuits. In the first scene of Part 2 of Act I, the curtain rises to reveal Aruns inspecting a mass sporting demonstration which is unmistakably militaristic in character. The stage directions indicate that phalanxes of Jewish youth march by to the accompaniment of bands and mass choirs, waving flags and raising their hands in salute to their leader as they pass. The scene brings inescapably to mind the mass sporting events that were to be organised by the various fascist youth movements in Europe under Hitler and Mussolini.
Scenes like this indicate unequivocally that Schoenberg’s political and social vision is indistinguishable in many respects from fascism. His ideological programme is similarly rooted in a mystical ideology of race and soil, which is endlessly discussed in the play. It is also emphasised throughout that the individual’s supreme focus of loyalty must be to the Volk and the state, and that his personal will must always remain subordinate to the larger needs of the collective. As the opening scene of the play makes clear, this is a society in which a higher value is placed on brawn than brains. Aruns and his most idealistic supporters propound their belief that an unswerving faith in the goal and a willingness to suffer martyrdom for the common cause are essentially the qualities that are required of Jews. The outlook they espouse is firmly anti-rational and anti-intellectual – indeed, it is emphasised again and again, not only in this play, but in Schoenberg’s other writings, that the traditional Jewish proclivity for intellectual debate is a downright menace, since in the composer’s view, it inevitably leads to dissension and disunity, which frustrate any hopes of united action amongst Jews to secure their new homeland.
By presenting in a dramatic form the evils that potentially stem from a state of Jewish disunity – in the play, the loss of a great religious and political leader through the machinations of his enemies and the near wreck of his visionary scheme to rescue Jewry – Schoenberg encourages his audience to embrace a world-view that is nakedly authoritarian. The message is hammered home with monotonous insistence that blind submission to a great leader is of paramount importance if the desired goal is to be attained. Individual Jews have no need to exercise their independent judgement: it is enough for them to believe, as one of Aruns’ most loyal adherents puts it, that ‘wherever our Master leads us, he can never lead us to ruin’. This is of course precisely the belief that the fascist dictators of the 1930s attempted to cultivate in those they governed. Consequently, it comes as no surprise to learn later in the play that Aruns employs the same kind of repressive measures to stifle internal dissent to which dictators everywhere have had recourse since time immemorial, including the use of military terror.
‘Perhaps I will be this man…’
As his later writings suggest unambiguously, the figure of Max Aruns not only constituted Schoenberg’s ideal of a Jewish political leader, but was in fact a projection of his own fantasies about assuming a dominant role in Jewish affairs. For several years after the completion of the play this ambition lay dormant, but with the advent to power of the Nazi regime, he began to consider in earnest how he might set about entering on an active political career. As is well known, one of the first acts of the new Nazi government was to inaugurate a purge of Jews from prominent posts of all kinds. At this time, Schoenberg held a prestigious appointment at the Berlin Academy as teacher of composition. When he learned of the Nazis’ intentions, he promptly resigned in anticipation of his inevitable dismissal. With a prescience that almost undoubtedly saved his life, he left Germany in 1933, out of fear that the political situation would deteriorate. He travelled to Paris, where one of his first acts was to reconfirm formally his Jewish faith, and from there he left for America, where he remained for the rest of his life.
Almost from the moment of his arrival in Paris, Schoenberg set feverishly to work, writing political pamphlets and a great many letters to important Jewish figures, in which he urges the adoption of a plan for mass emigration of Jews along the lines adumbrated in Der biblische Weg. Together with his voluminous notebooks, these writings shed a fascinating light on the composer’s engagement with Jewish questions. There is little in them by way of new themes, but they substantially elaborate and amplify the political ideas that Schoenberg had developed almost a decade before. The critical evaluation of these documents is no easy task. It seems superfluous to point out that they were written at a time of great personal distress, when Schoenberg was filled with fear and anxiety for the future of fellow Jews in Germany, though it was to be some time yet before the full enormity of the Nazis’ plans for a Final Solution became apparent. Nonetheless, it is difficult not to feel a profound disquiet on reading these texts, particularly when one compares Schoenberg’s response to the crisis with that of other Jewish intellectuals. His compatriot, Karl Popper, who was similarly forced to emigrate, devoted his years in exile to writing his celebrated book The Open Society and Its Enemies, a spirited defence of democratic processes and of individual freedoms, in which he seeks to expose the inhumanity of the various mystical and irrationalist beliefs which inform totalitarian and fascist ideologies. Schoenberg’s response could only have dismayed him, since it is rooted in precisely the kind of authoritarian attitudes that Popper wholeheartedly despised.
In Paris, Schoenberg wondered if the time for him to assume Max Aruns’ role had come. ‘A man must be appointed – a real man – and he must represent all of Jewry. Perhaps I will be this man…’, the composer reflected in his notebooks. Schoenberg conceived the idea of setting up a new political party, an international Jewish United Party, which would aim to unify all conceivable shades of Jewish opinion in order to bring about a mass-emigration to a new homeland. As he explained to the philosopher Jakob Klatzkin in a letter of 1933, this party was to be ‘nationalistic-chauvinistic to the highest degree’. Jews would have to see the necessity of professing the kind of unquestioning faith in their leaders that Max Aruns’ most loyal supporters had held, and have an unshakeable belief in the Jews being the Chosen People. They would have to realise that other political philosophies, such as liberalism, internationalism, and pacifism, were not only misguided but were in fact irrelevant to Jews – they were extraneous Western impositions and were fundamentally not in accord with the true nature of Judaism. Strong leadership and blind obedience – these alone would secure the goal.
For democracy itself, Schoenberg had only contempt. As his notebooks reveal, he regarded open democratic discussion as a waste of time, because he felt many people were incapable of realising where their best interests lay. Political decisions were simply too important to be decided by the masses. Following democratic procedures also meant that valuable energy would be dissipated in pointless debate, and would in any case only lead to splintering and disunity. Democracy was also a fundamentally flawed form of political organisation because it did not allow the ideas of truly great men (such as himself, presumably) to prevail. In one particularly bald formulation of this view, he writes ‘Democracy for me has always meant one thing: that in it I could never even succeed in making my will known, let alone asserting it’. Furthermore, it was a form of social organisation which ran contrary to nature – and the laws of nature, as he puts it in one place, could no more be flouted than the laws of chemistry. The time of democracy was past and we should simply acknowledge the fact. ‘Power is right, and power is law’, runs one of the notes in English – ‘and such law must neither be explained, nor substantiated’ – surely as explicit an attempted vindication of authoritarian leadership as was ever penned. As for the manner in which the newly founded Jewish state was to be governed, Schoenberg set himself firmly against what he described as ‘humanitarian dreaminess, pseudo-idealistic flabbiness, preference to (sic.) superficial socio-political ideas’, for, as he asked rhetorically, ‘who says that an independent Jewish state ought to be a democratic one?’.
In his more grandiose moments, he imagined setting up an international Jewish newspaper which would appear in multiple languages, as well as embarking on a world lecture tour, complete with a staff and specially provided means of transportation. Phonograph recordings would be issued of his speeches for mass dissemination. Later, he even contemplated writing to President Truman in the self-appointed capacity of ‘president in exile of the Jewish nation’. Unsurprisingly, his ambitious plans came to nothing. On arriving in the States, he was, after a short time, forced to concentrate on more immediate material concerns and his active interest in politics waned. Perhaps even he came to realise the impracticality of what he wished to do and he confined his efforts to helping many individuals who appealed to him for assistance. Nonetheless, as his compositional output shows, his interest in Jewish themes continued unabated, his last unfinished work being a projected series of Modern Psalms to his own texts, dealing with various aspects of Judaism. He considered beginning the numbering of these at 151, to indicate that they were to be read as a continuation of the 150 psalms of the Old Testament. To the last, he retained his racialist preoccupations: one of the uncompleted Modern Psalms is a reformulation of the Biblical prohibition on incest, on the grounds that it weakens the race – a rather bizarre choice of subject, one might have imagined, for a vocal composition.
There are surely multiple, almost unbearable ironies in the ideological stance that Schoenberg adopted in the face of these tragic contemporary events. While one can completely understand his burning desire to assist his co-religionists and readily sympathise with his angry feelings of helplessness and impotence in the face of the Nazi peril, it is painful nonetheless to contemplate him espousing attitudes and beliefs that are almost indistinguishable from those of the fascist and totalitarian cults which threatened his fellow Jews. There are further ironies. Much writing about Schoenberg, taking its cue from Adorno, has insisted that the strand of modernism which he inaugurated – atonality and serialism – possesses an implicit moral dimension and is a powerful artistic protest against man’s inhumanity to man, against the malign ideologies which destroyed the lives of millions in the twentieth century. In one of his most important essays on Schoenberg, Adorno describes how his music portrays ‘anxiety, Schoenberg’s expressive core’, and ‘identifies itself with the terror of men in the agonies of death, under total domination’. He continues, ‘Horror has never rung as true as in music, and by articulating it, music regains its redeeming power through negation. The Jewish song with which the Survivor from Warsaw concludes is music as the protest of mankind against myth’ – by which Adorno surely means the destructive myths of the state promulgated by totalitarian ideologies.
In the light of what has been discussed here about Schoenberg’s political views, this view is patently nonsensical, since the composer’s outlook was fundamentally determined by a variety of deeply questionable religious, racial and political mythologies, indistinguishable in fundamentals from those which gave rise to the ideologies Adorno sought to combat. Where does this leave Schoenberg’s music? In the case of Wagner, as Martin Jay reminds us, Adorno insisted on ‘the essential continuity between Wagner’s anti-Semitic, racist beliefs, his sado-masochistic, authoritarian personality and his music, [refusing] to absolve the music from the taint of Wagner’s ideas and character’. If the negative evaluation of Wagner’s music in the light of his personality and political beliefs is considered to be a valid mode of criticism, the same procedure must be regarded as valid in the case of other composers. What continuities, one wonders, could be found between Schoenberg’s authoritarian personality, his racialist and political beliefs, and his music? I am personally of the opinion that Adorno’s critical method is fundamentally unsound. I make this point, however, to underline a further irony in his position. Adorno’s own writings on music cannot be cleared of the charge of myth-making as far as Schoenberg and the history of twentieth century music are concerned and one awaits with impatience a dispassionate account of this period which, while doing full justice to Schoenberg’s creative achievement and his historical significance, will finally allow us to see these from a balanced perspective determined by fact rather than myth.
I have incurred a number of considerable debts while writing this article, particularly to Sebastian Schneider at the Cork School of Music and Dr Joachim Beug of UCC, who gave generously of their time in helping me decipher Schoenberg’s handwriting and also offered advice on the translation of his frequently idiosyncratic German. I alone am responsible for the final choice of wording, however, as well as for the interpretations placed on Schonberg’s writings. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are mine. Since much of the material to which I referred is in manuscript, it would have meant burdening the texts with footnotes to an intolerably pedantic extent if I indicated sources for every general paraphrase of Schoenberg’s views in a highly compressed treatment of this nature. I have confined myself therefore to providing a small number of references in printed texts which can be consulted more easily. The interested reader can read some of Schoenberg’s more inaccessible writings on the website of the Arnold Schoenberg Center (www.schoenberg.at) and will find a comprehensive selection of quotations from them in Michael Mäckelmann’s fine study, Arnold Schoenberg und das Judentum (Hamburg, 1984). The standard work in English, Alexander Ringer’s Arnold Schoenberg: The Composer as Jew (New York, 1990), contains much interesting material, but many of Ringer’s interpretations are, in my view, unsound, relying on a selective and tendentious presentation of the facts.
1. Letter to Wassily Kandinsky, 20 July 1922. English translation in Erwin Stein (ed.), Arnold Schoenberg Letters, London, 1964, p. 71.
2. See account in Mäckelmann, p. 13ff.
3. Letter to Kandinsky, 20 June 1922.
4. From his ‘Notizen zur jüdischen Politik’.
5. In 1937, Schoenberg sketched out a programme for a four-movement ‘Jewish’ symphony, the first movement of which, as the composer put it in his still rather unidiomatic English, was to depict how Jewish ‘predominance (superiority) provokes envie (sic.)’. See Mäckelmann, pp. 276-77.
6. Quoted in Mäckelmann, p. 271.
7. As had been Theodor Herzl, who in 1903 advocated acceptance of Britain’s offer of Uganda as a temporary place of refuge.
8. As he put it in his later political tract, ‘A Four-Point Programme for Jewry’ (complete English translation in Ringer, pp. 230-44). The quotation here can be found on p. 235.
9. Quoted in Mäckelmann, pp. 280-81.
10. Max Aruns is expressly compared to Moses and Aaron at one point in the action and the sound of his name obviously recalls theirs.
11. See Mäckelmann, p. 250.
12. Der biblische Weg, Act II Scene 1.
13. See, for example, the collection of aphorisms he composed for young people of the Jewish swimming club Hakoah in Vienna in 1933, where he intimates clearly that he regards sport as a preparation for war. See Mäckelmann, p. 259.
14. See, for example, his letter of 13 June 1933 to the Jewish philosopher Jakob Klatzkin, where he sarcastically inveighs against this tendency and the eternalSpitzfindigkeit [nit-picking, hair-splitting] of Jewish intellectuals.
15. See Der biblische Weg, Act I, Part II, Scene 3.
16. Quoted in Mäckelmann, p. 245.
17. Quoted in Mäckelmann, p. 265.
18. Ibid., p. 284 (in English in the original).
19. ‘Arnold Schoenberg, 1874-1951’ in Prismen. Quoted in the English translation of Samuel and Sherry Weber, Prisms, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1981, p. 172.
20. Martin Jay, `, Fontana Paperbacks, 1984, p. 147.
Published on 1 November 2004