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August 2007

Avior Byron
Research Proposal for a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Berlin

Cultural Meanings of Schoenberg’s Piano Piece Op. 33a:


Early Performances, Reception and Recordings

Context
Joseph Auner has successfully demonstrated that although many supporters of and objectors to Arnold
Schoenberg’s music had described the composer as elitist, his relation to the public was complex and
often far from being antagonistic. In fact, many of his compositions from the 1920s simultaneously
participate in and challenge contemporary popular genres. Auner claims that ‘the image of an
uncompromised Schoenberg making no concessions to the performer or listener is … mistaken.’1
Schoenberg composed the Piano Piece Op. 33a between 25 December 1928 and 25 April 1929.
Since early in the twentieth century his compositional technique was seen by most writers as the key to
the understanding of his music. There is contradicting evidence concerning whether Schoenberg himself
encouraged what was to be called: ‘tone counting’ analysis. Yet, it was claimed that Theodor Adorno
and René Leibowitz ‘transmitted this kind of analysis to a whole generation of musicians’.2 Indeed, the
vast majority of analyses of Op. 33a (see the bibliography below) relate to the systematic and
precompositional aspects such as the 12 tone technique, identifying it as a serial composition in a sonata
form. Commentators usually ignored other compositional aspects of the score and especially crucial
aspects of the music that were fully defined only during performance. In 1987, Nicholas Cook argued
that ‘there seems to be a vague assumption that … (precompositional aspects of serial music) must
somehow explain the musical effect even when it is obvious that it does not relate to anything the
listener is consciously aware of.’3 Moreover, the great difference between the early recordings of Op.
33a implies that one should seek to understand them by coming in terms, not only with the score, but
with performance.

1
Joseph Auner, ‘Schoenberg and His Public in 1930’, in ed. Walter Frisch, Schoenberg and His World (Princeton, New
Jersey: Princeton University Press 1999).
2
Hans Stuckenschmidt, Arnold Schoenberg (New York: Schirmer books, 1977), pp. 348-349.
3
Nicholas Cook, A Guide to Musical Analysis (London & Melbourne: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1987), p. 333.

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This study will attempt to reduce the gulf between analysis and the listeners’ and performers’
experiences, by analysing recordings, performance reception and cultural history. The aim is to reveal
the musical elements that are most relevant for performers and listeners, and to discuss the cultural
meanings that they support.
My thesis is that Op. 33a is much more than an abstract twelve tone composition: it is a
commentary on the contemporary world of pianism in Berlin, including popular trends of its composers
and performers.

Research questions
1) How was the premier of Op. 33a received by the audience and critics (were there only negative
reactions, as those who want to portray Schoenberg as elitist, would like us to think)? Is it possible to
identify any trends in the reception history of performances of this music?
2) What are the differences and similarities between the early recordings of Op. 33a (see the discography
below)? Are there differences among the performances of Schoenberg’s circle, and between them and
other early performances? What is the relation between the recordings of performers who recorded the
piece twice (Steuermann and Kraus)?
3) The arts blossomed during the ‘Golden’ Twenties in Germany. The world of pianism was no
exception. It was a significant phenomenon during Arnold Schoenberg’s stays in Berlin. Is there a
connection between the world of pianism in Berlin and the performances of Kraus and Steuermann who
were part of that world? Is there a connection between the performances of Op. 33a and other cultural
meanings that the piece has supported during the late 1920s till 1960s?

Aims/objectives
1) To understand the reception history of Op. 33a.
2) To understand the unique aspects of, as well as the similarities between, these early recordings.
3) To further understand the cultural and social aspects of the world of pianism in Berlin (with relation
to both composition and performance) that Schoenberg was exposed to.
4) To explore connections between the musical interpretations of Schoenberg’s circle, and other early
performers, and their cultural contexts.

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Methodology
I wish to spend two months at Berlin from 20 October 2007 till 20 December 2007, in order to examine
recordings, study relevant literature and gain access to items in the following libraries:

1) The Akademie der Künste (West Berlin) collection, where Schoenberg held master classes in
composition (1925-1933). The archive contains (among other things connected to Schoenberg)
correspondence and performance programs. The Akademie der Künste library has many books and
articles on Schoenberg.

2) The Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (West Berlin) collection contains, correspondence,


essays and manuscripts (for example Waltz in E flat for piano, arr. of Strauss' Rosen aus dem Süden
(1921), arr. of Strauss' Schatzwalzer, arr. of Strauss' Wein, Weib, und Gesang) by Schoenberg. I will
examine whether there is a connection between Op. 33a and the aesthetics behind these arrangements.

3) The Deutsche Staatsbibliothek (East Berlin) collection contains a book, Theurich's Der
Briefwechsel zwischen Arnold Schönberg und Ferruccio Busoni, 1903-1919 (1927), Thesis (Ph.D.)
(Berlin: Humboldt Universität, 1979); correspondence (51 items: 1909-1982) with Ferruccio Busoni, et
al. and manuscript (15 pages) of Ferruccio Busoni arrangement of Schoenberg's Klavierstück, Op. 11,
No. 2. The connection with Busoni is important for understanding the world of pianism in Berlin at that
time.

I further plan to give attention to the study of the cultural and social aspects of the world of pianism in
Berlin at that time by reading concert reviews (especially those of Op. 33a) and diaries of musicians
such as Schoenberg (Berlin Diary), Artur Rubinstain, Busoni, Schnabel and others.
I will explore evidence concerning performances of Else C. Kraus (a pupil of Schnabel) in Berlin
and elsewhere in Europe, who premiered the piece on 30 January 1931 at Berlin, and Edward
Steuermann (a pupil of Busoni and Schoenberg). Many of the performers mentioned in the discography,
wrote about Schoenberg’s piano music and Op. 33a. I will review newspapers and other commentaries
on their performances.
I plan to study the various recordings and other documents, to find any deviations of the
recordings from the score indications, the special characteristics of each recording, and also the

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similarities among them. I will use several computer programs in order to sharpen my listening and for
presenting the data (as I did in my publication in MTO).
A special attention will be given to three performers who worked closely with Schoenberg
(Steuermann, Kraus and Stein). Other recordings (such as that of the post-War avant-garde pianist Paul
Jacobs) will be discussed briefly as a point of reference and in order to enhance the understanding of
recordings by Schoenberg’s circle.

Outcomes
This study is in many ways a natural continuation of my PhD research which was focused on
Schoenberg performance aesthetics and practice. I plan to write an article as a result of this study, which
might develop to be part of a chapter in a book about the performance practice of Schoenberg’s circle
playing his music.
Professor Hermann Danuser is a world know expert on Schoenberg. I hope that this research trip
will foster the development of international research contacts with him and other members of the
Humboldt University.

Potential significance
Schoenberg’s piano music in general and Op. 33a in particular are considered to be of the most
important piano compositions of the twentieth century. Placing this piece in a wider cultural context than
the twelve tone technique is significant for a more comprehensive appreciation. It has potential to
contribute to a refined understanding of early performances of Op. 33a, not as abstract performances, but
as various musical commentaries of both the composer and some of his interpreters on contemporary
musical and social trends.
The vast majority of these recordings are not discussed in the literature. An understanding of the
performance legacy of performers from Schoenberg’s circle, and other performers mentioned in the
discography, is important for appreciating the initial historical interpretation of this music. The research
will touch upon the issue of the relation between performance aesthetics and practice, the affects of
performance circumstances and technology (such as the introduction of electrical recording that greatly
improved sound quality) on the performing. These issues are discussed to various extents in my
publications. This study has potential to reveal to performers and listeners, previously unexplored
interpretive issues of this music, which may have a significant affect on their experience.

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Discography

• Else C. Kraus, piano


o Esquire TW 14-001 mono (1952?) LP

• Leonard Stein, piano (5:08)


o *Columbia ML 5099 mono (1956) LP

• Edward Steuermann, piano (recorded: 1, 2, 4 or 7 January 1957) (2:01 + 3:22 = 5:23)


o *Columbia ML 5216 mono (1957) LP

• Paul Jacobs, piano


o *Ducretet Thomson 320 C 125 (1958) LP

• Else C. Kraus , piano (recorded: Holland, July 1960) (3:40)


o *Bärenreiter Musicaphon BM 30 L 1503 mono (1960?) LP

• Charles Rosen, piano (2:04 + 3:27 = 5:31)


o *Epic BC 1140 stereo (1961) LP

• Glenn Gould, piano (recorded: 30th Street Studio, New York, NY, 16 & 18 November 1965)
(2:41 + 4:23 = 7:04)
o *Columbia M2L 336 (ML 6216/17) mono (1966) LP

• Leonard Stein, piano (2:43 + 3:39 = 6:22)


o Time Life TL 146 mono (1967?) LP

Bibliography

Auner, Joseph, ‘Schoenberg and His Public in 1930’, in ed. Walter Frisch, Schoenberg and His World
(Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1999).

Antokoletz, Elliott, Twentieth-century music (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1992), xiv, p. 546.

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Bailey, Kathryn, ‘Row anomalies in opus 33: an insight into Schoenberg's understanding of the serial
procedure’, Current Musicology 22 (1976): 42-60.

Blume, Joachim, Komposition nach der Stilwende. Begriffe und Beispiele, (Wolfenbüttel, Zürich:
Möseler, 1972)

Buccheri, John Stephan, ‘An approach to twelve-tone music: articulation of serial pitch units in piano
works of Schoenberg, Webern, Krenek, Dallapiccola, and Rochberg.’, Ph. D. Thesis (New York:
University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, 1975), ix, p. 339.

Budde, Elmar, ‘Schönbergs Klaviermusik. Arnold Schönberg. Publikation des Archivs der Akademie
der Künste zu Arnold Schönberg’, Veranstaltungen innerhalb der Berliner Festwochen: Internationaler
Musikwissenschaftlicher Kongress in der Technischen Universität. (Berlin: Akademie der Künste 1974):
30-34.

Cash, Samuel Gresham, ‘An investigation of rhythmic structure in selected solo piano compositions by
Arnold Schoenberg.’, Master Thesis (Florida State University, 1985).

Clark, Timothy Vincent, ‘A notational problem in Schoenberg's opus 33a.’, Ph. D. Thesis (Brandeis
University, 1981).

Cone, Edward T., ‘Beyond analysis’, in: Perspectives of New Music 6 (Fall/Winter 1967), No. 1, p. 33-
51.

Crittenden, Camille, ‘Arnold Schönberg: Piano Pieces’, in: Schönberg Festival, 14.-19. März 1998.
Almanach. Herausgegeben von Christian Meyer. Redaktion: Therese Muxeneder und Faye Ferguson.
(Wien: Arnold Schönberg Center 1998): 159-160.

Dahlhaus, Carl, Schoenberg and the New Music: Essays by Carl Dahlhaus, trans. Derrick Puffett and
Alfred Clayton (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

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Dahlhaus, Carl‚ ‘Über das Analysieren Neuer Musik: zu Schönbergs Klavierstücken opus 11/1 und opus
33a’, in Schönberg und andere, Ed .Carl Dahlhaus (Mainz, New York: Schott 1978) (original issued in)
Musik im Unterricht 56 (1965), 9.

De la Motte-Haber, Helga, Musik und bildende Kunst: von der Tonmalerei zur Klangskulptur., (Laaber:
Laaber-Verlag 1990).

Elton, Nancy Hill, ‘Twelve-tone techniques as they relate to form in selected works of Schoenberg and
Webern.’, Austin: Thesis (D.M.A.) (Texas: University of Texas, 1988).

Ganter, Claus, Ordnungsprinzip oder Konstruktion? Die Entwicklung der Tonsprache Arnold
Schönbergs am Beispiel seiner Klavierwerke., (München, Salzburg: Katzbichler 1997).

Gerber, Johannes P. S., ‘Aspects of harmonic design in Schoenberg's op. 33a and op. 50a.’, Los Angeles:
Thesis (M. M.) (University of Southern California 1980).

Glofcheskie, John, ‘”Wrong” notes in Schoenberg's op. 33a’, Studies in Music, 1976(1): 88-104.

Graebner, Eric: ‘An analysis of Schoenberg's Klavierstück, op. 33a’, Perspectives of New Music 12/1-2
(1973): 128-140.

Grassl, Markus and Reinhard Kapp (eds.), Die Lehre von der Musikalischen Aufführung in der Wiener
Schule (Wien, Köln, Weimar: Bählau Verlag, 2002).

Jack, Adrian: ‘The meaning of serial’, Music and Musicians 22 (October 1973), p. 42-46f.

Kraus, Else C., ‘Schönbergs Klavierwerk steht lebendig vor mir’, Melos III (1974): 134-140.

Leibowitz, René: ‘Wo stehen wir?’, Musikblätter des Anbruch (Juni 1930).

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Leibowitz, René, A treatise on twelve-tone composition, [translated by Nancy Francois]. - 1950, 101 p.

Leibowitz, René: Schoenberg et son école: l'étape contemporaine du language musical. - [Paris]: J.B.
Janin 1947, 302, [3] p.

MacKay, John William, ‘The analysis of phrase structure and tonal centering in early twentieth century
tonalities.’, Thesis (Ph.D.), (San Diego: University of California, 1983).

Schoffman, Nachum, ‘Schoenberg opus 33a revisited’, Tempo 146/8 (September 1983): 30-47.

Schrader Bärbel and Jürgen Schebera, The ‘Golden’ Twenties (New Haven and London: Yale University
Press, 1988)

Schnabel, Artur, My Life and Music (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1988).

Steuermann, Edward, The Not Quite Innocent Bystander, eds. Clara Steuermann, David Porter and
Gunter Schuller, trans. Richard Cantwell and Charles Messner (Lincoln and London: University of
Nebraska Press, 1989).

Searle ,Humphrey, ‘Vanguard Music on the Gramophone’, Music & Letters, 38/3 (Jul., 1957): 265-270.

Tuttle, T. Temple, ‘Schönberg's compositions for piano solo’, The Music Review 18/4 (November 1957):
300-318.

Wallace, William, ‘The Scope of Programme Musik’, Proceedings of the Musical Association 25
(1898): 139-56.

Wiplinger, Nikolaus, ‘Strawinsky contra Schönberg: Eine ästhetisch-pädagogische Studie.’, Salzburg,


Hausarbeit, Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst "Mozarteum" (1983).