New articles

The proceedings of the Schenker Documents panel, which was convened at the last Mannes Schenker Symposium (New York, March 2013), have now been published as Volume 34, No. 2 of the journal Music Analysis.

They include analytical studies of Schubert’s “Der Doppelgänger” (David Bretherton) and Bach’s French Suite in E major (Ian Bent), together with essays on Schenker’s involvement in the Photogram Archive in the Austrian National Library (Marko Deisinger), his unpublished writings on music criticism (Georg Burgstaller), his critique of the first decade of radio broadcasting in Vienna (Kirstie Hewlett), and his activities as a pianist and piano teacher (Hedi Siegel).

A further contribution, not presented at the conference, is a study of Schenker’s Jewishness as reflected in his commentaries on the literature by or about Jews that he read or saw in the theater (Andrea Reiter).

The proceedings are introduced by William Drabkin, the Editor of the journal (who chaired the 2013 panel). Burgstaller and Hewlett received their Ph.D. degrees from the University of Southampton in 2015.

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Schenker’s diaries 1931–1935 : new!

Schenker's diaries from January 1931 to January 1935 (the month in which he died) are in process of being edited and posted to the website. They should all be on the site, transcribed by Marko Deisinger and translated by William Drabkin, by January 2016. William Drabkin writes:

These years show, above all, a marked decline in Schenker’s health – he found it necessary to consult a doctor frequently – and he tried to reduce his workload in order to concentrate as much as possible on Free Composition, the writing and proofreading of which is sometimes recorded in meticulous detail. He had laid The Art of Performance aside in December 1930, but was still kept busy revising his edition of the Beethoven sonatas, preparing the text for Brahms’s manuscript study of consecutive fifths and octaves, working with students and engravers on the Five Analyses in Sketchform, and writing short polemical essays for Hermann Rinn's Der Kunstwart (later renamed Deutsche Zeitschrift).

We also witness the fluctuating relationship with his pupil and principal benefactor, Anthony van Hoboken; his continued collaboration with Otto Erich Deutsch; and the moments of elation bestowed upon him by the activity of a younger generation, including Hans Weisse, Oswald Jonas, Felix Salzer, and Israel Citkowitz.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one observes an increase in expressions of spirituality, as Schenker faces each new year "mit Gott", reads from the Old Testament while on holiday, and conceives Free Composition as a religious offering. [William Drabkin]

Note: Work on these diaries, under the project leadership of Martin Eybl, is being carried out with a grant from the Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschafltich Forschung (FWF) of the Austrian government. Upon completion of this phase, the project will proceed to the diaries of 1912–1914.

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SDO just passed its tenth anniversary! The first letter went up on June 12, 2004.

It was coded in a blogging software called MovableType on a site set up for the project by Maurice Matiz of Columbia University in New York. Over the next five years some 1,200 documents were encoded on the site.

It was on that platform that the familiar parallel German-English format was devised, the clever “sender~recipient” tagging system created, and the internal dictionary of profiles established. — For those years the project was a cottage industry: a small group of contributors led by Ian Bent and William Drabkin, working with no external funds. In 2007 it gained its first small grant: a Music & Letters Research Grant, enabling the purchase of scans, microfilms, and photocopies.

In July 2007, the Leverhulme Trust awarded three years of funding to King’s College London to develop a purpose-built XML environment. The resultant site went public in October 2009 with the new name, Schenker Documents Online, at which point encoding on the Columbia site ceased.

In October 2007 Martin Eybl of the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna obtained a grant from the Austrian government (FWF) to provide editions of Schenker’s diaries from 1918 to 1925.

In 2010 King’s College and the University of Southampton jointly secured a grant from the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council for the purpose of integrating Schenker’s diaries with his correspondence and lessonbooks. This included the diaries 1925‒30. In 2014 three years’ further funding from the Austrian government is now making possible the completion of the diaries to 1935 and a start on those of the 1910s. At the same time, work has begun on porting the material from the old site to the new site, which will result in the decommissioning of the old site within the next two years.

Over the past ten years, a loyal band of about twenty contributors has continued to provide high-quality critical editions of correspondence with such men as Walter Dahms, August Halm, Anthony van Hoboken, Oswald Jonas, Moriz Violin, and Hans Weisse, and firms such as Universal Edition, J. G. Cotta, and Drei Masken Verlag. All this they have done without financial reward, for the good of the project! Thank you to them!

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Heinrich Schenker: Selected Correspondence

9781843839644Heinrich Schenker: Selected Correspondence, ed. Ian Bent, David Bretherton, and Willliam Drabkin. Woodbridge, Suffolk (UK): Boydell Press, 2014.

We are pleased to announce the imminent publication of a volume of Heinrich Schenker's correspondence: a selection of letters written by or to him, together with related extracts from his diaries. Schenker's correspondents include publishers, performers, pupils, friends, scholars and educators, and cover a period of over thirty years. They reveal the multi-faceted career of a man who is known to us almost exclusively for his method of analysing music: they have much to tell us about Schenker as writer, composer, editor and teacher. They paint a broad picture of his place in the Viennese musical world, and give some idea of the influence he exerted in his lifetime in Austria, Germany and further afield.

The 450 letters offered here, an extension of the scholarship that has gone into the development of the website Schenker Documents Online, are published in English; they have been translated and annotated by a team of twelve scholars based in the UK, the USA, Austria, and Germany. They are presented by topic and theme, in a broadly chronological arrangement, with a substantial historical preface and introduction. The volume is thoroughly indexed by name and subject. The 544 pages of text are supplemented by 16 pages of plates, which give sample images of handwriting, drawings and photographs of correspondents, cartoons, and a title-page from one of Schenker's published compositions.

It is expected that the book will be published later this month or early next month, and that it will be on display, and for sale, at the joint annual meeting of the SMT and AMS in Milwaukee, 6­9 November.

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SMT Citation of Special Merit

We are delighted to announce that the Society for Music Theory has awarded "Schenker Documents Online:  Phase Two" a Citation of Special Merit (awarded to "editions, translations, reference works, edited volumes, and other types of publications that are of extraordinary value to the discipline").  At the Society's 2013 annual meeting, Richard Ashley, Chair of the Society for Music Theory Publication Awards Committee, read the following citation:

"Rare is the time when the work of a music theorist enjoys the kind of scholarly attention to life and works typically accorded major figures in intellectual history. In Heinrich Schenker we have a figure of that stature. However, the vast unpublished documentary record of Schenker's life as a theorist, critic, performer, teacher, and editor has remained largely invisible to the wider world. A major international team has undertaken the complex tasks of organizing Schenker's correspondence and other key records and coordinating a team of scholars to transcribe and translate these documents.  This project, now in its third phase, has begun to yield a fuller, more nuanced picture of Schenker and his work, and its influence on Schenker studies cannot be overestimated.

The Society of Music Theory awards a Citation of Special Merit to Ian Bent, William Drabkin, and their teams of contributing scholars, for Phase 2 of Schenker Documents Online."

Ian Bent and William Drabkin would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the online edition.

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The Concert as Teaching Tool

In 1929, Schenker and his wife attended twelve concerts and one opera, as well as listening to many music broadcasts. The diaries contain critiques of the performances he had heard ‒ performances by conductors such as Bruno Walter, Arturo Toscanini, and Otto Klemperer, pianists such as Artur Schnabel and Ignaz Friedman, the Rosé Quartet and other ensembles, singers, etc. What is perhaps less well known is that he used many of these performances as bases for discussion in lessons on the days that followed.

To take just a two-week period in late 1929, we find three instances. On November 30 he attended a concert by Pablo Casals at which the Beethoven Cello Sonata in D major, Op. 102, No. 2, Bach’s unaccompanied Suite in E-flat major, and pieces by Spanish composers were played. Critical of the Beethoven performance, praising the Bach, he brushed aside the Spanish pieces. ‒ Then on December 2 and 3 the lessonbooks include:

BRÜNAUER: About Casals.

ELIAS: About Casals; I report on his performance of the development section in Op. 102, No. 2; on Casals’ very lovely non legato in Bach’s E-flat major Prelude.

HOBOKEN: About Casals’ non legato; variants in the Probst first edition of 1840 of the E-flat major Suite.

‒ While for Elias he concentrated on performance, for the more musicologically-minded Hoboken he drew out issues of source study. (Likewise, on March 18, in Gerhard Albersheim’s lesson, he made “Remarks about Furtwängler’s performance of the ‘Jupiter’ symphony, comparing the autograph manuscript and score.”)

On December 9 he attended a recital by Rachmaninov, reporting in his diary on “more refined technique” yet “serious offenses against the basis principles of performance,” and concluding significantly: “I intend to make what I heard the subject of systematic discussions with my pupils.” Thus in the lessonbooks the next day we read:

ELIAS: About the Rachmaninov concert: errors committed in the Mozart D major Sonata and in the G minor Ballade, B-flat minor Sonata, E-flat and A-flat major Waltzes.

On December 11 he attended a concert at which Walter Gieseking played the “Emperor” Concerto. His response was mixed. He subsequently discussed the performance:

ELIAS: [Dec 10:] About Gieseking’s performance of the Beethoven Concerto, first movement;

[Dec 14:] Continuation of Gieseking: second and third movements of the Beethoven concerto.

HOBOKEN: [Dec 13:] About Gieseking’s performance of the Beethoven concerto.

Between 1920 and 1931, there are 43 instances of Schenker speaking in lessons about Furtwängler performances. Thus, for example:

HOBOKEN: [Nov 19:] Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony: some unresolved passages in Furtwängler’s performance.

On one occasion, he divided his impressions between the diary and the lessonbooks. On May 19, 1929, he and his wife attended a performance of Toscanini conducting Lucia di Lammermoor at the State Opera, at the invitation of Hoboken. His adulation of Toscanini is written up in the diary entry for that day; the lessonbook entries for May 21 and 24, on the other hand, are largely devoted to a critique of Donizetti’s music (for Elias, a critique of performance; for Albersheim and Hoboken, a critique of composition). Thus:

HOBOKEN: [May 21:] About Toscanini in Lucia: . . . The bass repudiates the laws of a contrapuntal outer voice-pair . . . A void in the outer voice-pair caused by defective through-composition of the bass exacts retribution (viz Gluck, Italian and French opera, among the Italians only Scarlatti a true composer).

 Schenker’s use of the live musical experience as an impetus for instruction in performance, interpretation, and source study is a significant part of his distinctive pedagogical approach. A study of this, entailing the correlation of diary reports with lessonbook entries, published concert listings, reviews, and occasionally correspondence, would be a valuable contribution to Schenker research.

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New Cache of Letters Discovered

A new cache of fourteen items of correspondence was identified in May‒June 2013 by the archivist of the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna, Erwin Strouhal, through the mediation of Professor Martin Eybl.

The Institution

The Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst is the current incarnation of what was originally the private Vienna Music Conservatory (founded in 1817), which in 1909 became the state-owned Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst (Academy for Music and Performance Art), which between 1923 and 1931 was divided into an institute (Hochschule) and conservatory (Akademie), and reverted to being an Akademie after 1931. In 1998 it was given university status. —Schenker enrolled in the Conservatory for 1887-89, studying piano with Ernst Ludwig and composition with Anton Bruckner. He never taught there (though he was considered for a professorship in 1908), and for much of his career he was antagonistic to its ethos and politics.

The cache

Schenker's correspondence with the institution spanned at least 1908 to 1933. That between 1924 and 1927 shows Schenker fighting the Akademie for control of two annual stipends that had been placed in his gift by a former student, Sofie Deutsch, at her death in 1917. The new documents come from that period, and fill out that story as well as illuminating a particularly interesting aspect of Schenker's psychology. Of the fourteen documents, four are letters from Schenker to the Akademie (for three of which drafts survive), two are letters between Schenker's attorney and the Akademie, three are letters from the Akademie to Schenker, one contains a letter from the Akademie to the Ministry of Education concerning the stipends, one a letter from the Ministry to the Akademie, and two are internal Akademie documents that themselves contain drafts of three letters. Of the fourteen, eight are unique items.

New documents come to light quite frequently, often as a result of SDO's work, and this one is a valuable addition to the Schenker correspondence.

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Cerebrating SDO

Members of the Schenker Documents Online team are delighted to be taking part in the Society for Music Analysis symposium 'A Cerebration of Analysis', to be held at London's Institute of Musical Research on 21-22 September 2012. The 'Cerebration' is to celebrate the Society's 21st birthday, and the 30th birthday of the Society's journal, Music Analysis. SDO has been allocated a special session on the Friday morning - for information about our presenters and papers, please see the abstracts below. For further information about the event, including the full programme, please see

11am, Friday 21st September, 2012 - Special Session: Schenker Documents Online

Chair: Ian Bent (Columbia University and University of Cambridge)

John Koslovsky (Amsterdam Conservatory of Music / Utrecht University), 'Distant Pen Pals: The Dahms-Schenker Correspondence'

Of all the figures who ever corresponded with Heinrich Schenker, none seems to be as mysterious as Walter Dahms (1887-1973). A music critic, composer, biographer, and freelance journalist based in Berlin, Dahms was one of Schenker's most ardent advocates, despite never having studied with him and having met him face-to-face on just one occasion. However, the two maintained a lively correspondence over a period of eighteen years (1913-1931). Those years were some of the most dramatic ones in German and Austrian history—for Dahms's part, they were filled with personal tumult, alienation, and utter desolation. Eventually, Dahms would come to disown his German fatherland and seek refuge in the more southern climates of Italy and Portugal; he cut off all contact with his previous life and spent his remaining years under the guise of another name, Gualterio Armando. It comes as no surprise, then, that so little is known about this enigmatic figure.

In an effort to make sense of Dahms and his place in Schenkerian history, this paper will survey Dahms's correspondence with Schenker and will offer a look at an exchange that remained, for the most part, a purely literary one. To our loss, only Dahms's portion of the correspondence is known to survive. But given the extent of Dahms’s letters and the availability of Schenker's diaries and other correspondence, we are able to reconstruct a picture of the relationship these two figures shared. Understanding that relationship gives us tremendous insight not only into Dahms's life but also into Schenker's own Weltanschauung. Crucially, the correspondence opens up a new context within which to interpret Schenker’s writings from the 1920s, in particular those concerning his thoughts on politics and culture in a post-WWI climate. Indeed, sometimes the most distant relationship can result in a more fruitful and influential exchange of ideas than can the closest personal contact.

William Drabkin (University of Southampton), 'Schenker's Army: Defending the Fundamental Line of Mozart’s G minor Symphony'

In an article published in 1930 in the influential monthly journal, Die Musik, an art critic and curator by the name of Walter Riezler argued that the  concept of Urlinie, as applied to Mozart's great G minor Symphony in the second volume of Heinrich Schenker's Meisterwerk in der Musik, distorted Mozart's achievements by wrapping an impenetrable web of lines around the symphony; an intellect of Schenker's stature could have written much more convincingly about the piece had he adopted a more humanistic stance. This nine-page critique of a single essay was something of a novelty for its time: most of the contemporary writings about Schenker's theoretical publications were either idolatrous essays by friends and pupils or cautiously respectful short reviews which sometimes noted the theorist's unfortunately intemperate display of German nationalism.

Although Schenker did not reply to Riezler's attack upon the very foundations of his new theories, he did encourage four of his pupils to do so, hoping that a response might be published in a subsequent issue of Die Musik. Replies of differing character, by two of his lesser-known pupils, survive in special collections of Schenker documents held at the New York Public Library and the University of California at Riverside. Together with Riezler's article, these unpublished essays shed light not only on analytical issues arising in the symphony but also on the way in which Schenker's radical concept of musical structure was received almost at the moment of its creation.

Nicholas Marston (University of Cambridge), 'Dynamische Fälschung: Schenker's Understanding of the Second-Movement Trio of Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata'

Schenker's contract with Universal Edition for an Erläuterungsausgabe of Beethoven's last five piano sonatas was signed in 1912. The series might have been expected to be complete by 1917 or so, but publication of op. 101 was delayed until 1921 for a variety of reasons, and the 'Hammerklavier' was destined never to appear. Schenker did edit it, in 1923, for his complete edition of the sonata; and he subsequently analysed all four movements in close collaboration with his pupil Angelika Elias between 1924 and 1926. Voice-leading graphs of the complete sonata in Elias's hand, together with Schenker's own preliminary sketches, are contained in File 65 of the Oster Collection and have never been published. This paper, drawn from my forthcoming book on Schenker's long-term engagement with the 'Hammerklavier', examines his understanding of the second-movement Trio and in particular the role played by rhythm, metre, and what he termed 'dynamic falsification'.

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September 2012 Update

New Homepage (September 2012)Last Monday (September 10th, 2012) the Schenker Documents Online website underwent a major update. Most visibly, we have completely redesigned the website's homepage, so that it now gives examples of the types of documents that are the focus of this project, brief explanations of who Schenker was and the extent of his archival legacy, and links to announcements and blog posts. Another major change is the addition of newly originated musical examples (see OJ 5/7a, [28] for a nice example) and scans of the portraits that Felix-Eberhard von Cube occasionally drew in his letters (see OJ 9/34, [16]). We have also added several options for downloading documents (available from the browse pages and document pages), and have improved the style sheet used for printing. Dozens of smaller document browsing and document display refinements have also been made. Last but not least, plenty of newly transcribed and translated documents have been uploaded.

Let us know what you think!

schenkercorrespondence [at] mus (dot) cam (dot) ac (dot) uk

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SDO Hat Trick at SMA TAGS

The Schenker Documents Online project was well represented at the recent Society for Music Analysis's Theory and Analysis Graduate Students (TAGS) conference on Saturday 21st April at the University of Southampton. Graduate students Kirstie Hewlett and Georg Burgstaller, who are supervised by Prof. William Drabkin and Dr Andrea Reiter respectively, opened the session on Schenker with their papers, before the session was concluded with a Keynote address by William Drabkin, which began with a 'show-and-tell' session featuring some Schenker first editions. The abstracts for the three papers are below. Keep an eye out for the review of TAGS (to include this SDO session) which will be appearing on the SMA website ( in the next few weeks.

Georg Burgstaller and Kirstie Hewlett at the SMA TAGS, April 2012

Georg Burgstaller and Kirstie Hewlett (SMA TAGS, Southampton, 21st April 2012)

Kirstie Hewlett, "Music Analysis as a Political Act: Heinrich Schenker and the Expression of Austro-German National Identity"

Heinrich Schenker's polemical statements about the culture and politics of his time have often been the subject of censorship - even his publishers sought to distance themselves from his nationalist and antimodernist diatribes. Likewise, and perhaps more strikingly, a large amount of polemical material was omitted from the early translations of his work produced in America after his death, for fear it would alienate readers following the Second World War. However, from a modern perspective, much of this censored material is rife with a nationalist attitude that is richly emblematic of Austro-German thought during the inter-war period.

Although potentially raising more questions than answering them, this paper places Schenker's patriotism within its contemporary political context. It explores the notion that both his political and musical judgements made in publication strongly mirror the nationalist trends in society at this time. At the heart of this research lies the question of how Schenker engaged with politics in his private affairs; of why his self-identification with Austro-German nationalism appears as such a paradox to his position as a Jewish immigrant in Vienna, particularly at a time when anti-Semitic hostility was growing in Austria. This paper offers the suggestion that Schenker's expression of Austro-German identity was passively cultivated by his social and cultural surroundings, that it was brought about by a nationalist mindset that was present in the intellectual lives of many Austrian citizens at this time.

Georg Burgstaller, "'A corner-shop for democratic phrases': political subtexts in Heinrich Schenker’s polemics against Paul Bekker, 1913-1922"

In early twentieth-century Vienna, music criticism - both journalistic and scholarly - was widely read and captivated the readership with its opinionated tone and displays of rivalry and petty intrigue. Although often deliberately engaging with the work of other writers, these essays essentially remained monologues, designed to satisfy the readership's enthralment with Persönlichkeit, the personal voice embellishing factual reportage.

My paper will look at one such rivalry, between music theorist Heinrich Schenker and the foremost German music critic of his day, Paul Bekker. On the surface, Schenker's attacks on Bekker, published in the Erläuterungsausgabe of Beethoven's late piano sonatas, were concerned with the critic's hermeneutic style - at a time when Schenker came to recognise the unique contribution that his "elucidations" represented. The differences between these two assimilated Jews were, however, far more substantial, involving at times diametrically opposed views on art, criticism, democracy, and nation. Writing about the music of a politically charged figure such as Beethoven, became, for both men, a means to articulate these views, especially during the chaos of the First World War and its aftermath.

Drawing on unpublished sources in Schenker's archive and consolidating these with recent new research into the life and critical mind of Bekker, my paper will address issues of identity at the heart of the two men’s varying dispositions. By considering the socio-historical background, and illustrating parallels to political arguments rendered by contemporaries such as Thomas and Heinrich Mann, I will put their public dispute into a literary rather than musicological context, an aspect so far neglected in Schenker studies.

William Drabkin (Keynote), "Schenker's Army: Defending the Fundamental Line of Mozart’s G minor Symphony"

The second volume of Heinrich Schenker's Das Meisterwerk in der Musik appeared in the summer of 1927. While the content of this "yearbook" of analytical work is as varied as any of his publications of the 1920s, one essay stands out for its length and scope: that on Mozart's Symphony in G minor, K. 550. Three years later, an article entitled "Über die Urlinie [Concerning the Fundamental Line] appeared in the influential monthly journal Die Musik. Its author, Walter Riezler, was at the time curator of the Municipal Art Gallery in Stettin and better known as an art and architecture critic than as a writer on music. Riezler argued that Schenker's Urlinie did not merely distort Mozart's achievements, about which an intellect of Schenker's calibre could have written far better in more humanistic terms: it was also putting people off his writings and would soon result in his being consigned to musicological oblivion.

Although Schenker did not reply to Riezler's attack upon the very foundations of his new theories, he did encourage some of his pupils to do so, hoping that a response might be published in a subsequent issue of Die Musik. Replies of differing character, by two of Schenker's lesser-known pupils, survive in special collections housed at the New York Public Library and the University of California at Riverside. These unpublished essays shed light not only on analytical issues arising in Mozart's symphony but also on the way in which Schenker's radical way of understanding musical structure was received almost at the moment of its creation.


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