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.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2013 Schenker Documents Online

Website by DDH