Hofrat Heinrich Schenker ??

Under the Hapsburgs,  public honors (Berufstitel) rewarded people for distinguished service to the state: Kammerrat (Chamber Counselor) for services to finance and business, Regierungsrat (Government Counselor) those to administration, Medizinalrat (Medical Counselor) to medicine, etc. The system was preserved after 1918.  For services to education and academia, the appropriate title was Hofrat (Court Counselor) ‒ e.g. Josef Marx, theorist and composer, Director of the Vienna Akademie (= Conservatory) 1922‒25.

At a lesson with Schenker on January 15, 1927, Anthony van Hoboken broached "the question of the honor (Ehrenzeichen)" [LB 1926/27, p. 16]. A month later, he elaborated: Karl Kobald, official at the Ministry of Education, wished, on the recommendation of Otto Erich Deutsch, to put Schenker forward for an "Honor for Art and Science," to be conferred on the occasion of the Beethoven Centennial Festival (Vienna March 26‒29, 1927, for which Guido Adler invited Schenker to join the organizing committee ‒ accepted ‒ and give a lecture ‒ declined ‒ [OJ 9/3, [4], [5]]), and in anticipation of his 60th birthday on June 19, 1928.

Schenker's immediate reaction: "It was not fitting for me to accept an honor from the Republic, since I am an ardent friend of aristocratic institutions" [diary pp. 3037‒3038].  Deutsch and Hoboken begged him not to turn the opportunity down, and Schenker consulted his old friend Moriz Violin [OJ 6/7, [32]; 14/45, [61]].

After deliberation, Schenker wrote a letter to Otto Erich Deutsch asking him to convey his refusal to Karl Kobald, and enumerating his reasons: — He knew he deserved such a distinction, but Brahms and Dvořák had previously received the distinction in the days of Empire, and he felt unable to share it with them; — Under the Republic, such distinctions would become devalued "as a result of a downright soviet-style inflation"; — Whereas a composer or poet was in the public eye, a theorist such as he himself was not (although he believed the time would come when his works would be regarded as "art"); — His appointment would create embarrassment, resentment, and intrigue; — At the same time (inconsistently!), it would be forgotten the day after it was announced. Then the sting in the tail: — "Alas, even a distinction would be unable to make up for the terrible injustice that I have suffered specifically in Vienna, where I have been robbed of so much work ‒ but that is all water under the bridge." [OJ 5/9, [1]]. — In Biblical terms, Schenker saw himself as a "prophet not without honor except in his home town" ‒ Vienna.

Another proposal was made for his 60th birthday: Hoboken reported that he and Schenker were both put up for an honor; but Hoboken "insisted that I [Schenker] be accorded a higher commendation ‒ as a result the entire matter came to naught." [p. 3216, June 20, 1928].


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Lightweight and Heavyweight Students

On June 19, 1926 Schenker turned 58. A pupil called with greetings:

"Miss Kahn brings roses for my birthday; in taking her leave, she says: 'Only now am I learning to play the piano; I certainly did you wrong in the way I studied, but I cannot learn in any other way'." (diary, OJ 3/8, p. 2949)

The remark may seem glib, even ungrateful when we remember that Marianne Kahn had been a Schenker pupil since 1907 ‒ 19 years! What's more, she was a piano teacher in her own right.

A glance at Schenker's lesson notes enables us to gauge the level at which he taught each student. Take mid-June 1926.  First, Gerhard Albersheim: "17th:  issues from Mozart's String Quintet in C major, from Mozart's piano sonatas; the Urlinie of the D-major theme from the D-major sonata; about ornaments and their performance";  Robert Brünauer: "15th: concerning neighbor-note motion, accurate graphs, in particular examples from the C#-minor Polonaise"; now Anthony van Hoboken: "14th:  things from the secondary literature of the F#-major Nocturne: Galston and Klindworth. Original fingering of Brahms in Op. 116, No. 1; from Mozart's string quartets after the questions Albersheim raised."

Now let's compare two June 1926 lessons for Marianne Kahn: "9th: Beethoven Sonata Op. 81a, first time, all movements; J. S. Bach's first C-minor fugue revisited; 18th: Brahms-Handel Variations revisited."

The difference is immediately apparent. In the first three cases ideas, theoretical issues and techniques, performance and source-studies ‒ these form the subject of the lesson, illustrated by reference to works; one student raises questions. In the case of Kahn, just a string of pieces being played.

There was no one single Schenker method of teaching. He was proud to fashion his instruction to fit the individual ("tailor-made to the person and consolidated as to content," Schenker once called it ‒ OJ 5/5, Aug 12, 1927).Some worked on chamber music or concerto repertory, using him for concert preparation. Others took a systematic course of theory and mastered graphing. Others took editorial studies, working on autographs and first editions. Others were interested in philosophical ideas.

Did Kahn fulfill her promise and change her approach? She remained a pupil of Schenker's at least until 1932. Here are the two last-recorded lessons, from May 1932: "4th: [Chopin Etudes] Op. 10, No. 6 E-flat-minor, Op. 10, No. 7 C major, Op. 10, No. 8"; "18th: repeated, lovely! Nocturne, Op. 27, No. 2 D-flat major." — She was not alone: Schenker usually had two or three students who simply worked on repertory, without taking counterpoint, harmony, figured bass or other studies, as the "heavyweight" students did. Such students no doubt provided him with a stable and constant income ‒ in Kahn's case for 25-plus years.

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2012 IMS Rome Congress

I am delighted be taking part in a session organised by Frans Wiering (co-chair of the IMS Study group on Musical Data and Computer Applications), entitled 'Confronting Computing and Musicological Identities', at the 19th International Congress of the IMS, Rome, 1-7 July 2012. The session will feature papers by Christina Anagnostopoulou, Peter van Kranenburg, Richard Lewis, Anja Volk, and my own paper, 'Schenker Documents Online: Data Rich and Rich Data'. Thanks to Frans for putting this session together.

Do come along if you're in Rome for the summer!


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Late Schenker and Late Schubert

Earlier this term, William Drabkin and I travelled to Maynooth to take part in the Thantos as Muse? Schubert and Concepts of Late Style conference (Maynooth, Ireland, 21-23 October 2011). This conference, organised by Lorraine Byrne Bodley (NUI, Maynooth), brought together a wide variety of Schubertians from music-historical, analytical and performance backgrounds. Schenkerian scholarship was well represented, in part by the 'Late Schenker and Late Schubert' session that I convened.

Schenker's high regard for Schubert's music, particularly the songs, secured Schubert a place in the theorist's select 'pantheon' of master-composers. But although Schubert's musical corpus was canonical for Schenker, and thus influential in the development of his thought, it nevertheless includes plentiful works that have increasingly come to be regarded as challenging for 'orthodox' Schenkerian theory. Perhaps it is this canonical and yet exceptional nature of Schubert's music that inspires such considerable and intense interest from Schenkerians.

To a modern Schubertian, a prerequisite for a meaningful consideration of the music is that it should make recourse to the culture and times in which he composed. Indeed, Schubert's private life and social circles have provided fruitful inspiration for interpreting, appreciating and accounting (often controversially) for his music. Similarly, projects like Schenker Documents Online (and some of the scholarship listed in the 'Bibliography' section of the main SDO website) seek to enable a more complete understanding of the culture and times in which Schenker worked, thus shedding new light on his revolutionary ideas.

The four papers in the 'Late Schenker and Late Schubert' session aimed to reflect this standpoint. Antonio Cascelli's (NUI, Maynooth) paper 'Schubert's Music in Schenker's Thought', described the Schenker papers held in the Oster Collection that relate to the music of Schubert, before homing in on Schenker's analysis of Schubert's song 'Die Stadt'. William Drabkin (Southampton) considered the little-known episode in Schenker's life in which he worked with Otto Erich Deutsch to prepare a revised edition of the 'Unfinished' Symphony; unpublished notes, diary entries, and correspondence with Deutsch were used to illustrate Schenker's presence on the musicological scene, at a time when the need to pursue a more narrow theoretical path seemed more pressing than ever. In 'Learning from Schenker's "Der Doppelgänger"', I considered Schenker's little-known but instructive analytical sketches of Schubert's famous song by tracing his correspondence with his pupil Felix-Eberhard von Cube, and argued that the sketches suggest that Schenker's concerns then are exactly those that interest musicologists writing about the song today. René Rusch (McGill) supplied our session's final paper, 'Schenkerian Analysis and Late Schubert', in which she examined developments in Schenkerian theory post-Schenker, particularly with respect to the challenges that Schubert's progressive formal-harmonic language pose to some of Schenkerian theory's central tenants, using the first movement of the Piano Sonata in B flat (D. 960) as an exemplar.

All of these papers frequently cited documents that have been or will shortly be made available by Schenker Documents Online. We were also delighted to hear SDO-contributor John Koslovsky's conference paper 'Tonal Structure in the Scherzo and Finale of Schubert’s Quintet in C major, D956'. John presented an analysis of the Quintet's neglected closing two movements, interpreting them as a single dramatic closing gesture to the work.

For your interest, and for the record, Bill's abstract and mine are reproduced below.

William Drabkin, 'Schenker's "Unfinished" Symphony'

Although most closely identified with the field of music theory and analysis, Heinrich Schenker devoted much time to studying composers' autographs, sketches and letters, and to preparing commentaries on these documents and editions of the works to which they refer. The corpus of his editorial work begins with the earlier part of the eighteenth century (Handel, C. P. E. Bach, J. S. Bach), then focuses on the piano sonatas of Beethoven: the Erläuterungsausgaben (1913–21); the facsimile of the 'Moonlight' (1921); and the edition of individual sonatas, later collected into four volumes (1923–24). This represents, however, only a small portion of the music he had hoped to make available in textually accurate editions free from editorial interference: editions of the Well-Tempered Clavier and the piano sonatas of Haydn and Mozart, mooted in correspondence with his publishers, were abandoned.

One project that did come to fruition was a revision of Schubert's 'Unfinished' Symphony, published under the imprint of the Wiener Philharmonischer Verlag. It does not appear in any of the standard lists of Schenker's works, nor is Schenker's editorial involvement acknowledged in the score itself. It is one of four miniature scores of the symphony preserved in his Nachlass (New York Public Library, Oster Collection): the other three have been annotated by Schenker and his pupil Angi Elias, based on a study of the autograph score. They show the theorist's characteristic attention to detail and his opposition to editorial interference, whether arbitrary or arising from practical concerns. Schenker's diary entries, together with the surviving correspondence with Otto Erich Deutsch, shows that his edition of the 'Unfinished' was an enterprise he took seriously, and valued highly.

David Bretherton, 'Learning from Schenker's "Der Doppelgänger"'

Schenker held the songs of Schubert in the highest esteem: fourteen are examined at varying length in Schenker's published works, and many more feature in sketches, prose fragments, and draft essay manuscripts in Schenker's Nachlass (see Drabkin, 2008). But arguably the most fascinating of these unpublished items are several analytical sketches of Schubert's 'Der Doppelgänger' (Oster Collection, File A, Items 240-42), which date from July 1932. The sketches were prompted by a letter from his loyal pupil Felix-Eberhard von Cube that included a Schenkerian analysis of the song (Cube himself prepared a new analysis of 'Der Doppelgänger' in 1952, which he included in the teaching manual that he used for many years, the Lehrbuch der musikalischen Kunstgesetze).

The carefully typed out text of the song (Item A/242) is evidence of Schenker's characteristic attention to the words and a further refutation of the claim that, in his song analyses, he paid little attention to the poetry. Item A/240 appears to be an initial working out in which Schenker interprets the song as one might expect (and as it is often analysed, e.g. Samuels, 2010): a descent from ^5 (F sharp), giving structural weight to the vocal line's almost omnipresent F sharps. Yet in A/241 - which one might deduce from its polished appearance was a subsequent attempt - Schenker instead identifies a descent from ^3 (D) and highlights the relationship between the 'reaching-over' of the song's B - A sharp - D - C sharp ostinato figure and the D - C sharp - B descent of the fundamental line. Thus in this sketch Schenker demonstrates that the song exhibits a coherence beyond that which he elsewhere claimed resulted from the composing-out of Ursätze. Moreover, this sketch is of exceptional interest because - unlike his other analyses of vocal music - its reading of a descent from ^3 in the song runs contrary to the contour of the vocal melody: the vocal line's prominent F sharps are 'alienated' from the Urlinie, in a way that is musically and poetically redolent of the plight of the song's protagonist.

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Recent activity on SDO — November 2011 update

Available on the new site

Since the relaunch of Schenker Documents Online in May, nearly 600 items of correspondence are now accessible. These include three entire sets of correspondence: between Schenker and Felix-Eberhard von Cube (previously available at the Columbia site), Felix Salzer (only partly available at Columbia), and Arnold Schoenberg (wholly new).

Plugging the gap, 1918-1924

We have also mounted seven years’ worth of correspondence between Schenker and two people with whom he had an intimate alliance in the years following the First World War: his close friend Moriz Violin, and his pupil Hans Weisse. We have taken the correspondence with the critic Walter Dahms to the end of 1922, that with the publishing house Universal Edition to the end of 1920.  Together these offer a rich treasure-house of information about Schenker and his circle in the years of Tonwille and the emerging concept of Urlinie.

Additionally, two major sets of correspondence present on the old site are now partially present on this site in revised versions: Anthony van Hoboken (1924-28) and Oswald Jonas (1918-30). The remainder of these sequences will be provided in the near future.

Profiles and Other Documents

Many new profiles are now accessible (including those for Schenker's Seminar 1931-34 and its four members). We have also created a category of “family profiles” since Schenker often wrote or referred to several members of the same family (e.g. the Violins, the Türtschers in Galtür), and of course the families of his closest relatives.

In addition, we have added some splendid photographs to some profiles, including those of Heinrich and Jeanette Schenker, Jonas, Violin, Weisse, also Atelier d'Ora, Galtür, and Keilgasse.

Several new items have been posted to the Other Documents section, including Furtwängler's address to the 1933 Brahms centennial celebration, and unpublished articles by some of Schenker's pupils.

Browsing of diaries is now greatly enhanced using a calendar-based system that offers easier access to individual entries.


The Diaries for all of 1926 and most of 1927 have been transcribed and translated, and these two years should be up on the site within a few months.

Further progress has been made on Schenker’s voluminous  correspondence with Violin: the late 1920s will appear in the new year, to be followed by the 1930s (including letters to and from Schenker’s widow).

New discoveries

A large body of correspondence between Schoenberg and Violin has come to light, and we will be editing all of this in the coming months.

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November 10 ‒ Wedding

Monday November 10, 1919 saw the marriage of Heinrich and Jeanette Schenker ‒ but not without obstacles!

Jeanette's first husband having obstinately refused to grant her a separation, it took all her persistence and Schenker's legal training to fight the case year after year. Only in 1919, with a change in the law, did marriage finally become possible. On November 9 a coach was ordered, and the rings were purchased. On the 10th, the coach failed to turn up, so the couple had to run the length of the Rennweg and get a streetcar round the Ringstrasse to the Rathaus, arriving 20 minutes late in a sweat.

With the witnesses all present, an official declared that one essential document ‒ a "widow's dispensation" (Wittwen-Dispens) ‒ was missing! To overcome this, Jeanette had to go into an adjacent office and submit to examination by the city physician, who did everything to deter her. In the end, she prevailed, and, in the words of Schenker's diary: "The ceremony itself lasts only a few minutes and goes off without a trace of solemnity." The family lunch afterwards was a poor occasion, with only one glass of beer and no wine permitted by Schenker's millionaire brother Moriz, then afternoon tea with friends, and one moment of luxury: a Havana cigar for Schenker. — No honeymoon for the couple. Back to business later in the day, and lessons resumed next morning.

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A Half-Jewish question

Schenker's younger brother, Moriz, was a senior official in the Österreichische Länderbank. He was Jewish, his wife Lisl Aryan; their two children, Helga and Georg, were technically half-Jewish.

Georg was a cellist in the Wiener Symphoniker, and continued to play until it was disbanded in September 1944. Helga was a graphic artist who shared a studio with Antoinette Langer on the Singerstrasse in Vienna I; she maintained the studio and also her apartment in Vienna III throughout World War II. While their father had committed suicide in 1936, they both lived on in Vienna until their deaths.

How could two half-Jews survive in this way? Many of the seats in the Wiener Symphoniker after 1938 were taken by party members. How did Georg hold on to his? And how was it that Helga's studio was not either closed or aryanised? ‒Were they both not obviously Jewish looking? ‒ Were her mother and the man with whom she associated after Moriz's suicide able to protect them? ‒ Was Helga's business partner able to protect her?

(Thanks to Elizabeth Brinsden, Harold Marcuse, Lee Rothfarb)

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Schenker’s Hausmusik

The diaries from 1926 and 1927 reveal something about Schenker's activities as a performer that I was not aware of. Around this time, he frequently played piano four-hand music with his wife Jeanette (Lie-Liechen), including transcriptions of Haydn symphonies and - unsurprisingly - the Brahms Liebeslieder waltzes; on other occasions he played four-hand music with his pupil Anthony van Hoboken, and with Otto Erich Deutsch.

Schenker also played (and worked) through some cello sonatas by Beethoven and Brahms with his nephew Georg, and played piano trios with Georg and his father (i.e. Schenker's brother, "Mozio"). That would make Mozio the violinist of the family. On another occasion Schenker and Mozio were joined by Theodor Baumgarten, the family solicitor, in an evening of piano trios; that would make Baumgarten a cellist.

Occasionally Schenker describes these activities as strenuous (anstrengend), because he is afraid that other company present might find this activity tiresome or distracting. But all in all they are testimony to someone who was - and remained - a practising musician.

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