Latest news

The Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna decided to give Avior Byron the Avenir Foundation Research Grant for a one month research trip in Vienna in order to work on two books that he is writing.  
 

Subscribe to ByMusic.org

Enter your email and press the 'Subscribe' button to receive blog posts via email:

         

Subscribe via RSS

What is RSS?

Follow @avior on Twitter

People reading Bymusic now

Translate this page now

Recently at the Blog

Who is Behind ByMusic.org?

Avior Byron

My name is Avior Byron and I am a musicologist, blogger and composer. I write books, articles and a blog about music, performance, research, and theory. Read more at my about page

What next?


 Subscribe to the Blog


Click here to add site to your favorites

What I'm doing just now

Polls

What is THE best way to find scholarships?
 

Artur Schnabel and Schoenberg’s Performance Aesthetics and Practice

Artur Schnabel and Schoenberg’s Performance Aesthetics and Practice

During my short Post-doc in Berlin (January-February 2008) I visited the Stifung Archiv Der Akademie Der Künst. I saw there interesting things concerning Arnold Schoenberg (concert programs and record sleeves as well as some items from the Stuckenschmidt Nachlass). I bought there a book which was published by the institution titled Artur Schnabel: Musiker Musician, ed. Werner Grünzweig (Hofheim: Wolke Verlag, 2001). 

Only today, I open the book for the first time (it took me one year!). This book contains many interesting items such as writings on Schnabel, writings by Schnabel, letters, various lists and other items that only German musicology is able to collect in such a wonderful manner (and I am only half sarcastic when I say so). 

One of the most interesting items in this book is an article by Claudio Arrau (the pianist, 1903-1991) titled “Artur Schnabel: Servant of the Music”. The article is from 1952, first published in Musical America (p.31). 

The article is interesting in more than one respect. It seems that Arrau is suggesting, what may seem as a contradiction. On the one hand, he claims that “Schnabel completely rejected the nineteenth-century notion of music as a vehicle for self-expression, at the service of the virtuoso for his own self-gratification.” Arrau mentions that Schnabel was not satisfied with the Urtext edition of his time. He conducted research and “corrected” that version. 

Yet his recording and printed editions show that he used flexible tempo when playing. His editions mention tempo fluctuations that were not originally printed in the score. These tempo fluctuations were not seen as a contradiction to being faithful to the spirit of the composition. On the contrary, music was seen (as Arrau argues) as “a living organism with an inner fluctuation and flexibility above and below metronome markings”. 

This view of seeking to understand an objective musical object (or spirit, if you like) while expressing it with vitality of an “organism” was also the performance aesthetics of Arnold Schoenberg, a contemporary and friend of Schnabel.   

On the one hand, on 24 August 1909 he wrote a letter to Busoni criticizing the latter’s transcription of Schoenberg’s Op. 11 No. 2. Trying to understand why Busoni had decided to create his version of this piece, a matter that seemed to irritate Schoenberg, he enquired of Busoni: ‘I would like to ask you if you have perhaps taken too slow a tempo. That could make a great difference. Or too little rubato. I never stay in time! Never in tempo!’ (Ferruccio Busoni, Selected Letters, trans. and ed. Antony Beaumont (London, Boston: Faber and Faber, 1987), p. 395.) Here Schoenberg admitted that his approach to performance transcended his own score indications. 

On the other hand in 1912 Schoenberg cited Mahler saying: ‘I consider it my greatest service that I force the musicians to play [spielen] exactly what is in the notes’. (Schoenberg, Style and Idea, ‘Gustav Mahler‘, 464-5.) In the preface to the first edition (1914) of Pierrot lunaire, Op. 21 Schoenberg argued quite clearly that actions originating with the interpreter, which are not included in the score, have a negative effect. 

For Schoenberg and Schnabel, therefore, extensive tempo fluctuations that go beyond the score indications, was not contradictory to being a servant of the composer’s intentions. In 1912 Schoenberg claimed that playing the right notes results in the performer’s participation in ‘the spirit of the music’. (Schoenberg, Style and Idea, ‘Gustav Mahler’, 464-465.) A work of art which is a spiritual entity demands spontaneity in performance.

Pianist Arthur Schnabel Home Movie 1937


Artur Schnabel plays Beethoven Sonata #32 in C min Op. 111


Related Posts

On being a critical author

On fear: Schoenberg, Stravinsky and the Israeli music scene

Pierrot lunaire, Sprechstimme in video performance

How to choose a PhD, MA or DMA subject for a thesis

No Comments

Add your own comment...

Copyright Avior Byron 2017 .