Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern – Oh My!

Portrait of composer Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg. Portrait. Undated. Library of Congress Music Division.

Arnold Schoenberg saturates the history of Western classical music of the early 20th century. Known for developing the twelve-tone compositional technique, Schoenberg and his music have influenced many composers and performers alike.

The Music Division has a significant amount of primary sources that document Schoenberg’s long and influential musical career. I’d like to highlight some of the Music Division’s recent publications that aggregate and share those resources to help performers, researchers, and other interested people find them.

First, earlier this summer the Music Division published a finding aid online of our Schoenberg correspondence and other papers. This collection consists primarily of holograph and typescript correspondence between Schoenberg and other composers, conductors, organizations, record labels, music publishers, and family members. The majority of the letters are from after Schoenberg immigrated to the United States in 1933. But some of the richest correspondence in the collection is between Schoenberg and two of his most famous compositions students, Alban Berg and Anton Webern, spanning the years 1911-1934 and 1907-1936, respectively. In these letters, the men discuss both their music and personal lives, providing a fascinating window into the Second Viennese School. Other major correspondents in the collection include Rudolf Kolisch, Ernst Krenek, Gustav Mahler, Thomas Mann, Egon Wellesz, and Alexander Zemlinsky.

Opportunities to view these letters are not limited to visiting our reading room in person. The Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna has digitized the correspondence in this collection. Anyone can search for and view scans of the letters in their correspondence database.

Other recent Music Division publications highlighting our extensive materials related to Schoenberg are three interrelated research guides: one for Schoenberg, and one each for Alban Berg and Anton Webern.

These research guides, in addition to providing information on how to find more Schoenberg (as well as Berg and Webern) correspondence beyond the collection discussed above, provide links to and/or information on music manuscripts in the Music Division’s collections by each of the composers. You can also find information on published scores, iconography, music literature, other special collections with Schoenberg materials, and other online resources.

The Music Division holds over 30 music manuscripts in Schoenberg’s own hand, including the holograph manuscripts of several of Schoenberg’s most significant and celebrated works, such as Die glückliche Hand, op. 18; Pierrot lunaire, op. 21; Serenade, op. 24; A Survivor from Warsaw, op. 46; String Quartet No. 1, D minor, op. 7; String Quartet No. 2, F-sharp minor, op. 10; String Quartet No. 3, op. 30; and String Quartet No. 4, op. 37.

Excerpt from manuscript for Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire

Arnold Schoenberg, composer. Pierrot lunaire, op. 21. 1912. Gertrude Clarke Whittall Foundation collection. Library of Congress Music Division.

Schoenberg's self portrait, titled Vision

Arnold Schoenberg. Vision. Photograph of self portrait. 1910. Library of Congress Music Division.

One of my favorite items in our collections is a piece of iconography: Schoenberg’s self-portrait, Vision, oil on cardboard. Schoenberg painted it in 1910. Included on the front of the painting is a signed dedication to the conductor Leopold Stokowski, to whom Schoenberg gifted the portrait in September 1949. Stokowski gifted the portrait to the Music Division in 1954.

The Music Division has also hosted many events celebrating Schoenberg and his music. Through these research guides, you can find recordings of past music performances, artist interviews, and lectures.

For example, at the end of this blog is a recording of the Vienna Trio performing Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, op. 4, for which the Music Division also holds Schoenberg’s manuscript (Verklärte Nacht begins at approximately 16:23 in the video).

I hope you enjoy exploring more of Schoenberg, his music, and his students using our many resources. If you have any questions, contact us through Ask A Librarian.

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