Friday, October 29, 2010

10/29 When Schoenberg Taught Beethoven

My main reason for traveling through Vienna recently was to track down Beethoven's homes and haunts, but a nice diversion one day was a stop at the Arnold Schoenberg Center.  Schoenberg is famous for advocating the 12-tone system of composition (Liszt actually used a 12 note row in the Faust Symphony).  Basically all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are used in equal measure so as to prevent "traditional" tonal cliches.  It's not a strict rule as I understand it - it's a tool to be used to liberate the compositional process.  In succeeding years Schoenberg's ideas were taken to such extremes by his successors  that many of the results can sound more like random pitches rather than an organized composition.  Anyways, I like Schoenberg's music, but I don't love it, so I wasn't expecting to enjoy it all that much - it turned out to be one of the greatest museums I've ever seen devoted to a single person.  The exhibit was designed by his daughter and she gives a video introduction.  The first thing to see is a full reproduction of Schoenberg's study in his home in California.  It is jam-packed with musical detritus and features many inventions that Schoenberg made and never got famous for, including the first tape dispenser.

The next room is a concert video room where several excerpts of his works are played in a continuous 45 minute (?) loop.  After that is a clothesline with a collection of playbills and concert posters.  That leads to his "educational" exhibit which is about Schoenberg's teaching days in America.  It includes actual tests he gave out as well as course syllabi and replies to indignant critics.  I'll post just the "Beethoven-related" tests....I never guessed he taught LvB!
(Below are a student's test on Beethoven Opus 13 "Pathetique" and then a test on Beethoven Piano Sonata 5.)

The next table is a hands-on collection of Schoenberg's"stuff" - which includes his address book (where I found his hand-written entries for Kandinsky and Webern), his playing cards (which he designed himself), his photo album, and some sketchbooks.  This table alone had enough to keep the Schoenberg fan busy for an hour or more.  Nearby is some kind of Dictaphone which Schoenberg used to record some early interviews.  In another room is a collection of all of his compositions which you can photocopy for free at a nearby machine.  There's also a research library which I didn't go into.  From time to time they host concerts in a room above as well.  It's really quite a center and a very nice surprise. (click on the photos for enlargements).
Syllabus for his Beethoven class?

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