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The composer of “Pierrot Lunaire,” “Verklärte Nacht” – known to Boston since the time of Kneisel – the “Gurrelieder” and other much discussed works has during the past weeks come to Boston to make his home here and to teach at the Malkin Conservatory. He has in his turn been the subject of as much heated argument as any composer in recent times. The world of as much is now inclined to accept him in the light of an established classic, yet he has in no way been content to walk along his old paths. Since 1921 he has built his compositions on principles that mark a radical departure from his older methods. “These new principles brought a variety of new difficulties that ever unfolded new and interesting possibilities. I had to content myself with short and simple pieces when I began what I call my twelve-tone plan,” he said during an interview last week, “for imagination must ever walk hand in hand with new harmonic principles. After these piano pieces came chamber music, then my ‘Variations for orchestra,’ after which I wrote a comic opera, ‘From Today to Tomorrow.’ My second opera in this period is called ‘Moses and Aaron.ְ’ Of this two acts are complete and the third is held up waiting completion of the text, and the necessary peace and quiet which have not been mine in this past year in Europe.”
Politics were banned from the outset in our conversation with Mr. Schoenberg at his Boston home. “I am delighted with what I have seen of Boston and I look forward to my life in this country as one of earnest and agreeable activities. I feel the freshness of things here in America and the real with which you people are successfully stirring.”
Boston has already made its gestures of recognition to Mr. Schoenberg. Friday night he was a guest of honor at a reception given by Mrs. Elizabeth S. Coolidge and the music division of Harvard University, after a concert by the Pro-Arte Quartet, at which a Schoenberg work was played.
“Dr. Koussevitzky has invited me to conduct a program of my compositions with the Boston Symphony orchestra in January.” “Which works will you give?” we ask. “I haven’t had the opportunity to discuss the matter with Dr. Koussevitzky, but I hope the program will be made up of my older works. I should prefer Boston to learn to know me well from that point of view. The difficulties of these new works are, in the complicated polyphonic problems of Bach’s day.”
“Will you do the Gurrelieder?”
“Perhaps a part, but that would require a large chorus.”
“Boston is rich in choral organizations,” we offer.
“That is splendid. But the Gurrelieder must be sung in English. The music was written to a most beautiful poem by Jens Peter Jacobsen and it is absolutely essential that none of the meaning be lost.”
“The Gurrelieder we gave in London many years ago in an excellent English translation. And, by the way, it is no great problem to translate from German into English, or vice versa. We have seen it in the German translations of Shakespeare and I am more than content with what was done with the text of the Gurrelieder. You see, I wrote that work so long ago that I can now look upon it as an outsider and feel certain as to what was accomplished.”
On Nov. 17th there will be a lecture by this composer before a New York audience. He has chosen as his subject, “Excerpts from my Writings and my Talks.”
With genial kindliness, he showed us manuscripts of his latest orchestral works: the first, a concerto for ’cello and orchestra, which is a free transcription of a concerto for clavicembalo by Monn, a contemporary of Handel. “The themes are mostly Monn’s and occasionally mine, and I have treated the work without restriction of harmonies; they are not more advanced than the Brahms period. The second is based on a Concerto grosso by Handel, for string quartet and orchestra – somewhat enriched in voice leadings and with a fuller polyphony than Handel employed.
“Do you know that I’ve been growing more optimistic ever since I arrived in America? I confess that I at first felt anything but optimistic. I know that we only get out of experiences what we bring to them. I have often seen evidences or real idealism in American artists and I have found much to interest me in the compositions that have already been sent to me by Americans. I want my life here to be not merely one of gain for myself, but of encouragement and stimulation to those who come to me.
“And please don’t call me an atonal composer. That I am not.”

The Boston Herald (November 12, 1933)