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Herr Schönberg in London. His Theory and His Practice

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The visit of Herr Arnold Schönberg to London had created quite a stir in musical circles, for we remember the scene when his five Orchestral Pieces were first performed at Queen’s Hall some 18 months ago. This afternoon we shall hear them again at Queen’s Hall under the composer’s direction. His appearance will come as a surprise to the public, for he is not at all what one would imagine a relentless iconoclast to be.

A representative of the “Daily News” saw him at his hotel yesterday just after the rehearsal of his works, to which the Queen’s Hall Orchestra had devoted six hours. He was – as all foreign musicians are – quite amazed at the quickness and receptivity of the band, and said that the interpretation of his music by Sir Henry Wood was wonderfully true to his intentions. He expressed the opinion that, in respect of beauty of tone-quality, the orchestras of Germany were falling behind those of other countries, and quoted examples from France, Austria, Holland, and Russia, and his experiences of yesterday confirmed him in the belief.

In answer to the question whether he had invented the description of his music as “Futurist” or “Post-Impressionist,” he said “I invent no names for my music. I write music as I like it and as it comes to me.” The conviction that the rules accepted today hamper the composer’s power of expression had been steadily growing on him, as had the courage to translate his convictions into practice.

A good deal of what he said was too technical for our present purpose, but he said much which can be grasped by the layman. He is convinced that his melodies deserve the name as much as those of the great masters – they are to him the natural musical expression of his feelings.

His melodies, he says, however, are more “concentrated” than those of the past, and he thinks that they will in time be equally “intelligible” to the hearers who at present find them difficult because he does not repeat his “subjects” in the usual way, but makes his music go on from idea to idea, instead of – to paraphrase and translate his explanation – making it revolve round a centre.

He had a good deal to say about the relationship of his harmonic system to those of today, and maintains, in spite of his critics, that it is a system.

He admits that he writes to a “program” in the sense that each of his pieces represents a mood which was very definite to him at the time he wrote them: but the listener, who should judge of music only as music without reference to anything else.

Many Experiments

He has made several experiments in the direction of new musical forms. Among them is an attempt to treat coloratura as a means of expression, and not in the way that Strauss has done in his “Ariadne.” His own work in that direction was done before that opera, by the way.

He has written two dramatic works, and has been his own librettist. One is a Monodrama – a play with one character – called “Erwartung” (Expectation), and there the events depicted may be taken to be real or the effect of illusion.

The other, his last completed work, is a play with music, entitled “Die Glückliche Hand” (a proverbial expression referring to the happy moments when we can do more than is possible when we are in more normal states). In this he experiments in the direction of alternations between singing and the spoken word and gradations between them.

He is now engaged on a minidrama based on Balzac’s mystical story of Swedenborgianism, entitled “Seraphita.”

Daily News Leader (January 17, 1914)