1. The big event during his first year at UCLA was the performance of his four quartets, including the premiere of his Fourth Quartet, and the last four quartets of Beethoven, performed by the Kolisch String Quartet in Royce Hall on January 4, 6, 7 and 8, 1937. Rudolf Kolisch was the brother-in-law of Schoenberg. His quartet, organized in Vienna in the 1920s, had become internationally renowned for its playing of modern works (such as the quartets of Bartók and Alban Berg) as well as the classical masters. I believe that Schoenberg hoped the quartet would be appointed to positions at the university, but that never happened. At any rate, we got to hear top-notch performances of the great quartet literature by this ensemble which, on several occasions, also rehearsed their repertoire in front of the students. Incidentally, the four quartets of Schoenberg were recorded privately by the Kolisch Quartet at this time. Expenses for the recordings were paid by Alfred Newman, famous film composer and a private pupil of Schoenberg.

  2. Schoenberg’s Fourth Quartet, like his Third, had been commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, probably the greatest supporter of new music for string quartet—or, for that matter, of any other chamber music. I remember attending a cycle of Beethoven quartets played by the Pro Arte String Quartet from Belgium, which was given at Cal Tech as a gift from Mrs. Coolidge. In his report to Mrs. Coolidge about the four concerts at Royce Hall, Schoenberg lauded the playing of the Kolisch Quartet in the following terms:
  3. The Kolischs played marvelously. Everything seems so simple, so self-evident in their performance, that one would think it is easy […] I confess they are the best string quartet I have ever heard. (Letters 201)

  4. But Schoenberg was very critical of the way the university treated these performances:

    I have wanted for a long time to write to you about the way in which these University people behaved on the occasion of the four concerts. Firstly: no publicity at all. A few days before the concerts the letters were mailed. I insisted they mention that these concerts were given through your generosity. They did it on small postcards, which informed the receivers that one concert will be given at one o’clock in the afternoon because the Budapest quartet played the same evening […] (Letters 200-01)

    I remember this particular concert well because the audience consisted almost entirely of school children who had been brought to the concert by their teachers. I am not sure that they made any sense out of the Schoenberg quartet they heard.

  5. Schoenberg also complained that he had not been introduced before the concerts or congratulated afterwards by any university official, despite the fact that he was a professor in the music department."I am very much disgusted by this behavior," he writes (Letters 200-201). Besides the quartets, other works by Schoenberg were performed during these years, the most important ones by Otto Klemperer and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at their downtown auditorium. Schoenberg himself also conducted a concert at the Trinity Auditorium in Los Angeles with the WPA orchestra (Federal Music Project) which consisted of unemployed musicians (the depression was still on). The concert took place on April 14, 1937. Schoenberg conducted his own tone poem, Pelleas and Melisande, dating from 1903, while Gerald Strang conducted works of Anton Webern, Adolph Weiss, Oscar Levant and his own Suite for String Orchestra.

  6. MK You have mentioned Otto Klemperer. Can you tell us something about him and his relation to Schoenberg?

    LS Klemperer was, and is recognized today, as one of the leading conductors of the twentieth century. He was one of the most prominent refugees to come to Los Angeles, having been chosen, almost accidentally, by a local search committee to lead the Philharmonic orchestra, which he did from 1933 to 1939. After the war he made a successful career for himself in Europe, particularly in London. Klemperer had known Schoenberg in Berlin where he had performed some of his works, including the music drama Die Glückliche Hand [The Lucky Hand] and Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene [roughly, Music for a Film]. However, in Los Angeles Klemperer conducted only transcriptions Schoenberg made of works by Bach, Brahms, and Handel as well as his Suite for String Orchestra, a strict tonal piece originally conceived for a student orchestra. Later on, Klemperer also conducted Schoenberg’s Second Chamber Symphony, also a tonal work; one of the performances of this work (as I recall) was performed in Royce Hall. The music students from UCLA would always attend the Philharmonic concerts in large numbers whenever Schoenberg’s works were performed in the downtown Philharmonic Auditorium. But Klemperer would occasionally bring his orchestra to Royce Hall (although I don’t recall that he played any of Schoenberg’s works there), and often presented pre-concert speeches about the music to be played. Klemperer was very interested in student life: at one time he formed a "Junior" Philharmonic and even attended some of Schoenberg’s classes as a guest. He also took a few private lessons from Schoenberg. I remember hearing Klemperer conduct one of his own compositions at the Hollywood Bowl; it was called "The Merry Waltz." However, Schoenberg was not very complimentary about Klemperer as a composer, to say the least.

  7. MK Besides the works you mention that Klemperer conducted, were there many new works Schoenberg composed in Los Angeles, and were they all twelve-tone compositions?

    LS Schoenberg composed at least fifteen new works in Los Angeles as well as the transcriptions mentioned before. Not all of them were twelve-tone compositions, a new compositional system which he had created in the early 1920s which broke the fetters of tonality, so to speak. But some of the new works were strictly tonal, including the Suite for String Orchestra, the Second Chamber Symphony (a completion of a composition started in 1906), Kol Nidre (a commissioned work for performance on the Jewish High Holiday), and other works for organ, and for wind band. Although he made many sketches of these works while he was teaching classes, he did the main work on the scores during the summer time or on other vacations. Most of the twelve-tone works were given their premieres by symphony orchestras in New York, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Boston and by the NBC Orchestra. Several premieres were also performed in Los Angeles, including the Prelude to the Genesis Suite in 1945 and the Violin Phantasy in 1949. I had a hand in some of these works such as reducing the score of Kol Nidre for use by the Chorus, enlarging the Prelude to the Genesis Suite from Schoenberg’s reduced score (particell) to full-sized score, proofreading the scores and parts of some of the works, and performing the piano parts of the Violin Phantasy and the two-piano version of the Second Chamber Symphony. In passing I might also mention Schoenberg’s recording of his Pierrot Lunaire made for Columbia Records in 1940. It was the only work Schoenberg recorded in America. The concert performance of Pierrot Lunaire in New York, shortly after the recording, proved to be one of his biggest successes in this country and gave him the greatest satisfaction.

  8. MK Were any of Schoenberg’s works associated with UCLA?

    LS Well, not directly. I have mentioned the large number of students who attended his concerts in downtown Los Angeles.

  9. However, besides the Kolisch Quartet concerts in 1937 in Royce Hall, where his four quartets were played, an event I mentioned earlier, two other events connected with the UCLA campus stand out in my mind. They both took place in 1942. Shortly after Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Schoenberg was commissioned to write a composition directed against tyranny, with Hitler in mind, of course. So the following January we drove together from the campus to Campbell’s Bookstore in Westwood Village to look for an appropriate text for this work. For some reason Schoenberg chose a book of poems by Lord Byron. After perusing the texts, and somewhat against the advice of English Lit. professors, he chose the "Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte," generally recognized as a minor poem of the author. However, Schoenberg was impressed by the form of the poem, as well as the key words which seemed like leitmotiven or musical references, and also, I suspect, because he found a resemblance of the poem to the orotund oratory of Winston Churchill, which he had heard on the radio. The "Ode" was written in the spring of 1942 for speaker, piano and string quartet. It was performed two years later by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, with a string orchestra in place of the string quartet. The other event was an All-American concert in Royce Hall on May 15, 1942, arranged as a patriotic gesture by the music fraternity. Schoenberg was represented in this program by the first performance of his two-piano version of his Second Chamber Symphony, which was played by Clara Silvers (later Steuermann), one of his students, and myself. Works by several pupils of Schoenberg were also performed, including a Violin Sonata by Adolph Weiss, Schoenberg’s first American pupil in Berlin, and my own Scherzo for trumpet quartet. On other occasions works by Schoenberg were performed in Royce Hall, including three programs honoring his seventieth birthday in 1944 (which he did not attend) and a performance by the young Juilliard Quartet of his Fourth Quartet in January, 1951, a few months before his death. The day after the concert the Juilliard Quartet came to Schoenberg’s house in Brentwood and performed the First Quartet, Op.7, for him.


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Volume 2 Issue 2


Susan McClary:
Temporality and Ideology

Fink, Garofalo, Gebhardt,
and Partovi:

Music as Object?
A Napster Roundtable



Magical Urbanism

The Art of Piano

Review Essays

Experience Music Project

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