Translated by Kenneth Chalmers
“Music is not to be Decorative; it is to be True”. Towards an Aesthetic of the Second Viennese School
16 And it is precisely through this message that music has an effect on people of all races and cultures”.25 To my mind, there can be no doubt that several of his works spring from this very artistic concept. It holds true as much for Moses und Aron – a drama of ideas and a religious profession of faith – as for the Ode to Napoleon, op.41 and the distressing cantata A Survivor from Warsaw, op.46. It must be stressed that Schoenberg was an independent thinker, and not just within the field of music. Both his theological and philosophical thinking warrant careful consideration.26 Several works, as will be shown, need to be un- derstood not least as the expression of his religious belief and view of the world. This is particularly true of the sacred opera Moses und Aron, which was origi- nally conceived as an oratorio. For Schoenberg, music’s capacity to impart a message to the “new humani- ty” was bound up inextricably with its structure. The compression, concentra- tion on the essential and rejection of decoration that characterise both his Ex- pressionist and twelve-note works in equal measure were, as outlined above, for him necessary for music to express something authentic, for it to be “true” ra- ther than “decorative”. It will be shown below that with this aspiration, Schoen- berg consciously placed himself within the tradition of “German” music, and also what influence the attempt to erase him, as a Jew, from the German musical tradition, had on...
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