Translated by Kenneth Chalmers
Two Unknown Letters by Schoenberg and Berg
Arnold Schoenberg, born into a Jewish family, converted to Lutheranism in 1898. From the summer of 1921 at the latest, after his disturbing experience at Mattsee (he was informed by postcard that as a Jew he was unwelcome at the holiday resort), he began to reflect deeply on his national identity and the “Jew- ish question”. The fateful events of 1933 compelled him and his family (his wife Gertrud and baby daughter, the one-year-old Nuria) to flee Berlin in May and travel to Paris, where he ceremonially returned to the community of the Jewish faith. Ten days later he wrote the following hugely revealing letter to Anton von Webern from Arachon, a seaside resort on the Atlantic coast, not far from Bordeaux. Schoenberg to Webern1 ARNOLD SCHOENBERG 4 VIII 1933 VILLA STRESA AVENUE RAPP ARACHON My dearest friend, I have just received your letter of 1 August, and was pleased to read of your great, unwavering concern: I did not expect anything else from you and, as I’m sure you know, I fully reciprocate. This is something that needs to be said often, at this time. As I wrote to Rufer yesterday, it is fortunate that we few have to deal with it, that throughout the current uproar such friendships stand firm! A comfort in this terrible time. You are right that it is difficult to re- main inactive at this time. Certainly the circumstances for action are different for me than they are for you. I have been prepared...
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