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New Ears for New Music

Translated by Kenneth Chalmers

Constantin Floros

20th-century music is characterized by a bewildering multitude of trends and movements. Often several movements co-exist in contradiction to each other, in a reflection of the century’s intellectual currents and social and political changes, and the reactions they prompted. In this book, renowned musicologist and author Constantin Floros provides a survey of the different styles and tendencies in new music, presenting the most important composers from Schoenberg to Rihm in a series of fluent and readable essays that will appeal to connoisseurs and non-specialists alike. For Floros, music and biography are inseparable, and here he puts music in the context of the social and psychological background of its time.
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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 “Jewish 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





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 remain inactive at this time. Certainly the circumstances for action are different for...

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