2) The Schoenberg Seminar

Trauneck mentioned in a letter1 to Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt that he had seen Arnold Schoenberg for the first time at a performance in Vienna of his Three Piano Pieces, op. 11, in 1914. He made his personal acquaintance just before he began military service in 1916. Trauneck had left the Gymnasium in spring 1916 with a 'Not-Matura' (emergency matriculation).2  This was a certificate issued without a matriculation examination that enabled him to study further only if he agreed to volunteer for military service on behalf of his country.

In the same letter to Stuckenschmidt, he revealed that Schoenberg had offered him lessons without charging fees.3

After Trauneck's demobilization in summer 1918, he did not continue his law studies. Instead, on 1 October 1918, he registered, together with his wife Hilde Horner, for Schoenberg's composition class at the 'Schwarzwaldschule'.4 The seminar was advertised in 1917 in a circular letter and fifty-five students entered the course. Among them were friends of Trauneck such as Ullmann, Erwin Ratz, Hans Erich Apostel, Karl Rankl (all born in 1898, the same year as Trauneck), Eisler, Rudolf Kolisch, Josef Polnauer, Eduard Steuermann, and Felix Greissle, who later became Schoenberg's son-in-law. Schoenberg's seminar was held at Eugenie Schwarzwald's 'High-School for Underprivileged Girls' in Wallnerstrasse.5 Schoenberg had used these premises since 1904 to give lectures in musical form and instrumentation. He continued teaching after the war in winter 1918 daily from 8 am to 5 pm. It is therefore not surprising that there is no record of any compositions completed by him in the year 1919.

The subjects of study were harmony, counterpoint, form, orchestration and analysis, with beginners and more advanced students treated separately. . . . A pupil was one who took an examination at the end of the year. Listeners were only taken in small numbers and were entitled, but not compelled, to take the examination. The study year began at the end of September 1918 and ended on 30 June 1919.6

Teaching music theory was for Schoenberg unquestionably linked with the practical side of music.

'If it were possible to observe the process of composing the way you can observe the process of painting, there could be composition studios just as there are art studios. Then it would be obvious how unnecessary a music theory teacher is and that he is as pernicious as the academies of fine arts.'7

Shortly after Schoenberg had opened the Schwarzwald Seminar, he initiated in 1919 the Society for Private Music Performances (Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen) which aimed to perform contemporary music (for example, compositions by Berg, Wellesz, Max Deutsch, Stravinsky, Suk, and others) for a dedicated audience. The society was officially registered and someone interested in the new works had to become a member and pay an annual fee. Each member received a photograph identity card. The card was used as an admission ticket for all performances and rehearsals of the society. Music reviews were not permitted and applause after a performance strictly forbidden. In general, a new composition was introduced to the audience and then repeated after the interval. The Verein was closed down in 1921, but a branch opened the following year by Schoenberg and Zemlinsky in Prague. Working on his Schoenberg biography in 1972, Stuckenschmidt corresponded with Trauneck about a possible 'palace revolt' by some members who resisted Schoenberg's authoritarian style. The society member Ernst Bachrich had claimed that there was an open revolt and that this was the reason why the society in Vienna came to an end. Some of the members like Trauneck, Polnauer, Deutsch, and Rankl were politically left-wing. According to Trauneck's description, Schoenberg was a 'dyed-in-the-wool monarchist' (eingefleischter Monarchist) who did not tolerate any opposition. Trauneck recalled situations where tensions flared among the students in the seminar, but denied an open revolt.8

The Schwarzwald Seminar closed its doors in 1920 when Schoenberg moved 15 km outside of Vienna to the suburb of Mödling. Trauneck, who had introduced his friend Eisler to Schoenberg, took him along to private lessons at Schoenberg's house. Erich Apostel remembered:

We were all assembled in Schoenberg's workroom; it was a room with bay windows where a piano and a harmonium stood. There was lots of talking - why Reger had composed this piece badly - why Bach had done it much better. Schoenberg was excellent in explaining the structure of a movement in a Beethoven sonata.9 Hanns Eisler acted at the time as Schoenberg's personal assistant.

One of the highlights of this period was when Trauneck and Eisler accompanied Schoenberg to Amsterdam in November 1920. Schoenberg has been invited by Willem Mengelberg to conduct the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. He gave a number of concerts, among them Verklärte Nacht op. 4 and Nr. 1 and Nr. 2 of his Orchesterstücke op. 6.10 In addition, Schoenberg taught courses in musical analysis.

Even thirty-three years later, in an interview given to a reporter from a Johannesburg newspaper, he described the amazingly high standard of musical life he had experienced in Europe in those days:

'Trauneck recalls how he awoke one morning in Amsterdam, when he went there for Concert Gebouw's Mengelberg's [sic] festival in honour of Mahler, to the sound of the milk boy whistling the slow movement of Mahler's second symphony.'11

  1. 1. Letter from Trauneck to H. H. Stuckenschmidt, 3 July 1972, (ISG)
  2. 2. Information given by Karoly Csipak, private communication, 7 November 2006.
  3. 3. Letter from Trauneck to H. H. Stuckenschmidt, 3 July 1972. (ISG)
  4. 4. The date of his marriage to Hilde Horner could not be established. She appears in the list of pupils at Schoenberg's seminar in Vienna. (see link  List of pupils in Schoenberg's seminar)
  5. 5. Eugenie Schwarzwald can be regarded as a pioneer in the modern Austrian eduation system because she organised finances that secured an excellent education for underprivileged girls. See H. H. Stuckenschmidt, Arnold Schoenberg: His Life, World and Work, London: John Calder, 1977, p. 249.
  6. 6. Ibid., p. 253.
  7. 7. 'Könnte man beim Komponieren ebenso zuschauen lassen wie beim Malen, könnte es Kompo nier a teliers geben, wie es Malateliers gab, dann wäre es klar, wie überflüssig der Musiktheoretiker ist und dass er ebenso schädlich ist wie die Kunstakademien.' Schoenberg, quoted in Das magische Quadrat, ed. Schoenberg Center Vienna und Musikhochschule Luzern, Cosenza: Edizioni Periferia, 2006, p. 3.
  8. 8. Letter from Trauneck to Stuckenschmidt , 3 July 1972. (ISG)
  9. 9. Hans Erich Apostel, in Österreichische Musikzeitschrift, 3, 1958, p. 97: 'Wir versammelten uns im Arbeits zimmer Schönbergs; es war ein Eckzimmer, in dem ein Klavier und ein Harmonium stand. Es wurde viel gesprochen, warum Reger das schlecht gemacht hat, warum Bach besser. Schönberg verstand es meisterhaft, einen Beethovenschen Sonatensatz zu erklären'.
  10. 10. Letter 212 Schönberg and Zemlinsky, Zemlinskys Briefwechsel mit Schönberg, Webern, Berg und Schreker, hrsg. Horst Weber, Darmstadt 1995, p. 212
  11. 11. 'Zwei Jahrzehnte als Dirigent in Johannesburg', Thüringer Landeszeitung, 25 September 1957, p. 13. 'Ursprünglich wollte er sich vor allem der Komposition zuwenden, die er als Schüler Prof. Arnold Schönbergs in Wien studiert hatte. Doch die schwere Zeit nach dem ersten Weltkrieg zwang zum baldigen Verdienst.'

Schoenberg in front of his house in Mödling where he held his seminar

Teacher Schoenberg (photograph from his seminar later in USA)

from left to right: Lisbeth and Joseph Trauneck, Viktor Ullmann