Composers Datebook®

Schoenberg and Strauss in the E.R.?

Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949): Death and Transfiguration (Berlin Philharmonic; Herbert von Karajan, cond.) DG 447 422 Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951): String Trio, Op. 45 (Members of the Juilliard String Quartet) Sony 47690


Composer's Datebook - July 13, 2021

2:00


July 13, 2021

Synopsis

In 1949, while on his deathbed, the German composer Richard Strauss supposedly turned to his beloved daughter-in-law, and said: “Funny thing, Alice. Dying is just the way I composed it in ‘Death and Transfiguration.” Strauss was referring to a tone-poem he had written some 60 years earlier depicting an artist on his deathbed, reviewing his life in art between bouts of an eventually fatal fever.

On today’s date in 1951, the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg was on his deathbed in Los Angeles, on a Friday the 13th, in fact. Now, Schoenberg had a “thing” about numbers. He developed an atonal “12-tone” style of composition, and assigned a mystical, quasi-religious significance to numbers. One might imagine Schoenberg on his deathbed, turning to someone he loved and said: “Funny thing: I’m dying on Friday the 13th at the age of 76, which, numerically speaking, is 7+6, or 13, don’t you see... ”

Well we do know that in 1946, after suffering a near-fatal heart attack, Schoenberg wrote a String Trio and told his friend Thomas Mann it was a musical representation of both that coronary incident and its subsequent medical treatment, including, at one point, the penetration of a hypodermic needle!

Music Played in Today's Program

Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949): Death and Transfiguration (Berlin Philharmonic; Herbert von Karajan, cond.) DG 447 422

Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951): String Trio, Op. 45 (Members of the Juilliard String Quartet) Sony 47690

On This Day

Births

  • 1932 - Danish composer Per Norgaard, in Gentofte (near Copenhagen);

Deaths

  • 1951 - Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, in Los Angeles, on a Friday the 13th; He was superstitiously obsessed with the number 13 and, ironically, was 76 years old at the time of his death (7+6 = 13)

Premieres

  • 1829 - Mendelssohn: Double Concerto (in e) for two pianos and orchestra, in London at a benefit concert, with the composer and Ignaz Moscheles as the soloists

  • 1995 - Corigliano: "Soliloquy" for clarinet and string quartet, in Portland, Oregon, by Chamber Music Northwest

Others

  • 1937 - The first Pan-American Chamber Music Festival is held in Mexico City