Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Tuesday, February 5

Schoenberg hissed

Synopsis

It was in Vienna, on today’s date in 1907, that the String Quartet No. 1 in d minor of the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg had its first performance by the Rosé Quartet, an ensemble headed by Arnold Rosé, the concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic and Gustav Mahler’s brother-in-law.

One eye-witness reported as follows: “Many found the work impossible, and left the hall during the performance, one rather humorously through the emergency exit. As the hissing continued afterward, Gustav Mahler, who was present, approached one of the unsatisfied and said: ‘You should not hiss!’—to which the unhappy audience member responded: ‘Don’t worry—I hiss your symphonies, too!’"

In 1936, the Hollywood composer Alfred Newman was taking composition lessons from Schoenberg, who was then living in Los Angeles. Newman arranged to have all four of Schoenberg’s Quartets recorded by the visiting Kolisch Quartet at the United Artists Studios in Hollywood. To do this, Newman had to first obtain permission from none other than film mogul Samuel Goldwyn himself.

“And so,” recalled Newman years later, “a hack movie-musician, a movie producer, and a movie studio made possible the recording of four important modern compositions. We had a chance to do something for music that the art for art’s sake boys couldn’t or wouldn’t do, and we took it. Once in a while, you see, we can be unfaithful to the great god Profit.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Arnold Schoenberg (1874 — 1951) String Quartet No 1, Op 7 Kolisch Quartet Music and Arts 1056

Additional Information

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