Arnold Schoenberg <BGSOUND SRC="schoenberg.mp3" LOOP="INFINITE">

Arnold Schoenberg Self-portrait Further details on Schoenberg are given by Prof. A. Neher in his "They made their souls anew" ["Ils ont refait leur ame"(1979,24-26; 253-90).]
Born in an Orthodox family Schoenberg became converted to Christianity in 1898 under the influence or Gustav Mahler. He returned to Judaism, however, on July 24,1933 at a formal religious ceremony in Paris, at which one of the witnesses was Marc Chagall.
His Jewish loyalties, the Holocaust, and the establishment of the State of Israel are strongly reflected in his musical works, to which should be added "Der Biblische Weg", and the cantatas "Dreimal Tausend Jahre" and "Israel Lives Again".
The texts of all these works were written by Schoenberg himself, with the exception of that of "Dreimal Tausend Jahre", which was written by Rabbi Dagobert Runes.
Schoenberg was extremely active on behalf of German refugees. He was a devoted Zionist, and in 1951 accepted an invitation to head the Rubin Academy for Music established in Jerusalem, but his state of health prevented him from taking up the appointment.
(From Encyclopedia judaica)

Moderner Psalm für Sprecher, gemischten Chor und Orchester (unvollendet) op. 50C (1950) Programme notes:

"Dreimal tausend Jahre," op. 50A, sets a short lyric poem from the "Jordan Lieder" by Dagobert Runes. The second of the series Opus 50 uses the original Hebrew of Psalm 130, the "De Profundis"; while the third is bases on Schönberg's own text, the first of sixteen short "psalms" written during the last ten months of his life. Between 29 September 1950 and 3 July 1951 Schönberg drafted the texts of "Modern Psalms," which formulate his deeply religious thoughts in the form of a multi-faceted personal address to God in paraphrases of the Old Testament psalms. The composer had entitled each of the individual texts either "Psalm" or "Modern Psalm" and given them the collective title of "Modern Psalms," presumably with the intention of setting them to music; at the time of his death (on 13 July 1951), however, he had composed music only for the first text, now simply referred to as "Modern Psalm," op. 50C. Schönberg related the full title of his work-in-progress to Oskar Adler in a letter dated 23 April 1951: "Psalms, Prayers and other Discourses with and about God." The text for op. 50C ("O, you my God: all people praise you") encompasses both direct address to God as well as discourse about God, just as the title related to Adler describes. Schönberg composed eighty-six measures of music for this text, music whose texture alternates between a Speaker (using "Sprechstimme" or "speaking voice") and a six-voice chorus, accompanied by orchestra.

Moderner Psalm No.1

O, du mein Gott: alle Völker preisen dich
und versichern dich ihrer Ergebenheit.
Was aber kann es dir bedeuten, ob, ich das
auch tue oder nicht?
Wer bin ich, daß ich glauben soll, mein
Gebet sei eine Notwendigkeit?
Wenn ich Gott sage, weiß ich, daß ich damit
von dem Einzigen, Ewigen, Allmächtigen, All-
wissenden und Unvorstellbaren spreche, von dem ich
mir ein Bild weder machen kann noch soll.
An den ich keinen Anspruch erheben darf oder
kann, der mein heißestes Gebet erfüllen oder
nicht beachten wird.
Und trotzdem bete ich, wie alles Lebende
betet; trotzdem erbitte ich Gnaden und Wunder;
Trotzdem bete ich, denn ich will nicht des
beseligenden Gefühls der Einigkeit, der Ver-
einigung mit dir, verlustig werden.
O du mein Gott, deine Gnade hat uns das Gebet
gelassen, als eine Verbindung, eine
beseligende Verbindung mit Dir. Als eine
Seligkeit, die uns mehr gibt, als jede Erfüllung.

9.September 29, 1950

Modern Psalm No. 1

"Oh Thou my God, all peoples praise Thee and assure Thee of their veneration,
but what can it mean to Thee whether I too do so or not?
Who am I to believe that my prayer is necessary?
When I say 'God,' I know that I am speaking of the Only, Eternal,
Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Unimaginable,
of whom I neither can nor should make an image.
Of whom I have neither the right nor the possibility of making a demand,
and who can answer my most fervent prayer or disregard it.
And nevertheless I pray, as all that lives prays,
and yet I beg that I may receive forgiveness, wonders, and plenitude.
And nevertheless I pray, for I do not wish to be deprived
of the happiness afforded by the sense of unity,
of union with Thee, O Thou my God.
Thy grace has given us prayer as a link with Thee,
a link which brings blessedness, like a rapture
which gives us more than any fulfillment. . . .

9.September 29, 1950

From "THEY MADE THEIR SOULS ANEW" by Andre Neher, translated by David Maisel

Chapter 12


In the same way as his work, Arnold Schonberg's personality was controversial, mysterious, contradictory, disputed. The revolution he effected in art finally gained acceptance even in his lifetime, but some of his major works - the opera Moses and Aaron, Jacob's Ladder, The Biblical Path, Modern Psalms - remained incomplete, and their fragments were presented to the public only after Schonberg's death in some cases, while others are still waiting for a premiere which will perhaps never take place.

     Such also was Schonberg's thought-unfinished, fragmented, hinted at in a series of paradoxes in which the interpreter loses himself in conjectures which are in danger of betraying him: "0 Word, Word which I am lacking!" This cry which Schonberg gives to Moses is valid for Schonberg himself. It is also valid for the place which Judaism occupies in Schonberg's thought. It is valid also for the place within that thought occupied by teshuva.

                                 THE WRITTEN DOCUMENT OF A TESHUVA

What? Did I not refer at the beginning of this book to the document of July 24, 1933? Did not this document, signed by a rabbi, by Marc Chagall, and by Schonberg himself, signify that Schonberg returned to the Jewish community? In that case, he must once have left it. On July 24, 1933, in the synagogue of rue Copernic in Paris, he returned to it. What more striking act of teshuva could be imagined? Is this document not sufficient in order for Arnold Schonberg to be described as a ba'al teshuva? Is that not perfectly obvious?

      No, it is not obvious to everyone. The significance, the importance, and even the authenticity of the document of July 24, 1933, have been disputed. Some biographers simply fail to mention it: They deliberately obscure the salient features of Schonberg's Judaism, and sometimes his Judaism as such. Worse still, one reference to Jesus - a single one - in the Prayers composed towards the end of his life, and a reference to the Gospels in a work of his youth, have been sufficient for them to claim that Schonberg's religiosity was of Christian inspiration. Did not this Jew-by-birth convert to Protestantism at the age of twenty-four, in 1898 (an act which was duly registered and which is considered, in this case, as irrefutable)? There never was a return to Judaism, it is claimed. The Jewish themes in Schonberg's work were for him what the Old Testament is for the Christian in relation to the New: A relic which is precious but superseded (Willy Reich).

      Paradoxically, the authenticity of this document has been questioned by the proponents of a thesis diametrically opposite to the preceding one: the thesis of a Jewish continuity in Schonberg's life and work. Jesus? The Gospel according to Luke? These, it is claimed, were elements of a general culture of which Christianity formed part without having any special position. Who would dare to claim that Edmond Fleg or Martin Buber or Marc Chagall were not Jewish or became Christians, simply because in their work they provided - far more than their contemporary Arnold Schonberg - a place for Jesus and the saints of the Church? The conversion of Schonberg to Protestantism? An act of purely social significance, an entry ticket to bourgeois society, at a time when Schonberg was about to marry Mathilde, the sister of his teacher and patron, the conductor Alexander von Zemlinski. But where his heart, his convictions, his religious feelings were concerned, it is claimed that Schonberg remained Jewish. "In his work," wrote Jan Meyerovits,

      Christianity played no role. The Jewish side of his creations is of exclusively Jewish inspiration, unlike many Jewish composers, for instance Meyerbeer, Halevy, and Milhaud, who remained true to their faith but whose works contain many Christological features. In 1933 it became publicly known that in Paris Schonberg had returned to Judaism. He himself continually vigorously denied this story and repeated on various occasions that his work proved that he had long before returned to Judaism. The ceremony of return in Paris which is so often mentioned seems to have been entirely invented by a certain Dr. Marianoff, eager for publicity.

      In fact, the document undoubtedly does exist: Its authenticity is undeniable. The original is preserved in the Arnold Schonberg Archives in Los Angeles. Professor Hans Stuckenschmidt, one of Schonberg's pupils, gave a photographic reproduction of it on page 335 of his great book, Schonberg, published in Zurich in 1974. One of the two witnesses, Marc Chagall, was universally known. He could not have been suspected of complicity in a false testimony through an "eagerness for publicity." As for Rabbi Louis-Germain Levy, he was a man of absolute integrity. He would certainly have protested against a forgery, but he never cast doubt on the authenticity of the document.

      And Schonberg himself? His "vigorous denials"? His "assertion repeated on various occasions that he had long before returned to Judaism"?

      We have two irrefutable written proofs from Schonberg of the genuineness of the act and consequently of the authenticity of the document. The first was the private diary in which Schonberg noted, in a stenographic style, the main points of his life. The date July 23, 1933, is marked by the work Ruckkehr. which cannot mean anything else than the ceremony of teshuva in the rue Copernic. A second proof was a letter to his pupil Alban Berg on August 8, 1933, in which Schonberg regretted the publicity with which Dr. Marianoff, through his awkward handling, had surrounded the ceremony. This shows that the ceremony did take place. We shall soon realize that Schonberg's reservations with regard to Dr. Marianoff were in no way due to the fact that he considered his official return to Judaism as something banal which was not worth speaking about in public. On the contrary, it was the importance of this act which made Schonberg hope that an awkward publicity would not depreciate or turn against himself and the Jewish community an act of teshuva which he regarded as serious and above all as necessary.

It was necessary for the outside world: The world had to know that Arnold Schonberg was no longer a Christian, that he had returned to Judaism. But it was also necessary for Schonberg's internal development, for there existed within him, in his life and in his work, an adventure, a drama of teshuva.

                                       CONVERSATIONS WITH (AND ABOUT) GOD

The revolution which Schonberg brought about in modern art began in 1912. It was then that he composed and successfully had performed a musical accompaniment to the poem Verkliirte Nacht by the famous socialist visionary Richard Dehmel, but this success was short-lived and did not put an end to the miserable bohemian existence which Schonberg had led since his birth in Vienna in 1874. He had already reached full maturity-he was thirty-two years old. The burden of a difficult youth still weighed on him. Having lost his father at the age of fifteen and having left school without a diploma and without a profession, he retained a deep gratitude to three men who recognized his musical vocation: Gustav Mahler, Alexander von Zemlinski, and Walter Pieau. The first was one of the masters of post-Wagnerian music. He was Jewish by birth but converted to Christianity in 1897 and remained a Christian. The second, a Christian-born conductor of the same age as Schonberg, gave his friend his musical education and offered him the hand of his sister Mathilde, on one condition, however: baptism, made more acceptable by the prestigious example of Gustav Mahler and also by the friendship of Walter Pieau, an opera singer and a believing Protestant. Schonberg's conversion to Protestantism on March 25, 1898, must be seen in this sociological context. In any case, it did not find any particular confirmation in Schonberg's soul. When confronted with the question, "What are you?," his reply was vague, groping: "I am atheist, unbelieving, freethinking" - "as my father was," he added.

      But a formula he used in a letter of that period touched his real religious identity: "My position is dialectical."

      Schonberg's parents were a dialectical couple. His father had been a freethinker, but he was no longer alive. His mother, revered by her son, was a believing, pious, practising Jewess. A brother of his mother was a talented musician and a minister-officiant in a Vienna synagogue. He remained faithfully attached to his nephew Arnold after and despite his conversion.

      It was his mother's influence which won the day. The dialectic came into the open in 1912, at the very moment when Schonberg, after years of apprenticeship, felt that he too was becoming a Master.

      In his correspondence with Richard Dehmel, one would expect him to evoke the problems of particular interest to the poet whose musical interpreter Schonberg was: socialism, aesthetics, art-for-art's sake or "committed" art. However, the thing which tormented Schonberg and which he unburdened himself to Dehmel about was, paradoxically, the problem of prayer and particularly the significance of prayer for modern man.

      Schonberg was literally tormented by this problem which was never more to leave him. It was his argument with God whose echoes were to combine, dissolve, and re-combine in words and sounds, the argument of a Jewish ba' al teshuva. It was to continue until the final chords of Modern Psalms, written a few weeks before his death and left unfinished. When Schonberg spoke about them, he called them "Psalms, Prayers, and other Conversations with (and about) God." The first sketches for it already appeared in a strange work in which he was engaged in the midst of the First World War-in a period when, according to his civil status, Schonberg was a Christian.

      This work, which accompanied him for the rest of his life, was called Jacob's Ladder.

                                                    JACOB'S LADDER

Schonberg did not decide on this title immediately. First he thought of Jacob's Struggle (his struggle with the angel, Genesis 32). If he finally chose the ladder (Genesis 28) rather than the struggle, it was in order to stress the connection between his musical revolution and his Jewish religious feelings, but there was nevertheless a struggle, even if it was only between the words and the sounds. There was also a Jewish struggle between the sphere of action (the Ten Commandments) and the sphere of passivity (Hear, O Israel!)

On this biblical theme, Schonberg developed a whole cosmic, universal pacifistic theology, but the music did not follow the words. Only a few isolated, tentative, awkward fragments date from that period. Only thirty years later, in 1947, after the Second World War, did Schonberg, now an "official" Jew after his "reconversion" of 1933, return to the Ladder. He made no change in the text, so prophetic was it, and no more than in 1917 did he succeed in finding the musical language which fitted it.

      This unfinished work (which was performed for the first time in 1961, ten years after Schonberg's death, in his native city of Vienna) was under consideration throughout his life and thus demonstrates the persistence of his religious temperament but also his conscious or unconscious inability to express it in universal terms. It was only in specifically Jewish religious terms that Schonberg could be fully and supremely creative and, above all, innovative.

      The general structure of Schonberg's revolution in the history of modern music already had some Jewish associations. It has been pointed out that the dodecaphonic system is based on the number twelve: the number of the tribes of Israel or the sons of Jacob. I will add that this system is based on a dislocation of the classic scale: in German Ton-Leiter or ladder of sounds, in Hebrew, sulam, ladder. We have just pointed out Schonberg's essential inability to transpose the biblical theme of Jacob's Ladder into musical terms. This was not merely a matter of adapting the words. The text of the libretto is so concentrated, shot through with the mystical struggle of the individual with eternity, that it is impossible not to see the solution, the redemption (Auf-losung, geula in Hebrew) in dissonance, characteristic of the clash of irreconcilables. This is the theology of the Zohar, of the Maharal of Prague, of Hasidism, in which Schonberg found the key to the ladder linking the human and the divine, but this ladder cannot be projected in the classical scale. Salvation cannot come from the scale (Leiter), but from Jacob's ladder (Jakobs-Leiter).

      Also the allusion at a certain moment in the first sketch of Jacob's Ladder to the Gospel according to Luke ought not to mislead us. This is not a reference to Christianity but to a Jew in the New Testament who told Jesus: "I have observed all these things from my youth upwards. . . " (Luke 18:21). "All these things" were the commandments, the summary of the Jewish Law made by Jesus in verse 20. "From my youth upwards. . . ": isn't this Schonberg himself speaking, remembering his mother who observed the Jewish Law in simple sincerity?

                          VICISSITUDES OF TESHUVA - THE "META" AND THE "ANTI"

As I said, it was the year 1917. It was a first apex of the return to Judaism. The death of Mathilde and marriage to Gertrude Kolish, a Jewess (the sister of the founder of the celebrated Kolish quartet) enabled Schonberg to conceive of an "official" return to Judaism which he was to carry out publicly in the year 1933, when Germany was veering towards the forces of demonism, but the ceremony in rue Copernic on July 24, 1933, (at which Gertrude was present together with Dr. Marianoff and Marc Chagall) boomeranged against Schonberg. The Viennese press took hold of it and used it to wage a fierce anti-semitic campaign. The Jew Schonberg, they said, already stateless, has now become a traitor to his religion. Doubly a Judas, he sells Germany and sells Christianity for - there can be no doubt about it - the money of the Rothschilds!

How well one can understand Schonberg's regrets at the awkward publicity given by Dr. Marianoff (in Paris-Soir) to the ceremony in rue Co¬pernic, but it is also clear that Schonberg desired that ceremony with all his heart. Only, he was caught in the predicament described by Jakob Wassermann in his text "In Vain." Whatever the Jew does, he is branded as Judas. If he converts to Christianity, he is a traitor to the Jews. If he returns to Judaism, he is a traitor to the Christians. If he hides his conversions, he is a coward. If he declares them, he is asked who is paying.

Yet Schonberg remained steadfast even in such a situation. Where others yielded, he took up the challenge and entered the fray.

Already in 1923, the very year in which Jakob Wassermann described the impasse in which the "anti" had placed the Jew of German culture, and ten years before the rise to power of Hitler, Schonberg also described that same impasse ten years before his official return to Judaism. In two violent letters, he hurled a "j'accuse" against his friend, the (non-Jewish) painter Kandinsky, and, through him, against the demonic masks of the "anti." Kandinsky sympathized with the Brownshirts of Hitler's putsch in the Munich beer cellar. He favored the exclusion of the Jews from German society, but he declared himself ready to make an "exception" for his friend Schonberg whom he admired and respected, even if he did have "the Jews' crooked nose."

Schonberg's response was more than biting. Like Wassermann's analysis, it cut right to the very heart of the Gordian knot of the "anti":

. . . What I have been compelled to learn this last year, I have now finally understood and shall never forget: I am neither a German, nor a European, nor even a man (the vilest of Europeans throws his race in my face). I am a Jew.

I am quite content! Today I hope for no exception with regard to myself; I do not object to being tarred with the same brush as the others. For I have seen that the other side (which is no longer in any way exemplary for me) are also all to be tarred with the same brush. Someone whom I had thought to be on the same level as myself I have seen associating himself with this band. I have heard that even Kandinsky only saw those actions of the Jews which were despicable and only those despicable actions which were committed by the Jews, and consequently I lose any hope of reaching an understanding. It was a dream. There are two humanities-definitely! . . .

. . . When I am walking in the street and someone scrutinizes me in order to find out whether I am Jewish or Christian, I can hardly tell him that I am precisely the one for whom Kandinsky makes an exception, although in any case their Hitler is not of this opinion. And that is why this kind thought could not be of any use to me even if it were inscribed on my bosom like the placards carried by blind beggars in such a way that everyone can read them. Could not Kandinsky foresee all that, could he not sense what was going to happen? . . .

Every Jew shows by his crooked nose not only his own guilt, but that of all the crooked noses that are absent. . .

How can Kandinsky tolerate that I should be injured? How can he support a policy which makes possible my exclusion from my natural field of activity? How can he refrain from fighting a conception of the world which prepares new St. Bartholemew's nights, where the darkness will be such that one will not be able to read on my breast that I am an exception to be spared? . . .

. . . I must conclude. . . I realize now that I have made a very great moral and tactical mistake. I have accepted the discussion, I have entered into a polemic, I have defended myself. In doing so, I have forgotten that it is a matter neither of law nor of absence of law, nor of truth, nor of falsehood, nor of knowledge, nor of ignorance, but of power relationships. . . I forgot that the discussion had no sense since in any case I shall not be heard, that there is no wish to understand, if it is not that of not hearing what the other says. . .

The Trial and The Castle of Kafka!
It was a situation which Schonberg soon experienced after having sensed it as a theoretical threat, for, two years after this polemic with Kandinsky, an "exceptional" status was officially offered to Arnold Schonberg. He was chosen, in an unexpected and gratifying manner, to succeed Busoni as Professor of Composition at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin in 1925. This nomination put an end to half a century of a nomadic and materially difficult existence. "Nomination for life, irrevocable," said the decree signed by the president of the Academy, Max von Schillings, on September 17, 1925. The Jew-Christian Schonberg now appeared to be protected from any intrusion of the "anti." Illusion! As Schonberg had foreseen, the irrevocable is irrevocable for everyone except the Jew. In 1933, Schonberg was deprived of his post as a result of the application of the Jewish Statute. The order of September 18, 1933, revoking the irrevocable, was signed by this same president Max von Schillings!

The greatness of Schonberg was to have remained true to himself, to his Jewish faith, to belief in the Jewish vocation.

The letter to Kandinsky revealed a cast of mind which, in this same year 1923, Wassermann or Katka did not possess. After pointing out the impossible situation of the Jew, they allowed themselves to pass from discouragement to despair, ending with absurdity. Schonberg, on the other hand, sensed the "meta" within the "anti." The provocation was for him a recall to vocation: "What will anti-semitism lead to if it is not to violence?," he asked in his letter to Kandinsky, "Is it so difficult to imagine? Will they be content to deprive the Jews of their rights? Einstein, Mahler, myself, and many others will be suppressed.

But one thing is certain: they will not be able to exterminate the most vigorous elements of Judaism's capacity of resistance, thanks to which it has been able to survive without protection in the face of the rest of humanity. They are apparently so strong that they are always able to fulfill the mission God has given them: To survive in exile without admixture nor renunciation until the hour of deliverance! . . .


Polemics was not Schonberg's only weapon. In the ten years 1923 to 1933, between his break with Kandinsky and his dismissal by the Nazis, he worked enthusiastically on two Jewish dramatic works: The Biblical Path and Moses and Aaron.

The Biblical Path consisted of a libretto which its author, Schonberg himself, did not succeed in transposing into musical terms (a repetition of the creative phenomenon of Jacob's Ladder). The hero of the piece, Max Aruns, combined in himself the idea of Moses and Aaron. He was torn apart by the conflict between the ideal and the real. He was searching, on behalf of the Jewish people, for a land where he could freely set up the City of God. One can detect here, implicitly, the "territorialist" doctrine: Seeing that Palestine is ruled out by the Turks or the British, why not look for some country other than Palestine? Herzl thought of it at the time of the Uganda project, and Zangwill remained a "territorialist" until the Balfour Declaration. Itshak Steinberg was one of the last adherents of territorialism, even after the creation of the State of Israel. For Arnold Schonberg, territorialism was merely a hypothesis, formulated only in order to be rejected at once. Max Aruns failed, and died. The true solution could only be the Zionism of Zion.

Moses and Aaron, although brought together in the imaginary character of Max Aruns, appear separate in Schonberg's opera as they are in the Bible. The opera consisted of three acts, of which he wrote the full libretto, but he only found the music which corresponded to the first two.

The philosophical theme of compromise versus the Absolute revealed a new aspect in this opera: that of teshuva, connected with Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur did not come into being in the desert as an established "normal" ritual institution. It grew out of a drama: The tragedy of the Golden Calf, in which Aaron had accepted a compromise and even a sort of "conversion" to the idol, while Moses had embodied the Absolute, breaking the Tablets of the Law, soiled by the orgy which had so closely followed the sublime Revelation of the Decalogue on Sinai. Idolatry, inner moral rupture in the case of Aaron, the metaphysical rupture expressed externally by the act of Moses-could all this be repaired by a return, a teshuva? Yes. The worst of aberrations can find its redemption through the institution of the twenty-four hours of Yom Kippur. One cannot descend any lower, mark the distance between God and man to a greater extent than through the Golden Calf. One will not be able to ascend higher, build a bridge between God and man more effectively than through the fasting, prayer, and silence of Yom Kippur.

Thus, the theme of prayer, which had haunted Schonberg for so many years, was directly connected to that of teshuva. It is permissible to suppose that the years 1930-1932 in which Schonberg worked intensely on his op¬era prepared the way for his solemn act of teshuva in rue Copernic in 1933. The shock of the encounter with the "anti" in the fatal year of the coming of the Third Reich certainly played a part, but the element of the "meta," gradually brought to fruition in the score and libretto of Moses and Aaron, also exercised its impact. Yom Kippur was not absent from the ceremony of July 24, 1933, in Paris.

I should like to point to a coincidence which provides food for thought for anyone who is aware of the extent to which SchOnberg looked for signs and meanings in numbers, dates, and the arithmetic of existence. The opera Moses and Aaron was never performed in Schonberg's lifetime. The first performances took place in Hamburg in 1964. As for Paris, the city in which Schonberg returned to the Jewish community in 1933 in the attitude of a ba' al teshuva on Yom Kippur, it so happened that its third performance, at the Paris Opera, coincided with the evening of October 6, 1973. The Jews of Paris had just learned that at two o'clock in the afternoon on that October 6, the Egyptian and Syrian armies had launched the Yom Kippur War against Israel. . .


His dismissal did not surprise Schonberg. He went ahead and left Germany for France.

He could have gone to his native Vienna or to Prague, where he had pressing invitations for concerts, for seminars, for musical study groups. If he decided to go to France, it was because he wished to share the fate of the Jewish emigres who were then flocking to the land of liberty. His was a militant exile, devoted to the service of his Jewish brethren whom he tried to help to the best of his ability.

In the archives which George Alter, the longstanding impresario and admirer of Schonberg, bequeathed to the National Library in Jerusalem in 1975, I found the following hitherto unpublished letter to Alter from Rudolf Kolish: "Don't count on Schonberg for a recital in Prague. He no longer has a fixed address: now in Paris, now in Arcachon, now in Geneva. . . What he does have is an idee fixe: to help his Jewish brethren in distress, to help get them out of the German inferno. He no longer writes a note of music and has put himself entirely at the disposal of the World Jewish Congress which is being set up to prevent the worst. . . "

The list of articles, reflections, and drafts found in Schonberg's archives dating from the year 1933 is long and eloquent. It amounts to a real collection of Jewish writings, and these are dominated by two main ideas, which are that there is a need for a radically new Jewish policy, and that it must lead to the creation of a single, united Jewish political party. Some of the titles of these pages, all dating from 1933, are:

The Jewish Question.
Notes on Jewish Politics.
Studies on the Jewish Problem.
A New Realistic Jewish Policy.
A Program of Aid and Reconstruction for a United Jewish Party.
The Jewish Government in Exile.
The Four-point Program.

A four-point program, a government in exile. . . Schonberg felt himself to be the spokesman for this government which did not yet exist. He did not forget the call of Zionism and launched an appeal to all the exiled musicians for the creation of a symphony orchestra in Palestine. The idea was received with enthusiasm by many musicians, but it remained only an idea. It was carried out only in 1937, by Bronislav Hubermann. To direct the first concert in Tel Aviv, he brought over Arturo Toscanini from the United States.

Schonberg was also in the States from October 1933 onwards. Exhausted by his feverish activity and without material resources, he accepted the position of Professor of Composition at the Boston Conservatoire. To his great surprise, he was acclaimed as a master in America, and from 1934 onwards he found excellent working conditions in Los Angeles. On the liner lie de France. which took him to America, he had but one regret: not that of leaving Europe, but of not having headed for Palestine. The sense of exile grew sharper: Schonberg was thwarted of the fruits of his Zionist dream. From this he derived a psychological compensation: an even closer identification with the fate of his people through the medium of his art.


Far from estranging him, America, on the contrary, drew him closer to the two contradictory phases of Jewish history which took place in Europe and Asia, and which Schonberg witnessed: the Shoa and the creation of the State of Israel. His creativity in the immediate postwar years proves it.

A Warsaw Survivor (1947) is hewn out of the living flesh of the suffering and heroism of the martyred Jewish people. In his opus 46, Schonberg recorded the testimony of a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, using words and adding only two elements: rapid, emotive sounds and in conclusion, the "old forgotten prayer," the Shema Israel. What others hewed in stone in Warsaw and Jerusalem, Schonberg expressed in the dimension of sound.

On the basis of six stanzas by Dagobert Runes, Arnold Schonberg composed his Ode to Joy on the Restoration of the State of Israel: Dreimal tausend Jahre (Three Times a Thousand Years).

Moses was not able to enter the Promised Land but his people entered it. And here is the miracle: After three times a thousand years, once again the people of Moses entered the Holy Land. The State of Israel was created. That too was a return. But as it was celebrated by Schonberg in his cantata, it was not the return of man towards God, it was the return of God towards man: Gottes Wiederkehr. Thus, Schonberg saw events come full circle. If he, like Moses, did not enter the Land, at least he knew that God had returned to His people. The spark of light scattered to the winds had been regathered. The one who gathered it, this time, was no longer man but God. By his teshuva, SchOnberg had become a co-worker with God.

                                                       MOUNT NEBO

Arnold Schonberg's teshuva reached a climax unique of its kind in the very last weeks of his life, between the month of April and July 13, 1951. That day, death surprised him in the course of a physical illness which had sapped his strength for years, and at the same time, in the midst of an ethical drama which had been enacted on two levels for several months.

There was the vertical drama of the unremitting search for an impossible dialogue with God.

There was the horizontal drama of an equally unremitting search for an impossible aliyah to Jerusalem.

It was as if God had issued Schonberg a call from above and one from "over there," a sign of the heavens and a sign of the earth, and as if God had cut him short at the very moment when the signs were about to be interpreted. Like Moses, Schonberg died in the intensity of an unfinished prayer. He believed he had finally obtained the fulfillment of the promise of heaven and that of the earth. Physically, his eyes were almost blinded. Spiritually, they were blinded by the Light. Was the power of the spirit, rousing itself, able to overcome the frailty of matter? Would it be able to bring this drama in two dimensions to its conclusion?

He had just finished a musical transposition of Psalm 130: De profundis (Mi ma' amakim). This was opus 50b of his work. The music was his, but the words, from the Bible, were God's.

Would he be able to finish composing opus 50c, in the writing of which he had made such great strides since April? This was Modern Psalms. The music, once again, was his, but this time, the words also.

This was a daring project which Schonberg had been considering for forty years, since lacob's Ladder. He had just finished the "Promethean" part of it. A man had dared, in the twentieth century, to take up the challenge of the ancient language and to put it in modern language. The text was already complete, a sober yet powerful incantation. A seizing upon the distant God who nevertheless was brought close by prayer. The dizzying void between the creature and the creator over which prayer nevertheless threw a bridge.

The man-written text was now completed. The Bible contains 150 psalms. Schonberg had the audacity to give the first psalm he now created the number 151. The music, however, did not keep pace with his creativity: The musical text did not go beyond the eighty-sixth bar of the first psalm. The last chord, composed on the eve of his death, accompanied the four words which supported these unfinished prayers: " , And nevertheless I pray. . ."

"Oh Thou my God, all peoples praise Thee and assure Thee of their veneration,
but what can it mean to Thee whether I too do so or not?
Who am I to believe that my prayer is necessary?
When I say 'God,' I know that I am speaking of the Only, Eternal,
Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Unimaginable,
of whom I neither can nor should make an image.
Of whom I have neither the right nor the possibility of making a demand,
and who can answer my most fervent prayer or disregard it.
And nevertheless I pray, as all that lives prays,
and yet I beg that I may receive forgiveness, wonders, and plenitude.
And nevertheless I pray, for I do not wish to be deprived
of the happiness afforded by the sense of unity,
of union with Thee, O Thou my God.
Thy grace has given us prayer as a link with Thee,
a link which brings blessedness, like a rapture
which gives us more than any fulfillment. . . .

As an end-scene to his life, this inner aspect of the drama would be moving enough in itself. But the outer aspect adds to it: another uncompleted dialogue, cut short by death. Now it was no longer the dialogue between Schonberg and God, but the dialogue between Schonberg and the Land of God.

This too was a forty-year-old dialogue, since Schonberg's Zionism had its roots in the years when he was working on Jacob's Ladder. We have traced the fluctuations of this Zionism and tried to understand them.

But suddenly, in April 1951, there was an unexpected development: "For forty years," wrote Schonberg, "it has been my most ardent desire to live as a free citizen in an independent State of Israel." This State of Israel had now been in existence for three years. Schonberg had celebrated its appearance with his cantata Three Times A Thousand Years.

Now, in April 1951, it was no longer a matter of writing but of action. Not words or sounds: an act-aliyah to Israel. That is what was offered to Schonberg, the projection of his Zionist dream into the Israeli reality.

Things, however, were not quite as simple as they appear in certain biographies of Schonberg. There are, moreover, in certain works on Schonberg and in the volume of his letters (published in Mainz in 1970 and all-important for chronological dating), contradictions, inaccuracies, and (possibly deliberate) omissions which confuse the facts which need to be clearly established, for only clarity will enable them to be seen as constituting a rapid and moving drama.

In 1951 two eminent figures were the moving spirits of the musical life of the young State of Israel: Frank Pelleg (1910-1968) at the Ministry of Education and Culture, and Oedoen Partos (1907-1977) at that time Director of the Academy of Music (or national conservatory) which had recently been set up in Jerusalem. When the two of them had come to Palestine around the years 1936-38, they had begun their careers with the Israel Philharmonic, founded by Bronislav Hubermann. The idea of this orchestra had been put forward, as we may recall, by Schonberg in 1933.

Pelleg and Partos now in 1951 offered Arnold Schonberg the post of Honorary President of the Academy of Music.

This was the context of two of Arnold Schonberg's letters, one dated April 26 and the other June 15. It is important not to obscure or distort the true intention of either of them.

The offer that had been made to him filled Schonberg with pride and joy. He did, however, have one reservation, but that did not concern the offer in itself. What he rejected was the honorific nature of the title. He was willing to accept the post only on one condition: That the presidency he was offered would be effective. He did not wish to give only his name to Jerusalem, but also himself. Arnold Schonberg in Jerusalem was not to be a mere symbol but the realization of something he had aspired to for so long-aliyah. His aim, he said in the letter of April 26, was to live in Jerusalem and to work there for the creation of a generation of artists who would be "true priests of art, who would struggle for art with the same seriousness as the priests of God in ancient Israel. For if God has elected the people of Israel to maintain the true monotheism of Moses in its integrity despite all persecutions and all sufferings, it is the duty of Jewish musicians to endow the world with an undertaking which will enable us once more to manifest ourselves in a universally significant manner."

Thus, in this letter, Schonberg gave free rein to his dream of finally becoming what he aspired to be: namely, the Master of a generation of Jewish artists in Israel devoted to the service of the biblical message. He added a few practical details such as the hope that his archives would be acquired by the Israel National Library (this hope has not so far been realized: Schonberg's archives are still in Los Angeles), and the hope, also, that the illness that was sapping him would not prevent his dream from becoming a reality.

Schonberg had confided all this to friends in Los Angeles before replying to Pelleg and Partos's official letter. The latter, having no doubt been provided with some muddled information by Schonberg's confidants, had in May organized a ceremony in Jerusalem in which the nomination of Arnold SchOnberg to the honorary presidency had been announced.

They now hastened to write to Schonberg that of course they would be only too delighted with the Master's aliyah and his effective presidency of the Academy of Music. While waiting for Schonberg to be physically capable of making his aliyah, they asked him to send them a program from America just as he would have done if he were effectively head of the Academy.

Arnold Schonberg drew up this program on June 15th, one month before his death, in a further letter which was more than a program. It was a confession, a credo, or rather, it was a viddui, an ani ma' amin, which are corresponding Hebrew expressions more suitable to describe the Jewish character of this text. With nobility, and with a pride stemming from his certitude of have brought about a revolution in art, Schonberg reverted in this letter to the sources of his struggle for a Jewish art. There could be no art, he claimed, which was not inspired by ethics, and there could be no human ethics not inspired by the spirit of Judaism. But Schonberg had not only struggled with ideas: He had also fought with men, and, to his great misfortune, the Jews among those men who followed him were small in numbers, reticent, and sometimes opposed to him. Now Schonberg wanted to implant his message in the minds of the Israeli Jews. He therefore asked to be heard, and he asked to be given the means to make himself heard, for he was sure of his calling and his inspiration. He claimed that there were two aspects to art: spirit and technique. The younger generation in Israel should be free to learn all the techniques in the world! But the spirit was one, and that was the unique spirit of Israel of which, at the time of writing, Schonberg knew himself to be one of the rare prophets, if not the only one, in the area of art.

One should imagine that as Arnold Schonberg wrote these lines, on his working table next to this letter were the psalms he had recently written and for whose harsh accompanying sounds he was searching. In this Ani ma' amin, however, he struck a different chord: that of the fidelity of the Jewish people to its teachers, the renunciation of idols, the renewal of the Covenant between Israel and the Bible, a renewal which the creation of the State of Israel had graven in the granite of history. One senses in Schonberg the anger of Moses (with whom he had often identified himself) and his struggle to form a people in conformity with the ideal of the Law. Before the Land whose gates were now opening before him, he paused for a moment and took stock of the situation.

Schonberg's psalms spoke of the risks of prayer. Nothing whatsoever can compel God to answer: "And nevertheless I pray."

Schonberg's Ani ma' amin program spoke of the risks of the ideal. Nothing whatsoever can compel the real to correspond to the ideal. And nevertheless I see. . .

The two "and neverthelesses" came to an end on the same day. While the letter-program was still on its way to its recipients in Jerusalem, they received the following telegram from Los Angeles: "13 July 1951, Arnold Schonberg passed away."

Arnold Schonberg's teshuva finally came to its resting place: Mount Nebo.

Chapter 13

Kol Nidre serial
An upturned tree whose roots are in the heavens, the ba' al teshuva shakes with a movement that passes from the root to the top and, again, from the top to the root. Outstretched between time and eternity, between exile and the Land, between the source and the estuary, he gathers up in his dynamic the mass of contradictions and offers them up to the Unity.

On October 4, 1938, at the solemn moment of the first instants of Yom Kippur, the ba' al teshuva Arnold Schonberg achieved a unity between his life and art, as well as a unity, to which he had always aspired, between tradition and creativity. In one of the synagogues of Los Angeles, he himself directed the Kol Nidre with an intense fervor, which he communicated to the congregation. It was a climactic moment. In March of that year, Hitler-Amalek had carried out the Anschluss in Austria. The Nazis entered Vienna, where Schonberg was born, and Vienna gave itself up to the Nazis without resistance in a demoniacal delirium of Evil. In September, accords were signed in Munich where Schonberg had spent his adolescence. These accords, it was felt, would deliver up Czechoslovakia and Prague to the devil. The infernal circle was closing in around the Jews of Europe. Then, just as Beethoven had once sung his "Ode to Joy" in the midst of his suffering, so Schonberg, in his despair, celebrated his "Ode to Teshuva." On the basis of the traditional text and melody, he created a new Kol Nidre, giving it its place not in a concert hall, but in the synagogue.

Thus, in creating, on a traditional basis, a new Kol Nidre which he hoped would find its place not in the programs of concerts but in synagogues at the solemn moment of the first instants of Yom Kippur, Arnold Schonberg willingly divested himself of the garment in which art, academism, and culture had clothed him in order to return to the condition of a simple pay tan, an inspired liturgist, a poet of God, of whom there had been so many in the synagogues of the Middle Ages, a Levitical psalmist such as had been found within the walls of the Temple when it stood in Jerusalem.

This was the gesture of the creature divesting himself before the creator, of putting on the sargueness or kittel, the mortuary costume in which the congregants had clothed themselves, and which had made such a strong impression on Franz Rosenzweig when he entered the Berlin synagogue on the eve of Kol Nidre.

But this was also the gesture of the High Priest divesting himself for the Yom Kippur service in the Temple when it stood in Jerusalem. Throughout the entire year, the High Priest officiated in a magnificent ceremonial costume adorned with precious stones, gilding, bells, and pomegranates. On Yom Kippur, he entered the Holy of Holies in a white vestment without adornment similar to the kittel or sargueness which after the fall of the Temple each simple Jew was to put on, in some way substituting himself for the High Priest in his avodah. in a symbolic and vicarious service.

It was this vicarious role which was now assumed by Arnold Schonberg.

If I have not spoken so far of Kol Nidre in my account of Schonberg's work, it is because I wish to reserve my discussion of it for the end of this book, for here Schonberg was the representative of teshuva as such. He apprehended the two essential forms of it.

First, the form created by the "anti." The preparatory notes written by Schonberg in the summer of 1938 show that the Kol Nidre intended for Yom Kippur in October of that year resulted from the shocks of the Anschluss and the Sudetenland affair. The "four points" of the program of 1933 once more made their appearance. Once again, Schonberg dreamed of a form of Jewish politics strong enough to oppose on its own the force of the "anti." Arnold Schonberg's Kol Nidre was a reflection of the physical force of the Jewish people.

But it was also obviously a reflection of the force resulting from the "meta" - the "meta" which had been at work in Schonberg since his awakening to Judaism and to God. Arnold Schonberg's Kol Nidre was thus also the reflection of the moral and religious power of the Jewish community.

A Kol Nidre representing a synthesis. How could it have been otherwise?

Kol Nidre is indeed the most significant prayer of Jewish teshuva, since it begins the twenty-four hours of Yom Kippur in all the synagogues in the world, full to bursting point. Its archaic, hermetic Aramaic text seems to be hewn out of the rock of the incomprehensible, and yet every Jew accepts it as if it had been especially written for him, for him personally, for his return into the heart of the community even if it is only for these twenty-four hours, and even if, during the whole year, he was separated and alienated from it.

This text is accompanied by a melody-breathless, rhythmic, uneven-concerning which one may say what Heine said of the Passover Haggada: that it moves one to the depths of one's being. No Jew can resist its enchantment. This is no doubt because it originated with the Marranos, those clandestine returners whose heart was torn between public conversion to Christianity or to Islam and secret fidelity to Jewish existence. Torn between appearance and reality, this melody lays bare an abyss. It tears away the veil, snatches off the mask, restores the Jew to the naked truth, and this is what the mysterious words of Kol Nidre seek to express-namely, that no vow, no commitment, no oath, no wager can hold when one is face-to-face with God.

Arnold Schonberg's contribution to the Kol Nidre was twofold. Without exceeding the time span of twenty minutes which the traditional liturgy allows for this introduction to Yom Kippur, and without altering either the sub-stratum of the melody nor the purpose of the text, he pulverized the one-or rather, to use his own expression, he "vitriolized" it-and amplified the other by placing the tragedy of the Jewish soul within the drama of the divine cosmos.

For such had been the popularity of the melody of Kol Nidre that, before Schonberg, dozens of musicians, Jews and non-Jews, had detached it from its liturgical context of Yom Kippur in order to make it into a concert piece. The most famous adaptation, that of Max Bruch, a non-Jew, figured on the program of soirees where the violin was supposed to draw tears from the public, together with Chopin's Marche Funebre and Brahms's Slow Waltzes. For Schonberg, this was worse than sacreligious: it was "sentimentality." What he wanted to do in re-composing the melody of Kol Nidre was, he said, to "confer on this edict the dignity of a law."

"I think I succeeded in this," he was able to say with some pride. The success lay in his discovery of the mathematics underlying the traditional theme of Kol Nidre. This schema utilized the same notes in its upsurge and its regression. It was sufficient to combine this reciprocal movement of rising and faIling, faIling and rising, in order to suggest the dignity of the law of Returning, of teshuva.

The general intention of this law was further emphasized by a simple but poignant modification of the traditional rhythm. It begins very softly, increases in volume and ends very loudly, the whole of Kol Nidre being repeated at a corresponding level of musical intensity. Schonberg, however, gives the Kol Nidre only one hearing, and he begins with a burst of thunder and concludes very softly, with a thin drawn-out murmur. It is the brutal shock of a solitary person suddenly being taken hold of, which eases off into the modest intimacy of a dialogue. God first takes hold of man and then He talks to him.

If the musical treatment takes the form of a dialogue, that is because the text of Kol Nidre was transformed by SchOnberg into a dialogue. His version is a work for solo voice or cantor, choir, and orchestra. The cantor, who is the rabbi, begins his recitation with words recalling a legend of the Cabbala: that of the stars which were lost in the course of the creation. It is an amplification of the verse with which Kol Nidre begins in the liturgy of the synagogue: Or zarua la-tsaddik, light is sown for the righteous. But the Cabbala modifies this idea: Light is sown for the righteous, but also for the returner. As much as, or even more than the righteous, the ba' al teshuva is a tracer of the lost light. This light he not only restores to himself but to the whole universe. From the nothingness in which he had been in danger of losing himself, the ba' al teshuva brings the spark back to God. Thus, any¬one who refashions his own soul refashions the soul of the Universe.

What better conclusion could I have found to my book than the introduction of the ba' al teshuva Arnold Schonberg to the Kol Nidre of Jewish teshuva?

Rabbi: The Cabbala relates a legend. In the beginning, God said: 'Let there be light!' From infinite space a flame sprang up. God scattered this light into atoms. Myriad sparks were hidden in the universe, but not all of us can perceive them. The vain man who walks proudly will never notice them, but the modest and humble man whose eyes are lowered is able to see them. 'A light has been sown for the righteous.'

Bi-shivoh shel maloh u-vishivoh shel matoh.

In the name of God, we solemnly urge that every transgressor, even if unfaithful to our people out of fear or led astray by false doctrines of any kind, be liberated from his weakness or his greed. We invite him to unite himself with us in prayer tonight. A light has been sown for the righteous-a light has been sown for the ba' al teshuva.

A light has been sown for the ba' al teshuva.
Rabbi: We invite him to be one of us tonight.
Choir: Teshuva.
We make our souls anew. . . Kol Nidre . . .

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