Please find enclosed some of the reviews published to date. You will observe that besides the utmost goodwill shown towards your creative work, opposition is still widespread.” (Emil Gutmann concert bureau to Arnold Schönberg, October 11, 1912)

One week before the premiere of Arnold Schönberg’s “Pierrot lunaire” op. 21 (October 16, 1912) under the baton of the composer, a dress rehearsal of the melodrama cycle was held in Berlin’s Choralionsaal, with the guests receiving tickets by invitation only. With a capacity audience of 450 people, the hall in Bellevuestraße was filled for the preview by more than just the composer’s sympathizers and Berlin residents with a liking for new works who wanted to gain an initial impression of the music by the notorious Vienna composer. In addition, Schönberg’s agent steered public attention using a targeted PR campaign, by predominantly awarding the dress rehearsal tickets to representatives of the press. The strategy achieved its desired effect. Even before the premiere, a dazzling kaleidoscope of opinions erupted in feuilletons and would blend seamlessly with the reception of Schönberg’s “scandal concerts” in Vienna.

Schönberg’s concert agency was commissioned with collecting all the press reports on Schönberg/Pierrot, as was the newspaper service “Zeitungsnachrichten-Bureau Adolf Schustermann” in Berlin.

The reviews sent to the composer include phrases that display ambitious endeavors to understand Schönberg’s unprecedented tonal language. The report in the influential journal “Signale für die musikalische Welt” took a visionary approach:

Herr Schönberg is a musical spiritist. As attested at least by his perpetually enraged followers, he writes music for future millennia when the sun will be left hanging in the sky glowing red like a night lantern, and our great-great grandchildren will ice-skate on the equator and dance waltzes to quarter-tones in Greenland’s ballrooms.” (October 23, 1912)

In Vienna the “Observer” provided the composer with systematic press review services. The newspaper clippings firm (with offices in Berlin, Chicago, Geneva, London, New York, Paris, Rome and Stockholm) was instructed by Schönberg to collect reviews of his Viennese premieres and forward them to him.

Arnold Schönberg’s personal press archive is preserved for the most part in the archives at the Schönberg Center in Vienna. A small yet no less significant collection of around 270 newspaper clippings was moved to the Library of Congress together with the composer’s correspondence comprising roughly 33,000 pages of letters following his death. The press reviews stored in Washington focus primarily on the premieres of “Transfigured night” op. 4 (WP 1902), “Pierrot lunaire” op. 21 (WP 1912) and “Gurre-Lieder” (WP 1913).

Digital copies of these reviews, which are worth reading for their relevance in cultural history, have now been integrated into the database of printed publications (library database) at the Arnold Schönberg Center. This can be accessed using the following link: Library of Congress.

Project realization: Lukas Seifried