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Despite the burgeoning literature on Arnold Schoenberg, the performance of his music has received comparatively little scholarly attention. The principal contribution in this area, a compendium of essays (Die Lehre von der musikalischen Aufführung in der Wiener Schule: Verhandlungen des Internationalen Colloquiums Wien 1995, ed. Markus Grassl and Reinhard Kapp [Vienna: Böhlau, 2002]), has recently been supplemented with articles by Roland Jackson ("Schoenberg as Performer of his own Music," Journal of Musicological Research 24, no. 1 [January–March 2005]: 49–69) and Avior Byron ("The Test Pressings of Schoenberg Conducting Pierrot lunaire: Sprechstimme Reconsidered," Music Theory Online 12, no. 1 [February 2006]; http://mto.societymusictheory.org/issues/mto.06.12.1.byron.html, accessed 21 February 2007). Jean-Jacques Dünki's study of Schoenberg's piano music, the latest in the newly revived series entitled "Publikationen der Internationalen Schönberg-Gesellschaft" (now edited by Matthias Schmidt), is the first published monograph devoted exclusively to the topic of Schoenberg performance practice. His scholarly work notwithstanding (Der Grad der Bewegung: Tempovorstellungen und -konzepte in Komposition und Interpretation 1900–1950, ed. Jean-Jacques Dünki, Anton Haefeli and Regula Rapp [Bern: Peter Lang, 1998]), it is made clear from the outset, both in Rudolf Stephan's preface and in Dünki's own introduction, that his approach is that of a performer: having already released recordings of piano music by Berg and Webern, the book includes a compact disc containing performances of all of Schoenberg's completed works for piano.
As indicated by the title, the author considers performance indications ("Vortragszeichen") the "key to interpretation and expression" (p. 9). For Dünki, such indications or signs embrace all aspects of notation —pitch, duration, dynamics, articulation, phrasing, rests, etc.—and demand a contextual reading: for instance, he notes that while an accent may be considered in isolation, it is through its interaction with all other performance indications that it acquires its complete effect (p. 13). Thus, according to Dünki, the appropriate interpretation entails close reading of the score. This is not to suggest, however, that one is subject to the text, but rather that the text is central to the interpretation: he posits that "the score is like a landscape, in which the performance indications represent signposts" and that it is therefore incumbent on the interpreter to choose his/her own path (p. 16). Dünki casts his net widely to explore these interpretative issues and advocates the study of a variety of sources: musical scores and compositional sketches; writings such as textbooks, essays, notes, and letters; recordings; and, in contrast to much current scholarship, sources emanating from members of the Viennese School—writings, comments, reports of Schoenberg's teachings and performances, and, most importantly, performances of his music, some of which were supervised by the composer.
Schönbergs Zeichen divides into four chapters, each of which is subdivided into several short sections. The first is loosely entitled "key concepts" ("Schlüsselbegriffe"), and contains a presentation of, and a brief commentary on topics as diverse as Schoenberg, (performance) indication and symbol, reading and understanding, interpretation and performance, "modern classics" ("Klassiker der Moderne"), innovation and tradition, the Viennese School, and written and oral records. Although some of the earlier topics are treated in a generalized way—the section on Schoenberg begins somewhat curiously with a substantial citation from the entry in the 1999 edition of Meyers Großes Taschenlexikon (p. 12)—and rely primarily on exposition, the final portion of the chapter, devoted to the composer's comments on markings, notation and performance, takes a different stance, providing a valuable inventory of Schoenberg's writings on these and related topics together with the numbers under which they are cataloged at the Arnold Schoenberg Center Private Foundation in Vienna.
The second chapter is similarly broad in its choice of topics. Dünki begins by considering [End Page 864] Schoenberg's view of a number of...