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  • The Doctor Faustus Dossier: Arnold Schoenberg, Thomas Mann and their Contemporaries, 1930–1951 ed. by E. Randol Schoenberg
  • Mark Berry
The Doctor Faustus Dossier: Arnold Schoenberg, Thomas Mann and their Contemporaries, 1930–1951. Ed. by E. Randol Schoenberg. Pp. xxi + 349. California Studies in 20th-Century Music. (University of California Press, Oakland, Calif., 2018. £27. ISBN 978-0-520-29683-1.)

Turn to any but the first, German edition of Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus and you will find a postscript acknowledgement that it 'does not seem supererogatory to inform the reader that the form of musical composition delineated in Chapter XXII, known as the twelve-tone or row system, is in truth the intellectual property of a contemporary composer and theoretician, Arnold Schoenberg', and that 'passages of this book that deal with musical theory are indebted in numerous details to Schoenberg's Harmonielehre'. It and the novel itself form the centrepiece of the controversy between Schoenberg and Mann over the latter's portrayal of his fictional composer, Adrian Leverkühn, and his works, assisted and mediated by Theodor Adorno. That controversy is documented more fully in this collection than had previously been the case in English. (It does not, of course, include the entire novel, though it does include the chapter in question.)

The dossier opens in 1930, Schoenberg writing out of the blue (p. 31) from Berlin to Mann to ask him to sign a petition in support of Schoenberg's staunch anti-ornamentalist comrade-in-arms, Adolf Loos, on the architect's sixtieth birthday, Mann politely declining (p. 33) on the basis of never having 'come into contact with Adolf Loos, his work, his writings or in person'. The mention Mann makes of 'the divisive force within which a political boundary, namely that between Austria and Germany, still exerts even today' is worth noting: a prelude, if an inexact one, to intellectual and cultural boundaries that persist throughout. This principal documentary section—correspondence, diary entries, dedications (e.g. a signed copy of The Magic Mountain and the canon Schoenberg wrote for Mann's seventieth birthday), and commentary from others—closes in October 1951, a few months after Schoenberg's death. Mann thanks Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt for having sent a copy of his Schoenberg biography, owning (p. 215) that he had 'merely a theoretical understanding of the new music ... but can't really enjoy or love it. I have openly stated that my musical home is basically the triad world of the Ring', the 'triad world' a phrase remembered (by us, at least) from a 1944 diary entry (p. 73).

Following that close of correspondence, we proceed to further reading from Richard Hoffmann and Bernhold Schmid—essentially, earlier accounts of the narrative—and then to appendices containing relevant material from Schoenberg, Mann, and Adorno. Such selections can never, by their very nature, be complete. How does one decide what has bearing upon such a controversy, when all will approach it differently? We are confronted with the perennial problems of historical and other narrative writing: what to include and what not, which connections to draw and to imply, and which not. Choices made are, however, judicious—and much is left to us.

As E. Randol Schoenberg, Arnold's grandson, points out in his foreword, composer and novelist were not close friends; rather they met occasionally, for instance at the salons—this was as traditionally gendered an environment as Francis Joseph's Vienna—of Alma Mahler-Werfel or the actress and Hollywood screenwriter Salka Viertel (sister of Eduard Steuermann, Schoenberg pupil and advocate). Circles of friendship, collaboration, and acquaintance were as complex as they had been in the 'Vienna 1900' of Schoenberg's youth and early maturity. Mann and Schoenberg knew and respected each other, met from time to time as would be expected, but little more than that in most respects. Randol Schoenberg's excellent notes—clear, well-informed, and plentiful—are there to assist, should you wish or need, and will surely succeed in that.

In between those twin pillars of Loos tribute and Stuckenschmidt acknowledgement, we witness Mann troubled by Schoenberg's Four-Point Program for Jewry, whose 'overall intellectual [End Page 570] stance ... definitely...


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