Schoenberg Center

Schoenberg Center

Although I had intended to get back to the Schoenberg Center much sooner, in my last couple of working weeks in Vienna I finally made contact with the archivist there, Theresa Muxeneder and she welcomed me with great hospitality! A great deal of this museum’s holdings have been digitized and are now available online or by request to the archivists, so it’s a real treasure trove for researchers. She and her colleague Eike Feß encouraged me in my idea to do research on Freud’s Moses and Schoenberg’s Moses. (I wouldn’t be the first – Rabbi Yerushalmi wrote a major book on the subject). But with my dissertation work on ‘Moses und Aron’ over 30 years ago and my current research on Freud and religion, I want to explore whether there might be some new things to say! My interest in that opera was prompted especially because of its religious meaning – both personal and cultural. It was written around 1933-34 when Schoenberg fled the Nazis and emigrated to the Los Angeles via Paris and New York, and formally re-entered the Jewish community after having converted to Protestantism as a young man. That story has many parallels with Freud’s late-life obsession with Moses, and his working on “Moses und Monotheismus” before and after the time of his own emigration to London in 1938.

1-20 Schoenberg center timeline exhibit

The Schoenberg Center is housed in another historisch style building just off the Schwarzenbergplatz, whose main tenant is Lukoil. The current exhibit is a timeline of Schoenberg’s life and works, with audio stations along the way, and many good photographic reproductions.
1-20 Schoenberg with daughter Nuria just after emigration
Schoenberg with his daughter Nuria just after emigration

1-20 Moses und Aron sketches
A reproduction of one of the early sketch fragments for Schoenberg’s opera ‘Moses und Aron’ (a little like seeing an old friend!)

Therese wrote a fine paper on the ethics (and politics) of repatriating the entire Schoenberg archive from Los Angeles (where I worked on it) back to Vienna. This move involved both a lawsuit on the part of Schoenberg’s heirs (still living), and a major fundraising effort. Paradoxically, Schoenberg’s Los Angeles study is now recreated with many original artifacts behind a glass wall in this Vienna location.
1-20 Schoenberg's LA study

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About pcooperwhite

Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology and Religion, Union Theological Seminary, New York NY
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