New Yorker, August 26 & September 2, 1996
LETTER FROM LOS ANGELES Arnold Schoenberg’s music was daring, discordant, and enduringly unpopular. U.S.C. is a university famous for its football trophies and film school. Whoever thought the composer’s legacy belonged in a place like that?
BY FREDRIC DANNEN
SHORT, bald, quick-witted, and irritable, the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg judged people according to how they judged his music. Schoenberg settled in Los Angeles in 1934, four years before the Nazis annexed his homeland; in return for political asylum, and a warm climate that was gentle to his asthma, came a level of disregard for his work that he must have found excruciating. His music was seldom performed in southern California. The man who once had tutored Alban Berg, Anton Webern, and other prominent composers, found it necessary to give private lessons to writers of Hollywood film scores. (When one sought his guidance on an airplane scene, Schoenberg, in his thick Viennese accent, advised him, with characteristic sarcasm, to write music for “big bees.”)
At seventy, Schoenberg was forcibly retired from his teaching post at U.C.L.A., and awarded a pension of thirty-eight dollars a month—scarcely enough to support his wife, Gertrud, his German-born daughter, Nuria, and his two American-born sons, Ronald and Lawrence. Though his health was failing, he continued to teach privately until his death, in Los Angeles, in 1951.
“People always ask what it was like having a famous father,” Lawrence, fifty-five, a retired math teacher in the Pacific Palisades, says today. “My answer to that is, if fame is based on money or popularity, neither of which he had, then he wasn’t famous in Los Angeles.” Ronald, fifty-nine, a Los Angeles municipal judge, vividly recalls a time in his childhood when his family drove up to a highway fruit-juice stand in Santa Barbara, and, in Schoenberg’s honor, loudspeakers were blaring his early tone-poem “Verklärte Nacht” (Transfigured Night). The composer was thrilled—at least somebody in southern California knew who he was.
Without a doubt, Schoenberg could have been far more popular, and financially solvent, had he not been, for all his disagreeableness, a man of great intellectual courage. Though his early, post-Romantic music, inspired by Brahms and Wagner, brought him acclaim, he renounced that style of composing, he said, to write as “my destiny orders me.” Schoenberg believed that the prime unifying force in Western music for more than four hundred years—a tonal center, around which dissonance resolves into consonance—had run its course. By the early nineteen-twenties, he had devised an entirely new system of writing music, known as twelve-tone composition, in which there is no tonal center, and dissonance is “emancipated” from the need to resolve at all. Schoenberg thereby assured his place as one of the most important musical innovators of the century, but he also made certain that his music would not find a wide audience in his lifetime.
Gertrud Schoenberg proved to be as fiercely proud as her husband. When he died, she needed to borrow money for his funeral; nevertheless, she repeatedly turned down lucrative offers for his original manuscripts, instead making them available for free to scholars. Apart from his letters, which he’d given to the Library of Congress—remarkably feisty letters that show his penchant for a good fight—Schoenberg, it seemed, had held on to almost everything he’d ever owned. By the time Gertrud died, in 1967, she had deeply impressed upon her three children, who were now in their twenties and thirties, that their father’s legacy must always remain intact.
Within a few years, the children began seeking a sponsor to construct an Arnold Schoenberg Institute—an archive for the composer’s papers and artifacts; a space in which to hold concerts, lectures, and exhibitions centered around his work; and, frankly, a monument to his memory. The heirs entertained a number of serious bids, but ultimately agreed to donate their father’s materials to the University of Southern California, where Schoenberg had lectured for a year before moving on to U.C.L.A. The institute opened its doors on the U.S.C. campus in 1977.
Two decades later, it seems hard to understand why anyone ever thought the matchup of Schoenberg and U.S.C., a university famous for its football trophies and film school, would work. Members of the current university administration, none of whom were on hand when the institute was built, have made the startling discovery that Arnold Schoenberg is not good box office—that, as one official points out, “Not a lot of people will go to a Hollywood Bowl concert where the sole selection is Mr. Schoenberg’s music.” For years, U.S.C. has attempted to use the institute building to hold classes, lectures, and concerts utterly unrelated to Schoenberg, but last year the university insisted on the right to make such use a matter of policy.
The result has been a war of lawsuits, countersuits, and vituperation seldom equaled in the field of serious music, and a determination by the Schoenberg children to take back their father’s legacy and find it a new home—perhaps even in Berlin or Vienna, where Schoenberg had been persecuted as a Jew, but where his music is performed regularly, and admired. U.S.C. officials who knew little about Schoenberg’s twelve-tone method have at least learned something about his genes. “The personality of Arnold Schoenberg hangs over this whole thing,” Lloyd Armstrong, Jr., the provost of U.S.C., said recently. He sounded weary. During the rhetorical battle accompanying the legal skirmish, the heirs had sued him and two other university officials personally, for defamation.
THE ARNOLD Schoenberg Institute is a modern, cantilevered, two-story structure, situated near larger buildings named for Johnny Carson and George Lucas, and just adjacent to Heritage Hall, the athletic exhibition space from which the football jersey and 1968 Heisman trophy of the U.S.C. alumnus O.J. Simpson were stolen a few weeks after his homicide arrest. The institute holds the single largest collection of manuscripts of any major Twentieth-Century composer, if not any major composer, period. R. Wayne Shoaf, the institute’s archivist, counts about four hundred visitors per year, musicians and scholars who, when they describe the collection, tend to be effusive. “This is the legacy of one of the century’s seminal cultural figures, a man who changed the way we hear music,” says the pianist Michael Boriskin, who played a solo concert at the institute in 1992. “And that legacy is intact. Frankly, there are no other composers of Schoenberg’s level of influence of whom that can be said. Brahms’s manuscripts are in six different cities overseas; for Bartók, you have to go to three places.”
Indeed, apart from Schoenberg’s letters in the Library of Congress, and his expressionist paintings and drawings, which his heirs still own (the composer was an artist of surprising talent), the collection at U.S.C. has few gaps. There are literally tens of thousands of items, with an estimated combined value, for insurance purposes, of fifty-four million dollars. The archive, which is kept in a cold-storage vault, includes the original handwritten scores of a large number of Schoenberg’s compositions, such as the 1903 symphonic poem “Pelleas und Melisande,” and the unfinished opera “Moses und Aron,” composed between 1930 and 1932, and considered by many to be Schoenberg’s masterpiece. The opera’s libretto, which is also by Schoenberg—he was a prolific writer as well—is preserved in its original typescript, with layers of corrections, some of them sewn to the page on patches of cloth. Schoenberg saved programs of early performances of his works, and clippings of reviews from regional newspapers. His home library of books, many of them with his annotations, are in the archive. There are original sound recordings of his speaking voice, and of performances of his works that he supervised.
There is also, on the upper floor of the institute, a replica of Schoenberg’s Los Angeles study, complete with his piano, and a fake window looking out on an artist’s rendering of his front lawn. Schoenberg was among a large handful of important musical, literary, and artistic émigrés who settled in Los Angeles during the Second World War, but one of the few to be honored by his adopted city with a repository for his materials. Though Igor Stravinsky, for instance, lived just off the Sunset Strip, about twelve miles from Schoenberg, the cream of his manuscripts are at the Sacher Institute in Basel, Switzerland; Thomas Mann, meanwhile, lived in the Pacific Palisades, but his papers are also to be found in Switzerland, as well as at Yale University and the Library of Congress.
Schoenberg was on close terms with a number of his fellow-exiles, and the institute contains mementos of a few of them, including an autographed copy of Mann’s 1948 novel “Doctor Faustus”—a book that caused a scandal often mentioned as evidence of Schoenberg’s supposed paranoia. The novel’s protagonist, a composer who develops a revolutionary method of writing music with a twelve-tone scale, was obviously inspired by Schoenberg who, rather than feeling flattered, charged Mann with stealing his intellectual property. After Schoenberg took his accusation public, on the letters page of the Saturday Review of Literature, Mann agreed to add a note of acknowledgment to the novel; but he concluded that Schoenberg suffered from “delusions of persecution,” the result of “a life suspended between glorification and neglect.”
The description of Schoenberg’s life was an apt one. He was born in 1874 in the Jewish quarter of Vienna, the son of a shoe-store proprietor. At eight, he took up the violin, and began composing almost immediately; at twenty-three, his first publicly performed work, a string quartet, was greeted with enthusiasm. For the next quarter century, however, Schoenberg’s home town had difficulty keeping up with his artistic development, and his highly dissonant works were often jeered. It was not until Schoenberg’s fiftieth birthday that Vienna finally honored the composer with a festival of his music.
That same year he was married for a second time, to Gertrud Kolisch, the sister of a renowned violinist. (His first wife had died after a long illness; they had a daughter, whom Schoenberg outlived.) In 1925, Schoenberg was invited to direct the master class in composition at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin, one of the most prestigious teaching posts in music. He might have ended his days in the German city, but in 1933, the National Socialists came to power, and mandated that “Jewish influence” be eliminated from the academy.
After a brief stay in Paris, and a year of teaching at the small Malkin Conservatory in Boston, where he found the winter intolerable, Schoenberg moved to Los Angeles. He gave private lessons in music theory, lectured at U.S.C., and, in 1936, accepted a teaching post at U.C.L.A. That year, he settled in Brentwood, on North Rockingham Boulevard, down the block from Shirley Temple, in a house that was barely affordable on his teaching salary. Despite his age, and limited means, Schoenberg continued to have children. Nuria had been born in Berlin in 1932; Ronald was born in 1937; and Lawrence in 1941. By then, Schoenberg was sixty-seven, and had ten more years to live.
WHATEVER characteristics the three children may have inherited from their father, musical talent was unfortunately not among them. Lawrence, who is called Larry, recalls scratching at a violin as a child, and hearing his father’s anguished cry of “Falsch!”—wrong note—from upstairs. Larry has tousled hair, and is the most voluble and outwardly aggressive of the three children. He retired from teaching math at Pacific Palisades High School in 1995 to spend more time at the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, just as the discord started, and runs Belmont Publishing, the music publishing company for Schoenberg’s works, out of his house.
Ronald, an acronym for Arnold, is balding, about five foot three, a few inches shorter than Larry, and is considered the shyest of the three children. At fifteen, he was the top-seeded player for his age in the national tennis championships, but was defeated in the semi-finals; he went on to practice law, and became a municipal judge in 1979. He still lives in the North Rockingham house, nine doors down from O.J. Simpson, who brought him bad publicity—it was Judge Schoenberg, it turned out, who, in 1989, sentenced Simpson to probation and a small fine for beating his wife. (Comparing that controversy with the family battle against U.S.C., Ron says, “In terms of worry and loss of sleep, I can’t say which has been worse.”) Nuria lives in Venice, where she maintains an archive of the manuscripts of her late husband, the avant-garde Italian composer Luigi Nono, who died in 1990.
All three of the Schoenberg children recall their father’s sense of humor, but seem mostly to remember him as strict. “We grew up with the idea of ethics embedded in us,” Larry says. “Ethics, morality, and rules.” Nuria says that the day she enrolled at U.C.L.A., at seventeen, her father was celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday, and she was allowed to cut to the head of the enrollment line so that she would not miss his party. “He was furious with me,” she recalls. “He said, ‘You used my name to get an advantage!’”
The brothers both vividly remember the toys their father made them—such as a stop sign for a tricycle—out of cardboard, the silver foil from cigarette packages, and other household items. Though Schoenberg loved to work with his hands, his homemade objects, many of which are stored at the archive, also tell of his financial straits. (The archive even contains a box of his used razor blades, with the hopeful inscription, “In 2 to 3 years they will be good again.”) Larry remembers wearing hand-me-down pants that sagged to the ground. “We at times had the feeling that we were poor,” Ron says.
The feeling could only have intensified in 1944, when Schoenberg turned seventy and was forced to retire on his thirty-eight-dollar-a-month pension from U.C.L.A. He had spent eight years at the university, and expected full retirement benefits, in the European tradition, so that he could devote his last years to composing. “It was not honorable for a person like my father to get such a small pension,” Nuria says. “He was very upset at that. It kept him teaching privately for the rest of his life, and not finishing his compositions.” After a pause, she adds, “But I think now I’m sounding bitter, and that’s not the right flavor. My father was extremely positive.”
IN ANY CASE, if Schoenberg had naively trusted U.C.L.A. to take care of him, his children were not about to donate his materials to a university without a rigorous contract. The agreement to create the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, largely drafted by Ronald in the early seventies, called for a seven-person advisory board, of which the heirs would make up three members. The siblings have never appeared to disagree among themselves about how they wanted the institute used, or lacked for suggestions.
The contract was initially drafted for the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, which had bid enthusiastically for the Schoenberg legacy, but shortly before it was to be signed, the dean of performing arts at U.S.C., a man named Grant Beglarian, intervened. Beglarian was able to persuade U.S.C., with some initial financial help from U.C.L.A. and two other local colleges, to sponsor construction of the institute. The Schoenbergs were thrilled to be able to keep their father’s materials in Los Angeles, and equally pleased that U.S.C. planned to house the legacy in its own new structure.
The papers were signed by U.S.C.‘s vice-president, on December 11, 1973, with all their tough terms intact. U.S.C. would be given reasonable opportunity to cure breaches of the contract, but if it failed to do so, the heirs had an ultimate remedy—the right to repossess their entire donation, and have it moved elsewhere at U.S.C.‘s expense. It did not take the university long to discover that the Schoenbergs intended to stand by their rights. When construction of the institute building fell behind schedule, they cited U.S.C. for breach for what was later calculated to be the first of six times, and demanded a written progress report every two weeks.
In the meantime, the Schoenbergs helped secure the election of the institute’s first director, Leonard Stein, their father’s former teaching assistant, and a noted pianist. Stein had watched the children grow up—he’d given them piano lessons and taken them to ballgames—and considered himself a family friend. Larry thought so, too. “Friends are people you can argue with,” he says.
They argued often. Stein, now a spry man of eighty with a white mustache, believes that Schoenberg’s widow, Gertrud, even more than the composer himself, imbued the children with the conviction that “They didn’t treat Schoenberg right, and we’ll show them.” Stein was more pragmatic; as director of the institute, he was a salaried U.S.C. employee, and, much to the family’s dismay, he’d concluded that “you can’t fight with the organization that you’re a part of. This is academic life.”
As director, Stein put his emphasis on use of the institute’s two-hundred-and-twenty-nine seat recital hall. He programmed lectures, master classes, and about fifty concerts a year, by an impressive array of musicians, including the Kronos Quartet, the sopranos Marni Nixon and Lucy Shelton, and the pianists Charles Rosen and Richard Goode. Schoenberg’s music was featured about fifteen per cent of the time, and the works of other Twentieth Century composers made up much of the difference. This arrangement might well have pleased Schoenberg, who, in 1918 helped found a chamber music society in Vienna to champion contemporary music; but it did not appear to please the heirs. “Some of Leonard’s concerts were poorly attended and seemed kind of useless,” Nuria says today.
Even worse from the heirs’ perspective, Stein permitted the university to use the recital space for its own functions, lectures, and concerts, which invariably had nothing to do with Schoenberg. One evening in 1984, Larry stopped by the institute and found that the university, without Stein’s knowledge, was holding a jazz concert there. “Kids were drinking and smoking pot,” Larry recalls. “I said, ‘This is insane.’”
Before long, the heirs were openly feuding with the university. On July 15, 1984, Ron Schoenberg wrote a furious letter to the then-provost, Cornelius J. Pings, lambasting him for having the “audacity” to ask the family to trust Stein, who had “acquiesced in and even tried to justify the misuses” of the institute building. Six months later, Pings and Ron Schoenberg jointly signed a codicil to the original 1973 contract, reaffirming that “events having no demonstrable connection to the purposes of the ASI”—the Arnold Schoenberg Institute—“shall not occur in the building.”
The Schoenbergs had won that round, but remained wary of the university; and when Stein announced in 1991 that he would retire the following year, they sought to replace him with a person more of their own temperament, a fighter, who would not give in easily to the U.S.C. bureaucracy. The unfortunate result might have been foretold—the man the family successfully endorsed, a Brooklyn-born violinist and conductor named Paul Zukofsky, was a fighter, all right, but in the end he was fighting with the Schoenbergs, and siding with the university. Stein, who had opposed Zukofsky’s appointment, declines to comment on him, apart from calling him “a first-class fiddler”; but he says, laughing, “The Schoenbergs and I are now on the very best terms we’ve ever been.”
Larry Schoenberg says he cannot discuss Zukofsky without becoming “emotional” and “filled with bitterness,” but he agrees that the heirs all pushed strongly for his appointment as director. “I’m not going to deny that,” he says. “After Leonard, we really wanted to get someone who could stand up to the university. If you listened to what Zukofsky said he was going to do, you’d have wanted him, too. He told us, ‘I do not compromise. I have ideals, and I stick to them.’ We said, ‘That’s great! That’s exactly how our father was.’”
Zukofsky, who became director in January, 1992, now says, “It apparently never occurred to the Schoenbergs that we could differ.” He, too, had a celebrated father, the late poet Louis Zukofsky, who immortalized his only child in a novel, “Little,” about a coddled violin prodigy. Zukofsky is balding, with a broad face and wire-rim glasses; he is an engaging conversationalist who peppers his speech with Yiddish and profanity, as well as name-dropping references to composers who have written violin music for him. He drives a Lincoln Town Car with a phone, but makes no secret of his loathing for Los Angeles—“I’m like a duck out of water here,” he says.
Though Zukofsky previously ran the chamber music department at the Juilliard School in New York—a job that he says paid poorly compared with his post at U.S.C.—he has left the concert hall at the institute almost unused. Instead, he has put most of his concentration on the institute’s scholarly, biannual journal, which he edits mainly from home. The staff does not mind his absence. “We’re supposed to be a public-service institution, but Paul doesn’t like people,” says Marilyn McCoy, the assistant archivist. “He’ll just start screaming at you without any warning.”
Zukofsky claims not to know what caused a rift between him and the Schoenbergs—“It was pretty damned sudden,” he says—but correspondence unearthed in the course of litigation shows that by early 1994 he had lost patience with the family. In March of that year, he described the heirs in an internal memo as “an irritant that one wishes would go away.” The family claims that, apart from editing the journal, Zukofsky did little or no work, and wanted to keep the heirs away so that they could not expose him to the university. (He denies this.)
In late November, 1994, Zukofsky accidentally overheard Nuria discuss plans to get rid of him; from that point forward, he and the Schoenbergs were at war. A week later, he wrote a memo to Lynn Sipe, the acting director of the university library, which had been given oversight of the institute. In it, he complained that the heirs had come to view the institute as practically “their third garage,” and blamed U.S.C for giving in to the Schoenbergs every time “they throw a tantrum.” He urged the university to toughen its policy toward the family, adding, “the Schoenbergs must be deacidified.”
Zukofsky’s advice seems to found a receptive audience. Perhaps the university had at long last become fed up with the Schoenbergs, but it also appears that officials no longer held the institute in high esteem. The university’s current provost, Lloyd Armstrong, states flatly that a time of shrinking financial resources, an institute for Schoenberg does not justify its annual budget of about three hundred thousand dollars. Schoenberg, he says, is “an interesting academic study,” but, unfortunately, his music is not terribly popular. “I think it’s true that if we had an institute for Stravinsky—someone whose music is played in every concert season of the Los Angeles Philharmonic—it would attract more attention to the campus, and provide more bang for the buck,” he adds.
Armstrong met personally with the Schoenberg brothers in February, 1995, after the family had filed yet another notice of breach—this time on the ground that the advisory board had failed to convene for over a year. The meeting, he says, did not go well. The provost insisted that the time had come for the contract between the university and family to be rewritten, so that, among other things, the school of music, which desperately lacked performance space, could have access to the building’s recital hall. “Basically, their position was there was nothing they wanted to change, that the institute needed to be dedicated totally to their father’s memory, and that we should simply work harder to uphold the agreement,” he says.
A few weeks later, Armstrong informed the heirs in a letter that they were free to exercise their contractual right to take back their father’s collection and find it a new home. “The notice of breach was always a kind of threat, but this time the university said, ‘So what?’” Leonard Stein says. “I think the Schoenbergs were absolutely shocked.”
THEY soon turned litigious. In July, 1995, the Schoenbergs sued the university for breach—an amended complaint was filed two months later—in order to keep U.S.C. from using the institute building until its contents had been transferred elsewhere. The lawyer for the family was Ronald’s son, E. Randol Schoenberg, who is now twenty-nine, and is called Randy. (Randol is another acronym for Arnold.) Randy, an associate at Katten Muchin & Zavis, got his law degree from U.S.C., and says of the university, “I’ll bet they rue the day they let me in the door.” Robert Lane, the general counsel for U.S.C., calls Randy “a very good lawyer,” but adds, “I think it’s very difficult to represent your parents and not be emotional.”
The university may have been less emotionally involved in the dispute, but its counteroffensive against the Schoenbergs won sympathy for them, even from people who had considered them difficult. Either as a public relations ploy, or because university officials actually believed it, officials repeatedly accused the Schoenbergs of using their copyright ownership of their father’s writings to frustrate scholarly publication. In a deposition, Wayne Shoaf, the archivist since 1987, testified that this had never occurred to his knowledge; yet officials continued to insist the Schoenbergs had at least interfered with an English translation of one of their father’s writings. The translator, Moshe Lazar, says, however, that the family actually provided welcome assistance. As recently as last month, Scott Bice, the dean of the U.S.C. law school, repeated the charge of academic interference in an interview, and cited Paul Zukofsky as his principal source, adding, “I’ve never known him to shade the truth.”
U.S.C. lost even more of its supporters last March, when it filed a cross-complaint against the Schoenbergs, alleging, under an untested interpretation of the tax code, that the university was entitled to all of the composer’s performance royalties in the twenty-three years since the family had donated his manuscripts. “Everybody knows that when you donate a manuscript, you don’t give up the copyright,” Randy says. “It’s crazy. But we figured, if they’re going to sue us for everything we own, then all bets are off.”
Infuriated, the Schoenbergs filed their own cross-complaint, against the university, Lloyd Armstrong, Paul Zukofsky, and the head librarian Lynn Sipe, for allegedly defaming them by spreading the word that they had interfered with academic scholarship. (There was an additional charge against Zukofsky for allegedly destroying letters that had been subpoenaed.) U.S.C., in turn, stated that it decided not to relinquish some thousands of Schoenberg-related materials that had been donated to the institute by non-family members. The battle lines were drawn.
By early last month, Robert Lane, the university’s general counsel, estimated that the dispute had cost the school close to a million dollars. Larry, meanwhile, put the cost to the family at about two hundred thousand—Randy’s law firm billed the Schoenbergs at his full fee of one-eighty-five an hour—and added, “I suppose the university thinks they can bleed us to death. But I don’t care how much it costs. This is our life, our heritage. The university can’t seem to understand that.”
The message had finally sunk in, however. “This case is a jihad for the Schoenbergs—they come at you behind every corner and around every turn,” Scott Edelman, U.S.C.‘s outside counsel, said early last month. The school had had enough. On July 11th, both sides reached a settlement, and all charges were dropped. The university will return the entire collection to the Schoenbergs, including all materials donated by others, give them until December 31, 1998, to remove everything, maintain the institute in the meantime with a full staff of three—not including Paul Zukofsky, who is expected to step down—and pay a quarter million dollars toward moving costs. The Schoenbergs will allow U.S.C. immediate access to the recital hall.
WHILE the settlement is a tremendous relief to the Schoenbergs—“I have cramps in my cheeks from smiling,” Ron says—the heirs are frankly worried about finding a suitable new location for the archive. Scholars and musicians have cause to be worried as well. Construction of a new building specifically designed for the collection, like the one at U.S.C., is less economically feasible today than it was in the seventies. (The heirs say they will settle for no less than an entirely separate wing of a building, with what Ron calls “a monumental or museum-like quality.”) Moreover, the building at U.S.C. has been remarkably accessible—in most cases, without an appointment. Access to other composers’ archives, particularly in Europe, tends to be more restrictive.
The Schoenbergs appear inclined toward a European home for their father’s materials, however. “In Europe, we haven’t had to explain who Arnold Schoenberg is,” Ron says. He notes that “Moses und Aron,” part of the standard repertory at the Vienna Opera, is still rarely performed in the United States, to cite just one of Schoenberg’s compositions; and he suggests that Provost Armstrong’s comment about “bang for the buck” is an illustration of America’s failure to honor serious music and high culture. (Schoenberg himself once complained of the United States that “No serious composer in this country is capable of living from his art.”) The heirs are fond of pointing out that the Michelin Guide to Los Angeles cites U.S.C. for the Schoenberg institute, yet makes no mention at all of the Trojan football stadium.
At the moment, the family is negotiating seriously with three potential donees in Europe: the Akademie Der Kunst in Berlin, the city of Vienna, and the Gmeente Museum in the Hague. Some people have questioned whether the current appreciation for Schoenberg’s music in the first two cities outweighs the persecution the composer experienced there as a Jew. Claudio Spies, professor emeritus of music at Princeton, and an estranged family friend of the Schoenbergs, calls it a “monstrous treachery” for them to consider Berlin or Vienna, and suggests that the children, who were brought up Roman Catholic like their mother, are not sensitive to the issue of anti-Semitism. Ron disputes this, but says, “If people want to make amends, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be given the opportunity.”
Meanwhile, negotiations with a number of American institutions have stalled, either because of lack of funds, or because the Schoenbergs were perceived by them as too demanding and difficult, or because the heirs are right that the United States undervalues its high art. At present, only the Mannes School of Music in New York remains as a serious contender to keep the Schoenberg legacy from leaving the United States. Michael Boriskin, the pianist, acting as an adviser to the family, says, “It would be a great cultural blow for the United States to lose this archive. Even if the United States doesn’t realize it.”♦