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Avior Byron will present a paper 'Huberman as Beethoven' in the 2010 Israel Musicology Conference.   

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Avior Byron

My name is Avior Byron and I am a musicologist, blogger and composer. I write books, articles and a blog about music, performance, research, and theory. Read more at my about page

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Arnold Schoenberg as a painter

This video shows some of the paintings of Arnold Schoenberg. Schoenberg painted self portraits, portraits of other people (some very famous such as Mahler), caricatures, nature, etc. I found especially impressive the paintings of “gazes” and some of the portraits. The video is very good: the choice of paintings, the way some of the paintings are presented side by side with photos of people, and the quotations by Schoenberg and others. The Arnold Schoenberg Center recently made a catalogue of Schoenberg’s paintings which can be obtained via their website


When I used to be a student in the Tel-Aviv University, Leon Schidlowsky said that Schoenberg was a bad painter. Looking at this video I feel far from this opinion. What is clear to me is that these paintings a extremely valuable for anyone who wishes to understand the period and cultural surroundings of Schoenberg.  

In 1921 Schoenberg drew two caricatures of performers in embarrassing Positions (you can see them in the video). In one you can see the pianist’s body twisting in an absurd manner while playing the piano. The pianist is smiling with closed eyes while the head is in a position reaching upwards. Note that the pianist is playing without a score. It seems as if Schoenberg is mocking exaggerated romantic expressive movements, which he might  have seen as belonging to a past era.

In the other caricature Schoenberg drew a pianist in an opposite manner: inactive, sitting loosely on the piano chair and staring at the keyboard. The performer, who sits like a sack of potatoes while starring at the score, seems musically impotent. One might suspect that the lines that Schoenberg drew near the legs of the pianist imply an obscene gesture. In this period Schoenberg felt threatened by the possibility that his will would be overridden by performers expressing themselves.

On the other hand, Schoenberg wrote elsewhere that the interpretation of the performer is extremely important. After he immigrated to USA he wrote several documents that show an increasing awareness to the importance of performers as creative artists.  

Schoenberg had a complex and at times contradictory attitude towards performers and performance. In the book I am currently writing I analyze these contradicting aspects.

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