2 Mar 2016

Interrupted Cadences - Schoenberg

From Appointment, 7:00 pm on 2 March 2016

In 1915 Schoenberg's regiment suffered enormous losses on the Eastern Front. What if Schoenberg had been one of those casualties?

John Drummond explores critical moments in the history of Western music when things might well have turned out very differently.

Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg Photo: Commons

John Drummond decides to investigate what happened to Schoenberg at his turning point in the summer of 1916, and see what enabled him to escape the unhappy fate of so many Austrian soldiers at that time.

Arnold Schoenberg was born in Vienna in 1874, and so it was the Austrian Army that could call upon his military services. He reported for a medical examination in Vienna in May 1915, and was rejected, but by December of that year Austria’s military losses meant a change in the criteria: every more-or-less able-bodied man was needed. A second medical examination pronounced Schoenberg fit for duty, and he enlisted. He was assigned to the 'Imperial and Royal Hoch- und Deutschmeister Regiment No 4' and sent to basic training.

As an intelligent man in his forties with clear leadership qualities he was marked for officer training, so went on to undertake those courses at Bruck-an-der-Leitha, a small town near Vienna. He graduated as an officer in early June 1916, just as the Russian army began its massive attack in the Ukraine. His regiment was one of those in the front line, and by the end of the month both battalions had been broken, suffering a very high level of casualties and in need of reinforcements. 

Two regimental battalions are in Vienna: why not send one of them?  Somewhere in the War Ministry in early July 1916 a man was making that decision. Will Schoenberg be sent to the Ukrainian front?

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