Georg Schönberg, Mödling 1923 @ Arnold Schönberg Center

“It is astonishing: Görgi has entered the Akademie and is learning: ... the horn; also the piano, as well as (with Kolisch) the violin privately. He is presently very interested and proficient.”

A letter dated October 26, 1922 to his brother-in-law Alexander Zemlinsky contains some good news from Arnold Schönberg: his son Georg (Görgi, born 1906) had been accepted as a student by the Academy of Music in Vienna. Initially, he only attended instrumental lessons, with supplementary related subjects added in the following year.

Schönberg was able to secure distinguished expert Prof. Karl Stiegler as his son’s teacher: “Born in 1876 as the son of an archivist for Vienna’s Court Opera, at the early age of thirteen he entered the Conservatoire of the Society of Friends of Music [Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde] in Vienna. Ten years later the directors of the most outstanding artistic institutions across Europe endeavored to attract this young musician – who was already highly renowned even then – to their establishments, and soon he joined Vienna’s Court Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic, and was also appointed as director of hunting music in Lainz. Despite foreign lands beckoning with appealing proposals, he devoted unwavering loyalty to this sphere of activity as a genuine Austrian citizen who loved his homeland. […] There were countless events of an artistic, social or charitable nature which the unspeakably beautiful sound of his horn raised to a higher level, whether played alone or together with other artists, in concert halls, in houses of worship, or out in the woods and fields.” (Obituary: Wiener Allgemeine Forst- und Jagdzeitung, June 17, 1932, p. 148)

The process of purchasing an instrument for Georg is explained in a letter from Alban Berg to his wife Helene dated September 22, 1922: “Then off I went with Schönberg to buy a hunting horn for Görgi; it is his birthday today and he wants to and should become an orchestral musician on this instrument (horn) (which is a very good idea). After we had visited all the horn makers in Vienna, Schönberg finally decided to purchase a horn that cost one million, eight hundred thousand kronen.”

Several documents handwritten by Schönberg and sent to Karl Stiegler or the Akademie have survived, and we have been able to purchase one of these for our Archive. Writing on the back of a calling card in January 1924, Schönberg apologizes for his son’s absence from his horn lesson:

“Dear Herr Professor,
Please would you kindly give your permission for my son to miss his lesson today? He would like to take part in a rehearsal.
Your most devoted Arnold Schönberg”

Georg Schönberg’s ambitions to become a professional horn player were less than fervent. In a text for a cantata entitled “Mein Lebenslauf” (Mödling, c. 1960) he looks back on fruitless years as an adolescent when there was little room for making his own plans for the future. “After completing high school, I was forced against my will to attend the music academy. […] We would both survive it, the Akademie and I.”