In April 1948, Winfried Zillig, Schönberg’s master student in Berlin, performed the symphonic poem Pelleas and Melisande op. 5 with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. A live recording of the concert was copied onto records from audio tape and sent to Rockingham Avenue 116 as a greeting with sound from the Old World. Schönberg was impressed by the quality of the interpretation and shared his enthusiasm with others, including the US record company Capitol. One year after the Frankfurt performance, plans to publish Zillig’s live recording on this label became more concrete. Schönberg drafted an introductory text for the record jacket and even insisted on broadcasting an address in which he announced the record’s release on February 23, 1950. This address was pressed by Capitol on a non-commercial record and sent together with the Pelleas records as promotion material to various radio stations in the US.

A copy of this speech recording has survived in Schönberg’s Estate, but the record is damaged due to its age and his voice can only be heard in greatly reduced quality. By fortunate coincidence, a further – unharmed – copy of this recording has now been found in Chicago. Several years ago, a library affiliated with the Chicago Public Library sold off stocks of old, “unimportant” records. Among the 78 rpm records was a copy marked “Schoenberg Interview.” The buyer recently contacted us to learn out about the historical background of his discovery. He also sent us the recording via digital audio transfer, which allows us to enjoy Schönberg’s last surviving speech recording in outstanding quality.

We would like to thank Karl J. Palouček for this wonderful gift.

Listen to the recording

 

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