On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Arnold Schönberg’s death, his testaments from the years 1915–1950 that have survived in the Estate have now been made available in our image archive in a digitized and transcribed form. Predominantly formulated without any legal assistance, the testaments include artistic insights besides the habitual inheritance aspects.

Above all, Schönberg focuses on the ideal group of persons who would take decisions on posthumous works and new editions.

In a document dated January 30, 1911 Schönberg particularly describes the completion of the “Gurre-Lieder,” which were still unfinished at the time (by Alexander Zemlinsky or Anton Webern), and “Harmonielehre” (by Alban Berg together with Webern, Karl Linke and Heinrich Jalowetz).

In a testament dated November 21, 1915 the composer gives his first wife Mathilde, née Zemlinsky, responsibility for handling his artistic legacy. The publication of as yet unreleased works is left to her discretion, as are “additions, deletions and the correction of errors” made in personal scores. By contrast, restrictions are formulated for correspondence, photographs and other non-artistic “materials.” There is a specific distribution of responsibilities. Alexander Zemlinsky and Anton Webern were to watch over the correction of “rhythmic oversights,” Marie Pappenheim was given the task of selecting letters for publication purposes. However, he commented: “It seems that one is exposed to the indelicacy of historians and other otiose snoopers. Nevertheless, I would not want to erase the traces of the paths and wrong turns that led to my works, as Brahms did.”

In later testaments, performers were to be assigned to work on his Estate. Schönberg had the greatest confidence in his brother-in-law, the violinist Rudolf Kolisch: “Rudi probably understands my music the best of anyone.” (October 1, 1950)

On July 13, 1951 Arnold Schönberg died at his house in Californian exile. Besides the house on Rockingham Avenue in the district of Brentwood Park, his legacy included other assets that were listed in a notarial directory as part of the Estate documents. Schönberg’s second wife Gertrud, née Kolisch, was named by her husband as sole heiress, also with the main responsibility for his artistic legacy. The testament dated October 1, 1950 includes the names of people specified as experts for editions of unpublished compositions and writings: Josef Polnauer, Josef Rufer, Erwin Stein, Erwin Ratz, Rudolf Kolisch, Roberto Gerhard, Karl Rankl and also Georg Schönberg. Any interaction with the materials by Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno was “expressly forbidden.”

Link: Image archive –  Schönberg’s testaments