Inspired by Arnold Schönberg’s 150th birthday, which is currently being celebrated worldwide, the new exhibition at the mdw’s Exilarte Center sheds light on the social and cultural milieu inhabited by the Second Viennese School’s founder. Particular attention is paid to both Alexander Zemlinsky—who taught Schönberg and introduced him to Vienna’s musical circles—and Schönberg’s pupil and eventual assistant Richard Hoffmann, whose legacy recently became part of the Archive of the Exilarte Center. These three personalities, their professional, personal, and musical connections with one another, and their fates during National Socialist rule are introduced with reference to documents from their lives, photographs, and musical manuscripts.

They and countless other early-20th-century free spirits from the realms of music, literature, fine art, and architecture as well as wealthy connoisseurs and patrons of the arts used to congregate for artistic exchange and exuberant parties in Vienna’s 19th district—one of the city’s posher areas even back then—at the artist’s colony planned by Josef Hoffmann. Most of them were of Jewish descent and suffered persecution under the Nazis later on. While many managed to emigrate, numerous others lost their lives. Scintillating personalities like Alma Mahler-Werfel, Gustav Mahler, Carl Moll, Grete Wiesenthal, Koloman Moser, Hugo Henneberg, Sigmund Freud, Hugo Botstiber, Emmy und Egon Wellesz, Yella und Emil Hertzka, Maria Hofer, Richard Gerstl, Adolf Loos, and Arnold Schönberg inspired each other at this art nouveau colony of villas, which will be shown both as an architectural drawing and as a physical model.

© Lordprice Collection/Alamy Stock Photo

In 1933, Arnold Schönberg became one of the first to emigrate; Richard Hoffmann followed in 1935, and Alexander Zemlinksy left only in 1938—after Austria’s “annexation”. Just how drastically does forced exile change a person, an artist in their creative work? In the exhibition, we examine their respective oeuvres prior to and following flight into an uncertain future. The question of how life in Europe would have looked for millions of affected people without Hitler’s National Socialist racial ideology is every bit as impossible to answer as the loss of artistic potential that Europe went on to suffer is unfathomable. This presentation also goes on to reveal the arbitrary bureaucratic actions used to harass Jewish individuals as well as those who dared to criticise the system, showing documents such as Zemlinsky’s “Reich Flight Tax” assessment and the Alien Registration Receipt Card bearing his fingerprint. Zemlinsky and Schönberg succeeded in reaching the USA by transatlantic steamer, while Richard Hoffmann emigrated to New Zealand. The fates of other refugees, including how they got to their places of exile, are likewise reconstructed. Moreover, a slideshow will be accompanied by audio recordings of Arnold Schönberg’s and Richard Hoffmann’s voices.

Tax clearance certificate from Alexander Zemlinsky, Vienna 15.9.1938, © Alexander-Zemlinsky-Fonds

Numerous composers and musicians from the social milieu to which Zemlinsky, Schönberg, and Hoffmann had belonged would reunite in exile—such as at the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles, California or at North Carolina’s Black Mountain College. Others did not succeed in escaping to freedom. Some (such as Josef Polnauer, Olga Novakovic, and others) went underground, while others (such as members of Schönberg’s family, his friend and publisher Henri Hinrichsen, Fritz Löhner-Beda, et al.) were murdered by the Nazis. Such fates are retraced in light of selected personalities’ documents and letters. Triangel der Wiener Tradition [Triangle of Viennese Tradition] describes the connections between three musicians who shared similar fates as composers, pedagogues, and friends, all of whom were of Jewish descent and hence both proscribed and forced into exile.

Event tip:
Triangle of Viennese Tradition: Zemlinsky – Schönberg – Hoffmann
5 March — 20 December 2024
Exilarte Center, Lothringerstraße 18, 1030 Vienna

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