Moses und Aron, Concert Performance
Arnold Schoenberg’s opera Moses and Aron was unfinished – and yet it has found its way into the musical repertoire as a pivotal work of the 20th century, and has long been regarded a classic of the New Music movement. In 1928, Schoenberg began work on his opera in Berlin where he was teaching a master class at the Prussian Academy of Arts (Preußische Akademie der Künste). In 1933, the fatal political developments in Germany forced him into exile. He left, taking with him his opera project about the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. During a brief stop in Paris, he officially converted back to Judaism in a synagogue, before continuing his passage to the USA.
Schoenberg, who grew up in the lively music capital of Vienna, was forced to acclimatise to America’s entirely different structures, where musical culture was shaped by the market and private patrons. “When I came to America in 1933, I couldn’t change my trademark. I was the man with the ‘chromatic scales’”, he later remembered. He refused to work with Hollywood’s film industry yet gained a foothold as a professor of composition, teaching the young John Cage for two years. Schoenberg continued his own compositional work, remaining true to his artistic values, and working intermittently on Moses and Aron up until the 1940s.
However, the USA ultimately remained foreign to Schoenberg despite his friendships with American colleagues, such as George Gershwin: “Indeed I parted from the Old World not without feeling the wrench in my very own bones, for I was not prepared for the fact it would render me not only homeless but speechless, languageless (…)”, as Schoenberg once commented on his forced exile to America – the country onto which hopes of a promised land with limitless opportunity are projected like no other. The concertante performance of Schoenberg’s Moses and Aron under Sylvain Camberling is premiered at the Musikfest Berlin before touring to Lucerne, Madrid and Strasbourg.
To accompany the performances on 1 and 2 September, Sylvain Cambreling, Nuria Schoenberg-Nono and Gerard Mortier will hold lectures on Moses and Aron at Schloss Genshagen, south of Berlin.