Preface to Volume 8, 2 B

This volume of the Complete Edition completes the four-part set of volumes dedicated to Schönberg’s unfinished masterpiece, Moses und Aron. The previous volumes have consisted of the two Music Volumes of Series A, and Part 1 of Series B devoted to the musical sources and sketches. The present volume, Part 2 of Series B, now deals with the text of the libretto in all its aspects. As was already mentioned in the preface to Part 1 in 1979, this material poses many obstacles to scholarly examination, most of which have been resolved by now.

The number, and variety, of sources relating to the text are testimony to the immense effort that Schönberg expended, first in seeking a satisfying solution to the problems of the genre, and then in finding the specific formulation of the libretto, including the accompanying instructions concerning staging and performance. Until 1926 he conceived the work as a cantata; in 1928 the text was completed as the basis for an oratorio in three parts. It was not until he actually began composing the music in 1930 that Schönberg decided to write a stage work – an opera. All of these phases can be very clearly identified by means of the textual sources and other documents (see section I, ‘Zur Entstehungsgeschichte’).

A large proportion of the present volume is devoted to the numerous short drafts of the text of the opera, which were evidently produced directly in tandem with the composition of the music. The way in which they have been reproduced here, in terms of order and layout, is not designed to display the tortuous evolution of Schönberg’s thoughts as he kept re-working the text; as a matter of fact, it has barely been possible to reconstruct the chronology in some places. Rather, items have been grouped together on the basis of connections of content, in order to provide a basis for continuing interpretation of the intellectual substance of the work.

The numerous documents relating to the text of Act III, which have not been made publicly available until now, are particularly revealing. Schönberg repeatedly worked on them until 1935, without achieving a definitive end result. The volume concludes with the critical commentary on the text as given in the Music Volumes.

The editor has spent more than twenty years working on the volumes dedicated to Moses und Aron and has received help from many quarters. He would like to single out, however, his colleagues in the two institutions to which he is particularly grateful, especially as far as the present volume is concerned: those in the former Arnold Schoenberg Institute, Los Angeles, notably R. Wayne Shoaf, and the several generations of colleagues in the Schoenberg Forschungsstelle Berlin; among the latter he is especially indebted to Camilla Ueberschaer, who undertook the sometimes arduous task of deciphering the draft texts of Moses und Aron back in the 1970s.

Berlin, May 1998
Christian Martin Schmidt