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...

René Leibowitz

René Leibowitz was born on 17 February 1913 in Warsaw (Poland). He studied violin from the age of five, and had begun composing by the age of eight. René Leibowitz moved during his childhood first to Berlin and in 1929 to Paris, where he made his baccalaureate. In 1936 René Leibowitz met Rudolf Kolisch and Erich Itor Kahn at a concert of the Kolisch Quartet, a far-reaching incident for his life and work. Erich Itor Kahn became the teacher of René Leibowitz and he began to study dodecaphonic compositions and also to compose in this technique. He also worked as a music editor for the journal "Esprit" where he convincingly wrote about dodecaphony and their main composers like Arnold Schönberg or Anton von Webern. In 1936 René Leibowitz met conductor and composer Paul Dessau who taught him conducting.
With the outbreak of World War II René Leibowitz fled to the region of St. Tropez, but returned to Paris in 1943 and took part of the resistance against the Nazi occupation.
Since 1945 René Leibowitz exchanged ideas with Arnold Schönberg about the twelve-tone technique, translated many of the German texts into French and promoted the understanding and development of dodecaphony through his books "Schoenberg et son école", "Introduction à la musique de douze sons" and "Qu’est-ce que la musique de douze sons?" as well as with his many articles in journals like "Esprit", "Les Temps Modernes" or "Critique". He also taught twelve-tone technique privately to students like Pierre Boulez, Vinko Globokar, Hans Werner Henze, Diego Masson or Serge Nigg and organised performances of dodecaphonic works in Paris especially in the time around 1950, for example he founded the chamber music festival "Hommage à Schoenberg". He also worked as a conductor, most famous are his recording of the complete symphonies by Beethoven and the first French performance of "Gurrelieder" by Arnold Schönberg. And finally René Leibowitz composed in twelve-tone technique, his oeuvre comprises nearly 100 opera numbers from all genres including an opera, a symphony, concertos for violin, piano, cello, chamber and vocal music.
In its entirety the work
- but in first place his writings (and not his compositions) - made him a main figure in the world wide history of dodecaphony. His book "Schoenberg et son école" (published 1947) was the first overall view on the works of Schönberg, Webern and Berg, the successors "Qu'est ce que la musique de douze sons?" (1948) and "Introduction a la Musique de douze sons" (1949) provided first analyses of Schönberg and Webern's dodecaphonic compositions. Without his fierce and passionate fight for twelve-tone music dodecaphony wouldn't had become such a successful path in 20th century classical music.

René Leibowitz died on 29 August 1972 in Paris.

In my possession are the complete documents of Rene Leibowitz from the archive of the "Edition Dynamo", the Belgian publishing house of Pierre Aelberts. Pierre Aelberts published several of Rene Leibowitz early writings. My archive contains:

1) Qu'est ce que la musique de douze sons?

 

On 7 May 1947 Rene Leibowitz presented a lecture and concert at the Societe de Geographie in Paris. The idea of this occasion was the following: First Rene Leibowitz conducted a performance of Anton Webern's "Concerto for nine instruments op.24" (which actually was the French premiere), he than gave a lecture with an detailed analysis of the composition, and finally the work was performed again. From this lecture Rene Leibowitz later wrote the book "Qu'est ce que la musique de douze sons? (Le concerto pour neuf instruments op. 24 d'Anton Webern)" which was published through Edition Dynamo in 1948.

 

In my archive are the autograph manuscripts of the introduction and all musical examples included in the book. In addition there are three typescripts of the complete book in different phases of completion. A first typescript with heavy annotations by Rene Leibowitz and two later versions with less corrections. Also included is a copy of the printed musical examples for proofreading (and small marks by Rene Leibowitz) and an advertising poster of the College Philosophique with an announcement of the concert at the Societe de Geographie on 7 May 1947.

 

2) Introduction a la Musique de douze sons

 

The book "Introduction a la Musique de douze sons - Les Variations pour orchestre op. 31 d'Arnold Schoenberg" was published in 1949 by the publishing house L'Arche in Paris. Curiously the archive of Pierre Aelberts contained the handwritten text of the introduction to this book. It is a text of 7 pages, the first part was written in May 1943, a postscriptum in October 1948.

 

 

3) Un traite inconnu de la technique de la variation

 

9 handwritten text pages with 1 page music paper with handwritten music examples corresponding to the text. The text was published in 1950 through the Editions Dynamo.

 

 

4) Le canon enigme

 

The book "Le canon enigme" was planned to be published through the Editions Dynamo. But it seems that the publication was not realised, although the text was completed by Rene Leibowitz. On 1 February 1949 he wrote to his publisher Pierre Aelberts:

 

"En tout cas le livre sur le canon enigme, dont l'idee vous avait interesse, est presque termine. C'est un ouvrage, je crois, tres important et qui est devenu plus consequent que je ne le pensais. Il comporte une introduction, puis un premier chapitre consacre a un canon annonyme du XIVe siecle et a un Rondeau de Guillaume de Machaut. Le deuxieme chapitre traite d'un canon circulaire de Baude Cordier, 2 canons de Josquin des Pres et la Fuga quatuor vocem es una de Pierre de la Rue. Le troisieme chapitre est entierement consacre a L'offrande musicale de Bach, dont tous les canons enigmes sont resolus par moi. Le quatrieme chapitre propose une resolution d'un double canon de Mozart qui n'avait ete resolu que de maniere imparfaite, jusqu'a present. Enfin le dernier chapitre traite de plusieurs canons de Schoenberg et de moi-meme. Puis il y a une conclusion. Evidement il y a beaucoup d'exemples musicaux."

 

My archive holds a short handwritten text of 7 small pages and 49 handwritten musical examples, that should have corresponded the text.

 

4) Andre Souris

 

16 pages typescript of an article titled "Andre Souris - Ou le chevalier de la table rase dans la musique contemporaine" with heavy annotations and corrections by Rene Leibowitz. The article was published in November 1950 in the journal "Critique".

 

5) Pour la Musicologie Vivante

 

Handwritten text of two pages titled "Pour la Musicologie Vivante".

 

 

6) Reviews

 

Handwritten text of two and a half pages titled "L'Edition Musicale" on works by Guillaume de Machaut and Anton Webern, published through the Editions Machabey.

 

7) correspondence

 

More than 100 mostly handwritten letters and postcards by Rene Leibowitz to his publisher Pierre Aelberts. It seems that Rene Leibowitz wrote nearly every week to his publisher, so the more than 100 letters only span the time from 7.01.1947 to 23.04.1951. The letters are mostly written on plain or squared writing paper or plain postcards, but with a few exceptions. There are letters written on stationery from:

  • Les Temps Modernes - revue mensuelle (on several dates in 1947 and 1948)
  • Republique Francaise - Radiodiffusion Francaise (on 23. and 26.10.1948)
  • Domaine de la Chapelle en Serval (Oise) (on 27.12.1948)
  • Primo Congresso Internazionale per la Musica Dodecafonica (on 23.04.1949)
  • Cunard Line - Cunard White Star - R.M.S "Caronia" (on 01.05.1950)

8) contracts

 

Included are several contracts between Pierre Aelberts and Rene Leibowitz about different publications, which were in detail:

  • "Qu'est ce que la musique de douze sons - Le concerto pour neuf instruments op.24 d'Anton Webern", 25.03.1947
  • "Significations de l'Opera (Monteverdi - Mozart - Schoenberg)", 15.09.1947
  • "Les cinq melodies pour chant et orchestre d'Alban Berg op.4; etude critique et analyse par Rene Leibowitz", 01.07.1948
  • "Significations des musiciens contemporains", 30.03.1949
  • "Le Canon Enigme, des origines a nos jours", 30.03.1949
  • "Un traite inconnu de la technique de la variation", 30.03.1949
  • "Laudate Dominum (etude et transcription instrumentale)", 30.03.1949
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