Life and career
A close friend of Arnold Schoenberg from their schooldays, Adler taught him the rudiments of music, gave him his first grounding in philosophy, and played chamber music with him. Though self-taught, Adler for many years led a string quartet whose regular cellist was another composer-friend, Franz Schmidt. Adler also played in Schoenberg's Society for Private Musical Performances, lectured on music and philosophy, as well as giving musical and spiritual advice to, and casting horoscopes for, many of Vienna's leading creative artists.
In 1935 the violinist Louis Krasner consulted Adler (as well as Carl Flesch) about the solo part of Alban Berg's Violin Concerto, which Krasner had commissioned but could not, at that time, play. Around this time, Adler was also the teacher of the young Hans Keller, later a musician, writer and Schoenberg-expert resident in the UK.
After the Anschluss, Schoenberg tried to arrange for Adler to come to California, but he escaped instead to the United Kingdom, spending the 1940s in the Lake District and his last years in London. Adler and Schoenberg resumed their friendship by letter in the late 1940s; some of the correspondence is published.
Adler's principal books were Critique of Pure Music (1918, still unpublished), and The Testament of Astrology (published in 3 volumes 1935–37, many subsequent editions).
The Testament of Astrology was translated into English by his devoted pupil Zdenka Orenstein and edited by Amy Shapiro.
A biography, by Amy Shapiro, includes letters, stories and memoirs gathered across twenty years of discovery, of people who recounted the vital role that Dr. Oskar Adler played in Vienna's pre-Nazi cultural life before 1938 and while in exile.