The Skandalkonzert of March 31, 1913, was a concert of the Wiener Konzertverein (Vienna Concert Society) conducted by Arnold Schoenberg in the Great Hall of the Musikverein. The audience, shocked by the expressionism and experimentalism of the Second Viennese School, began rioting, and the concert was ended prematurely. A punch administered by concert organizer Erhard Buschbeck became the subject of a lawsuit, whereby operetta composer Oscar Straus, heard as a witness, testified that it had been the most harmonious sound of the evening.
The program listed:
- Anton Webern: Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6.
- Alexander von Zemlinsky: Four Orchestral Songs on poems by Maeterlinck (eventually published as Zemlinsky's Op. 13, Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 were performed at the Skandalkonzert).
- Arnold Schoenberg: Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9.
- Alban Berg: Two of the Five Orchestral Songs on Picture-Postcard Texts by Peter Altenberg, Op. 4 Nos. 2 and 3. Both the lyrical and musical side of this premiere were seen as provocative.
- The concert was ended before the scheduled performance of Gustav Mahler's Kindertotenlieder could begin.
During Berg's songs the audience called for both poet and composer to be committed, despite it being public knowledge that Altenberg was already committed to an asylum at the time. Though not present at the concert, he was granted leave to attend the dress-rehearsal that morning, and three days later he wrote a prose sketch depicting Alma Mahler there. At the concert it was during Berg's songs that the fighting began. At the trial, Straus commented that the thud of Buschbeck's punch had been the most harmonious sound at the entire concert. For Berg's work the Skandalkonzert had lasting consequences: the songs were not performed again until 1952, and the full score did not appear in print until 1966.
History and contemporary echo
The first performance of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder was held on February 23, 1913, in the Great Hall of the Musikverein, under the direction of Franz Schreker, and was an overwhelming success. But the composer, offended by the previous conservative attitude of the Viennese public, refused to accept the applause. In return, the audience took revenge a few weeks later in the next concert of contemporary works there. Press reports from the period mention tumultuous riots: the followers of Schoenberg, his student, and opponents yelling at each other, throwing things, disturbing the performance, destroying furniture, etc.
- Barker, Andrew (1997). "Battles of the Mind", The Cambridge Companion to Berg, p. 24. Pople, Anthony, ed. ISBN 0-521-56489-1.
- Barker (1997), pp. 26–27.
- Mark DeVoto. "Centenary of a Lesser-known Scandal - The Boston Musical Intelligencer". The Boston Musical Intelligencer. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, "Schoenberg, Arnold", vol. 16, p. 705.[verification needed]
- "Did The Rite of Spring really spark a riot?". BBC News. Retrieved 27 June 2015.