Two photographs recently published in the Online Archive of Berkeley Library, California, show Arnold Schönberg in March 1935 conducting rehearsals for the performance of his own works in San Francisco.

Six days were spent rehearsing intensely for the evening concert on March 7, 1935 in the Veterans’ Auditory. An index sheet stored in the archive of the University of California at Berkeley shows that the photographs were taken by J. Woods for the San Francisco Examiner at around midday on the previous day.

The photographs themselves are not just contemporary documents, their technical quality is also outstanding. We can see Schönberg concentrating hard, sitting at a table with a baton in his hand. With the score of “Pierrot lunaire” op. 21 opened up in front of him, he is conducting the musicians (who – with the exception of singer Rudolphine Radil – are not visible on the picture) with visible assiduity. Besides these two photographs, several others were also taken of the maestro sitting down while conducting rehearsals.

The photographs originated not long after Schönberg made his home in the US. Only a few months previously, in September 1934, he had moved to Los Angeles with his family following several months on the East Coast. Directly after his arrival, Schönberg initially taught a class with six private students, including John Cage. In 1935 and 1936 he held the “Alchin Chair” at the University of Southern California, a guest lectureship for composition. Despite asthmatic complaints at the time, Schönberg managed to become known in his new surroundings with a busy teaching schedule, numerous conducting appearances, and also the premiere of his “Suite for String Orchestra.”

The concert in San Francisco, where seven pieces from the melodrama cycle “Pierrot lunaire” were performed together with the “Lied der Waldtaube” (Song of the Wood-Dove) and also the Chamber Symphony op. 9 (played twice), received an extremely favorable response in the local press; for instance, the compositions were called “masterpieces,” and the composer was judged to have the same significance as Beethoven (San Francisco Chronicle, March 8, 1935). They traveled back to Los Angeles on March 9, with their journey documented in photographs by the Schönbergs themselves. The photographs were then affixed in a photo album for their daughter Nuria.