Pult und Taktstock

(Vienna, 1924-1930)

Prepared by Alexander Staub
Online only (2015)

Pult und Taktstock [Rostrum and baton], subtitled Fachzeitschrift für Dirigenten [Trade journal for conductors] (PLT) was published between April 1924 and June 1930 by Universal Edition in Vienna. The journal was issued at irregular intervals, appearing initially on a monthly basis, but later every two months or quarterly as double issues. Altogether the journal consists of forty-five single and double issues. Each issue contains about twenty pages (advertisements excluded). In September 1930 PLT merged with the journal Musikblätter des Anbruch [Musical newspaper of the dawn].

PLT was edited by the Austrian musicologist Erwin Stein, an important pupil and colleague of Arnold Schoenberg. The program of the journal encompasses both general musical questions and more specific theoretical and practical problems regarding technical matters of conducting, orchestral forces and the interpretation of specific orchestral compositions. PLT is closely associated with composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Leoš Janáček. It is a journal made by musicians for musicians, with a decidedly practical approach. Hence the authors are exclusively conductors, composers or performers.

The organization of the journal remained almost unchanged during the seven years of its publication. Following contributions on general questions about music, there are articles about "Der Komponist über sein Werk" [The composer about his work], "Diskussionsbeiträge (Rundfragen)" [Contributions to discussions (Expert opinions)] and "Berichte von Dirigenten" [Reports by conductors], as well as communications on current musical activities under headings such as "Auszüge aus Konzertprogrammen" [Excerpts from concert programs], "Konzert" [Concerts], "Theater", and "Personalien" [Particulars]. Beginning in 1927 there are a growing number of reports on the novel medium of “Rundfunk” [Broadcasting]. The last ten to fifteen pages are reserved for advertisements of music editions, concert announcements, and music festivals.

Topics discussed are primarily aesthetic matters of performance practice, the role of the conductor as artist and pedagogue, and musical modernity. Interpretation, adaptations of compositions and instrumentation are of particular interest. All these issues center on the idea of the inviolability of the musical work of art, which does not exclude the possibility of change in the course of history. The significance of PLT lies above all is the continuous exchange of various conductors’ experiences regarding new music. In particular the rubric "Rundfragen" [Expert opinions] provides a platform for the discussion of approaches to a theory of interpretation.

A number of important questions about the techniques of conducting and the role of the conductor in the interpretation are asked of prominent conductors of the period, including: Leo Blech and Robert Heger on "Reform der Orchesteraufstellung" [Reform of the stage plane of the orchestra]; Bruno Walter and Erich Kleiber on "Der sichtbare Dirigent" [The visible conductor]; and Wilhelm Furtwängler, Bernhard Paumgartner and Ernst Kunwald on "Das Gehör des Dirigenten" [The auditory system of the conductor].

There is a special composer’s issue dedicated to Arnold Schoenberg and his orchestral works and a special issue on broadcasting, addressing questions of appropriate music for broadcasts and stereophonic sound. Of particular interest apart from the discussions are the numerous commentaries on specific works, a large number of which were contributed by the composers themselves. These include, amongst others: Kurt Atterberg's Symphony no. 6;. Alban Berg‘s Kammerkonzert; Alfredo Casella‘s Partita for piano and orchestra;. Aaron Copland’s Music for the Theater; Henry Gilbert’s The Dance in Place Congo; Leoš Janáček’s Concertino; Ernst Křenek’s second Concerto grosso and Suite from Triumph der Empfindsamkeit; Gian Francesco Malipiero’s Impressioni dal vero III and Variazioni senza tema; Albert Roussel’s Symphony in B op. 23; Erwin Schulhoff’s Symphony no. 1, and. William Walton‘s Overture Portsmouth Point.

Almost completely missing from the journal are concert reviews, nor are there any book reports apart from one about Rudolf Cahn-Speyer’s Handbuch des Dirigierens [Handbook for conductors]. Guided by the objective of improving the performance practice of the great works of musical art, the journal pursues the pedagogical enlargement of the audience’s acceptance of modern compositional techniques by improving the quality of the performances. To this day the contributions to Pult und Taktstock have not lost their topicality. The analyses of and suggestions for interpretation, the vivid exchange of experience and the discussion of expert opinions characterize this journal in a decisive way and make it, even eighty years after its merger with the Anbruch a valuable source of information for musicologists and performers.

Contributors include Erwin Stein, who writes about the compositions of Arnold Schoenberg and his private musical society. Theodor Adorno discusses aesthetic matters of performance practice such as interpretation and mechanizing of music. Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt informs about new ideas in music's stereoscopy [plastic hearing] and recent developments surrounding the saxophone. Bernhard Paumgartner’s central theme is the improvement of the quality of musical performance practice. Alexander Jemnitz writes about technical issues related to the gramophone, a measuring instrument for musical intensity of sound, and mathematical paradoxes in the contemporary musical notation. Alfred Szendrei and Egon Wellesz deal with questions of broadcast music, for example, orchestra concerts without conductors. Hans F. Redlich writes about the use of tonality and instrumentation of Arnold Schoenberg.