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Citkowitz, Israel

Israel Citkowitz (1909–74), American pianist, composer, teacher and critic, born in Skierniewice, Poland and brought to the US at the age of 3. After studying composition with Copland and Sessions as a teenager he went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger (1927–31).

During the 1930s Citkowitz also published music criticism in Modern Music and Musical Mercury. Among his prose pieces was the first English-language introduction to Schenker’s ideas, “The Role of Heinrich Schenker.” According to Milton Babbitt, "… Schenker entered our lives at almost exactly the same time as Schoenberg entered our country, and from a most unexpected source: an article in the magazine Modern Music (!) by Israel Citkowitz, already well known as one of Nadia Boulanger's proteges, who was even viewed as the possible successor to Aaron Copland in the American compositional hierarchy. This article was not a detailed exposition of Schenkerian analysis but an understanding, appreciative presentation of what Citkowitz termed 'Schenker's lifelong consecration to the music of the Masters.'" Hans Weisse wrote to Schenker, asking him if he had looked at Citkowitz's article, probably having heard that it had been brought to his attention by Manfred Willfort, and that Schenker had even sent it on to Jonas (see OJ 15/18, 32; OJ 12/6, [27]; OJ 5/18, 33]. He also reported to Schenker that Citkowitz was studying with him: "I mark it down as the jackpot of this year that your theory has opened up a breach in the battlefront of radical-modernist American youth. This is a very promising beginning." (Weisse to Schenker, March 15, 1934, OJ: 15/16, [94])

In 1939 Citkowitz was appointed teacher of counterpoint and composition at the Dalcroze School in New York City, but informal accounts attest to his activity as a teacher of piano and Schenkerian theory and analysis throughout the 1930s. Among his students were the composer-pianist Leo Smit, and later, the conductor-pianist Richard Kapp.

It was during the 1930s that Arthur Waldeck studied Schenker with Citkowitz, allegedly at Carnegie Hall, according to Waldeck’s son (who also claimed that Ernst Oster joined in these studies after his arrival in the US in 1938). By 1948 Citkowitz had moved into his Carnegie Hall studio after a divorce. At around the same time, Arthur Waldeck’s correspondence with Oswald Jonas indicates that he was teaching voice in a Carnegie Hall studio as well. Thus, it seems likely that the Citkowitz–Waldeck discussions of Schenker went on through the 1930s, the War, and beyond. Though Citkowitz never worked with Leon Fleischer, his daughter says that his knowledge of piano technique led him to predict years in advance that Fleisher would develop problems with his hands.

There is no correspondence between Citkowitz and Schenker.


Israel Citkowitz, “The Role of Heinrich Schenker,” Modern Music 11/1 (1933): 18-23 [copies of a typescript German translation by Manfred Willfort as "Die Rolle Heinrich Schenkers" survive as OJ 58/2, OC 2/pp. 88/89 and OC 30/10]


Jane Coppock, "A Conversation with Arthur Berger," in Perspectives of New Music 17/1 (1978): 40-67.

S. Peles, with S. Demski, A. Mead, and J. N. Straus, ed., The Collected Essays of Milton Babbitt (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), pp. 475–76.

Personal communications from Israel Citkowitz’s daughter, Elena Citkowitz.

Telephone Conversation with Arthur Waldeck’s son, Lewis Waldeck.

Author: Robert Wason


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