Viktor Zuckerkandl

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Viktor Zuckerkandl

Also Known As: "Victor"
Birthdate: (68)
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Death: April 5, 1965 (68)
Locarno, Ticino, Switzerland
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr. Otto Zuckerkandl and Amalie Zuckerkandl
Husband of Marianne Mimi Zuckerkandl (Giustiniani) and Gertrud Zuckerkandl
Brother of Eleonore Nora Zuckerkandl and Hermine Zuckerkandl

Managed by: Randy Schoenberg
Last Updated:

About Viktor Zuckerkandl

Viktor Zuckerkandl (July 2, 1896, Vienna - April 5, 1965, Locarno) was a Jewish-Austrian musicologist. His doctorate was granted in 1927 from Vienna University, and he was a freelance conductor throughout the 1920s. He was a critic for Berlin newspapers from 1927-1933 and taught theory and appreciation courses in Vienna from 1934-1938. He emigrated to the US in 1940, teaching at Wellesley College until 1942, when he took a job as a machinist in the war effort. From 1946-48 he taught theory at The New School in New York, then joined the faculty at St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland, in 1948. He remained at St. John's, teaching music as part of their Great Books program, until his retirement in 1964.

Zuckerkandl's explanations of music theory were heavily indebted to the theories of musicologist Heinrich Schenker, and his understanding of musical perception owed much to Gestalt psychology, as well as to German phenomenology. Zuckerkandl believed music was part of the "mystical aspect of human existence," and sought to explain its existence in all cultures as a universal phenomenon. He was not well known until his works were rediscovered by scholars in the 1990s.


  • Prinzipien und Methoden der Instrumentation in Mozarts Werken (diss., U. of Vienna, 1927)
  • Musikalische Gestaltung der grossen Opernpartien: jugendlich-dramatisches Fach (Berlin, 1932)
  • Die Weltgemeinschaft der Juden (Zürich, 1938)
  • Sound and Symbol, 1956
  • The Sense of Music, 1959
  • Vom musikalischen Denken (1964)
  • Man the Musician, 1973

Career Summary

The son of Viennese-Jewish intellectuals – his father, Otto, being a medical doctor and Professor at the University of Vienna – Zuckerkandl studied piano with Richard Robert, and embarked on the study of musicology and art history at the University of Vienna in 1914. Those studies were interrupted by war service first in Italy (1915-16), then on the Russian front (1916-18), during which time he reports having seen his father and mother in Lemberg (OJ 2/3, p. 393)). The war over, he married Marianne Bachrach in 1918. From then until 1927, he was active as a conductor in the opera house and concert hall in Barmen, Elberfeld, and Vienna, and directed the Philharmonic Chorus in Vienna 1926-29. In 1927 he took his PhD with a dissertation entitled "Prinzipien und Methoden der Instrumentation in Mozarts Werken [Principles and Methods of Instrumentation in Mozart Works]" under Guido Adler. From 1927 to 1933, he worked as music, literature, and art critic in Berlin for the Ullstein Blätter, and thereafter taught briefly at the Vienna Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst. He was acquainted with, among others, the conductors Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, and Wilhelm Furtwängler.

In 1938 he left Austria for Stockholm, and in late 1939 emigrated to the USA, where he taught mathematics, philosophy, and music theory variously at Wellesley College, near Boston (1940-1942), the New School of Social Research in New York (1946-48), and St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland (1948-64). For the latter institution, he developed and taught a course especially for the liberal arts student—a course that has been taught there with its accompanying textbook, The Sense of Music, ever since. He received six years of fellowships from the Bollingen Foundation for research into "the nature, structure, and significance of the tonal language [of] the great composers," which resulted in two of his book publications. In 1960-64, he gave lectures at the Casa Eranos, in Ascona, Switzerland, where he settled in 1964. After the death of his first wife, he married in 1964 Gertrude (Gerty) Bamberger, following a thirty-year acquaintance (Gertrude Bamberger, 1904-65, was a former pupil of Felix Salzer at the Neues Wiener Konservatorium, sister of the Schenker pupil Carl Bamberger, and had taught ear-training at the David Mannes Music School in New York).


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Viktor Zuckerkandl's Timeline

July 2, 1896
Vienna, Austria
April 5, 1965
Age 68
Locarno, Ticino, Switzerland