Schoenberg, Arnold: Op. 41, Ode to Napoleon

It is surprisingly easy these days to forget how ruinous Europe can become. It is almost impossibly difficult to imagine its piazzas filled with fear, its buildings in ruins, or its peoples actually up in arms against one another, even when photographs and memorials are in the public squares themselves. But it does seem actually to happen periodically. In anticipation of a coming paroxysm of this type, Arnold Schoenberg moved to America in 1934, where he would find work, academic respect and influence, material comfort, and tennis matches with George Gershwin.
Lord Byron’s Ode to Napoleon appeared on the 16th of April 1814, ten days after Napoleon’s abdication. Although Byron expresses an easy sort of contempt for the ex-emperor, it is clear that his attitude derives from a kind of fascination and admiration as well. Lucifer and Prometheus — to whom Byron compares him — were after all not metaphorical figures of small importance, and Byron, like many artists, had given Napoleon much of his interest, and much of it positive (see also: Beethoven). The end of Napoleon left even his detractors confused. He left much of Europe in smouldering ruins, just as he left it with a profound revolution of social and legal reforms.
What is almost shocking for an American reader, though, is to see the hope for the America which Byron expresses at his poem’s end: 
The Cincinnatus of the West,
Whom Envy dared not hate,
Bequeathed the name of Washington,
To make man blush there was but one!
George Washington had left the American presidency, declining a third term, a mere seventeen years before Byron wrote Ode to Napoleon. Washington’s letting go of the reins of power must have made a large effect in the world for Byron to have concluded his poem with this reference. One can see in both Byron and Schoenberg — whatever misgivings, mysteries, or cultural discomforts the United States brought them— a great hope in the geopolitical meaning of American democracy. In Schoenberg’s case, this hope was not misplaced. Britain and New Zealand refused him. So he wrote in 1942, when outcomes and even origins of conflict were far from clear:
How I came to Compose the Ode to Napoleon [Opus 41], 1942 
The League of Composers had asked me (1942) to write a piece of chamber music for their concert season. It should employ only a limited number of instruments. I had at once the idea that this piece must not ignore the agitation aroused in mankind against the crimes that provoked this war. I remembered Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, supporting repeal of the jus prime noctis, Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell, Goethe’s Egmont, Beethoven’s Eroica and Wellington’s Victory, and I knew it was the moral duty of intelligentsia to take a stand against tyranny. 
Make what you will of the word ‘intelligentsia’ — it was once current — Arnold Schoenberg, in all of his expressive eccentricity, was taking a political stand using the resources at his disposal.