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Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) was an Austrian composer whose discovery of the "method of composition with twelve tones" radically transformed 20th-century music.

The early music of Arnold Schoenberg represents the culmination of romantic musical ideals. His gigantic cantata Gurre-Lieder is, together with Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony, one of the last great works in the monumental style. It seemed impossible for music to develop any further in this direction. Thus, Schoenberg became one of the first 20th-century composers to write for small, specialized chamber ensembles. He transcended traditional tonal limitations and began to write "atonal" or "pantonal" music without a key center. This new style offered much freedom, but there was need of a system to control the new harmonic material thus made available.

After a period of experimentation, Schoenberg developed such a system: the method of composition with twelve tones. So far-reaching were the results of this discovery that Schoenberg's theories became, for a time, more famous than his compositions. However, since his death, his music has received more of the recognition that it deserves. Most important musical developments of the second half of the 20th century owe their impetus directly or indirectly to him.

Schoenberg was born in Vienna on Sept. 13, 1874. His interest in music began early. When he was eight years old, he started to learn the violin, and he soon began composing violin duets. His parents were not musicians—his father, Samuel, owned a shoe store—but they enjoyed music and were sympathetic to his musical development.

Early Works

In the amateur orchestra Polyhymnia, Schoenberg met Alexander von Zemlinsky. They became close friends, and Zemlinsky began to give Schoenberg instruction in composition, the only formal teaching of this sort that he ever had. The String Quartet in D Major (1897, published 1966) is a good example of the immediate results. This was Schoenberg's first work to be played publicly in Vienna. As its Brahmsian style was quite accessible to the conservative taste of the audience, it was well received.

Quite different is Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), a string sextet inspired by Richard Dehmel's poem of the same name. While the orchestral tone poem, or symphonic poem (a composition telling a story in music), was common in the 19th century, Schoenberg's work represents the first attempt to transfer this form to chamber music. It was written in the summer of 1899. Zemlinsky tried to have it performed that fall, but its Wagnerian style was rejected by the conservative program committee of the Tonkünstlerverein. It was finally premiered in 1903. At that time it was still considered controversial, and audience reaction was hostile. Since then it has become one of Schoenberg's most popular works, especially in its versions for string orchestra.

From 1901 to 1903 Schoenberg lived in Berlin, where he conducted at the Ü berbrettl cabaret and later taught composition at the Stern Conservatory. He became friendly with Richard Strauss, who suggested Maurice Maeterlinck's Pelléaset Mélisande to him as a good subject for an opera. Without knowing of Claude Debussy's opera based on this play, Schoenberg began to write a symphonic poem on the same subject; he completed it in 1902. It is his only orchestral tone poem in the tradition of Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss.

Development of Atonality

Back in Vienna, Schoenberg began to teach privately. He attracted talented pupils: Alban Berg and Anton Webern came to him at this time. A stylistic change was beginning to occur in Schoenberg's work. Tonality, which had been more and more freely treated in such pieces as his Second String Quartet, was finally abandoned. The date of completion of the piano piece Opus 11, no. 1 (Feb. 19, 1909), is an important one in the history of music, for this is the first composition to dispense completely with traditional tonality. In this new style any chord combination can be freely used, and there is no differentiation in the treatment of consonances and dissonances.

Writing about his new music in connection with a concert on Jan. 14, 1910, at which the piano pieces Opus 11 were premiered, Schoenberg said: "I have succeeded for the first time in approaching an ideal of expression and form that had hovered before me for some years. Hitherto I had not sufficient strength and sureness to realize that ideal. Now, however, that I have definitely started on my journey, I may confess to having broken the bonds of a bygone esthetic; and if I am striving toward a goal that seems to me to be certain, nevertheless I already feel the opposition that I shall have to overcome. I feel also with what heat even those of the feeblest temperament will reject my works, and I suspect that even those who have hitherto believed in me will not be willing to perceive the necessity of this new development."

Twelve-tone System

Schoenberg was right in his fears that he would be misunderstood. Even more misunderstood was his next stylistic change, which was gradually being prepared between 1916 and 1920. During those years he completed no major compositions; instead, he worked toward a solution of the structural problems of nontonal music. One day in July 1921 Schoenberg told his pupil Josef Rufer, "Today I have discovered something which will assure the supremacy of German music for the next hundred years." It was the method of composition with twelve tones. The Prelude of Schoenberg's Piano Suite, Opus 25 (completed July 29, 1921), is probably the first twelve-tone composition.

In the twelve-tone method each composition is based on a row, or series, using all twelve notes of the chromatic scale in an order chosen by the composer. Besides being presented in its original form, the row may be inverted, played backward, played backward in inversion, or transposed to any scale step. All harmonies and melodies in a composition are derived from its special row; thus, unity is assured. While some critics feared that music written in this way might become mechanical and inexpressive, Schoenberg continued to write highly personal and expressive compositions, using the expanded resources made available by the new method. From time to time he would return to traditional tonality in one or more works. However, it really made no difference to him whether his compositions were tonal, atonal, or twelve-tonal. As he said once, "I like them all, because I liked them when I wrote them."

In the 1920s Schoenberg seemed to have reached a peak in his career. His appointment as director of a composition class at the Prussian Academy of Arts, Berlin, took effect in 1926. Four years later he began his great biblical opera, Moses und Aron. (He never finished this work, but in its incomplete, two-act form it became, after his death, one of his greatest popular successes.) Under normal circumstances he might well have spent the rest of his life in Berlin. However, when the Nazis assumed power in Germany, Schoenberg's Jewish heritage made him unwelcome. In September 1933 he was dismissed from the academy. The next month he sailed for America.

American Works

Schoenberg's first American teaching post was at the Malkin Conservatory in Boston (1933-1934). His health suffered from the climate, and he decided to move to Los Angeles. There, he taught first at the University of Southern California and then at the University of California, until age forced his retirement in 1944. He wrote some of his finest instrumental music in California: the Fourth String Quartet (1936), the Violin Concerto (1934-1936), the Piano Concerto (1942), and the String Trio (1946).

After his retirement, Schoenberg had hoped to find time to complete Moses und Aron and the oratorio Die Jakobsleiter (Jacob's Ladder), which he had begun in 1917. However, his poor health and the necessity of earning a living by private teaching made this impossible. During the last year of his life, he wrote a series of texts called Modern Psalms, which he described as "conversations with and about God." He was still able to compose part of the first psalm; the last words he set to music are "und trotzdem bete ich" (and yet I pray). On July 13, 1951, he died in Los Angeles.

Further Reading

A representative collection of Schoenberg's correspondence is in Letters, edited by Erwin Stein (trans. 1964). Of Schoenberg's other writings, the collection of essays Style and Idea, edited by Dika Newlin (trans. 1950), has the greatest general interest. A useful preliminary biography, though not a definitive study, is H. H. Stuckenschmidt, Arnold Schoenberg (trans. 1959). Harold C. Schonberg, The Lives of the Great Composers (1968), briefly discusses Schoenberg. Dika Newlin, Bruckner-Mahler-Schoenberg (1947; rev. ed. in preparation), presents Schoenberg's work as the culmination of a historical development that can be traced back to the 18th-century classical Viennese School. René Leibowitz, Schoenberg and His School (trans. 1949), takes a similar viewpoint but carries the line of development to Berg and Webern. A helpful general discussion of twelve-tone music is George Perle, Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern (1962; 2d rev. ed. 1968). K. H. Wörner, Schoenberg's Moses and Aaron (trans. 1963), offers a detailed musical and textual analysis of what is probably Schoenberg's most important work.

Additional Sources

MacDonald, Malcolm, Schoenberg, London: Dent, 1976.

Neighbour, O. W. (Oliver Wray), The New Grove Second Viennese School: Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, New York: Norton, 1983.

Newlin, Dika, Schoenberg remembered: diaries and recollections, (1938-76), New York: Pendragon Press, 1980.

Reich, Willi, Schoenberg: a critical biography, New York: DaCapo Press, 1981.

Rosen, Charles, Arnold Schoenberg, Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Schoenberg, Arnold, Arnold Schoenberg, Wassily Kandinsky: letters, pictures, and documents, London; Boston: Faber & Faber, 1984.

Small, Christopher, Schoenberg, Borough Green, Kent: Novello, 1977.

Stuckenschmidt, Hans Heinz, Arnold Schoenberg, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979, 1959. □

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Schoenberg, Arnold

Schoenberg, Arnold [ Arnold Schönberg] (b Vienna, 1874; d Los Angeles, 1951). Austrian-born composer, conductor, and teacher (Amer. cit. 1941). One of most influential figures in history of mus. Learned vn. and vc. as boy. Mainly self-taught in theory, but had lessons in counterpoint from Zemlinsky, 1894. Began composing when youth; str. qt. and songs perf. 1897. Earned living scoring other composers' operettas and in 1901 became cond. of Wolzogen's Überbrettl (satirical cabaret; Wolzogen was librettist of R. Strauss's Feuersnot). In 1899 comp. Verklärte Nacht and in 1900 began work on Gurrelieder, both being in romantic post-Wagnerian style. On strength of Part I of Gurrelieder, obtained teaching post and scholarship at Stern Cons., Berlin, on recommendation of Strauss. While there comp. tone-poem Pelleas und Melisande. Returned to Vienna in 1903. At rehearsal of his chamber mus. by Rosé Qt., met Mahler. Among his students at this time were men who became lifelong disciples— Webern, Berg, Wellesz, Erwin Stein. In Schoenberg's comps. of 1903–7, chromatic harmony was explored to its limits and tonal structures became ever more elusive until, in 1909, he arrived at atonality with the 3 Pieces for pf., Op.11, and the song-cycle Das Buch der hängenden Gärten. Perfs. of these works met with vehement hostility, and with equally vehement acclaim from his supporters. In 1911 he pubd. his masterly book Harmonielehre. At this time, also painted in striking ‘expressionist’ style. In 1912 comp. Pierrot Lunaire for actress Albertine Zehme, a work for reciter (in Sprechstimme) and chamber ens. Its Vienna perf. was the occasion of further hostility, but the f.p. there of the early-style Gurrelieder was a success. The 5 Orchestral Pieces were first played complete in London, 1912. In 1918 founded in Vienna a Soc. for Private Mus. Perfs. from which critics were excluded, no programme was announced in advance, and applause was forbidden. Wrote little between 1913 and 1921, and when next completed works appeared in 1923—the 5 Piano Pieces, Op.23 and the Serenade, Op.24—they introduced to the world the ‘method of comp. with 12 notes’, which was Schoenberg's technique for organizing atonal mus. Suite for pf., Op.25, was first work wholly in 12-note method. Side-by-side with this revolutionary procedure, Schoenberg also returned to a strict use of traditional forms. In 1925 was invited to Berlin to teach comp. at the Prussian Acad. of Arts, remaining until 1933 when dismissed by Nazis and left Ger. Reconverted to Judaism in Paris in 1933, and emigrated to USA. Settled in Los Angeles and taught at Univ. of Calif. 1936–44. At this time announced his preference for spelling of his name Schoenberg instead of Schönberg. In the next 18 years comp. inconsistently in 12-note or tonal styles, dismaying his followers but not himself, for he said that all composers had varied their styles to suit their creative needs and purposes. Also rev. earlier works, wrote several religious pieces, and returned to two major undertakings he had abandoned in Europe, the oratorio Die Jakobsleiter, which remained unfinished, and the opera Moses und Aron, of which only two of the 3 acts were completed and which, when prod. after his death, was revealed as a deeply moving experience, although he wrote only a few bars for Act 3 in 1951.

Schoenberg's mus., full of melodic and lyrical interest, is also extremely complex, taking every element (rhythm, texture, form) to its furthest limit and making heavy demands on the listener. But more and more listeners find the effort worth making. His greatness lies not only in his own mus. but in his artistic courage and in his powerful and continuing influence on 20th-cent. mus. He is likely to remain always a controversial, revered, and revolutionary musician. He was also a talented painter. Prin. works:STAGE: Erwartung, Op.17, monodrama (1909); Die glückliche Hand, Op.18, drama with mus. (1910–13); Von Heute auf Morgen, Op.32, opera (1928–9); Moses und Aron (1930–2, 1951).ORCH.: Frühlingstod, incomplete sym.-poem (1899, f.p. Berlin 1983); Verklärte Nacht, Op.4 (orig. str. sextet 1899, arr. for str. orch. 1917, rev. 1943); Pelleas und Melisande, Op.5 (1902–3); Kammersymphonie (Chamber Symphony) No.1, Op.9, 15 solo instr. (1906, arr. for orch. 1922; new version Op.9b, 1935; arr. by Webern for 5 instr. 1922); 5 Orchestral Pieces (fünf Orchesterstücke), Op.16 (1909, rev. 1922 and 1949; arr. for 2 pf. by Webern); 3 Little Pieces, chamber orch. (1910); Variations, Op.31 (1926–8); Accompaniment to a Film Scene (Begleitungsmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene) Op.34 (1929–30); vc. conc. (after conc. for clavicembalo by Monn) (1932–3); conc. for str. qt. and orch. (after Handel's Concerto Grosso Op.6 No.7) (1933); Suite, str. (1934); vn. conc., Op.36 (1934–6); Second Chamber Symphony, Op.38a (1906–16, 1939); pf. conc., Op.42 (1942); Theme and Variations, Op.43a, band (1943), Op.43b for orch. (1943).VOICE(S) & INSTR(S).: Gurrelieder, 5 soloists, narrator, ch., orch. (1900–3, 1910–11); Lied der Waldtaube (Song of the Wood Dove) from Gurrelieder, mez., chamber orch. (1922); 6 Songs with Orchestra, Op.8 (1903–4, also with pf.); Herzgewächse, Op.20, high sop., cel., harmonium, hp. 1911); Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21, spkr., chamber ens. (1912); 4 Songs, Op.22, v., orch. (1913–16); Die Jakobsleiter, oratorio (unfinished), 6 soloists, speaking ch., ch., orch. (1917–22, scoring completed by W. Zillig); Kol Nidre, Op.39, rabbi, ch., orch. (1938); Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, Op.41, str. qt., pf., reciter (1942), Op.41b for str. orch., pf., reciter (1944); Genesis Prelude, Op.44, ch., orch. (1945); A Survivor from Warsaw, Op.46, narr., male ch., orch. (1947); Moderne Psalmen, Op.50c, mixed ch., spkr., orch. (1950).UNACC. CHORUS: Friede auf Erden (Peace on Earth), Op.13 (1907); 4 Pieces, Op.27 (No.4 with acc. of mandoline, cl., vn., vc.) (1925); 3 Satires, Op.28 (No.3, Der neue Klassizismus (The new classicism) with va., vc., pf.) (1925); 3 German Folk-Songs (1928); 6 Pieces, Op.35, male ch. (1929–30); Birthday Canons, 3 vv. (1943); 3 Folk-Songs, Op.49 (1948); Dreimal tausend Jahre, Op.50a (1949); De Profundis, Op.50b (1950). Also many other canons, 1905–49.CHAMBER MUSIC: str. qt. in D (1897); str. qt. No.1 in D minor, Op.7 (1905), No.2 in F♯ minor, with sop. v. in 3rd and 4th movts., text by S. George (1907–8), No.3, Op.30 (1927), No.4, Op.37 (1936); Verklärte Nacht, Op.4, str. sextet (1899; str. orch. version 1917); Serenade, Op.24, cl., bass cl., mandoline, guitar, vn., va., vc., and bar. in 4th of 7 movts. (1920–3); Weihnachtsmusik (Christmas Music), 2 vn., vc., harmonium, pf. (1921); wind quintet, Op.26 (1923–4); Suite (septet), Op.29, pf., picc., cl. (or fl.), bass cl. (or bn.), vn., va., vc. (1924–6); str. trio, Op.45 (1946); Phantasy, Op.47, vn.,pf. (1949).PIANO: 3 Pieces, Op.11 (1909, rev. 1924; No.2 orch. Busoni 1909); 6 Little Pieces, Op.19 (1911); 5 Pieces, Op.23 (1920–3); Suite, Op.25 (1921); 2 Piano Pieces, Op.33a (1928), Op.33b (1931).ORGAN: Variations on a Recitative, Op.40 (1941).SONGS WITH PIANO: 2 Songs, Op.1 (1897); 4 Songs, Op.2 (1899); 6 Songs, Op.3 (1899–1903); Cabaret Songs (1901); 8 Songs, Op.6 (1903–5); 2 Ballads, Op.12 (1907); 2 Songs, Op.14 (1907–8); 2 Songs (1909, pubd. 1966); Das Buch der hängenden Gärten, Op.15, 15 songs for sop. (1908–9); German Folk-Songs (1930); 3 Songs, Op.48 (1933).ARRS. OF OTHER COMPOSERS: Bach: 2 Chorale-Preludes arr. for large orch. (1922) (1. Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist; 2. Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele); Prelude and Fugue in E♭ (org.) arr. for large orch. (1928). Brahms: Pf. Qt. No.1 in G minor, Op.25, arr. for orch. (1937). Loewe: Der Nöck, ballad, arr. for orch. (?1910). J. Strauss II: Kaiserwalzer (Emperor Waltz), arr. for fl., cl., str. qt., pf. (1925).BOOKS: Harmonielehre (Treatise on harmony) (Vienna 1911, 2nd edn. 1922, abridged Eng. trans. by D. Adams, NY 1948; complete Eng. trans. by R. E. Carter 1978); Style and Idea (NY 1950, enlarged edn. London 1972); Structural Functions of Harmony (NY 1954).

See also atonal; serialism; Klangfarbenmelodie.

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Schoenberg, Arnold

Arnold Schoenberg (är´nôlt shön´bĕrkh), 1874–1951, Austrian composer, b. Vienna. Before he became a U.S. citizen in 1941 he spelled his name Schönberg. He revolutionized modern music by abandoning tonality and developing a twelve-tone, "serial" technique of composition (see serial music). Except for periods in Berlin (1901–3; 1911–18), he lived in Vienna until 1925. In 1918 he founded his famous private seminar in composition and the Society for Private Musical Performances, at which neither critics nor applause were allowed. Though he himself had little formal instruction in music, teaching was a major activity throughout his life. Among his many students the most noted were Alban Berg and Anton von Webern. He taught at the Prussian Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin from 1925 to 1933, when he fled the Nazis, emigrated to the United States, and taught for a year at the Malkin Conservatory, Boston. He then went to Hollywood and was professor of music at the Univ. of Southern California (1935–36) and the Univ. of California at Los Angeles (1936–44).

In his early works—Verklärte Nacht (1899), a string sextet; Gurrelieder (1900–1), a cantata for chorus and orchestra; and Pelleas und Melisande (1902–3), a symphonic poem—Schoenberg expanded the chromatic style established by Wagner and Mahler. His later works are thinner in texture and highly contrapuntal. In 1908 in a set of piano pieces and the song cycle Das Buch der hängenden Gärten, to poems of Stefan George, he completely abandoned tonality (see atonality). His use of Sprechstimme, halfway between song and speech, caused a sensation at the first performance in 1912 of the song cycle Pierrot Lunaire. The twelve-tone technique he devised, used to some extent in five piano pieces and a Serenade in 1923, was first employed throughout a work in the Suite for Piano (1924). Though he did not invent serial technique, he established it as an important organizational device in music. His other works include two chamber symphonies (1906; 1906–40) and Variations for Orchestra (1928); string quartets, a woodwind quintet (1924), and Suite for 7 Instruments (1926); a violin concerto (1936) and a piano concerto (1942); the monodrama Erwartung (1909) and an unfinished opera, Moses und Aron (1932–51; produced 1957), considered his masterpiece; Ode to Napoleon (1942), to Byron's poem, for male speaker, piano and strings; A Survivor from Warsaw (1947), for narrator, chorus and orchestra; and Fantasia (1949), for violin and piano.

See his Style and Idea (tr. 1951) and Structural Functions of Harmony (tr. 1954); biographies by H. H. Stuckenschmidt (tr. 1959), A. Payne (1968), and W. Reich (tr. 1971); studies by G. Perle (rev. ed. 1968), B. Boretz (1968), C. Rosen (1981), and A. Shawn (2002); S. Feisst, Schoenberg's New World: The American Years (2011).

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Schoenberg, Arnold Franz Walter

Schoenberg, Arnold Franz Walter (1874–1951) Austrian composer. In early works, such as Verklärte Nacht (1899), Schoenberg extended the chromaticism of Romanticism. The song cycle Das Buch der hängenden Gärten (1908) and the expressionist opera Erwartung (1909) revolutionized modern music by abandoning tonality. Schoenberg's form of serial music, known as twelve-tone music, was first employed in Suite for Piano (1923). His operatic masterpiece, Moses und Aron, remained unfinished at his death.

http://www.schoenberg.at

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Arnold Schoenberg Choir

Arnold Schoenberg Choir. Austrian mixed voice choir founded in Vienna 1972 by Erwin Ortner. Comprises students and former students of Vienna Acad. of Mus.

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