Arnold Schoenberg, classical music composer

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Arnold Schoenberg


Perhaps the single most influential composer of the 20th century, Arnold Schoenberg was born into a modest, lower middle-class Jewish family in Vienna on September 13, 1874. Though his mother was a piano teacher, for the most part he taught himself music and only took counterpoint lessons with the composer Alexander von Zemlinsky. As a young adult, he made a living primarily by orchestrating operettas while composing his own works. During this early part of his career, his works were a fusion of the divergent styles of Brahms and Wagner, and he gained the support of both Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. Though Strauss would later denounce Schoenberg's music, Mahler took him under his wing and continued to support him though he worried about Schoenberg's future.

Schoenberg made his first break with the traditions before him with his String Quartet No. 2, composed in 1908. While the first two movements continue to utilize traditional key signatures, the last two are radical in their approach to harmony. Though these movements still conclude with tonic chords, they are harbingers of his "free atonality" period. Four years later, he composed his famous Pierrot Lunaire, settings of German translations of poems by the Belgian-French poet Albert Giraud, and representative of Schoenberg's pantonal style. In the midst of these two revolutionary works, he wrote his influential Harmonielehre (Theory of Harmony) which remains today an important music theory book.

World War I interrupted Schoenberg's compositional career. At the age of 42, military service interrupted his work and consequently many works were left unfinished and many ideas never progressed beyond the early development stages. However, when he returned to composition he developed his famous twelve-tone system of composition, also known as serialism, and became the leader of the so-called Second Viennese School. Though his twelve-tone system constituted a radically different method of composition than his early works, Schoenberg did not deprecate them, but instead considered them as a natural progression towards his current methods.

Despite some public successes as a composer early in his career, as Schoenberg progressed, his compositions declined in public favor. Seeking a venue in which his works, as well as those of other like-minded composers, could present well-prepared performances, Schoenberg founded the Society for Private Musical Performances in Vienna in 1918. Throughout its six-year existence, the Society gave a total of 353 performances. Interestingly, however, Schoenberg withheld his own works from performance for the first year and a half, deferring instead to works by his students, Webern and Berg, and other contemporary composers like Scriabin, Debussy and Reger.

With the death of Ferruccio Busoni in 1924, Schoenberg became the Director of Master Class in Composition at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin, and he held the post until the election of the Nazi Party in 1933. Vacationing in France, Schoenberg was warned that a return to Germany would be dangerous. Heeding this warning, he traveled with his family to the United States and became a naturalized citizen in 1941. Initially taking a teaching post at the Malkin Conservatory in Boston, Schoenberg moved to Los Angeles and taught at the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles. Settling in Brentwood Park, Schoenberg lived there until his death on July 13, 1951.

Composer Title Date Action
Arnold Schoenberg Piano Piece no. 3, Op. 11 01/30/2010 Play Add to playlist
Arnold Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht 10/21/2011 Play Add to playlist
Arnold Schoenberg String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 12/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Arnold Schoenberg Violin Concerto 03/21/2012 Play
Arnold Schoenberg Piano Concerto, 1st movement 09/17/2012 Play Add to playlist
Arnold Schoenberg Six Little Piano Pieces, Op. 19 09/03/2014 Play Add to playlist
Arnold Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 02/03/2016 Play Add to playlist
Arnold Schoenberg Trio, Op. 45 02/15/2016 Play Add to playlist