Born: September 13, 1874. Vienna,
Died: July 13, 1951. Los Angeles, CA
In his own words...
"Whether one calls oneself conservative or revolutionary, whether one composes in a conventional or progressive manner, whether one tries to imitate old styles or is destined to express new ideas -- one must be convinced of the infallibility of one's own fantasy and one must believe in one's own inspiration. The desire for a conscious control of the new means and forms will arise in every artist's mind; and he will wish to follow consciously the laws and rules that govern the forms he has conceived 'as in a dream'."Austrian composer. Schoenberg's development of the twelve-tone method of composition was a turning point in twentieth century music.
Few composers have presented as radically new an idea as Schoenberg did with what he called his "Method of Composing with Twelve Tones Related Only to Each Other." In it, he broke with a system of tonal organization that had developed over hundreds of years and had become a hallmark of European-style music.
Schoenberg began his musical studies on violin at age eight. Although he had no compositional training, he began composing his own music. In 1895, he began lessons with Alexander von Zemlinsky, only three years his elder. From 1901 to 1903 he held various conducting posts in Berlin. In 1904 he moved to Vienna, and there began teaching (Alban Berg and Anton Webern were early pupils). In 1919 he founded a society for performance of new music, and in 1925 returned to Berlin to teach. In 1933 he was forced, as a Jew, to leave Berlin. Ironically, he had converted to Lutheranism in 1898, but after fleeing to Paris he renounced the Christian faith and returned to Judaism. In 1934 he emigrated to the United States and in 1936 began teaching at UCLA. He remained in Los Angeles until his death in 1951.
Schoenberg's early music was clearly marked by the style of the late nineteenth century, and influences of Brahms, Mahler and others can be seen in pieces such as his Verklärte Nacht. But as his compositional style developed, it became more concise and contrapuntally intricate. At the same time, Schoenberg's chromaticism intensified to the point that any strong tonal focus disappeared. Such works as Pierrot lunaire are in a fully atonal style. The music of this period is also marked by a style that is referred to as expressionist, and Schoenberg had contact with, and a great deal of admiration for, the expressionist painters and writers (Schoenberg himself painted in an expressionist style). These ideals can be seen in the dark and dreamlike atmosphere conveyed in Pierrot lunaire, based on the expressionist poetry of Albert Giraud. The kinds of internal conflicts we associate with Freud and his school of psychoanalysis are played out in exquisite musical detail.
From 1915 to 1923, Schoenberg produced relatively few works, in part
due to wartime service. At the same time, he was working on his theoretical
ideas of twelve-tone writing. Starting in 1923, with his Suite for Piano,
he began writing in a fully twelve-tone musical language. Along with this
came a return to more classical means of formal organization and larger
works such as his Variations for Orchestra. Although he never abandoned
these principles, he never extended them to other elements as his student
Webern had. And after his move to the United States, he more freely blended
tonal elements within his twelve-tone writing.
Prelude from Suite for Piano, Op.25. The Suite was the first piece written completely using twelve-tone technique. Each movement is based on the same tone row (all twelve notes of the chromatic scale arranged in a predetermined order), giving it a sense of unity. Schoenberg limits the way he manipulates the row in order to bring out specific characteristics.
Erwartung, Op.17. Erwartung tells a psychological tale of a woman poised between fear and desire, and Schoenberg uses his expressionist style to translate these strong emotions into turbulent music.
"Prelude" to Gurrelieder (first performed February 23, 1913) (06 min. 53 sec.)
of Variations for Orchestra (1926-28) (06 min. 10 sec.)
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