- Category : Entertain-Music-Composer/Arranger
- Type : GP
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Split - Small (5,10,20,46,48)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Rulership 3
Arnold Schoenberg (the anglicized form of Schönberg — Schoenberg changed the spelling officially when he left Germany and re-converted to Judaism in 1933), (September 13, 1874 – July 13, 1951) was an Austrian and later American composer.
Many of Schoenberg's works are associated with the expressionist movements in early 20th-century German poetry and art, and he was among the first composers to embrace atonal motivic development.
Schoenberg is best known as the innovator in the 1920s of the twelve-tone technique, a compositional technique involving tone rows. He was also a painter, an important music theorist, and an influential teacher of composition.
Arnold Schönberg was born to an Ashkenazi Jewish family in the Leopoldstadt district (in earlier times a Jewish ghetto) in Vienna, at "Obere Donaustraße 5" Although his mother Pauline, a native of Prague, was a piano teacher (his father Samuel, a native of Bratislava, was a shopkeeper), Arnold was largely self-taught, taking only counterpoint lessons with the composer Alexander von Zemlinsky, who was to become his first brother-in-law (Beaumont 2000, 87). In his twenties, he lived by orchestrating operettas while composing works such as the string sextet Verklärte Nacht ("Transfigured Night") in 1899.
He later made an orchestral version of this, which has come to be one of his most popular pieces. Both Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler recognized Schoenberg's significance as a composer, Strauss when he encountered Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder, and Mahler after hearing several of Schoenberg's early works. Strauss turned to a more conservative idiom in his own work after 1909 and at that point dismissed Schoenberg, but Mahler adopted Schoenberg as a protégé and continued to support him even after Schoenberg's style reached a point which Mahler could no longer understand, and Mahler worried about who would look after him after his death.
Schoenberg, who had initially despised and mocked Mahler's music, was converted by the "thunderbolt" of Mahler's 3rd symphony, which he considered a work of genius, and afterwards "even spoke of Mahler as a saint" (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 103; Schoenberg 1975, 136). Despite his Jewish background, in 1898 he converted to Lutheranism. He would remain Lutheran until 1933.
Schoenberg began teaching harmony, counterpoint and composition in 1904, using Heinrich Bellermann's treatise 'Counterpoint' as his text. His first students were Paul Pisk, Anton Webern, and Alban Berg; Webern and Berg would become the most famous of his many pupils.
The summer of 1908, during which his wife Mathilde left him for several months for a young Austrian painter, Richard Gerstl (who committed suicide after her return to her husband and children), marked a distinct change in Schoenberg's work. It was during the absence of his wife that he composed "You lean against a silver-willow" (German: Du lehnest wider eine Silberweide), the thirteenth song in the cycle Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten, op. 15, and the first piece without any reference at all to a key (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 96). Also in this year he completed one of his most revolutionary compositions, the String Quartet No. 2, whose first two movements, though chromatic in color, use traditional key signatures, yet whose final two movements, settings of poems by the German mystical poet Stefan George, weaken the links with traditional tonality daringly (though both movements end on tonic chords, and the work is not yet fully non-tonal) and, breaking with previous string-quartet practice, incorporate a soprano vocal line.
During the summer of 1910, Schoenberg wrote his Harmonielehre (Theory of Harmony, Schoenberg 1922), which to this day remains one of the most influential music-theory books.
Another of his most important works from this atonal or pantonal period is the highly influential Pierrot Lunaire, op. 21, of 1912, a novel cycle of expressionist songs set to a German translation of poems by the Belgian-French poet Albert Giraud. Utilizing the technique of Sprechstimme, or speak-singing recitation, the work pairs a female singer with a small ensemble of 5 musicians. The ensemble, which is now commonly referred to as the Pierrot ensemble, consists of flute (doubling on piccolo), clarinet (doubling on bass clarinet), violin (doubling on viola), violoncello, speaker-singer, and piano. In recent years, other composers have modified the ensemble to include percussion, which often replaces the singer.
Later, Schoenberg was to develop the most influential version of the dodecaphonic (also known as twelve-tone) method of composition, which in French and English was given the alternative name serialism by René Leibowitz and Humphrey Searle in 1947. This technique was taken up by many of his students, who constituted the so-called Second Viennese School. They included Anton Webern, Alban Berg and Hanns Eisler, all of whom were profoundly influenced by Schoenberg. He excelled as a teacher of music (teaching students such as John Cage), partly through his method of engaging with, analyzing, and transmitting the methods of the great classical composers, especially Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, partly through his focus on bringing out the musical and compositional individuality of his students. He published a number of books, ranging from his famous Harmonielehre (Theory of Harmony) to Fundamentals of Musical Composition (Schoenberg 1967), many of which are still in print and still used by musicians and developing composers.
Following the 1924 death of composer Ferruccio Busoni, who had served as Director of a Master Class in Composition at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin, Schoenberg was appointed to this post the next year, but because of health reasons was unable to take up his post until 1926. Anti-Semitic attacks in the Zeitschrift für Musik swiftly ensued. Among his notable students during this period were the composers Roberto Gerhard, Nikos Skalkottas, and Josef Rufer. Schoenberg continued in his post until the election of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in 1933, when he was dismissed and forced into exile. He emigrated to Paris, where he reaffirmed his Jewish faith and then to the United States. His first teaching position in the United States was at the Malkin Conservatory in Boston. He was then wooed to Los Angeles, where he taught at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, both of which later named a music building on their respective campuses Schoenberg Hall. He settled in Brentwood Park, where he befriended fellow composer (and tennis partner) George Gershwin and began teaching at University of California, Los Angeles, where he resided for the rest of his life.
During this final period he composed several notable works, including the difficult Violin Concerto, op. 36 (1934/36), the Kol Nidre, op. 39, for chorus and orchestra (1938), the Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, op. 41 (1942), the haunting Piano Concerto, op. 42 (1942), and his memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, A Survivor from Warsaw, op. 46 (1947). He was unable to complete his opera Moses und Aron (1932/33), which was one of the first works of its genre to be written completely using dodecaphonic composition. In 1941, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Schoenberg's experience of triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13), which possibly began in 1908 with the composition of op. 15, no. 13 (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 96), and his superstitious nature may have triggered his death. According to friend Katia Mann, he feared he would die during a year that was a multiple of 13. He so dreaded his sixty-fifth birthday that a friend asked composer and astrologist Dane Rudhyar to prepare Schoenberg's horoscope. Rudhyar did this and told Schoenberg that the year was dangerous, but not fatal. But in 1951, on his seventy-sixth birthday, the Viennese musician and astrologist Oskar Adler wrote Schoenberg a note warning him that the year was a critical one: 7 + 6 = 13. This stunned and depressed the composer, for up to that point he had only been wary of multiples of 13 and never considered adding the digits of his age. He became obsessed with this idea and many friends report that he frequently said: "If I can only pull through this year I shall be safe." On Friday, July 13, of his seventy-sixth year, Arnold Schoenberg stayed in bed—sick, anxious and depressed. In a letter to Schoenberg's sister Ottilie, dated 4 August 1951, his wife, Gertrud, reported "About a quarter to twelve I looked at the clock and said to myself: another quarter of an hour and then the worst is over. Then the doctor called me. Arnold's throat rattled twice, his heart gave a powerful beat and that was the end" (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 521). Gertrud Schoenberg reported the next day in a telegram to her sister-in-law Ottilie that Arnold died at 11:45pm (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 520).
Arnold Schoenberg was grandfather of the lawyer E. Randol Schoenberg. His daughter, Nuria Dorothea, married fellow composer Luigi Nono in 1955.
Works and ideas
To understand why Schoenberg composed the music that he did, it is useful to begin with his own statement: "Had times been 'normal' (before and after 1914) then the music of our time would have been very different."
Schoenberg, as a Jewish intellectual, was passionately committed to the concept of unshaken adherence to an "Idea" (such as the concept of an inexpressible God) and the pursuance of Truth. He saw the development of music accelerating through the works of Wagner, Strauss and Mahler to a state of saturation. If music was to regain a genuine and valid simplicity of expression, as in the music of his beloved Mozart and Schubert, the language must be renewed.
These were the same years when the Western world developed abstract painting and psychoanalysis in the same city. Many intellectuals at the time felt that thought had developed to a point of no return, and that it was no longer possible honestly to go on repeating what had been done before. Between 1901 (Gurre-Lieder) and 1910 (Five Pieces for Orchestra) his music changed more rapidly than at any other time. When he had written his String Quartet opus 7 and his Chamber Symphony opus 9, he imagined he had arrived at a mature personal style which would serve him for the future. But already in the second String Quartet opus 10 and the Drei Klavierstücke opus 11, he had to admit that the saturation of added notes in harmony had reached a stage when there was no meaningful difference between consonance and dissonance. For a time Schoenberg's music became very concentrated and elliptical, as he could see no reason to repeat and develop.World War I brought a crisis in his development. Military service disrupted his life. He was never able to work uninterrupted or over a period of time, and as a result he left many unfinished works and undeveloped "beginnings". So, at the age of 42 he found himself in the army. On one occasion, a superior officer demanded to know if he was "this notorious Schoenberg, then"; Schoenberg replied: "Beg to reports, sir, yes. . . . Nobody wanted to be, someone had to be, so I let it be me" (Schoenberg 1975, 104) (according to Norman Lebrecht, this is an obvious reference to Schoenberg's apparent "destiny" as the "Emancipator of Dissonance") (Lebrecht 2001).
After the war he worked at evolving a means of order which would enable his musical texture to become simpler and clearer, and this resulted in the "method of composition with twelve tones" in which the twelve pitches of the octave are regarded as equal, and no one note or tonality is given the emphasis it occupied in classical harmony. He regarded it as the equivalent in music of Albert Einstein's discoveries in Physics, and Schoenberg announced it characteristically, during a walk with his friend Josef Rufer, when he said "I have made a discovery which will ensure the supremacy of German music for the next hundred years" (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 277).
This remark, much misquoted and misunderstood, was probably made with Schoenberg's customary wry and ironic humour, referring to the collapse of the dominant political position of the German-speaking world in previous years, and also emphasising his desire to stand with Bach and Beethoven.
In the following years he produced a series of instrumental and orchestral works showing how his method could produce new classical music which did not copy the past. The climax was to be an opera Moses und Aron, of which he wrote over two-thirds but which he was unable to complete, perhaps for psychological reasons. The music ends at the point where Moses cries out his frustration at being unable to express himself. There is little doubt that by this time Schoenberg had come to see himself as a kind of prophet too.
When he settled in California, he wrote several works in which he returned to quasi-tonal harmony, but in a very distinctive way, not simply re-using classical harmony. This was in accordance with his belief that his music evolved naturally out of the past. One of his sayings was "my music is not really modern, just badly played."
It is worth noting that Schoenberg was not the only composer (or even the first) to experiment with the systematic use of all twelve tones. Both the Russian composer Nikolai Roslavets and Schoenberg's fellow Austrian Josef Matthias Hauer developed their own twelve-tone systems quite independently at around the same time as Schoenberg, and Charles Ives experimented with twelve-tone techniques substantially earlier. However, Schoenberg's system was by far the most important and influential.
Controversies and polemics
After some normal early difficulties, Schoenberg began to win public acceptance, with works such as the tone poem Pelleas und Melisande at a Berlin performance in 1907, and, especially, at the Vienna première of the Gurrelieder on 13 February 1913, which received an ovation that lasted a quarter of an hour and Schoenberg was presented with a laurel crown (Rosen 1996, 4; Stuckenschmidt 1977, 184). Much of his work, however, was not well received. In 1907 his Chamber Symphony No. 1 in E major was premièred. The audience was small, and the reaction to the work lukewarm. When it was played again, however, in a 31 March 1913 concert which also included works by Alban Berg, Anton Webern and Alexander von Zemlinsky, thunderous applause contended with hisses and laughter during Webern's Six Pieces, op. 6. Though Zemlinsky's Four Maeterlinck Songs calmed the audience somewhat, according to a contemporary newspaper report, after Schoenberg's op. 9 "one could hear the shrill sound of door keys among the violent clapping and in the second gallery the first fight of the evening began". Later in the concert, during a performance of the Altenberg Lieder by Berg, fighting broke out after Schoenberg interrupted the performance to threaten removal by the police of any troublemakers (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 185). Mahler's Kindertotenlieder, which were to have concluded the concert, had to be cancelled after a police officer was called in (Rosen 1996, 5). Schoenberg's music after 1908 made a break from tonality, which greatly polarised responses to it: his followers and students saw him as one of the most important figures in music, while critics hated his work, on the whole.
The deteriorating relation between contemporary composers and the public led him to found the Society for Private Musical Performances (Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen in German) in Vienna in 1918. His aim was grandiose but scarcely egocentric; he sought to provide a forum in which modern musical compositions could be carefully prepared and rehearsed, and properly performed under conditions protected from the dictates of fashion and pressures of commerce. From its inception through 1921, when it ended because of economic reasons, the Society presented 353 performances to paid members, sometimes at the rate of one per week, and during the first year and a half, Schoenberg did not allow any of his own works to be performed (Rosen 1975, 65). Instead, audiences at the Society's concerts heard difficult contemporary compositions by Skryabin, Debussy, Mahler, Webern, Berg, Reger, and other leading figures of early 20th-century music (Rosen 1996, 66).
Schoenberg was said to be a very prickly and difficult man to know and befriend. In one of his letters he said "I hope you weren't stupid enough to be offended by what I said," and he rewarded conductors such as Otto Klemperer who programmed his music by complaining repeatedly that they didn't do more. On the other hand, among those who are considered his disciples he inspired absolute devotion. Even strongly individualistic composers such as Alban Berg and Anton Webern displayed an almost slavish selflessness and willingness to serve him.
Schoenberg's serial technique of composition with 12 notes became one of the most central and polemical issues among American and European musicians during the mid- to late-20th century. Beginning in the 1940s and continuing to the present day, composers such as Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono and Milton Babbitt have extended Schoenberg's legacy in increasingly radical directions. The major cities in the USA (e.g. Los Angeles, NYC, Boston) have also been hosts for historically significant performances of Schoenberg's music, with advocates such as Babbitt in NYC and the Franco-American conductor-pianist, Jacques-Louis Monod; including the influence of Schoenberg's own pupils, who have taught at major American schools (e.g. Leonard Stein at USC, UCLA and CalArts; Richard Hoffmann at Oberlin; Patricia Carpenter at Columbia; and Leon Kirchner and Earl Kim at Harvard). Others include performers associated with Schoenberg, who have had a profound influence upon contemporary music performance practice in the USA (e.g. Louis Krasner, Eugene Lehner and Rudolf Kolisch at the New England Conservatory of Music; Eduard Steuermann and Felix Galimar at the Juilliard School). Elsewhere in Europe, the work of Hans Keller, Luigi Rognoni, and René Leibowitz has had a measurable influence in disseminating Schoenberg's musical legacy outside of Germany and Austria.
Schoenberg was not fond of Igor Stravinsky, and in 1926 wrote a poem titled "Der neue Klassizismus" (in which he derogates Neoclassicism and obliquely refers to Stravinsky as "Der kleine Modernsky"), which he used as text for the third of his Drei Satiren, op. 28 (H. C. Schonberg 1970, 503).
Schoenberg was also a painter of considerable ability, whose pictures were considered good enough to exhibit alongside those of Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 142), and he wrote extensively: plays and poems, as well as essays not only about music but about politics and the social/historical situation of the Jewish people. He was also interested in Hopalong Cassidy films, which Paul Buhle and David Wagner (2002, v–vii) attribute to the films' left-wing screenwriters—a rather odd claim in light of Schoenberg's statement that he was a bourgeois turned monarchist (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 551–52).