Arnold Schoenberg


Arnold Schoenberg Famous memorial

Original Name Schönberg
Vienna, Wien Stadt, Vienna (Wien), Austria
Death 13 Jul 1951 (aged 76)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Vienna, Wien Stadt, Vienna (Wien), Austria
Plot Group 32 C, Number 21A
Memorial ID 1291 View Source

Composer, Theorist, Teacher. The leader of the Second Viennese School. His invention of the 12-tone or serial method of composition had a profound impact on the development of Western music. By breaking with centuries-old tonal systems and creating new ones, he inspired legions of followers and endured a lifetime of hostility from his detractors. Arnold Franz Walter Schönberg was born in Vienna of Hungarian-Czech Jewish ancestry. He received violin lessons at age eight and studied for a time with composer Alexander von Zemlinsky, but was essentially a self-taught musician. Dividing his activities between Vienna and Berlin, he supported himself mainly through private teaching and as an arranger of operettas. In 1904 he began a lifelong association with his two most devoted pupils, Anton Webern and Alban Berg; they would become major composers themselves and with their teacher formed the Second Viennese School. From 1919 to 1921 he vigorously promoted contemporary music through his Society for Private Musical Performances and in 1925 was appointed professor of composition at Berlin's Prussian Academy. Although he had converted to Lutheranism in 1898, he was denigrated as a Jew when the Nazis came to power and in 1933 he fled to Paris. There he formally returned to the Judaism of his birth. The following year he moved to the United States, settling in Los Angeles for health reasons, and became a US citizen in 1941. (He also anglicized his surname from Schönberg to Schoenberg). From 1936 to 1944 he taught at UCLA. Following a near-fatal heart attack in 1946 he was virtually an invalid, though he managed to complete at least one composition a year until his death. His body was returned to Vienna and interred in an honor grave at the Zentralfriedhof. He was married twice and had five children. Schoenberg was controversial from the start of his career. His first important work, the string sextet "Verklärte Nacht" ("Transfigured Night", 1899), was rejected by the music society it was written for and from then on, in the composer's words, "the scandal never stopped". As his style grew more dissonant and finally abandoned tonality altogether, critics and the public grew more antagonistic; a 1913 Vienna concert featuring his music ended in a riot. Some of his key works had to wait a decade or more for performance. This slowly began to change during the inter-war years and after World War II his seminal importance was generally acknowledged. Audience acceptance remains elusive, however, and the debate continues about the merits of his influence. Schoenberg left about 50 published opuses and his output is usually divided into four periods. He started out as a German romantic, strongly influenced by Wagner, Brahms, and Mahler, and saw his deepening experiments in chromaticism as logical extensions of Wagnerian harmony. "Verklärte Nacht," so disturbing to Viennese ears in the early 1900s, is today his one popular original work, especially in its 1917 arrangement for string orchestra (revised in 1943). Choreographer Antony Tudor used the score for his famous ballet "Pillar of Fire" (1942). His vast super-romantic cantata "Gurrelieder" (initially written between 1900 and 1901) was an unqualified success at its 1913 premiere but the composer bitterly rejected the kudos, mainly because the piece no longer represented his advanced idiom. The icy receptions for his symphonic poem "Pelleas und Melisande" (1905), the Chamber Symphony No. 1 (1906), and his First and Second String Quartets (1905, 1908) were more typical. The watershed year 1909 saw Schoenberg's first efforts at writing in a fully atonal style, a technique so radical that even onetime supporter Richard Strauss (a musical "bad boy" himself) wrote him off as a madman. The ensuing years are referred to as Schoenberg's "Expressionist" phase, in part because he was associated with and took ideas from the German Expressionist movement. Historians have been tempted to see a connection between this departure and a calamity in the composer's personal life: in 1908 his first wife Mathilde had an affair with the brilliant but troubled painter Richard Gerstl, who then committed suicide. Schoenberg himself briefly took up painting at this time (he exhibited with the group "Der Blaue Reiter" and had a one-man show in 1910), but never considered himself more than an amateur. The essential composition of this period, and perhaps Schoenberg's greatest masterpiece, is the dreamlike "Pierrot lunaire" (1912), a setting of 21 poems by Albert Giraud for speaker and chamber ensemble. Among his other important atonal works are the Three Piano Pieces (1909), Five Orchestral Pieces (1909), the one-act operas "Erwartung" ("Expectation", 1909, premiered 1924) and "Die glückliche Hand" ("The Fortunate Hand," 1913, premiered 1924), and the oratorio "Die Jakobsleiter" ("Jacob's Ladder"), on which he worked from 1917 to 1922 but never completed. The difficulties in sustaining unity and coherence in atonal music, and his own desire to return to large scale forms, led Schoenberg to develop what he called "the technique of composition in 12 tones" around 1920. In this method melodies and harmonies are derived from an arrangement of all 12 chromatic tones, each of equal importance, and there is no dominant key. The Piano Suite Op. 25 (1923) was his first fully realized serial piece, followed by the Requiem (in memory of Mathilde Schoenberg, who died in 1923), String Quartet No. 3 (1927), Variations for Orchestra (1928), the one-act comic opera "Von heute auf morgen" (1930), the opera "Moses und Aron" (left unfinished in 1932, premiered in 1951), the Cello Concerto (1933) and Violin Concerto (1935). The music Schoenberg wrote after 1936 offered a more moderate approach to serialism and the "Kol nidre" (1938) and Theme and Variations for Band (1943) are frankly tonal. His very popular orchestral arrangement of Brahms' G Minor Piano Quartet also dates from this period. Outstanding later opuses include the String Quartet No. 4 (1936), Chamber Symphony No. 2 (1939), the Piano Concerto (1942), a setting of Byron's "Ode to Napoleon" (1942), the String Trio (a reflection on his near-death experience, 1946), and "A Survivor from Warsaw" (1947) for narrator, male chorus and orchestra. In addition he wrote several books over the years, two of which, "Harmonielehre" (1911) and "Style and Idea" (1950), are standard texts. Unlike many of his overzealous disciples, Schoenberg never used serialism to proclaim the "death" of tonality (which is still very much with us in the West). His respect for the past was too great. In the midst of his creative upheavals he reasonably remarked, "There is still plenty of good music to be written in C Major."

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 1291
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Arnold Schoenberg (13 Sep 1874–13 Jul 1951), Find a Grave Memorial ID 1291, citing Wiener Zentralfriedhof, Vienna, Wien Stadt, Vienna (Wien), Austria ; Maintained by Find a Grave .