Arnold Schoenberg

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Schoenberg, Arnold

(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 musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
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). 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 BergBerg, Alban
, 1885–1935, Austrian composer. In his youth he taught himself music but in 1904 he became the pupil and close friend of Arnold Schoenberg. Later Berg himself taught privately in Vienna.
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 and Anton von WebernWebern, Anton von
, 1883–1945, Austrian composer and conductor; pupil of Arnold Schoenberg. He conducted theater orchestras in Prague and in various German cities until 1918, devoting himself thereafter to composition and teaching.
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. 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 WagnerWagner, Richard
, 1813–83, German composer, b. Leipzig. Life and Work

Wagner was reared in a theatrical family, had a classical education, and began composing at 17.
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 and MahlerMahler, Gustav
, 1860–1911, composer and conductor, born in Austrian Bohemia of Jewish parentage. Mahler studied at the Univ. of Vienna and the Vienna Conservatory.
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. 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 GeorgeGeorge, Stefan
, 1868–1933, German poet, leader of the revolt against realism in German literature. He was poetically influenced by Greek classical forms, by the Parnassians, and by the French symbolists. Intellectually he was a disciple of Nietzsche.
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, he completely abandoned tonality (see atonalityatonality
, in music, systematic avoidance of harmonic or melodic reference to tonal centers (see key). The term is used to designate a method of composition in which the composer has deliberately rejected the principle of tonality.
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). 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.

Bibliography

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).