Schönberg, Arnold

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Schönberg, Arnold


Born Sept. 13, 1874, in Vienna; died July 13,1951, in Los Angeles, Calif. Austrian composer.

From 1901 to 1903, Schönberg taught composition at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. In 1903 he moved to Vienna, where he became known as a composer, conductor, and teacher and as an organizer and director of choral groups. He was a professor at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin from 1925 to 1933. After the fascists came to power, he was forced to emigrate to the USA, where from 1936 to 1944 he taught composition at the University of California at Los Angeles.

In his early works, most notably in the string sextet Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night; 1899) and the symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande (1903), Schönberg continued the traditions of German and Austrian romanticism and of R. Wagner. Later he developed the dodecaphonic, or twelve-tone, system of composition. Schönberg was the founder of atonal music and the most prominent representative of musical expressionism. His theories greatly influenced several generations of composers, notably—in addition to such students and followers of his as A. Berg and A. von Webern—E. Wellesz, E. Křenek, and R. Leibowitz.

Schönberg most consistently applied the twelve-tone system in such works as the Fünf Klavierstücke (1923), the Serenade for Septet and Baritone (1923), the concerti for violin (1936) and piano (1942), the monodrama Erwartung (1909, staged 1924), and the opera Moses und Aron (1932; concert performance, 1954). The music of these works, marked by artificiality and expressionist angst, is devoid of melody.

Shaken by the fascists’ destruction of the Warsaw ghetto, Schönberg wrote the story for speaker with orchestra and male chorus A Survivor From Warsaw (1947), in which he departed from his characteristic subjectivism. In his works Schönberg protested against the inhuman laws of the bourgeois state, but his overriding theme remained the tragic isolation of the artist in an alien and hostile world.

In addition to Pierrot Lunaire (1912), written for voice with chamber accompaniment, Schönberg’s other principal works include two chamber symphonies (1906 and 1939), four string quartets, compositions for voice and for piano, and numerous theoretical works.


Sollertinskii, I. Arnol’d Shenberg. Leningrad [1934].
Til’man, I. “O dodekafonnom metode kompozitsii.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1958, no. 11.
Pavlyshyn, S. “Misiachnyi P’ero” A. Shenberga. Kiev, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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