Arnold Schoenberg: The 100 most inspiring musicians of all time

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Arnold Schoenberg: The 100 most inspiring musicians of all time

Arnold Schoenberg (b. Sept. 13, 1874, Vienna, Austrian Empire [Austria]—d. July 13, 1951, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.), Austrian-American composer Arnold Franz Walter Schoenberg (also spelled Schönberg), created a new method of composition based on a row, or series, of 12
tones—a method described as atonality. He was also one of the most influential teachers of the 20th century, among his most significant pupils were Alban Berg and Anton Webern.

Early Life

Schoenberg’s father, Samuel, owned a small shoe shop in the Second, then predominantly Jewish, district, of Vienna. Neither Samuel nor his wife, Pauline (née Nachod), was particularly musical. There were, however, two professional singers in the family—Heinrich Schoenberg, the
composer’s brother, and Hans Nachod, his cousin.

Before he was nine years old, Schoenberg began composing little pieces for two violins, which he played with his teacher or with a cousin. A little later, when he acquired a viola-playing classmate, he advanced to the writing of string trios for two violins and viola. When he learned the cello, he promptly began composing quartets.

Arnold Schoenberg free sheet music & score pdf

Schoenberg’s father died in 1890. To help the family finances, the young man worked as a bank clerk until 1895. During this time he came to know Alexander von Zemlinsky, a rising young composer and conductor of the
amateur orchestra Polyhymnia in which Schoenberg played cello. The two became close friends, and Zemlinsky gave Schoenberg instruction in harmony, counterpoint, and composition. This resulted in Schoenberg’s first publicly performed work, the String Quartet in D Major (1897).

Highly influenced by the style of Brahms, the quartet was well received by Viennese audiences during the 1897–98 and 1898–99 concert seasons.

First Major Works

A great step forward took place in 1899, when Schoenberg composed the string sextet Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), a highly romantic piece of program music (unified by a nonmusical story or image). Its programmatic nature and its harmonies outraged conservative program committees.

Consequently, it was not performed until 1903, when it was violently rejected by the public. In 1901 Schoenberg decided to move to Berlin, hoping to better his financial position. He married Mathilde von
Zemlinsky, his friend’s sister, and began working as musical director at the Überbrettl, an intimate artistic cabaret. He wrote many songs for this group, among them, “Nachtwandler” (“Sleepwalker”) for soprano, piccolo, trumpet, snare drum, and piano (published 1969).

With the encouragement of German composer Richard Strauss, Schoenberg composed his only symphonic poem for large orchestra, Pelleas und Melisande (1902–03), after the drama by the Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck. Back in Vienna in 1903, Schoenberg became acquainted with the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler , who became one of his strongest supporters.

Schoenberg’s next major work was the String Quartet No. 1 in D Minor , Opus 7 (1904). The composition’s high density of musical texture and its unusual form (one vast structure played without interruption for nearly 50 minutes) caused diffi culties in comprehension at the work’s premiere in 1907. A similar form was used in the more concise Chamber Symphony in E Major (1906), a work novel in its choice of instrumental ensemble: chamber-like group of 15 instruments.

During these years, Schoenberg’s activity as a teacher became increasingly
important. The young Austrian composers Alban Berg and Anton Webern began studying with him in 1904; both gained from him the impetus to their notable careers, and Schoenberg, in turn, benefitted greatly from the intellectual stimulation of his loyal disciples. Schoenberg’s textbooks include Harmonielehre (“Theory of Harmony”; 1911), Models for Beginners in Composition (1942), Structural Functions of Harmony (1954), Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint (1963), and Fundamentals of Musical Composition (1967).

Evolution from Tonality

Until this period all of Schoenberg’s works had been strictly tonal; that is, each of them had been in a specific key, centred upon a specific tone. However, as his harmonies and melodies became more complex, tonality became of lesser importance. The process of “transcending” tonality can be observed at the beginning of the last movement of his Second String Quartet (1907–08).

On Feb. 19, 1909, Schoenberg finished his piano piece Opus 11, No. 1, the first composition ever to dispense completely with “tonal” means of organization. Such pieces, in which no one tonal centre exists and in which
any harmonic or melodic combination of tones may be sounded without restrictions of any kind, are usually called atonal, although Schoenberg preferred “pantonal.”

Schoenberg’s most important atonal compositions include Five Orchestral Pieces, Opus 16 (1909); the monodrama Erwartung (Expectation), a stage work for soprano and orchestra, Opus 17 (1924); Pierrot Lunaire, 21 recitations (“melodramas”) with chamber accompaniment, Opus 21 (1912); Die glückliche Hand (The Hand of Fate), drama with music, Opus 18 (1924); and the unfinished oratorio Die Jakobsleiter (begun 1917).

Schoenberg’s earlier music was by this time beginning to find recognition. On Feb. 23, 1913, his Gurrelieder (begun in 1900) was first performed in Vienna. This gigantic cantata, which calls for unusually large vocal and orchestral forces, represents a peak of the post-Romantic monumental style. The music was received with wild enthusiasm by the audience, but the embittered Schoenberg could no longer appreciate or acknowledge their response.

In 1911, unable to make a decent living in Vienna, he had moved to Berlin. He remained there until 1915, when, because of wartime emergency, he had to report to Vienna for military service. He spent brief periods in the Austrian Army in 1916 and 1917, until he was finally discharged on medical grounds. During the war years he did little composing, partly because of the demands of army service and partly because he was meditating on how to solve the vast structural problems that had been caused by his move away from tonality. Those meditations yielded a method of composition in which 12 tones related only to one another; Schoenberg’s Piano Suite, Opus 25, was his first 12-tone piece.

In the 12-tone method, each composition is formed from a special row or series of 12 different tones. This row may be played in its original form, inverted (played upside down), played backward, or played backward and inverted. It may also be transposed up or down to any pitch level.

All of it, or any part of it, may be sounded successively as a melody or simultaneously as a harmony. In fact, all harmonies and melodies in the piece must be drawn from this row. Although such a method might seem extremely restrictive, this did not prove to be the case. Using this technique, Schoenberg composed what many consider his greatest work, the opera Moses und Aron (begun in 1930).

For the rest of his life, Schoenberg continued to use the 12-tone method. Occasionally he returned to traditional tonality, in works such as the Suite for String Orchestra (1934); the Variations on a Recitative for Organ, Opus 40 (1940); and the Theme and Variations for Band, Opus 43A (1943). After World War I Schoenberg’s music won increasing acclaim, although his invention of the 12-tone method aroused considerable opposition.

In 1923 his wife, Mathilde, died after a long illness, and a year later he married Gertrud Kolisch, the sister of the violinist Rudolf Kolisch. His
success as a teacher continued to grow.

In 1925 he was invited to direct the master class in musical composition
at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. Schoenberg’s teaching was well received, and he was writing important works: the Third String Quartet, Opus 30 (1927); the opera Von Heute auf Morgen (From Today to
Tomorrow), Opus 32 (1928–29, first performed in 1930); Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene (Accompaniment to a Film Scene), Opus 34 (1929–30).

But political events proved his undoing. The rise of National Socialism in Germany in 1933 led to the extirpation of Jewish influence in all spheres
of German cultural life. Schoenberg was dismissed from his post at the academy. He emigrated to the United States via Paris, and in November 1933 he took a position at the Malkin Conservatory in Boston. In 1934 he moved to California, where he spent the remainder of his life, becoming a citizen of the United States in 1941.

He held major teaching positions at the University of Southern California (1935–36) and at the University of California at Los Angeles (1936–44).
Schoenberg’s major American works show everincreasing mastery and freedom in the handling of the 12-tone method. Some of the outstanding compositions of his American period are the Violin Concerto, Opus 36
(1934–36); the Fourth String Quartet, Opus 37 (1936); the Piano Concerto, Opus 42 (1942); and the Fantasia for violin with piano accompaniment, Opus 47 (1949).

He also wrote a number of works of particular Jewish interest, including
Kol Nidre for mixed chorus, speaker, and orchestra, Opus 39 (1938), and the Prelude to the Genesis Suite for orchestra and mixed chorus, Opus 44 (1945).

On July 2, 1951, Hermann Scherchen, the eminent conductor of 20th-century music, conducted the “Dance

Around the Gold Calf ” from Moses und Aron at Darmstadt,
W. Ger. The telegram telling of the great success of this performance was one of the last things to bring Schoenberg pleasure before his death 11 days later.

Arnold Schoenberg – Piano Concerto, Op. 42

– Composer: Arnold Schönberg {Schoenberg after 1934} (13 September 1874 — 13 July 1951)

– Orchestra: The Cleveland Orchestra

– Conductor: Pierre Boulez – Soloist: Mitsuko Uchida

– Year of recording: 2000

Piano Concerto, Op. 42, written in 1942. 00:00 – I. Andante 04:34 – II. Molto allegro 07:05 – III. Adagio 13:39 – IV. Giocoso (Moderato)

Arnold Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto, Op. 42, was the composer’s first work since the Violin Concerto, Op. 36 to employ his “method of composing with 12 tones that are related only to one another.” Four of his previous works — Kol nidre, Op. 39, the Second Chamber Symphony, Op. 38, the Variations on a Recitative for Organ, Op. 40, and Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, Op. 41 (all completed between 1938 and 1942) — retain serial principles in a relaxed form or dispense with them completely. For the first time in four years, Schoenberg would base a work on a single, ordered, 12-note series. This series appears in the opening theme of the concerto, both in the linear right hand of the piano part and in combination with the left hand (some pitch repetition does occur).

Although it is written in one movement, the concerto falls into four sections, marked Andante, Molto allegro, Adagio, and Giocoso. The division is symphonic in nature, and the rondo-like aspects of the finale reinforce this impression. The richness of the piano part is evocative of Brahms’ music, as is the distribution of material between the solo and orchestra parts. Schoenberg partitions his row into two hexachords (six-note groups), each of which he tends to subdivide into trichords (three-note groups).

Unlike the row Schoenberg designed for his Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, Op. 41, various combinations of pitches do not result in traditional triads. However, Schoenberg’s permutations of the row are sometimes very free, even from the beginning of the piece, resulting in occasional quasi-tonal passages. This freedom in the use of the row enables Schoenberg to write the thick, fourth-based chords at the end of the Molto allegro and the Adagio. At such moments the work seems to be moving away from the 12-tone idiom.

– The clear triple meter of the first section is eerily reminiscent of the Viennese waltz in both the melody and accompaniment. Entering hesitantly at first, the orchestra gradually becomes an equal participant in the proceedings. – In the Molto allegro, Schoenberg employs a device he had used in his Op. 11 piano pieces — a chord in harmonics created by silently depressing four keys, then causing the strings to vibrate by striking the same notes in a lower register.

– The orchestra alone opens the tense, tragic Adagio, thereafter alternating with the piano’s solo passages. Separation between the two forces is created in this section, in which a potential climax is averted by a moment of silence and a genuine cadenza for the piano. – Oddly, the very beginning of the Giocoso returns to an F sharp far more often than would be possible in a strictly worked out 12-tone composition, reflecting Schoenberg’s relaxed approach to his own method in this piece. A recurrent rhythmic motive permeates the entire section, which, in its contrasting moments and sweeping gestures, sounds at times as if it were composed in the late nineteenth century. Sketches for the concerto suggest Schoenberg put down his first ideas on 27 June 1942; his date at the end of the finished score is 10 December 1942.

The premiere of the Piano Concerto was given at the NBC Studios in New York with Eduard Steuermann at the piano and Leopold Stokowski conducting. Steuermann had also participated in the first performances of Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, Op. 41, and Pierrot lunaire, Op. 21.

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