Arnold Schoenberg has exercised very considerable influence over the course of music in the 20th century, particularly through his development and promulgation of theories of composition in which unity in a work is provided by the use of a determined series, usually
consisting of the twelve possible different semitones, their order also inverted or taken in retrograde form, and in transposed versions. Schoenberg's earlier compositions are post-romantic in character, followed by a period in which he developed his theories of atonality, music
without a key or tonal centre. Born in Vienna in 1874, he spent his early career in Berlin, until the rise to power of Hitler made it necessary to leave Germany and find safety in America, where he died in 1951. With his pupils Anton Webern and Alban Berg,
both of whom he outlived, he represents a group of composers known as the Second Viennese School.
Schoenberg's most important opera is Moses und Aron, of which he completed only two of the three acts.
Choral and Vocal Music
Gurrelieder, written between 1901 and 1903, is a work of Wagnerian proportions and mood, for solo voices, large chorus and orchestra. Other, later vocal music includes A Survivor from Warsaw, written in 1947, for narrator, male voices and orchestra. Solo songs range from the 1909
settings of Stefan George in Das Buch der hängenden Gärten (The Book of the Hanging Garden) to the cabaret songs he wrote for the Berlin Überbrettl in his earlier years. The Pierrot lunaire, a study of madness, based on German translations of seven poems by Albert Giraud and
using Sprechgesang, words half spoken, half sung, was completed in 1912.
Schoenberg's music for orchestra includes a violin concerto, a symphonic poem based on Maurice Maeterlinck's medieval drama Pelleas und Melisande and Five Orchestral Pieces.
In addition to four string quartets and a late string trio, Schoenberg's post-romantic Verklärte Nacht of 1899 is particularly noteworthy.
Biography selected from Naxos, the World's Leading Classical Music Label.
©HNH International Ltd. 2000. In Kunst der Fuge / On Classical by permission. All rights reserved.