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Arnold Schoenberg

1874 - 1951

Arnold Franz Walter Schoenberg or Schönberg (13 September 1874 – 13 July 1951) was an Austrian-American composer, music theorist, teacher, writer, and painter. He was associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School. With the rise of the Nazi Party, Schoenberg's works were labeled degenerate music, because they were modernist, atonal and what even Paul Hindemith called "sonic orgies" and "decadent intellectual efforts" (Petropoulos 2014, 94–95). He emigrated to the United States in 1934.


Arnold Schoenberg, in full Arnold Franz Walter Schoenberg, Schoenberg also spelled Schönberg, (born September 13, 1874, Vienna, Austria—died July 13, 1951, Los Angeles, California, U.S.), Austrian-American composer who created new methods of musical composition involving atonality, namely serialism and the 12-tone row. 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, although, like most Austrians of their generation, they enjoyed music. There were, however, two professional singers in the family—Heinrich Schoenberg, the composer’s brother, and Hans Nachod, his cousin. Nachod, a gifted tenor, was the first to sing the role of Waldemar in Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder (first performed 1900–01).

Before he was nine years old, Schoenberg had begun 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. His meeting with Austrian musician and physician Oskar Adler (later the famed astrologer and author of The Testament of Astrology) was a decisive one. Adler encouraged him to learn the cello so that a group of friends could play string quartets. Schoenberg promptly began composing quartets, although he had to wait for the “S” volume of Meyers Grosses Konversations-Lexikon (an encyclopaedia that his family was buying on the installment plan) to find out how to construct the sonata-form first movement of such works.

Schoenberg’s father died in 1890. To help the family finances, the young man worked as a bank clerk until 1895. During that 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. That resulted in Schoenberg’s first publicly performed work, the String Quartet in D Major (1897). Highly influenced by the style of Johannes 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). It was based on a poem of the same name by Richard Dehmel and was the first piece of program music written for such an ensemble. 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. Since then it has become one of Schoenberg’s most-popular compositions, both in its original form and in Schoenberg’s later versions for string orchestra.

In 1901 Schoenberg moved 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 that group, among them, Nachtwandler (“Sleepwalker”) for soprano, piccolo, trumpet, snare drum, and piano (published 1969). Schoenberg found his position at Überbrettl insufficiently rewarding, both artistically and materially. German composer Richard Strauss helped him to get a job as composition teacher at the Stern Conservatory and used his influence to secure him the Liszt stipend awarded by the Society for German Music. With the encouragement of Strauss, Schoenberg composed his only symphonic poem for large orchestra, Pelleas und Melisande (1902–03), after the drama by 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, Op. 7 (1904). The composition’s high density of musical texture and its unusual form (the conventional four movements of a “classic” string quartet blended into one vast structure played without interruption for nearly 50 minutes) caused difficulties in comprehension at the work’s premiere in 1907. He used a similar form in the more-concise Chamber Symphony in E Major (1906), a work novel in its choice of instrumental ensemble. Turning away from the “monster” post-Romantic orchestra, Schoenberg wrote for a chamberlike group of 15 instruments.

During those 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. He stated at the beginning of his Harmonielehre (1911; “Theory of Harmony”), “This book I have learned from my pupils.” His great gifts as teacher are manifest in that work as well as in his textbooks—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 that 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). That work is innovative in another respect, too: it is the first string quartet to include a vocal part. The opening words of the Finale, “Ich fühle Luft von anderen Planeten” (“I feel air from another planet”), by the poet Stefan George, have often been symbolically interpreted in the light of Schoenberg’s breakthrough to a new world of sound.

On February 19, 1909, Schoenberg finished the first of three piano pieces that constitute his opus 11, 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.” Atonal instrumental compositions are usually quite short; in longer vocal compositions, the text serves as a means of unification. Schoenberg’s most-important atonal compositions include Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16 (1909); the monodrama Erwartung, Op. 17 (1924; “Expectation”), a stage work for soprano and orchestra; Pierrot Lunaire, 21 recitations (“melodramas”) with chamber accompaniment, Op. 21 (1912); Die glückliche Hand, Op. 18 (1924; “The Hand of Fate”), drama with music; and the unfinished oratorio Die Jakobsleiter (begun 1917; “Jacob’s Ladder”).

Schoenberg’s earlier music was by that time beginning to find recognition. On February 23, 1913, his Gurrelieder (begun in 1900) was first performed in Vienna. The gigantic cantata calls for unusually large vocal and orchestral forces. Along with Mahler’s Eighth Symphony (Symphony of a Thousand), the Gurrelieder represents the peak of the post-Romantic monumental style. Gurrelieder 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. He wanted to find a new principle of unification that would help him to control the rich harmonic and melodic resources now at his disposal. Near the end of July 1921, Schoenberg told a pupil, “Today I have discovered something which will assure the supremacy of German music for the next 100 years.” That “something” was a method of composition with 12 tones related only to one another. Schoenberg had just begun working on his Piano Suite, Op. 25, the first 12-tone piece.

In the 12-tone method, each composition is formed from a special row or series of 12 different tones. That 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 that row. Although such a method might seem extremely restrictive, that did not prove to be the case. Using his technique, Schoenberg composed what many consider to be 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, for, as he liked to say, “There is still much good music to be written in C major.” Among those later tonal works are the Suite for String Orchestra (1934), the Variations on a Recitative for Organ, Op. 40 (1940), and the Theme and Variations for Band, Op. 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.

It seemed that Schoenberg had reached the peak of his career. His teaching was well received, and he was writing important works: the Third String Quartet, Op. 30 (1927); the opera Von Heute auf Morgen, Op. 32 (1928–29, first performed in 1930; “From Today to Tomorrow”); Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene, Op. 34 (1929–30; “Accompaniment to a Film Scene”). 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 immigrated to the United States via Paris, where he formally returned to the Jewish faith, which he had abandoned in his youth. In November 1933 he took a position at the Malkin Conservatory in Boston, and 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 ever-increasing mastery and freedom in the handling of the 12-tone method. Some of the outstanding compositions of his American period are the Violin Concerto, Op. 36 (1934–36); the Fourth String Quartet, Op. 37 (1936); the Piano Concerto, Op. 42 (1942); and the Fantasia for violin with piano accompaniment, Op. 47 (1949). He also wrote a number of works of particular Jewish interest, including Kol Nidre for mixed chorus, speaker, and orchestra, Op. 39 (1938)—the Kol Nidre is a prayer sung in synagogues at the beginning of the service on the eve of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)—and the Prelude to the “Genesis Suite” for orchestra and mixed chorus, Op. 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, then in West Germany, as part of the program of the Summer School for New Music. The telegram telling of the great success of that performance was one of the last things to bring Schoenberg pleasure before his death 11 days later.



String Quartets - Arnold Schoenberg 
Ensemble: Arditti Quartet

00:00 Op. 7 - 1.Nicht zu rasch
13:18 Op. 7 - 2.Kräftig
26:30 Op. 7 - 3.Mäßig
38:24 Op. 7 - 4.Mäßig - heiter
46:13 Op. 10 - 1.Mässig
52:44 Op. 10 - 2.Sehr rasch
59:35 Op. 10 - 3.Litanei. Langsam
1:05:30 Op. 10 - 4.Entrückung. Sehr langsam
1:16:42 Op. 30 - 1.Moderato
1:25:18 Op. 30 - 2.Adagio
1:34:09 Op. 30 - 3.Intermezzo. Allegro moderato
1:41:02 Op. 30 - 4.Rondo. Molto moderato
1:47:13 Op. 37 - 1.Allegro molto, energico
1:55:45 Op. 37 - 2.Comodo
2:02:59 Op. 37 - 3.Largo
2:10:52 Op. 37 - 4.Allegro

Arnold Schönberg - Pélleas und Melisande,
poema sinfonico op.5 (1903) 

Sinfonie-Orchester des Südwestfunks Baden-Baden diretta da Bruno Maderna (Baden-Baden 5 maggio 1960) 

I. Anfang
II. Heftig
III. Lebhaft
IV. Sehr rasch
V. Ein wening bewegter
VI. Langsam
VII. Ein wening bewegter
VIII. Sehr langsam
IX. Etwas bewegter
X. In gehender Bewegung
XI. Breit


Arnold Schoenberg - Transfigured Night for String Sextet, Op. 4
NEC Contemporary Ensemble Concert directed by John Heiss
Recorded on January 31, 2013

Audrey Wright and Alexi Kenney, violins
Wenting Kang and Alice Weber, violas
Emileigh Vandiver and Andrew Larson, celli

Arnold Schoenberg - Ode To Napoléon Bonaparte
Christine Schäfer
David Pittman-Jennings
Ensemble InterContemporain
Pierre Boulez

Arnold Schoenberg - Wind Quintet, Op. 26 (1923-24)

1. Schwungvoll [Lively]
2. Anmutig und heiter—scherzando [Graceful and cheerful— scherzando]
3. Etwas langsam [Somewhat slowly]
4. Rondo

Vienna Quintet

Arnold Schoenberg - Chamber Symphony No. 1 Op. 9 (Original Version)

Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble

Tara Helen O'Connor, flute/piccolo
Stephen Taylor, oboe
Melanie Feld, english horn
Charles Neidich, e-flat clarinet
Alan Kay, clarinet
Michael Lowenstern, bass clarinet
Frank Morelli, bassoon
Harry Searing, contra-bassoon
William Purvis, french horn
Christopher Komer, french horn
Rolf Schulte, violin
Camit Zori, violin
Toby Appel, viola
Fred Sherry, cello
Donald Palma, double bass

Robert Craft, conductor

Arnold Schoenberg - Chamber Symphony No.2 op.38  (1906, 1916, 1939)
Conductor: Jens Georg Bachmann
NYU (New York University Steinhardt School Dept. of Music and Performing Arts Professions) Chamber Symphony Orchestra
Fall concert 2011

Arnold Schoenberg - Suite im alten Stile, for string orchestra (1934)

I. Overture [0:00]
II. Adagio [6:03]
III. Minuet [11:20]
IV. Gavotte [16:05]
V. Gigue [22:16]

Violin: Jennifer Frautschi
Viola: Richard O'Neill
Cello: Fred Sherry
Conductor: Robert Craft
Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble, New York

Arnold Schoenberg - Serenade per baritono e 7 strumenti , testo di Francesco Petrarca Sonetto 217, op.24 (1921/1923) 
John Carol Case, baritono 
Melos Ensemble of London diretto da Bruno Maderna 

I. Marsch
II. Menuett
III. Variationen
IV. Sonett
V. Tanzszene
VI. Lied (ohne worte)
VII. Finale

Schoenberg - Violin Concerto Op. 36
I-Poco allegro-Vivace
II-Andante grazioso
III- Finale: Allegro

Hilary Hahn, violin
Swedish Radio Symphony Ochestra

Arnold Schoenberg  - Gurrelieder
für Soli, Chor und Orchester 

Part I
Orchestervorspiel (00:00)
Nun dämpf die Dämm’rung / Waldemar (06:56)
O, wenn des Mondes Strahlen / Tove (10:23)
Roß ! Mein Roß ! / W. (13:38)
Sterne jubeln / T. (16:49)
So tanzen die Engel vor Gottes Thron nicht / W. (19:09)
Nun sag ich dir zum ersten Mal / T. (21:10)
Es ist Mitternachtszeit / W. (24:54)
Du sendest mir einen Liebesblick / T. (29:56)
Du wunderlich Tove ! / W. (35:05)
Orchesterzwischenspiel (39:20)
Tauben von Gurre ! / Waldtaube (44:05)

Part Two
Herrgott, weißt du, was du tatest / W. (56:10)

Part Three
I.Die Wilde Jagd 
Erwacht, König Waldemars Mannen wert ! / W. (1:00:30)
Deckel des Sarges klappert / Bauer (1:03:19)
Gegrüßt, o König / Waldemars Mannen (1:07:02)
Mit Tove Stimme flüstert der Wald / W. (1:12:02)
Ein seltsamer Vogel ist so’n Aal / Klaus-Narr (1:15:25)
Du strenger Richter droben / W. (1:21:33)
Der Hahn erhebt den Kopf zur Kraht / W. Mannen (1:23:46)

II. Des Sommerwindes (1:29:44)
Herr Gänsefuß, Frau Gänsekraut / Sprecher (1:32:42)
Seht die Sonne / Gemischter Chor (1:37:54)

Waldemar : James McCracken / Tenor
Tove : Jessye Norman / Sopran
Waldtaube : Tatiana Troyanos / Mezzosopran
Bauer : David Arnold / Bariton
Klaus-Narr : Kim Scown / Tenor
Sprecher : Werner Klemperer

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Tanglewood Festival Chorus
Chorus Master : John Oliver 
Recording in 1979, at Boston


Arnold Schoenberg - 6 Orchester-Lieder, Op. 8

1. Natur
2. Das Wappenschild
3. Sehnsucht
4. Nie ward ich, Herrin, müd'
5. Voll jener Süsse
6. Wenn Vöglein klagen

Alessandra Marc, soprano and the Staatskapelle Dresden conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli

Schoenberg's grave in the Zentralfriedhof, Vienna

Schönberg - Moses und Aron
Bochumer Symphoniker
Conductor: Michael Boder
ChorWerk Ruhr

Moses - Dale Duesing
Aron - Andreas Conrad
Ein junges Mädchen - Ilse Eerens
Eine Kranke - Karolina Gumos
Ein junger Mann - Finnur Bjarnason
Der nackte Jüngling - Michael Smallwood
Ein anderer Mann/Ephraimit - Boris Grappe
Ein Priester - Renatus Meszar
Vier nackte Jungfrauen - Ilse Eerens, Hanna Herfurtner, Karolina Gumos - Constance Heller

Arnold SCHÖNBERG - Moses und Aron

Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra - 
cond. Zoltan KOCSIS
PRIEST - Krisztián CSER

National Choir (cond. Mátyás ANTAL)
The Choir of the Singer School of Budapest (cond. Tamás BUBNÓ)
The 'Honvéd' Men's Choir: (Richárd RIEDERAUER)

Act I: 0:01:22
Act II: 0:50:38
Act III. 1:42:18

Time: Thirteenth century B.C. 
Place: Egypt and the desert.

Act 1
Moses, in the presence of the burning bush, reluctantly receives from God the order to become a prophet and free Israel from bondage in Egypt. Moses asks to be spared such a task, he is old and though he can think, he cannot speak. God assures him that he will put words in his heart and orders him to find his brother Aron.

In the desert Moses greets Aron, who will have to serve as his spokesman, explaining his difficult ideas in terms the people can understand. Soon they start misunderstanding each other: Moses assures him that love is the key to unlocking this mystery, but Aron praises God for hearing prayers and receiving offerings. Moses cautions that the purification of one's own thinking is the only reward to be expected from tributes.

In the Israelite community there are many who claim to have seen God in different manifestations. A young couple discusses Moses' having been chosen to lead the Israelites. The elders are afraid that because he killed an Egyptian guard, bringing retribution on his people, he will get them into further trouble. One man expresses hope that the new idea of a single God will prove stronger than Egypt's multiple gods, stronger than Pharaoh's grip. The people reiterate this hope, looking at the arriving Moses and Aron, who keep changing roles so that it is difficult to distinguish one from the other. Trying to explain how God can be perceived only within oneself, Moses grows frustrated by Aron's glibness, which seems to weaken his idea. Aron defies Moses, seizing his rod and throwing it down, whereupon it turns into a serpent; this, says Aron, shows how a rigid idea can be made flexible. The people wonder how this new God can help them against Pharaoh's might. Aron shows them another wonder: Moses' hand, which appears leprous, is healed when he places it over his heart, wherein God dwells. The people now believe God will strengthen their own hands: they will throw off their shackles and escape into the wilderness, where Moses says purity of thought will provide the only sustenance they need. Pouring Nile water, which appears to change into blood, Aron interprets the sign, saying they will no longer sweat blood for the Egyptians but will be free. When the water appears clear again, Aron says Pharaoh will drown in it. Promised a land of milk and honey, the people pledge their allegiance to this new God.

Act 2
INTERLUDE. Moses has been gone for forty days and the people are left in the desert waiting. Unnerved by his long absence, the people wonder whether God and Moses have abandoned them.

At the foot of the mountain, Aron, a priest and a group of elders wonder why Moses has been gone so long, as licentiousness and disorder prevail among the people. Aron assures them that once Moses has assimilated God's intent, he will present it in a form the people can grasp. To the anxious people who flock to him for advice, however, he admits that Moses may have defected or be in danger. Seeing them unruly and ready to kill their priests, Aron tries to calm them by giving them back their other gods: he will let them have an image they can worship. A golden calf is set up and offerings are brought, including self-sacrifices at the altar. An emaciated youth who protests the false image is killed by tribal leaders. Priests sacrifice four virgins, and the people, who have been drinking and dancing, turn wild and orgiastic. When they have worn themselves out, and many have fallen asleep, a lookout sees Moses returning from the mountain. Destroying the golden calf, Moses demands an accounting from Aron, who justifies his indulgence of the people by saying that no word had come from Moses. While Moses' love is entirely for his idea of God, Aron says, the people too need his love and cannot survive without it. In despair Moses smashes the tablets of the laws he has brought down from the mountain. Aron denounces him as fainthearted, saying he himself keeps Moses' idea alive by trying to explain it. Led by a pillar of fire in the darkness, which turns to a pillar of cloud by day, the people come forth, encouraged once more to follow God's sign to the Promised Land. Moses distrusts the pillar as another vain image, but Aron says it guides them truly. As Aron joins the people in their exodus, Moses feels defeated. By putting words and images to what cannot be expressed, Aron has falsified Moses' absolute perception of God, lamenting that he lacks the capability to speak.

Act 3
(Schoenberg never composed the music for the final act's single scene.) Aron is put under arrest, accused of fostering idle hopes with his imagery such as that of the Promised Land. Aron insists that Moses' word would mean nothing to the people unless interpreted in terms they can understand. Moses declares that such sophistry will win the people's allegiance to the imagery and not God; by misrepresenting the true nature of God, Aron keeps leading the people back into the wilderness. When Moses tells the soldiers to let Aron go free, Aron falls dead. Even in the wilderness, Moses says, the people will reach their destined goal — unity with God.


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