Arnold Schoenberg

September 13, 1874 - Vienna (Austria) — July 13, 1951 - Los Angeles (USA)


Arnold Schoenberg is the 20th century’s master in modernity

An autodidact and admirer of Zemlinsky whose daughter he married, Arnold Schoenberg was first influenced by the last masters of Romanticism: Johannes Brahms, Wagner and Mahler. His works at the close of the 19th century, such as Transfigured Night, already express the desire to go beyond late Romanticism towards new horizons. Reflecting on the diverse possibilities for drastically changing musical language, Schoenberg became one of the greatest teachers of the beginning of the 20th century. Alban Berg and Webern were his first pupils and accompanied their master’s musical revolution.

Arnold Schoenberg: the invention of dodecaphony

Accustomed to scandal, he used atonal writing in 1908 with his Piano Pieces Op.11 then invented dodecaphony, (twelve-tone composition) in 1922 with the opus 23 and became yet more radical in expression with the serial writing of his Variations Op.31 some years later. In 1933, in order to escape from Nazism, he left for the United States where he spent the remainder of his life.

An expressionist at first with his Pierrot Lunaire (1912) and his paintings belonging to the Blue Rider movement founded by Kandinsky, Arnold Schoenberg would pursue new ways of expression, ambitious aesthetics and modernity throughout his life. He could go from the densest lyricism to the coldest abstraction. Schoenberg turned the page of the Romantic century and reduced the immenseness of Wagner to a unique and simple minute of music. Thomas Mann, Pierre Boulez and Luigi Nono expressly borrowed from this modern master’s art to structure their works.