The Modern Age

twentieth century

(Classical Music Map)


I. History of Classical Music  (by John Stanley)
The great composers and their masterworks in MP3 format
Albeniz Borodin Donizetti Hindemith Prokofiev Schutz
Albinoni Brahms Dowland Janacek Puccini Scriabin
Allegri Britten Dvorak Kodaly Purcell Sibelius
Arne Bruckner Falla Leoncavallo Rachmaninov Smetana
Auber Busoni Field Liszt Rameau Strauss J.S.
Bach Byrd Gabrieli Lully Ravel Strauss R.
Barber Carissimi Gershwin Mahler Respighi Stravinsky
Bartok Charpentier Gesualdo Mendelssohn Rimsky-Korsakov Tallis
Beethoven Cherubini Glinka Meyerbeer Rossini Tchaikovsky
Bellini Chopin Gluck Monteverdi Saint-Saens Telemann
Bernstein Clementi Gounod Mozart Scarlatti Verdi
Berwald Corelli Grieg Mussorgsky Schoenberg Victoria
Berlioz Couperin Handel Pachelbel Shostakovich Villa-Lobos
Bizet Debussy Haydn Paganini Schubert Vivaldi
Boccherini Delibes Hildegard Palestrina Schumann Wagner
Orff  "Carmina Burana"
II. History of Jazz


Arnold Schoenberg



Schoenberg was born in Vienna into an orthodox Jewish family. After his father's death, he was obliged to work in a bank from 1891 to 1895, but found time to pursue his musical development through amateur chamber music performance and composition lessons with Alexander von Zemlinsky. The early String quartet in D from 1897 shows the influence of Dvorak and Brahms, and was performed with success. But his next work initiated the controversy that was to dog Schoenberg throughout his career. The string sextet Verklarte Nacht (Transfigured night) — whose Romantic character and impassioned richness of harmony and colour are reminiscent of Wagner and Richard Strauss - was turned down by the Vienna Music Association because of some unacceptably dissonant chords.

Schoenberg married Zemlinsky's sister in 1901 and moved to Berlin, where he subsidized composition of the symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande by orchestrating operettas in a cabaret theatre. He was rescued from such drudgery when on Richard Strauss's recommendation he was appointed to teach at Berlin's Stern Academy. This was the beginning of Schoenberg's long career as a great teacher. In 1903 he returned to Vienna to teach privately. Alb an Berg and Anton Webern — who would, along with Schoenberg, form the "Second Viennese School" — became his pupils the following year.

This atmosphere of creative stimulation produced bold and rapid developments in Schoenberg's style, with the First chamber symphony pushing and the Second string quartet breaking the limits of tonality ( the traditional method of composing a piece of music in one particular key). The soprano that Schoenberg added to the quartet sings words that appear symbolic and significant: "I breathe the air from another planet."

Schoenberg returned to Berlin in 1912 to conduct the premiere of Pierrot lunaire, a setting of 21 poems for speaker and chamber ensemble. In this piece, a key work of the twentieth century, the composer drew on the surrealist poems of Albert Giraud, which express the worlds of subconscious violence, madness, and desperate nostalgia that were implicit in the musical worlds Schoenberg was exploring. The work makes a feature of Sprechgesang, a type of vocal production between singing and speech. Schoenberg's compositional experiments culminated in the technique of serialism, an atonal method where the 12 notes of the chromatic scale are used with equal emphasis. His first works in this style date from 1923, two early examples being the Piano suite and the Suite for eight instruments.

In 1923 Schoenberg's wife died; ten months later he remarried. From 1925 he taught at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin, where he wrote the first two acts of the opera Moses und Aron, as well as a number of instrumental works that re-established links with composers of the Classical period. In 1933, with the coining to power of" the Nazi Party, his Jewishness made his position in Germany untenable and he left the country, eventually to settle in Los Angeles. He spent the rest of his life there, teaching for some time at the University of Southern California. His later works show an enriching of his style to encompass both tonal and serial techniques, as well as a renewed concentration on Jewish elements in works such as A survivor from Warsaw (1947). During the last year of his life he worked on meditative, religious works. He died in Los Angeles in July 1951.

Schoenberg stands alongside Stravinsky as one of two giant figures unsurpassed in their influence on twentieth-century music. Although Schoenberg was the more overtly revolutionary, he regarded his innovations as the continuation of a direct Classical lineage, where originality first required the framework of Classical forms in order to communicate coherently to the listener.


Arnold Schoenberg



Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)



5 Pieces for Orchestra
Peabody Symphony Orchestra



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