13 Sept 1874 - 13 July 1951 (age 76)

Composer, theorist, teacher, writer, painter, Arnold Schoenberg was one of the most important and controversial influences on 20th century music. He was the leader of the Second Viennese School.
Best known for his revolutionary method of 12-tone composing.






Portrait of Schoenberg


Born: Arnold Franz Walter Schönberg, 13 Sept 1874, Vienna, Austria
Father: Samuel Schönberg, shoe shopkeeper, born in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Mother: Pauline (born Nachod) , piano teacher, from Prague, Czechoslovakia
Siblings: Adele (died when 2 year old), Ottilie (younger sister) and Heinrich (younger brother)
Wife: Mathilde Zemlinsky (died in 1923)
2nd wife: Gertrud Kolisch (1898-1967)
Children: by Mathilde: Gertrud (1902-1947), Georg (1906-1974)
by Gertrud: Ronald, Lawrence (1941 - Nuria -
Died: 13 July 1951, age 75, Los Angeles, USA
Grave: Zentralfriedhof ,Vienna, Austria.

On moving to America in 1933 he change his name from the standard German spelling, Schönberg, to the anglicised Schoenberg.

Introduction to his life


Style: German Romantic till 1909
Expressionist till 1922 then Serial
plus hundreds of songs and six film scores
- chamber music
- songs and song cycles
- operas
- orchestral works
- arrangements of works by other composers
see overview of compositions

Models for Beginners in Composition 
Structural Functions of Harmony 
Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint
Fundamentals of Musical Composition
and many articles

- His main income came from teaching at various academic institutions and also from private lessons.

Bernstein on Schoenberg's 12-tone method

Verklaerte Nacht - (Transfigured Night) (Op. 4 Part 1)

A brief biography and career

Early life: His mother was a piano teacher
Age 8: Began violin lessons
Age 15: Father dies of pneumonia
Age 17: Starts work as a clerk in the Werner private bank.
Age 20s: Earned money orchestrating operettas.
Age 24: Converted to Christianity (Lutheran)
Age 27: Married Mathilde, sister of Alexander Zemlinky who had taught him counterpoint.
Age 28: Daughter Gertrude born.
Age 32: Son Georg born
Age 34: His wife left him for several months.
Age 36: wrote his book 'Theory of Harmony'
Age 38: Moved from Berlin to Vienna to teach at the Vienna Conservatoire.
Age 42: Military service in the Austrian army during World War 1.
Age 49: His wife Mathilde dies. 10 months later he marries the sister of one one of his pupils.
Age 50: Appointed as a Director at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin.
Age 58: daughter Dorothea Nuria born in Barcelona.
Age 59: (1933) Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany. Schoenberg moved to Paris and returned to the Jewish faith in Paris and then moved with his family to the USA.
First teaching post at the Malkin Conservatory, Boston.
For health reasons moved to Los Angeles to teach at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.
John Cage was one of his pupils.
He became a good friend of George Gershwin.
Age 63: Birth of son Ronald
Age 67: became a citizen of the USA. Birth of son Lawrence.
Age 72: Suffers a heart attack.
Age 76: Dies in Los Angeles. His body was buried in Vienna.

Fear of 13

He was very superstitious and suffered from triskaidekaphobia - fear of the number 13. He was born on 13 September. On his 76th birthday an astrologer told him that being 76 (7+6=13) would be a bad year. This troubled him deeply. On Friday 13th July he became very worried indeed and went to bed. He died at 11.45pm on the 13th!

Pierrot Lunaire


- "I believe what I do and do only what I believe; and woe to anybody who lays hands on my faith. Such a man I regard as an enemy, and no quarter given!"

- "My music is not lovely"

- “Great art presupposes the alert mind of the educated listener”

- "...if it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it is not art."

- “I owe very, very much to Mozart; and if one studies, for instance, the way in which I write for string quartet, then one cannot deny that I have learned this directly from Mozart. And I am proud of it!”

- "My music is not modern, it is merely badly played"

- “Whether one calls oneself conservative or revolutionary, whether one composes in a conventional or progressive manner, whether one tries to imitate old styles or is destined to express new ideas - one must be convinced of the infallibility of one's own fantasy and one must believe in one's own inspiration.”

Recreation and Humour

Schoenberg the Painter

He was also a talented painter and for a time he was a member of the important German Expressionist Blaue Reiter, or Blue Rider, group which included Kandinsky.

He did a lot of portraits and self portraits, one of which is here on the right.

You can see a wonderful complete catalogue of his art at the Schoenberg Center . In 2005 his "Catalogue raisonné” was named as one of Austria’s most beautiful books.

Links - where to go for more information

Arnold Schönberg Center Official site, great resource site and archive of writings, painting and compositions.

Belmont Music His publisher, lots of info.

Answers.com various reference sites including Wikipedia

Schoenblog.com the blog for all things Schoenbergian

ClassicalNet article

Bookrags.com an article explaining his music

AllMusic.com article

KidsMusicCorner brief facts and videos

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