Arnold Schönberg, around 1926

1874 – 1889

Arnold (hebr. Avraham) Schönberg, born on September 13, 1874

There is little that stands out in the biographies of my parents. My father was born in 1838. When he was fourteen he came to Vienna, where he became an apprentice in a business, and then had his own small business. He married when he was thirty-two. I was the second child, born when he was thirty-six. He died of pulmonary influenza during the 1890 epidemic (on New Year’s Eve) when he was fifty-two. I was sixteen and knew relatively little from my own observations. […] My mother was born in 1848 in Prague. When she was young, she moved to Vienna with her father’s family. She lived to the age of seventy-four.(Arnold Schönberg, Biographical Note, November 28, 1931)

Schönberg attended the secondary school “k. k. Staats-Oberrealschule” in the 2nd district, Vienna, between 1885 and 1891.

I had begun violin at the age of eight and almost immediately I had started composing. […] All my compositions up to about my seventeenth year were nothing more than imitations of such music as I could become acquainted with. My only sources had been violin duets and duet-arrangements of operas on the one hand and the repertory of military bands which played in public parks on the other hand. One must not forget that at this time printed music was extremely expensive, that there were not yet records nor radios, and that Vienna had only one opera theater and one cycle of eight Philharmonic concerts a year.
(Arnold Schönberg, My Evolution, 1949)

Julikäfer, Polka française, around 1885

1890 – 1899

Schönberg was employed by the private bank Werner & Co. between 1891 and 1895.

Review of the first concert with the Mödling choral society Freisinn, which was conducted by Schönberg, November 22, 1896

Zwei Gesänge für eine Baritonstimme und Klavier [Two Songs for Baritone and piano] op. 1 (1899)

»Verklärte Nacht«. Sextett für 2 Violinen, 2 Violen und 2 Violoncelli [String sextet "Transfigured night"] op. 4 (1899)
Your poems have had a decisive influence on my development as a composer. They were what first made me try to find a new tone in the lyrical mood. […] My first attempts to compose settings for your poems contain more of what has subsequently developed in my work than there is in some of my later compositions. (Arnold Schönberg to Richard Dehmel, December 13, 1912)

Gavotte und Musette (im alten Style) [Gavotte and Musette (in the old Style)] for String Orchestra (1897)

Quartett (d-Moll) für 2 Violinen, Viola und Violoncello [First string quartet in d-minor] op. 7 (1904/05)

Frühlings Tod [Spring’s Death] after Lenau for great orchestra (Fragment, 1898)

Only when I had met three young men of about my own age and had obtained their friendship my musical and literary education started. First Oskar Adler, whose talent as a musician was as great as his capacities in science. Through him I learned that there exists a theory of music and he directed my first steps therein. […] My second friend at that time was David Bach: A linguist, philosopher, conois­seur of literature and mathematician, who also was a good musician. […] The third friend is the one to whom I owe most of my knowledge of the technique and the problems of composing: Alexander von Zemlinsky. (Arnold Schönberg, My Evolution, 1949)

Meyers Konversationslexikon (an encyclopedia, which we bought on installments) had reached the long-hoped-for letter “S,” enabling me to learn under “Sonata” how a first movement of a string quartet should be constructed. (Arnold Schönberg, Notes about the Four String Quartets, 1949)

On March 25, 1898 Arnold (baptized Franz Walter) Schönberg converted to Protestantism.

1900 – 1904

I came to the Stern Conservatory through Richard Strauss’ intercession. I am especially indepted to Richard Strauss who is the most noble and warm-hearted person. […] He also obtained the Liszt Stipend for me. (Arnold Schönberg to Karl and Josephine Redlich, April 1, 1903)

Between December 1901 and July 1902 Schönberg worked as music director for Ernst von Wolzogen’s variety stage Buntes Theater / Überbrettl in Berlin.

Brettl-Lieder [Cabaret Songs]

On October 18, 1901 Schönberg married Mathilde Zemlinsky (1877 – 1923), the sister of his friend Alexander Zemlinsky.

»Pelleas und Melisande op. 5«. Symphonische Dichtung für Orchester [Pelleas and Melisande, symphonic poem for orchestra] op. 5 (1902/03)
I consider this music far more advanced […] than the Gurrelieder and Verklärte Nacht, which is just as beautiful. (Schönberg, 1947)

Sechs Orchesterlieder [Six orchestral songs] op. 8 (1903–1905)
At this time I gave myself the task of uniting all the artistic elements of part writing and instrumentation. (Schönberg, 1904)

Gertrude (Trudi, 1902 – 1947), Arnold Schönberg’s daughter, around 1904

Beginning of friendship with Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911)

Schönberg’s varied sphere of musical activity: piano scores, instrumentations, arrangements and figured bass realizations of works by other composers

Schönberg is definitely one of those fiery people who arouse opposition, but just as certainly provoke stimulation and movement, and who have always had an inspiring and beneficial influence on people’s minds.(Gustav Mahler, 1910)

Alban Berg (1885 – 1935) and Anton Webern (1883 – 1945) became Schönberg’s students in the fall of 1904.

1905 – 1909 

Friede auf Erden für gemischten Chor a cappella ["Peace on Earth" for mixed chorus a cappella] op. 13 (1907/11)
I cannot say that I remember consciously feeling all these nuances while I was composing. But as they are there now, I see them as more than just a happy coincidence: they are rather a merciful gift of which I endeavor to be worthy. (Schönberg, 1913)

Kammersymphonie für fünfzehn Soloinstrumente op. 9 (für grosses Orchester op. 9b) [Chamber symphony for fifteen solo instruments (Chamber symphony for orchestra op. 9b)] (1906/1936)
This work is a real turning point of my development […] the last work of my first period that existed as a single through-composed movement. (Schönberg, 1949)

Arnold Schönberg, portrait of his son Georg (Görgi), born on September 22, 1906 oil on cardboard, around 1907

Quartett (d-Moll) für 2 Violinen, Viola und Violoncello [First string quartet in d-minor] op. 7 (1904/05)
This large form was to include all the four characters of the sonata type in one single, uninterrupted movement. (Schönberg, 1949)

Richard Gerstl, Portrait of Arnold Schönberg, oil on canvas, 1906 (Wien Museum)
1908: Mathilde Schönberg’s affair with the 25-year-old painter Richard Gerstl; Gerstl’s suicide on November 4 of the same year.

Schönberg’s varied interests and their results: music typewriter, blueprint of his design, 1909

Zweites Quartett (fis-Moll) für zwei Violinen, Viola, Violoncello und eine Sopranstimme [Second string quartet in f sharp minor] op. 10 (1907/08)
This quartet played a great role in my development. However, the decisive progress toward so called atonality was not yet carried out. (Schönberg, 1949)

Drei Klavierstücke [Three piano pieces] op. 11 (1909/10)
Every chord is a compulsion of my need for expression, but possibly also a compulsion of an inexorable but unconscious logic in the harmonic construction. (Schönberg, 1911)

15 Gedichte aus »Das Buch der hängenden Gärten« von Stefan George für eine Singstimme und Klavier [The book of the hanging gardens] op. 15 (1907–1909)
With the George Lieder, for the first time, I have succeeded in approaching an ideal of expression and form that has been in my mind for years. Now that I have set out along this path once and for all, I am conscious of having broken through every restriction of a bygone aesthetic. (Schönberg, 1910)

Fünf Orchesterstücke [Five orchestral pieces] op. 16
They are short orchestral pieces (between one and three minutes long), not cyclically related. […] a bright, uninterrupted interchange of colors, rhythms and moods. (Schönberg to Richard Strauss, 1909)

»Erwartung«. Monodram in einem Akt ["Expectation", monodrama] op. 17 (1909)
The intention in Erwartung is to present that which takes place in one second of intense emotional agitation in slow motion, extending it to half an hour. (Schönberg, 1930)

1910 – 1914 

Death of his friend, mentor and revered artist: Gustav Mahler died on May 18, 1911.

Sechs kleine Klavierstücke [Six little piano pieces] op. 19 (1911), No. 6, an epitaph-like tribute to Gustav Mahler, June 17, 1911
Brief, incredibly delicate and expressive creations. (Anton Webern, 1912)

Theory of Harmony, 1911
I learned this book from my students. […] I have taken from composition pupils a bad aesthetics, and have given them in return a good course in handicraft. (Schönberg, 1911)

The paintings of Schönberg fall into two categories: those which are drawn perfectly to nature, such as people or landscapes; and those which are intuitively conceived heads, which he calls “Visions.” […] These two kinds are outwardly quite different. Inwardly they stem from one and the same soul, which sometimes is made to vibrate by external nature, and at other times, by nature within him. (Wassily Kandinsky, 1912)

Paintings and drawings by Arnold Schönberg

At Kandinsky’s invitation, in 1911 /12 Schönberg exhibited four of his paintings at the first exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter  in Munich.

Dreimal sieben Gedichte aus Albert Girauds »Pierrot lunaire« op. 21 (1912)
I sense that I am definitely moving towards a new way of expression. The sounds become a truly animalistic immediate expression of sensual and psychological emotions. (Schönberg, 1912)

Relocation to Berlin: Arnold Schönberg with his children Trudi and Görgi outside Villa Lepcke, Machnower Chaussee & Dietloffstraße, Zehlendorf, 1912

Gurre-Lieder für Soli, Chor und Orchester [Gurre-Lieder (Jens Peter Jacobsen) for soli, chorus and orchestra] (1900–03/11)
Remarkably artistic and with sound effects that have never been heard before. (Anton Webern, 1912)
The premiere of Schönberg’s Gurre-Lieder was a virtually unrivalled triumph, the likes of which are unlikely to be matched in the annals of the concert hall in the near future. (Neues Wiener Journal, 1913)

»Die glückliche Hand«. ["The lucky hand"] Drama mit Musik op. 18 (1910–1913); text, music and stage set designs: Arnold Schönberg
It is not meant to be symbolic, but merely observed, felt. […] Most of all I would like to write for a magic theater. (Schönberg to Alma Mahler, 1910)

»Herzgewächse« ["Foliage of the Heart"] op. 20 for high soprano, harp, celesta and harmonium (1911)
We reveled in those sounds, sounds we had scarcely dreamed of. It is so wonderful; every one of your works creates an unprecedented sensation in the listener on first hearing. (Alban Berg to Schönberg, 1928)

1915 – 1919 

September 1915: Return to Vienna; at the invitation of Alma Mahler’s friend Lilly Lieser, the Schönberg family lived in Gloriettegasse, Hietzing.

Schönberg once again has a wonderful idea: […] to establish a society whose mission it is to present weekly performances of music from ‘Mahler to the present’ to its members. (Alban Berg to his wife Helene, July 1, 1918) 
The Society for Private Musical Performances set new standards by fostering new ideas and by its unconventional structure. The list of works to be presented was not disclosed beforehand (in order to “ensure regular attendance”). Works were repeated. The Society concerts were not open to the public, in order “to provide artists and art lovers a true and exact knowledge of modern music.” Displays of approval or disapproval were prohibited.

Between 1918 and 1920 Schönberg taught over 100 pupils at Schwarzwald schools, established and led by the educational reformer Eugenie Schwarzwald.

Arnold Schönberg’s conscription to military service, 1915

Spring 1918: Moved to Mödling, a small town south of Vienna.

Die Jakobsleiter (nach einer Dichtung des Komponisten) für Soli, Chor und Orchester ["Jacob's Ladder", Oratorio for soli, mixed chorus and orchestra]
Because of your work, it had become crystal-clear to me, just what the fate of man is. (Anton Webern to Schönberg, 1917)
Religion. During these years, it was my only support. (Schönberg, 1922)

1920 – 1924 

Serenade, op. 24, for clarinet, bass clarinet, mandolin, guitar, violin, viola, violoncello and a low male voice, 1920 – 1923
Can almost be compared with Mozart […] The lightweight serenade character is preserved in the whole work despite the boldest combinations and ingenious contrapuntal figures. (Erwin Stein, 1924)

Fünf Klavierstücke [Five piano pieces] op. 23 (1920/23)

From September 1920 to March 1921 Schönberg spent time in Zandvoort / Holland; private teaching.

Anti-Semitic attack; Arnold Schönberg was forced to leave the Salzburg summer holiday resort of Mattsee, summer 1921.
Toward the end it got very ugly in Mattsee. The people there seemed to despise me so much, it was as though they knew my music. (Schönberg to Alban Berg, July 1921)

Suite für Klavier [Suite for piano] op. 25 (1921–1923) Prelude; first written copy dated July 24 – 29, 1921 in Traunkirchen. Schönberg’s first work in which the “Method of composing with twelve tones which are related only with one another” is realized.

Schönberg´s wife Mathilde dies on October 18, 1923.

On August 28, 1924, Schönberg married Gertrud Kolisch (1898 – 1967), the sister of his pupil Rudolf Kolisch.
I didn’t know why I was allowed to be so happy! (Schönberg, 1924)

Quintett für Flöte, Oboe, Klarinette, Horn und Fagott [Quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn] op. 26 (1923/24)
dedicated to his grandson, “Bubi” Arnold
The thematic work, the differentiated elaboration of the secondary ideas […] is reminiscent of the classics. (Felix Greissle, 1925)

1925 – 1929 

Suite für Kleine Klarinette, Klarinette, Baßklarinette, Geige, Bratsche, Violoncello und Klavier [Suite for piano, piccolo clarinet, clarinet, bass clarinet, violin, viola, and cello] op. 29 (1925/26)
“My dear wife”
A wealth of musical ideas […] a masterpiece of the highest order (Erwin Stein, 1927)

Vier Stücke für gemischten Chor [Four pieces for mixed chorus] op. 27 (1925)

Drei Satiren für gemischten Chor [Three satires for mixed chorus] op. 28 (1925/26)
Music that is entirely the music of the present must also belong to the future. (Schönberg, 1926)

Arnold Schönberg is appointed professor of a masterclass for composition at the Academy of Arts in Berlin, successor to Ferruccio Busoni (1866 – 1924).

Variationen für Orchester [Variations for orchestra] op. 31 (1926–28)
The Variations are like an album with scenes from a place or a landscape that illustrates individual aspects. (Schönberg, 1931)

Drittes Streichquartett [Third string quartet] op. 30 (1927)
dedicated to Mrs Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge
I cannot say it often enough: my works are twelve-tone compositions, not twelve-tone compositions. (Schönberg to Rudolf Kolisch, 1932)

The Biblical Way, Zionist spoken drama with stage sketches, 1926 – 1927
The situation experienced by Judaism makes it an obligation for every able person to work with all their strength for the continued existence of our people.(Schönberg to Max Reinhardt, 1933)

»Von heute auf morgen«. Oper in einem Akt ["From Today till Tomorrow", opera in 1 act (Text by Max Blonda, recte Gertrud Schönberg)] op. 32 (1928/29)
Von heute auf morgen is intended to be a light comic opera: reflecting only what takes place from one day to the next, something ephemeral, impermanent. (Schönberg, 1930)

1930 – 1934 

Klavierstücke [Piano Pieces] op. 33a & 33b (1929/31)
Combinations on the instrument which are wholly unexpected and colorful, and also sound appealing. (Else Kraus, soloist at the premiere, 1932)

Begleitungsmusik zu einer Lichtspielscene ["Accompaniment to a Cinematographic Scene"] op. 34 (1929/30)
Threatening Fear – Danger – Catastrophe
People do seem to like the piece: ought I to draw any conclusions from that as to its quality? (Schönberg to Heinrich Jalowetz, 1931)

I lived in the south for a long time because of my health and for this reason, but also because of the political situation, I would be very unwilling to return to Germany right now. (Schönberg to Joseph Asch, May 1932)

Moses und Aron (Opera in three acts) (1923 – 1937)
Moses and Aron is one of my major works. The material and its treatment are purely of a religious, philosophical nature. (Schönberg, 1951)

On April 7, 1933 the “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” was passed. This law allowed the National Socialist leaders to force Jewish civil servants to leave their positions.

In the meeting of March 18 at the Academy, formulations were made known from which it was evident that my remaining in a leading position here is no longer desired. Pride and the awareness of my achievement, would have moved me to voluntary resignation long ago. […] Whoever was my pupil gained a sense of a serious and moral concept of art which, if he knows how to maintain it, will do him honour in all circumstances of life!
(Arnold Schönberg to the Prussian Academy of The Arts, March 20, 1933)

Document showing Arnold Schönberg’s re-entry into the Jewish faith, witnessed by Marc Chagall, Paris, July 24, 1933
I now call myself a Jew with pride; but I know how difficult it is to really be one. (Schönberg, 1932)

Birth of daughter Dorothea Nuria on May 7, 1932 in Barcelona
The child is naturally “just like its father” as far as its beauty is concerned. (Schönberg, May 1932)

Final preparations for leaving Germany and the hasty departure in the night before May 17, 1933, after Rudolf Kolisch telegraphed to recommend a “change of air.”

Schönberg’s passport Schönberg’s passport with a temporary visa for entry to New York, October 1933

After travelling by ship from Le Havre, the Schönbergs arrived in New York on October 31, 1933. Arnold Schönberg would never again return to Europe.

Suite im alten Stile (G-Dur) (Suite in the old style [G major]) for string orchestra (1934)
Without exposing students to injury from the “poison of atonality” for the time being, this work should be a preparation for modern playing technique within a harmonic system which leads toward modern sentiments. (Schönberg, 1934)

In 1933/34 Schönberg taught music theory and composition at Malkin Conservatory in New York and Boston.
12 – 14 students, including total beginners. (Schönberg, 1934)

In September 1934 Arnold Schönberg, who had battled with major health problems during this year spent teaching on the East Coast, moved to California with his wife and child.

1935 – 1939

On December 24, 1935 Schönberg’s student Alban Berg died.

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra op. 36 (1934–36)
dedicated to “My dear friend and comrade-in-arms Dr. Anton von Webern”
Studying and playing this work makes one twenty years younger. (Louis Krasner, 1940)

Directly after his arrival on the West Coast, Schönberg initially taught a class with six private students, including John Cage. In 1935 and 1936 Schönberg held the “Alchin Chair” at the University of Southern California, a guest lectureship for composition.

Starting in the fall of 1936 until he retired in 1944, Schönberg taught at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Fourth String Quartet op. 37 (1936)
I am very content with the work and think it will be much more pleasant than the third. But – I believe always so! (Schönberg to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, 1936)

In May 1936 the Schönbergs moved to Brentwood, 116 North Rockingham Avenue.
We have found a beautiful house with a garden. (Schönberg to Gertrud Greissle, May 21, 1936)

Birth of his son Rudolf Ronald on May 26, 1937 in Los Angeles
Ronny is very cute and bright. He is very musical and picks everything out by himself on the piano, even chords. (Schönberg, 1941)

Kol nidre für Sprecher (Rabbi), gemischten Chor und Orchester (g-Moll) op. 39 (1938)
One of my main tasks was […] to give the decree the dignity of a law, of an “edict.” I think it must be tremendously effective both in the synagogue and in the concert hall. (Schönberg, 1941)

Zweite Kammersymphonie (in es-Moll) für kleines Orchester [Chamber Symphony No. 2 (in e-flat-minor) for small orchestra] op. 38 [Version for two pianos op. 38B] (1906–1916/1939)
A longing to return to the old style was always powerful in me; and I was forced to yield to that urge from time to time. So sometimes I compose tonal music. (Schönberg, 1948)

1940 – 1944

Schönberg receives the American citizenship in 1941.

Variations on a Recitative for Organ (in D) op. 40 (1941)
I have written this music in about the same manner as I write for orchestra. […] Of course it is an unusual manner of writing for organ. (Schönberg, 1944)

Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte (Lord Byron) for String Quartet (Orchestra), Piano and Reciter op. 41 (1942/43)
I had long speculated about the more profound meaning of the nazi philosophy. […] I knew it was the moral duty of intelligencia to take a stand against tyranny. (Schönberg, 1942)

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra op. 42 (1942)
One of the landmarks of musical history. (Leopold Stokowski, 1944)

Birth of his son Lawrence Adam on January 27, 1941 in Los Angeles
We all, Mrs. Schoenberg, Nuria, Ronald and I enjoy this growth of our house very much. (Schönberg, 1941)

Models for Beginners in Composition, 1942
The main objectives of this syllabus are: ear-training, development of a sense of form, and understanding of the technique and logic of musical construction. (Schönberg, 1943)

Theme and Variations for Full Band op. 43a & for orchestra op. 43b (1943)
When I promised to write such a piece, I knew at once that my ordinary manner of writing would be much too difficult. […] Accordingly I decided I had to resolve a pedagogical task. (Schönberg, ca. 1944)

Schönberg is named professor emeritus at UCLA; he continues to  teach privately.

1945 – 1951 

String Trio (for Violin, Viola and Cello) op. 45 (1946)
On August 2 of this year it will be three years since what I jokingly call “my fatality.” […] I began the Trio, of which I have told many people that it is a “humorous” representation of my sickness, soon after I was over the worst. (Arnold Schönberg, 1949)

A Survivor from Warsaw for Narrator, Men’s Chorus and Orchestra op. 46
Now, what the text of the Survivor means to me: it means at first a warning to all Jews, never to forget what has been done to us. (Schönberg, 1948)

Prelude for Mixed Chorus and Orchestra op. 44 (1945)
Introduction to a cantata on the biblical Creation story

On September 15, 1945, Schönberg’s student Anton Webern died.

Schönberg is named Honorary President of the Israeli Academy of Music in Jerusalem.

Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint, 1942 – 1950
To train the mind of the student, to give him possession of this sense of form and balance and of an understanding of musical logic – that is the main purpose of this present study. (Schönberg, 1950)

Structural Functions of Harmony, 1939 – 1948
This book contains in condensed form the methods of teaching harmony as presented in my Harmonielehre. (Schönberg, 1948)

Fundamentals of Musical Composition, 1937 – 1948
It is intendend to be thoroughly practical, though each recommendation and each process described has been carefully verified by analysis of the practice of master composers. (Gerald Strang, 1954)

Dreimal tausend Jahre für gemischten Chor a cappella ["Thrice a Thousand Years" for mixed chorus a cappella] op. 50A (1949)

Psalm 130 for Mixed Chorus a cappella (six voices) op. 50B (1950)

Moderner Psalm für Sprecher, gemischten Chor und Orchester [Modern Psalm, for speaker, fourt-part mixed chorus and orchestra, unfinished] op. 50C (1950)

Publication of the collection of essays Style and Idea, edited by Schönberg’s pupil Dika Newlin, by the Philosophical Library in New York, 1950

Arnold Schönberg died in Los Angeles on July 13, 1951.