Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg was one of the founders of musical Modernism, an incredibly influential figure–with Stravinsky, one of the two most influential composers of his time. Even those fundamentally antithetical to atonality were moved to see musical aesthetics very much as he did. As a composer, Schoenberg largely taught himself, sometimes relying on the advice of his friend, the composer Alexander von Zemlinksy.

From the early twentieth century, Schoenberg was considered a leading light of the younger generation, attracting the attention of no less than Gustav Mahler. He kept up a steady stream of composition, extending the language of the day as well as striking out in new directions. However, in 1912, he underwent an artistic crisis and for close to a decade completed no major new piece. The Twenties saw a change in his fortunes. He began to compose again, this time in a new compositional language he had worked out, which he called "the method of composing with twelve tones"–what today is known as dodecaphonic serialism. He founded the Union for Private Performance, a subscription organization dedicated to new music and intended only for interested parties, rather than for the general public. Orchestral works were given in chamber arrangements, and he received conducting engagements in major European music centers.

Schoenberg's masterpieces of the twenties and thirties include the Wind Quintet (1924), 3 Satires (1925), Variations for Orchestra (1926), the Third and Fourth String Quartets (1927, 1934), the grand opera Moses und Aron (1932), and the Violin Concerto (1936). In the late thirties, Schoenberg began to seek a stronger rapprochement with the German classical tradition, writing pieces that made analogies to sonata form, for example, as in the Piano Concerto of 1942, the String Trio (1946), and the choral Dreimal tausend Jahre and De Profundis (1949, 1950).

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Schoenberg left Germany for France and, later, the United States, eventually settling in the Los Angeles area and becoming an influential teacher and professor at UCLA.