Universal Edition - Arnold Schönberg – Biography


Arnold Schönberg


1874 – Arnold Schönberg is born on 13 September, the son of Samuel and Pauline Schönberg (née Nachod) in Vienna.

1882–85 – Violin lessons. Composes marches, polkas.

1889 – Death of his father from pneumonia.

1891 – Leaves school at 22 January and begins an apprenticeship with the private bank of Werner & Co.

1894 – As a member of the dilettante orchestra Polyhymnia he makes the acquaintance of his artistic mentor and later brother-in-law Alexander Zemlinsky.

1895 – Quits his job at Werner & Co. He takes over as conductor of the Mödling Choral Society

1896 – At the suggestion of Richard Heuberger, composes the Six pieces for piano for four hands.

1898 – Converts from the Jewish religion to Protestantism. He instructs his first student.

1899 – Composes the Four songs for Voice and Piano and the string sextet Verklärte Nacht op. 4.

1900 – The announcement of a prize offered by the Vienna Composers Society inspires Schönberg to compose the Gurre-Lieder.

1901/02 – On 18 October Schönberg marries Mathilde Zemlinsky.
They move to Berlin in December.
World première of Verklärte Nacht op. 4 at the Kleiner Musikvereinssaal in Vienna

1903 – Returns to Vienna, meets Gustav Mahler.
Completes the symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisandeop. 5.

1904/05 – Together with Zemlinsky Schönberg founds the “Vereinigung schaffender Tonkünstler”. Alban Berg and Anton Webern are among his students.
Works on the Erstes Streichquartett d-Moll op. 7 and the Sechs Orchesterlieder op. 8.
World première of Pelleas und Melisande op. 5 under Schönberg’s direction at the Großer Musikvereinssaal.

1906 – Completes the Kammersymphonie für fünfzehn Soloinstrumente op. 9, begins Zweite Kammersymphonie (completed as op. 38 in 1940).

1907 – Beginning of intensive pursuit of painting.
Composes Friede auf Erden op. 13 for mixed chorus a capella for a prize-competition;
world première of the Kammersymphonie op. 9 at the Großer Musikvereinssaal

1909 – Submits his design for a notation-typewriter to the Viennese Patent Office.
Composes the Drei Klavierstücke op. 11 and completes the song-cycle Das Buch der hängenden Gärten op. 15 and Fünf Orchesterstücke op. 16. Makes the acquaintance of the young doctor and poet Marie Pappenheim, who writes the text for the monodrama Erwartung op. 17.

1910 – First exhibit of his paintings. Readings at the Academy of Music.
Completes the text of the opera Die Glückliche Hand op. 18 and begins the composition, which will only be completed in November 1913.

1911 – Encounter with Wassily Kandinsky. Gives lectures on “Aesthetics and Rules of Composition” at the Stern Conservatory. Four paintings are shown in the exhibit “The Blue Rider” in Munich’s Thannhauser Gallery.
Writes five of the Sechs kleine Klavierstückeop. 19; Completes the “Theory of Harmony”, his major theoretical work, with a dedication to Gustav Mahler. Finishes the fair copy of the Gurre-Lieder score. Composes Herzgewächse op. 20.

1912 – At the request of the actress Albertine Zehme, he sets the first of twenty-one poems from Albert Giraud’s Pierrot lunaire op. 21 for Sprechstimme and Chamber Ensemble.
World première of the Fünf Orchesterstücke op. 16 in London. World première of Pierrot lunaire in Berlin

1913 – Scandal during a concert of works by Schönberg, Berg, Webern, Mahler and Zemlinsky in Vienna on 31 March. Moves to Berlin.

1914 – World première of No. 2, 5 and 6 of the Sechs Orchesterlieder op. 8 under the baton of Alexander Zemlinsky in Prague.

1915 – Moves back to Vienna in October. In December, reports for duty with the Royal Regiment Hoch- und Deutschmeister No. 4.
Begins work on the text for the oratorio Die Jakobsleiter (unfinished).

1916 – From March to May, attends the Reserve Officers School in Bruck and is transferred to the Alternate Company in July due to breathing difficulty. Temporarily released from duty in October.

1917 – Called up into the army again in September and released from duty definitively in December because physically unfit for duty.

1918 – Gives a “Seminar for Composition” at the Schwarzwald school.
Moves to Mödling. Founds the “Society for Private Musical Performances”.

1919 – Hanns Eisler, Rudolf Kolisch and Karl Rankl become his pupils.

1920 – Attends the first Mahler-Festival in the Netherlands; conducts performances in Amsterdam, is named president of the International Mahler-League. Gives courses in composition.
Begins work on a Passacaglia for orchestra (fragment) and arranges the Fünf Orchesterstücke op. 16 for chamber orchestra.

1921 – Conducts Gurrelieder in Amsterdam. Travels to the Mattsee health spa. Because he is Jewish, the local government demands that he leave the premises. Travels on to Traunkirchen. Death of his mother, Pauline Schönberg.

For the Society, arranges Roses from the South and Lagoon Waltz by Johann Strauß.

1922 – Darius Milhaud and Francis Poulenc visit Mödling.
Drafts the opening of his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.

1923 – Having become sensitized to antisemitic actions and statements through the “Mattsee Incident”, Schönberg breaks off his cordial relationship with Wassily Kandinsky, who has been an appointed member of the Weimarer Bauhaus since 1922. He also declines an offer to become director of the Bauhaus music school, referring to the fact that he has been informed of antisemitic tendencies at the Bauhaus.
Schönberg’s wife Mathilde dies on 18 Oktober.
World première of Lied der Waldtaube, conducted by Schönberg (soloist: Marya Freund) in Copenhagen. Introduces a “Method of Composing with Twelve Tones Which are Related Only with One Another”, which revolutionizes the traditional concept of harmony by means of a new classification of musical material and therewith lays “the foundations for a new procedure in musical construction which seemed fitted to replace those structural differentations provided formerly by tonal harmonies.” (“Composition with Twelve Tones” 1941)
Completes the Fünf Klavierstücke op. 23, the Suite für Klavierop. 25 and the Serenade op. 24, which for the first time gives the new method of composition a musically concrete form.

1924 – On 28 August, weds Gertrud Kolisch, sister of his pupil Rudolf Kolisch. Special concerts in honour of his 50th birthday.
On 5 July, conceives a twelve-tone row entitled “Magisches Quadrat” and takes up work again on the Quintett op. 26, but is interrupted due to the illness and death of his wife, Mathilde.

1925/26 – In August is appointed Director of a Master Class in Composition at the Berlin Arts Academ. Anti-Semitic protests in the “Zeitschrift für Musik” in reaction to Schönberg’s professorship.

1927 – Plan for an international school for the cultivation of style.
Commissioned by the American arts patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge to compose the Drittes Streichquartettop. 30.

1928 – At the beginning of the year trip to Cannes.
Completes the composition of the Variationen für Orchester op. 31.
In the libretto for the opera Moses und Aron, he again occupies himself with questions of Judaism and the meaning of religion for Jewish unity.
World première of the Variationen für Orchester op. 31 in Berlin.

1929 – January to February: sojourn in Monte Carlo; August to September: Katwijk aan Zee, Holland.

Completes the score of the one-act opera Von heute auf morgen op. 32, the first stage work ever composed on the basis of twelve-tone rows. The libretto by Max Blonda (Pseudonym of Schönberg’s second wife, Gertrud) “as a satire on the married life of a very close relative” probably originated in autumn 1928 on the Riviera.

1930 – World première of the opera Von heute auf morgen op. 32 under Wilhelm Steinberg in Frankfurt am Main on 1 February.
Between 19 February and 9 March, composes four of the Sechs Stücke für Männerchor op. 35.

1932 – Primarily for political reasons postpones his return to Berlin. Anti-Semitic resistance on the part of the Prussian Academy is disguised as formal problems with him. As Schönberg is forced in June to return to the uncertain environment of Berlin, the situation of Jews in Germany is made dramatically clear to him. Breakthrough to political-Jewish involvement. Birth of his daughter Dorothea Nuria on 7 May in Barcelona.
World première of the Vier Lieder für Gesang und Orchester op. 22 in Frankfurt am Main.

1933 – Leaves Berlin. Excluded from the Academy by the Nazis. Reconverts to Judaism in Paris in July. Travels to the United States with his wife and daughter. Arrives in New York on 31 October.
At the request of Pablo Casals, composes the Konzert für Violoncello und Orchester in a free adaptation of the Concerto for Harpsichord of Georg Matthias Monn (completed on 4 January). Between January and February, composes Drei Lieder für tiefe Stimme (und Klavier) op. 48 after texts by Jakob Haringer.

1934 – World première of the Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra after Händel in Prague. Composes the Suite for String Orchestra at the request of Martin Bernstein.

1935 – Lectures at the University of Southern California. Teaches privately. John Cage becomes his pupil.
Arrangement of the Chamber symphony for orchestra op. 9b (dated 18 April). World première of the Suite for String Orchestra under the baton of Otto Klemperer in Los Angeles on 18 May.
World première of the Konzert für Violoncello und Orchester after Monn as part of a gala concert for Jean Sibelius in London on 7 November (Soloist: Emanuel Feuermann). First performance of the Chamber symphony for orchestra op. 9b, conducted by the composer, in Los Angeles on 27 December.

1936 – Is named professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. Settles in Brentwood Park, West Los Angeles, where he lives for the remainder of his life. Befriends George Gershwin.
At the request of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, composes the Fourth String Quartet op. 37.
In September, completes the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra op. 36, begun the year before.

1937 – The anthology “Schoenberg”, edited by Merle Armitage, appears in May. Among the authors are Ernst Krenek, Leopold Stokowski, Berthold Viertel and Eduard Steuermann .
Birth of his son Ronald on 26 May.
World première of the Fourth String Quartet op. 37, performed by the Kolisch-Quartet, in Los Angeles on 9 January.
Between May and September arranges the Klavierquartett g-Moll, op. 25, by Johannes Brahms, for orchestra.

1938 – Schönberg’s daughter Gertrude Greissle and her family as well as Arnold Schönberg und Alexander Zemlinsky, Prag 1917 and his wife arrive in New York.
First performance of the Brahms-Arrangement written the previous year, under the direction of Otto Klemperer, in Los Angeles on 7 May. At the request of Jacob Sonderling, a rabbi from Los Angeles, writes the choral composition Kol nidre op. 39, between 1 August and 22 September. Schönberg develops his own melodic version out of the traditional model of the Hebrew prayer sung on the eve of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The world première takes place in Los Angeles under the direction of the composer on 4 October (the eve of Yom Kippur 1938).

1939 – Attempts to procure affidavits for relatives and friends for permission to enter the United States. Georg Schönberg and his family live in Mödling under the worst conditions until the end of the war.
At the request of the conductor Fritz Stiedry, completes the Zweite Kammersymphonie.

1940 – Conducts Pierrot lunaire for a recording.
World première of the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra op. 36, under the direction of Leopold Stokowski (Soloist: Louis Krasner), in Philadelphia on 6 December.

1941 – Birth of his son Lawrence on 27 January. Arnold, Gertrud and Nuria are granted American citizenship. Death of his brother Heinrich in Salzburg.

1942 – Schönberg gives summer courses at UCLA. News of successful performances of Pierrot lunaire op. 21 in London.
Completes the Chamber Symphony No. 2 op. 38B, in a Version for Two Pianos.
Composes the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra op. 42.

1943 – Teaches at summer courses. Works on music-pedagogical texts. Designs model of a mechanism for drawing musical staves.

1944 – Schönberg is named professor emeritus of the University of California at Los Angeles. He continues to teach privately.
World première of the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra op. 42, under the baton of Leopold Stokowski (Soloist: Eduard Steuermann ) on 6 February in New York. World première of Theme and Variations op. 43B, under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky on 20 October in Boston.

1945 – Composes the Fanfare on Motivs from the Gurre-Lieder (unfinished) for the Hollywood Bowl Concerts.

1946 – Hearttack. Lectures at the University of Chicago.
Commissioned by the Music Department of Harvard University, composes the String Trio op. 45 for a symposium in Spring 1947. With the completion of the work, Schönberg at the same time writes into the musical texture his traumatic experience of a heart attack that he suffered in August. Thomas Mann writes of this in the “Entstehung des Doktor Faustus”.

1947 – Elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Composes the cantata A Survivor from Warsaw op. 46.

1948 – “Dr. Faustus” controversy with Thomas Mann. Gives lectures in Santa Barbara.

1949 – Is unable to travel to Europe to attend celebrations of his 75th birthday due to poor health. Receives the title “citizen of the City of Vienna”.

1950 – Brings “Dr. Faustus”-controversy with Thomas Mann to an end. State of health deteriorates noticeably. Writes his will.
Composes the Psalm 130, op. 50B, for mixed chorus a capella.

1951 – Is named Honorary President of the Israeli Academy of Music in Jerusalem. Arnold Schönberg dies on 13 July in Los Angeles.
The “Dance Around the Golden Calf” from Moses und Aron receives its world première under the baton of Hermann Scherchen in Darmstadt on 2 July.

© Arnold Schönberg Center