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Thread: Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951)

  1. #181
    Senior Member Poppin' Fresh's Avatar
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    Schoenberg created a hyperbolic and sometimes violent expressive world perhaps closer to the raw unconscious than any other music.

    The harmony usually stays at a high level of dissonance, partly for expressive reasons, partly to avoid familiar chords with their tonal implications. (Nothing in the scheme requires steady dissonance, however. Some later composers used tone rows to write sweet-sounding pieces with clear tonal centers. Part of the reason for the system's later success, in fact, was that it does not dictate style but rather allows room for a composer's personality.)

    Schoenberg himself said "I can't utter too many warnings against overrating these analyses of my music...my works are twelve-tone compositions, not twelve-tone compositions." Some treat it as the end, when the system is simply another tool and a means to an end.

    The real problems with people having problems enjoing Schoenberg's mature music are probably not so much dissonance (gloriously dissonant pieces by Bartok have become popular) or lack of melody (much Beethoven is hardly more melodic than Schoenberg). The problem may be that Schoenberg is unpredictable: the music develops constantly, repeating almost nothing literally; the rhythm wanders, only occasionally having a steady pulse; the texture is often densely contrapuntal; and the atonal language erases the usual tonal expectations. The result is that his music, by denying us expectations about the future, forces us into the present.
    Last edited by Poppin' Fresh; Feb-06-2010 at 01:00.

  2. #182
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    It's interesting you say you'll move on to Schoenberg after Webern. It's Webern and his followers such as Boulez that I have had the most difficulty with.
    First works by Webern are quite romantic/expressionist and not difficult to listen to, even though atonal.

  3. #183
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    Can't say I listen to any Austrian music at all

    What am I missing then

    Well I keep on meaning to re-trial his string quartets. And it will be quite a trial....

  4. #184
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    I thought it was interesting that Daniel Barenboim said that rather than the Five Orchestral Pieces being music for the head or for the heart they were really music for the nerves. In most of Schoenberg's twelve tone music there seems to be a tonal piece trying to get out. The opus 23 and 25 piano pieces are inspiring, as are the string quartets - but would I rather listen to Beethoven? The Schoenberg violin concerto in my view is a better piece than the Berg violin concerto, and yet everyone wants to record Berg.

  5. #185
    Senior Member TresPicos's Avatar
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    I always thought the music of Arnold, Anton and Alban would be too difficult to get into, but Schoenbergs Drei Klavierstücke op 11 was a real ear-opener for me. It felt like it was "balanced", leaving all other music "unbalanced", if that makes any sense. I remember someone dismissing it as "just random notes", though.

    So, I will definitely listen to more of Schoenberg's works in the future.

  6. #186
    Senior Member Romantic Geek's Avatar
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    What little tonal Schoenberg I've heard is pretty enjoyable...but after that - there isn't too much I enjoy. I remember liking the Piano Suite the first time I heard it, but really didn't care for it the second time around.

    I think Schoenberg was trying a little too hard to be controversial and cutting edge. I, for one, think that comes naturally...maybe with a little self promotion, but Schoenberg took that to a whole new level. Webern really got serialism right. Do I care for Webern? Not particularly. I prefer Berg's and Stravinsky's serialist works to both of them - but they were both non-traditionalists in different ways.

    I know some people compare Schoenberg to the modern Beethoven - but Beethoven gradually developed his unique style. He didn't up and leave everything he already worked on to form his new style, essentially what Schoenberg did. So, personally, I don't think they're comparable.
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  7. #187
    Senior Member Sebastien Melmoth's Avatar
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    In the early-1970s Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange stunned everyone into shock and awe (and garnered an 'X' rating at the time).
    Like everyone else I was fascinated, and turned to Anthony Burgess' novel of the same name.
    Burgess was also a composer, and in his novel A Clockwork Orange he mentions Mozart, Beethoven, Orff, and Schönberg.
    The first time I saw Schönberg's name I became very curious about him.
    I obtained Karajan/BPO's reading of the Variations for Orchestra (Op.31) and on first audition I was hooked. (The dreamy Magritte-ish cover art is totally bonus as well!)

    http://www.amazon.com/Arnold-Schoenb...1294372&sr=1-1

    To anyone who wants to know this composer, I would recommend the canon of five String Quartets (it's important to catch No. 0 as well as the four 'official' works).

    http://www.amazon.com/Arnold-Schönbe...1294695&sr=1-1

    And then I would suggest his lieder and magnum opus, Moses und Aron:

    http://www.amazon.com/Schoenberg-Lie...1294803&sr=1-2

    http://www.amazon.com/Schoenberg-Mos...1294905&sr=1-1

    These will give the essentials of this fascinating composer's art.

  8. #188
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    I'm the opposite of most people here, I'm not very interested in Schoenberg's earlier "tonal" works, I'm more into his "atonal" & serialist stuff. To understand Schoenberg one must get a grip on what had happended before him. Chromaticism had produced works of monstrous proportions, often with bits that had no relation to eachother. Looks at R. Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra - everyone remembers the first two minute theme, but what of the rest? It bears little resemblance to the initial theme. As another member here has said elsewhere, in these works the composer "shoots his load" & quickly grabs the attention of the listener, and there's little point to the whole thing, it's incoherent & confusing. Compare that with Schoenberg's "atonal" & serialist works, and he's completely different - he develops themes in a rigorous, "holistic" way, it's all related. No wonder that the composers which Schoenberg admired most weren't people like R. Strauss or Wagner, but Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms. All of these were in a way "classicists," they wrote music that was highly integrated & more compact, thematic development was well thought out. So I think Schoenberg was a traditionalist at heart, even though his style differed greatly from these composers.

  9. #189
    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    I'm the opposite of most people here, I'm not very interested in Schoenberg's earlier "tonal" works, I'm more into his "atonal" & serialist stuff.

    I was recently reading an article on Schoenberg in which a family member admitted that the composer was quite despondent that his music had never caught on. He was especially struck by tour buses which would stop near his Hollywood home where the tour guides would point out the home of Shirley Temple but completely ignore the home of the inventor of 12-tone music. He was greatly cheered, however, the same relative conveyed, upon hearing Verklarte Nacht played over the radio at a local coffee shop. It seems the composer did not so disavow his earlier efforts.

    Personally, Schoenberg has yet to really click with me. I am also enamored of Verklarte Nacht, Pelleas und Melisande, Gurrenlieder, and a few other later pieces... but most of the rest has not grabbed me... in spite of trying.

    To understand Schoenberg one must get a grip on what had happended before him. Chromaticism had produced works of monstrous proportions, often with bits that had no relation to each other. Looks at R. Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra - everyone remembers the first two minute theme, but what of the rest? It bears little resemblance to the initial theme. As another member here has said elsewhere, in these works the composer "shoots his load" & quickly grabs the attention of the listener, and there's little point to the whole thing, it's incoherent & confusing.

    Andre, that's complete nonsense. It is comments like these made by tied-in-the-wool Modernists that are part of the reason for continued animosity between those who love Romanticism and those who would champion Post-Tonal music. It is quite possible to recognize the genius of Strauss or Wagner and still listen to and enjoy later music.

    Personally, I'd take one Strauss opera over Schoenberg's entire oeuvre... but he is admittedly my favorite 20th century composer. Strauss was no minor reactionary, and his early operas (Salome?) and tone-poems show him to have been just as much of an innovator. The notion that there is but one memorable tune to Also Sprach Zarathustra might be leveled at any number of other musical compositions... but how many tunes from Schoenberg do you go about humming? Also Sprach Zarathustra was certainly not incoherent and confusing or unstructured and pointless. As with Beethoven's 5th, Strauss repeatedly uses the three-note motif throughout the composition as a whole. The piece as a whole is structured upon nine selected sections of Nietzsche's text of the same name.

    Compare that with Schoenberg's "atonal" & serialist works, and he's completely different - he develops themes in a rigorous, "holistic" way, it's all related. No wonder that the composers which Schoenberg admired most weren't people like R. Strauss or Wagner, but Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms. All of these were in a way "classicists," they wrote music that was highly integrated & more compact, thematic development was well thought out. So I think Schoenberg was a traditionalist at heart, even though his style differed greatly from these composers.

    I'm sorry, but Strauss and Wagner are far from unstructured composers just rambling on. Perhaps, to use a phrase favored by the champions of Modernism, you just don't get it.
    Last edited by StlukesguildOhio; Apr-15-2010 at 05:35.

  10. #190
    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    Looks at R. Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra - everyone remembers the first two minute theme, but what of the rest? It bears little resemblance to the initial theme. As another member here has said elsewhere, in these works the composer "shoots his load" & quickly grabs the attention of the listener, and there's little point to the whole thing, it's incoherent & confusing.
    I would like to say the same of Schoenberg's structured sounds; little point to the whole thing, it's incoherent and confusing. He was original only in that his works sound so very different to everything else before.

  11. #191
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    What I was trying to do SLGO, before you went on your diatribe, is to locate Schoenberg in the context from which he came. Of course, R. Strauss & Wagner were (just as) important innovators in their own time, that goes without saying. You refer to "tunes" and this brings up the point that Schoenberg's post-1908 stuff isn't laden with them, but what you get is very rigorous thematic development, often not based on "tunes" per se but on fragments of them. So the listener has to put it all together & make sense of it. I for one really enjoy this process, I find it highly engaging. But I think that ALL classical music is more than simply good "tunes." All I was trying to put across is that late chromaticism had "eroded" some of the traditions that classical music had been based on from Mozart & Haydn through to Brahms. Schoenberg admired these composers greatly & what he liked about them was their clarity, (relative) conciseness & rigour. So he was trying to re-establish some of the essentials, and cut out the extraenous "flashy" stuff. Back to basics. I think that even R. Strauss came to the same conclusion in a different way later on, his Metamorphosen (1945) develops a single theme for about half an hour, and he quotes Beethoven's Eroica at the end. An interesting conclusion to the career of a man who had called Schoenberg a "lunatic" (behind his back, of course) and rubbished every aspect of the new developments...

  12. #192
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    I would like to say the same of Schoenberg's structured sounds; little point to the whole thing, it's incoherent and confusing. He was original only in that his works sound so very different to everything else before.
    Maybe you should go back and listen, and hear the connections. Schoenberg's Violin Concerto, for example, takes a single theme through from beginning to end. It's the essence of thematic development, but if you only hear it once, it won't make sense. You have to be willing to devote repeated listening to this music...

  13. #193
    Senior Member Sebastien Melmoth's Avatar
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    It's important to contextualize Schönberg in his own space-time.
    The development of his art was an evolution, not a revolution.
    Bach used 12-tones in the b-minor Fugue at the end of WTC1.
    Mozart--Beethoven--Schubert all applied various experiments.
    Wagner 'liberated the dissonance' with Tristan.
    Brahms explored 'developing variation' at least from the Op. 51 String Quartets onward.
    Strauss was also a transitional figure, as was Mahler.

    Schönberg inherited all these; furthermore, his starting point was the furthermost point of advancement of the aformentioned.

    So, it's easy to see examples of points of influence from his predecessors in his own work. For example:

    Schönberg's Op. 25 Piano Suite is a Modernisitc refraction of Bach's French Suites;
    his Op. 31 Orchestral Variations are a continuation of Brahms' Passacalia from the Fourth Symphony (itself a continuation from Bach's BWV 582 Passacalia);
    Schönberg's String Quartets are the very emulation of Beethoven's, Schubert's and Brahms'.

    Even 12-tone was in the Viennese air with the contemporaneous Joseph Hauer whom Schönberg personally knew...

    (More later, gotta run!...)

  14. #194
    Senior Member Rasa's Avatar
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    Be that as it might, interesting music isn't necesarily good music, or music anyone would want to hear

  15. #195
    Senior Member robert's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasa View Post
    Be that as it might, interesting music isn't necesarily good music, or music anyone would want to hear
    Could you please site some examples.....

    Robert

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