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Schoenberg, Arnold

Schoenberg, Arnold

Born in 1874


Inducted in 1998

In his youth Arnold Schoenberg studied the viola and taught himself to play the cello. At the turn of the century he became active as a choral conductor, and in 1901 he moved to Berlin, where Richard Strauss helped him obtain a Franz Liszt Stipend and a teaching position at the Stern Conservatory. With his Second String Quartet, his last work to bear a key signature, which he completed in 1908, Schoenberg took a significant step toward atonalism. He followed up with his Three Pieces for Piano, Op. 11, omitting any reference to a tonal center. In 1910 he was appointed to the faculty of the Vienna Academy of Music, and in the following year he published his first book, Treatise on Harmony, a monumental achievement in the realm of music theory. He then returned to Berlin to lecture on aesthetics at the Stern Conservatory. In 1912 his first completely atonal work, the Five Pieces for Orchestra, had its premiere in London, and he composed his Pierrot Lunaire. It was when World War I interrupted his touring activity that Schoenberg developed his system of composing with a "basic set of twelve notes," which he first demonstrated in the concluding Waltz of his Five Pieces for Piano (Op. 23) and the fourth movement of his Serenade (Op. 24), both in 1923. His first twelve tone orchestral score, the Variations for Orchestra, was introduced by Furtwangler and the Berlin Philharmonic in 1928; Stokowski conducted the American premiere in Philadelphia the following year. Schoenberg came to America in October 1933 and took up a teaching position at the new Malkin Conservatory in Boston. During his one year there he conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra in some of his early works, and then he moved to the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, which was to be his final home. He was a visiting professor of music at the University of Southern California for one year, and from 1936 until his mandatory retirement at the age of 70 a fulltime professor at UCLA. Schoenberg never abandoned the tonal works he composed before 1910, and in fact composed a wholly tonal Suite in G major for string orchestra as late as 1934. To mark the centenary of his birth, in 1974, there was a large-scale Schoenberg Congress in his native city, while in his adopted one the University of Southern California, UCLA and the California Institute of Arts joined forces to establish the Arnold Schoenberg Institute as a research and information center.