Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
TODAY IS
December 21
Can You Guess?
I've seen two different spellings of Arnold's last name, Schönberg and Schoenberg. Sometimes both ways in the same article.
Can You Guess
Why I Used Two Different Spellings?

Look at the Bottom of the Page for the Answer.
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1808 - Premieres of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, Fifth Symphony and Sixth Symphony, at Theatre-an-der-Wein.

1858 - Giacomo Puccini,  Italian opera composer, was born.

1906 - Debut of Glazunov's Eighth Symphony, in St. Petersburg.

1940 - Frank Zappa, US composer and guitarist, was born in Baltimore, MD.

1952 - Jimmy Boyd was No. 1 on Billboard Pop Charts with I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

1950 - Walter Damrosch, US composer and conductor, died.

1952 - Robert Kapilow, US composer, was born.

1960 - Nathan Currier, US composer, was born.

1968 - Crosby, Stills and Nash performed together in public for the first time

1969 - The Supremes made their last appearance on TV's Ed Sullivan Show. They sing Someday We'll Be Together.


Did You Guess?
Schönberg and Schoenberg are BOTH correct, but not at the same time. He was born with the last name Schönberg, which is the German spelling.  In English we do not use the umlaut (the two dots over the "o", so he changed the spelling after moving to the United States.
Violinist Composer Arnold Schoenberg
December 21, 1908 marked the debut of Arnold Schoenberg's Quartet No. 2 for strings and soprano. The Rosé Quartet performed with soprano Marie Gutheil-Schoder, in Vienna.

Schönberg was born September 13, 1874.  He began violin studies when he was only nine years old.  Even though he had no training in composition, he started writing music almost immediately, "Little, and later large pieces for two violins, in imitation of such music as I used to play with my teacher or with a cousin of mine."
© Arnold Schönberg Center, Vienna
Click the picture to go to the
Arnold Schönberg Center web site..

Arnold Schoenberg
1874-1951
Schönberg continued his schooling, and started a banking apprenticeship.  But this did not deter him from composing.  He even spoke of reading an encyclopedia so that he could learn how to construct the first movement of a string quartet.

The earliest complete work we have, a song, dates from 1893.  In hellen Träumen hab ich Dich oft geschaut (“In Clear Dreams I Oft Have Seen Thee”) for Voice and Piano, after a text by Alfred Gold.

In 1894, Schönberg met Alexander von Zemlinsky, a fellow member of the orchestra Polyhymnia.  They became friends. Though Zemlinsky was just 3 years Schönberg's senior, he became his artistic mentor (and later his brother-in-law, as Schönberg married Mathilde Zemlinsky in 1901). He received a prize from Polyhymnia for the Schilflied (“Bulrush Song”), and composed Three Pieces for Piano in October of 1894.

Schönberg began instructing students in 1898, and continued his composition.  At the recommendation of Richard Strauss, Schönberg was invited to teach harmony at the Stern conservatory in Berlin in 1903, and took the position.  1904 saw the beginning of his relationship with Gustav Mahler, who had  tremendous influence on his musical thinking until Mahler's death in 1911.

In 1923 his wife died (he remarried the next year), and in 1925 he moved to Berlin to take a master class at the Prussian Academy of Arts. While there he wrote much of his unfinished opera Moses und Aron.  Having been raised a Jew, Schönberg left Judaism in 1898 to join the Lutheran Church.  Despite this, his Jewish heredity forced him to leave Berlin in 1933.  He went to Paris.

Later the same year he arrived in the USA, and he settled in Los Angeles in 1934. It was there that he returned to tonal composition, while developing serialism to make possible the more complex structures of the Violin Concerto and the String Quartet no.4. In 1936 he began teaching at UCLA and his output declined.

1940 saw the world première of his the Violin Concerto, op. 36.  The soloist was Louis Krasner, the conductor was Leopold Stokowski.

After his reconversion to Judaism there were several significant religious works designed to show his support for Israel and Jewish music.

After a heart attack in 1945, however, he gave up teaching and made some return to expressionism (A Survivor from Warsaw, String Trio), as well as writing religious choruses.

Schoenberg died July 13, 1951 in Los Angeles.

You may have noticed that I have not discussed Schoenberg's music in much detail.  His work was, and to some extent remains controversial.  He completely abandoned tonality and he promoted serial composition, so that many of his works do not have a set key in which they are played.  At times he embraced the use of a 12-tone scale in contrast to the 8-tone scale that Western ears have become accustomed to.  He invented the technique of  Sprechstimme, halfway between singing and speaking. 

And it was not merely his works that exerted a strong influence on the world of music.  A list of his students includes Olga Novakovic, Józef Koffler, Paul von Klenau, Karl Linke, Josef Polnauer, Hans Erich Apostel, Hanns Jelinek,Pauline Alderman, Leonard Stein and Anton Webern. Generations will owe a debt to Schoenberg for his innovation, his energy and his genius.
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