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Arnold Schoenberg


Anyone who says that Arnold Schoenberg's work lacks emotion is a fool. One need only hear the masterpiece song cycle Pierrot Lunaire, the magnificent Verklarte Nacht or the spiritual opera Moses und Aron for proof. The fact that this master of the twentieth century remains misunderstood by so many listeners is a testament to the radical nature of his genius. The first part of Schoenberg's career (Verklarte Nacht is his most famous piece from this era) takes equally from Brahms and Wagner, bridging the gap between romantic lyricism and rigid chromaticism; but it's his later compositions that really shine. Frustrated by a period of what he saw as creative stagnation following Wagner, Schoenberg introduced what has come to be known as twelve-tone or serial music. Designed to give equal weight to each note of the scale, the composer selects twelve notes to serve as a tone row and builds his compositions around this row, never varying its order save for inversions and retrogrades. Composers Alban Berg and Anton Webern immediately latched onto the idea (Stravinsky would follow suit several years later), and with Schoenberg formed a trio of composers known as the Second Viennese School. In short, the invention threw open the doors of musical possibilities, paving the way for a century of innovation and discovery.
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