Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951)

How to say the name:

‘Schoenberg’ is said like Shern-berg. ‘Arnold’ is easy to say.


13th September 1874 in Vienna, Austra.

Schoenberg’s grave in Vienna


13th July 1951 in Los Angeles, California, USA.


Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) in Vienna.

Type of Music:

Modern classical music (but also late romantic music as well).

Some famous pieces:
  • Most definitely none at all!!
Some great pieces:
  • Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured night).
  • Gurrelieder (Songs of Gurre)—for singers and orchestra.
  • Kammersymphonie (Chamber Symphony) Nos. 1 and 2.
  • Pelleas und Melisande (Pelleas and Melisande).
  • String Quartet No. 2. (See below for a video.)
  • Erwartung (Expectation)—a short opera for only one singer.
  • Pierrot lunaire (a set of songs ‘sung’ in a way that sounds almost as if the singer is speaking instead of singing).
  • Violin Concerto.
  • Piano Concerto.
  • Moses und Aron (Moses and Aron)—an opera.
Some interesting facts:
  • His String Quartet No. 2 is one of the first pieces of modern classical music. It was so different from anything that had been written before that the first audience was shocked (see what you think in the video below)!
  • When most people think of Schoenberg, they think of one thing—yuk! Many musicians don’t even like his music, although most will admit that his music is very clever! You could say he was a ‘musical bogey-man’!! In fact, this is what he called himself!!!
  • Most people don’t know that Schoenberg actually wrote some very beautiful music (quite like Mahler’s, in fact). Examples of this are Verklärte Nacht and Gurrelieder.
  • He only started writing modern music because he couldn’t express everything he wanted to in romantic music.
  • He invented a completely new way of composing (called ‘Serialism’). Many composers throughout the 20th century copied this style (and many people hated it!!).
  • He was delighted that his Violin Concerto was almost impossible to play!!
  • He was also a skilled painter.
  • He escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930s and spent most of the rest of his life in Los Angeles teaching people how to compose.

Here is a video of part of Schoenberg’s Serenade Op. 24. Do you like this music? Not everybody does!

Part of Schoenberg’s Seranade Op. 24

And here is part of Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 2. This music was one of the first pieces of modern classical music.

Fourth movement of Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 2

Finally, here is a video of Schoenberg himself taken from a home movie made in about 1938!

A home movie of Schoenberg!

Picture credits:
  1. Arnold Schoenberg. This photograpgh was taken by Florence Homolka around 1948. It is from the Schoenberg Archives at the University of Southern California. This image is free to use providing one credits the photographer. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
  2. Schoenberg’s grave in Vienna. This photograph may be used freely. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
Video credits:
  1. Arnold Schoenberg: Serenade op. 24 (Excerpts). Arnold Schoenberg’s (1874-1951) dodecaphonic Serenade op. 24, performed in the garden of his home in Mödling near Vienna (2005). Performers: Ensemble Wiener Collage, René Staar (conductor).
  2. Schoenberg: String Quartet No 2 Mvmnt 4 “Entrückung” – Margaret Price and the LaSalle Quartet. The final movement of Schoenberg’s 2nd string quartet. “I feel the air of other planets…”.
  3. Arnold Schoenberg filmed by Serge Hovey. Home movies by Serge Hovey of Arnold Schoenberg circa 1938 in Malibu and Brentwood.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rivron 9th August 2012

That outdoor Serenade performance is wonderful. I love the piece.

There is a really good video about Schoenberg here. I didn’t realize he was such fun until I saw it and it really explains the sense of fun in that Serenade movement, I think:

2 Greg Pagel 29th January 2013

I would like to offer an alternative to the opinion expressed on this page.
While it is true that many listeners are not fond of Schoenberg’s music, many others, such as myself, LOVE it. Furthermore, it is completely false that he wrote “no famous pieces at all.” Pieces like Verklarte Nacht and Gurrelieder are very popular among lovers of “normal” classical music.
Also, please don’t think that just because some people don’t like his “serialist” works (even people who’ve never heard them!), that they aren’t for you. Make up your own mind. Pieces like the Piano Concerto and the Four Pieces for Mixed Chorus, which may seem unusual on the first listen, are actually quite exciting and beautiful.
Finally, if you are someone who likes to listen to music that is adventurous and a little different, you owe it to yourself to give this stuff a try.

3 Malcolm Pullan 29th January 2013

Thank you for your comment Greg. I actually like a lot of Schoenberg’s music myself, especially the Verklarte Nacht and Gurrelieder. What I tried to say above was that most people either don’t like Schoenberg or are afraid to listen to it. Very few non-serious musicians even know that he wrote some music that’s quite easy to listen to.

4 arandas 14th March 2013

does schoenberg have any music around 1874 that we can use

5 Malcolm Pullan 14th March 2013

Schoenberg was born in 1874, so I don’t think he would have composed any music then!

6 nicola fisher 13th February 2015

This is a really good website to be on when you are stuck with your homework and thanks for the information about Arnold Schoenberg.

7 tommy rea 12th July 2016

I reaaly enjoyed reading through this amazing website and I really enhoyed

8 i love music 10th September 2016

not my kind of music

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