In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Arnold Schoenberg

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Anthologies
  • Journals
  • Biographies
  • Schoenberg’s Jewish Identity
  • Theoretical Works and Treatises
  • Tonality and Early Tonal Works
  • Atonality and Atonal Works
  • Dodecaphony and Twelve-Tone Works
  • Music Theater Works
  • Choral Works
  • Orchestra Works
  • Chamber Works without Voice
  • Chamber Works with Voice and Songs with Piano Accompaniment
  • Keyboard Works
  • Canons
  • Arrangements
  • Performing Schoenberg
  • Schoenberg and Painting
  • Schoenberg’s Teachings
  • Schoenberg’s Students
  • Schoenberg Reception
  • Criticism: Critiques and Polemics

Music Arnold Schoenberg
Sabine Feisst
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0196


Arnold Schoenberg (b. 1874–d. 1951) gained fame as a musical innovator and pioneer of modernism in 20th-century Western music, with his highly chromatic and densely structured tonal pieces, his intensely expressive atonal scores, and his twelve-tone compositions. He also made a name for himself as a painter, associating with such important expressionist artists as Wassily Kandinsky and Oskar Kokoschka. He wrote about his ideas on harmony, counterpoint, form, instrumentation, and aesthetics in books and articles. His innovative and provocative music has generated interest and controversy among musicians, audiences, critics, and scholars around the globe, and the literature on Schoenberg is diverse and vast. An outstanding teacher who taught privately and at such institutions as the Prussian Academy of the Arts in Berlin and the University of Southern California and the University of California in Los Angeles, Schoenberg worked with many students, including Alban Berg, John Cage, Hanns Eisler, Roberto Gerhard, Lou Harrison, Dika Newlin, and Anton Webern—all of whom adapted some of his compositional ideas in their works and wrote about Schoenberg. He also taught influential performers, including Edward Steuermann, Rudolf Kolisch, and James Sykes. He had a complex personality, a fascinating circle of followers, and an eventful life that has received scrutiny from numerous biographers. Born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Schoenberg lived in Austria and Germany and converted to Protestantism in 1898. After Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, he reembraced the Jewish faith in Paris and in that same year fled to the United States, becoming an American citizen in 1941 and residing in California until his death ten years later. During the Cold War, Schoenberg scholarship thrived, particularly in western Europe and the United States, where he was seen as the “Einstein in music,” and dodecaphonic theories emphasizing art-science intersections became influential in composition and academia. To this day, artists and scholars worldwide remain indebted to his work, and scholarship has burgeoned to assess the global reach of his innovations, as the performances and publications on the occasion of Pierrot lunaire’s centennial in 2012 have demonstrated. Schoenberg scholarship has benefited from the establishment of the Arnold Schönberg Complete Edition in 1965, the existence of the Internationale Schönberg-Gesellschaft (established in Vienna in 1972), which organized three Schoenberg Congresses, and the Arnold Schoenberg Institute (1976–1997) in Los Angeles and the Arnold Schönberg Center (1998–) in Vienna, both dedicated to the study and performance of his work. The institute published Schoenberg research in the Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, and the center has provided online access to archival materials, including writings, correspondence, and photographs, to an unprecedented degree and has published papers given at its scholarly conferences in the Journal of the Arnold Schönberg Center (2000–). Schoenberg’s writings, including his letters, are available in numerous published editions and translations and have advanced his compositional legacy, but with very few exceptions, they are not represented in this article.

Reference Works

Along with encyclopedia entries on the Grove Music Online website and in the second edition of The Grove Dictionary of American Music (Vol. 7, Rabin, Michael–Stein, Leon, edited by Charles Hiroshi Garrett, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), the most-important reference tools for Schoenberg research include work catalogues, handbooks, and other catalogues. However, the literature on Schoenberg has grown exponentially and has not been tracked consistently to account for research in Latin America, Canada, eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

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