An Introduction to Twentieth Century Music

By Peter S. Hansen | Go to book overview
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Composition in twelve tones has no other aim than comprehensibility. ARNOLD SCHOENBERG

When Schoenberg returned to civilian life in 1917, he found Austria impoverished, demoralized, and dismembered. Vienna, once the proud capital of a far-reaching empire, ornamented with opera houses, theaters, and universities, was now reduced to the shabby center of a small, unimportant country. Run-away inflation that completely wiped out savings and inheritances contributed to the confusion and desperation of the people.

In spite of this, Schoenberg entered what were probably the happiest years of his life. He received no official appointment, the musical taste of Vienna being far too conservative for that, but he resumed the roles he had played before the war-those of composer, teacher, and theorist. A group of enthusiastic and brilliant young musicians gathered around him, among them Alban Berg and Anton von Webern, who had been with him before the war. There were also younger men such as Paul Pisk and Egon Wellesz, pianists Rudolph Serkin and Edward Steuerman, violinist Rudolf Kolisch, and others.

Schoenberg's disciples regarded him with awe and devotion usually reserved for religious leaders. As he developed a new "gospel" of music, they became convinced he was revealing the path they must follow; they were fanatical in their devotion and firm in the belief that here


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An Introduction to Twentieth Century Music


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