Second Viennese School

Last updated
Prime, retrograde, inverse, and retrograde-inverse permutations. P-R-I-RI.png
Prime, retrograde, inverse, and retrograde-inverse permutations.

The Second Viennese School (German : Zweite Wiener Schule, Neue Wiener Schule) was the group of composers that comprised Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils, particularly Alban Berg and Anton Webern, and close associates in early 20th-century Vienna. Their music was initially characterized by late-Romantic expanded tonality and later, a totally chromatic expressionism without firm tonal centre, often referred to as atonality; and later still, Schoenberg's serial twelve-tone technique. Adorno said that the twelve-tone method, when it had evolved into maturity, was a "veritable message in a bottle", addressed to an unknown and uncertain future. [1] Though this common development took place, it neither followed a common time-line nor a cooperative path. Likewise, it was not a direct result of Schoenberg's teaching—which, as his various published textbooks demonstrate, was highly traditional and conservative. Schoenberg's textbooks also reveal that the Second Viennese School spawned not from the development of his serial method, but rather from the influence of his creative example.



The principal members of the school, besides Schoenberg, were Alban Berg and Anton Webern, who were among his first composition pupils. Both of them had already produced copious and talented music in a late Romantic idiom but felt they gained new direction and discipline from Schoenberg's teaching. Other members of this generation included Ernst Krenek, Heinrich Jalowetz, Erwin Stein and Egon Wellesz, and somewhat later Eduard Steuermann, Hanns Eisler, Robert Gerhard, Norbert von Hannenheim, Rudolf Kolisch, Paul A. Pisk, Karl Rankl, Josef Rufer, Nikos Skalkottas, Viktor Ullmann, and Winfried Zillig. [2] Schoenberg's brother-in-law Alexander Zemlinsky is sometimes included as part of the Second Viennese School, though he was never Schoenberg's pupil and never renounced a traditional conception of tonality.

Though Berg and Webern both followed Schoenberg into total chromaticism and both, each in his own way, adopted twelve-tone technique soon after he did, not all of these others did so, or waited for a considerable time before following suit. Several yet later disciples, such as Zillig, the Catalan Gerhard, the Transylvanian Hannenheim and the Greek Skalkottas, are sometimes covered by the term, though (apart from Gerhard) they never studied in Vienna but as part of Schoenberg's masterclass in Berlin.

Membership in the school is not generally extended to Schoenberg's many pupils in the United States from 1933, such as John Cage, Leon Kirchner and Gerald Strang, nor to many other composers who, at a greater remove, wrote compositions evocative of the Second Viennese style, such as the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. By extension, however, certain pupils of Schoenberg's pupils, such as Berg's pupil Hans Erich Apostel and Webern's pupils René Leibowitz, Leopold Spinner and Ludwig Zenk, are usually included in the roll-call.


Though the school included highly distinct musical personalities (the styles of Berg and Webern are in fact very different from each other, and from Schoenberg—for example, only the works of Webern conform to the rule stated by Schoenberg that only a single row be used throughout all movements of a composition [3] —while Gerhard and Skalkottas were closely involved with the folk music of their respective countries) the impression of cohesiveness was enhanced by the literary efforts of some of its members. Wellesz wrote the first book on Schoenberg, who was also the subject of several Festschriften put together by his friends and pupils; Rufer and Spinner both wrote books on the technique of twelve-tone composition; and Leibowitz's influential study of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern, Schoenberg et son école, helped to establish the image of a school in the period immediately after World War II in France and abroad. Several of those mentioned (e.g. Jalowetz, Rufer) were also influential as teachers, and others (e.g. Kolisch, Rankl, Stein, Steuermann, Zillig) as performers, in disseminating the ideals, ideas and approved repertoire of the group. Perhaps the culmination of the school took place at Darmstadt almost immediately after World War II, at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, wherein Schoenberg—who was invited but too ill to travel—was ultimately usurped in musical ideology by the music of his pupil, Webern, as composers and performers from the Second Viennese School (e.g. Leibowitz, Rufer, Adorno, Kolisch, Heiss, Stadlen, Stuckenschmidt, Scherchen) converged with the new serialists (e.g. Boulez, Stockhausen, Maderna, Nono, et al.).

First Viennese School

German musical literature refers to the grouping as the "Wiener Schule" or "Neue Wiener Schule". The existence of a "First Viennese School" is debatable. The term is often assumed to connote the great Vienna-based masters of the Classical style working in the late 18th and early 19th century, particularly Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert. Though Mozart and Schubert did not study with Haydn, Mozart and Haydn were admirers of each other's work and evidence suggests that the two composers fed off the other's compositional craftsmanship. Beethoven, however, did for a time receive lessons from the older master, Haydn, though he was not a pupil in the sense that Berg and Webern were pupils of Schoenberg.

See also

Related Research Articles

Alban Berg Austrian composer (1885–1935)

Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer of the Second Viennese School. His compositional style combined Romantic lyricism with the twelve-tone technique. Although he left a relatively small oeuvre, he is remembered as one of the most important composers of the 20th century for his expressive style encompassing "entire worlds of emotion and structure".

Anton Webern Austrian composer and conductor (1883–1945)

Anton Friedrich Wilhelm von Webern, known as simply Anton Webern, was an Austrian composer and conductor. Along with his mentor Arnold Schoenberg and his colleague Alban Berg, Webern was in the core of those in the circle of the Second Viennese School, including Theodor W. Adorno, Heinrich Jalowetz, and Ernst Krenek. As an exponent of atonality and twelve-tone technique, Webern exerted influence on contemporaries Luigi Dallapiccola, Krenek, and even Schoenberg himself. As a tutor, Webern guided and variously influenced Arnold Elston, Frederick Dorian, Matty Niël, Fré Focke, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Philipp Herschkowitz, René Leibowitz, Humphrey Searle, Leopold Spinner, and Stefan Wolpe.

Arnold Schoenberg Austrian-American composer (1874–1951)

Arnold Schoenberg or Schönberg was an Austrian-American composer, music theorist, teacher, writer, and painter. He is widely considered one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School. As a Jewish composer, Schoenberg was targeted by the Nazi Party, which labeled his works as degenerate music and forbade them from being published. He emigrated to the United States in 1933, becoming an American citizen in 1941.

In music, serialism is a method of composition using series of pitches, rhythms, dynamics, timbres or other musical elements. Serialism began primarily with Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, though some of his contemporaries were also working to establish serialism as a form of post-tonal thinking. Twelve-tone technique orders the twelve notes of the chromatic scale, forming a row or series and providing a unifying basis for a composition's melody, harmony, structural progressions, and variations. Other types of serialism also work with sets, collections of objects, but not necessarily with fixed-order series, and extend the technique to other musical dimensions, such as duration, dynamics, and timbre.

George Perle American composer

George Perle was an American composer and music theorist. As a composer, his music was largely atonal, using methods similar to the twelve-tone technique of the Second Viennese School. This serialist style, and atonality in general, was the subject of much of his theoretical writings. His 1962 book, Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern remains a standard text for 20th-century classical music theory. Among Perle's awards was the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Wind Quintet No. 4.

<i>Lyric Suite</i> (Berg) String quartet music by Alban Berg

The Lyric Suite is a six-movement work for string quartet written by Alban Berg between 1925 and 1926 using methods derived from Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique. Though publicly dedicated to Alexander von Zemlinsky, the work has been shown to possess a "secret dedication" and to outline a "secret programme".

The First Viennese School is a name mostly used to refer to three composers of the Classical period in Western art music in late-18th-century to early-19th-century Vienna: Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Sometimes, Franz Schubert is added to the list.

Expressionist music

The term expressionism "was probably first applied to music in 1918, especially to Schoenberg", because like the painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) he avoided "traditional forms of beauty" to convey powerful feelings in his music. Theodor Adorno interprets the expressionist movement in music as seeking to "eliminate all of traditional music's conventional elements, everything formulaically rigid". This he sees as analogous "to the literary ideal of the 'scream' ". As well Adorno sees expressionist music as seeking "the truthfulness of subjective feeling without illusions, disguises or euphemisms". Adorno also describes it as concerned with the unconscious, and states that "the depiction of fear lies at the centre" of expressionist music, with dissonance predominating, so that the "harmonious, affirmative element of art is banished". Expressionist music would "thus reject the depictive, sensual qualities that had come to be associated with impressionist music. It would endeavor instead to realize its own purely musical nature—in part by disregarding compositional conventions that placed 'outer' restrictions on the expression of 'inner' visions".

The Society for Private Musical Performances was an organization founded in Vienna in the Autumn of 1918 by Arnold Schoenberg with the intention of making carefully rehearsed and comprehensible performances of newly composed music available to genuinely interested members of the musical public.

Rudolf Kolisch was a Viennese violinist and leader of string quartets, including the Kolisch Quartet and the Pro Arte Quartet.

The Kolisch Quartet was a string quartet musical ensemble founded in Vienna, originally as the New Vienna String Quartet for the performance of Schoenberg's works, and settling to the form in which it was later known. It had a worldwide reputation and made several recordings. The quartet disbanded in the United States during the early 1940s.

Jacques-Louis Monod

Jacques-Louis Monod was a French composer, pianist and conductor of 20th century and contemporary music, particularly in the advancement of the music of Charles Ives, Edgard Varèse, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern and uptown music; and was active primarily in New York City and London during the second half of the twentieth century.

Norbert Wolfgang Stephan Hann von Hannenheim was an Austro-Hungarian-born German composer. He is seen as one of the most brilliant later pupils of Arnold Schoenberg.

Martin Eybl is an Austrian musicologist.

Arnold Elston was an American composer and educator. Though he studied with Anton Webern, he did not himself use the twelve-tone technique.

Christa Ruppert Leiria was a German, later also Portuguese violinist.

Othmar Steinbauer was an Austrian composer and music theorist. He progressed developments in twelve-tone composition (Klangreihenmusik). His own teachers included Joseph Marx, Anton von Webern, Arnold Schönberg and Josef Matthias Hauer.

Neue Musik is the collective term for a wealth of different currents in composed Western art music from around 1910 to the present. Its focus is on compositions of 20th century music. It is characterised in particular by – sometimes radical – expansions of tonal, harmonic, melodic and rhythmic means and forms. It is characterised by the search for new sounds, new forms or new combinations of old styles, which is partly a continuation of existing traditions, partly a deliberate break with tradition and appears either as progress or as renewal.

Ildikó Raimondi

Ildikó Raimondi is a Hungarian-Austrian operatic soprano and academic voice teacher. She has been a member of the Vienna State Opera since 1991, and has performed leading roles internationally, especially in Mozart operas. She also works in concert and lied, including contemporary compositions. She has received Austrian awards.


  1. Volbach, W. R.; Adorno, Theodor W. (1950). "Philosophie der neuen Musik". Books Abroad. 24 (4): 394. doi:10.2307/40089560. ISSN   0006-7431.
  2. Rudolf Stephan, "Wiener Schule", Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik, second, revised edition, edited by musicologist Ludwig Finscher, 26 volumes in two parts, (Kassel, Basel, London, [etc.]: Bärenreiter-Verlag; Stuttgart and Weimar: J. B. Metzler, 1998): Part 1 (Sachteil), vol. 9 (Sy–Z): cols. 2034–45. ISBN   978-3-7618-1128-3 (Bärenreiter); ISBN   978-3-476-41025-2 (Metzler). citation from cols. 2035–36.
  3. Perle, George. Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, p.2n3. Fourth Edition. 1977. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press. ISBN   0-520-03395-7

Further reading