Special Exhibition
14 September 2007 – 1 February 2008

 »Einer hat es sein müssen, keiner hat es sein wollen, also habe ich mich dazu hergegeben.« (Arnold Schönberg)  “Nobody wanted to be, someone had to be, so I let it be me.” (Arnold Schönberg)

When did Schönberg (1874 –1951) become Schönberg? – When did the Romantic become the radical exponent of a new music? – When did the musical autodidact become the enfant terrible of Vienna’s music scene?

Schönberg says himself that his initial compositional efforts until he was 17 “were nothing more than imitations of such music as I could become acquainted with, considering, that my only sources had been violin duets and duetarrangements of operas on the one hand and the repertory of military bands which played in public parks.” (Arnold Schönberg: My Evolution, 1949)

The lessons Schönberg had with Alexander Zemlinsky (who was destined to become his brother-in-law and whom he met in autumn 1895) are the only evidence we have that he had any kind of formal training in composition. Zemlinsky was the conductor of the “Polyhymnia Musical Society” in Vienna, a small amateur orchestra, in which his protégé Schönberg played the cello.

In his youth, the self-taught composer Schönberg was a Brahmsian until he began to admire Richard Wagner just as much. “This is why in my ‘Verklärte Nacht’ the thematic construction is based on Wagnerian model […] and on Brahms’ technique of – as I call it – developing variation on the other hand.” Up until the time of his symphonic poem “Pelleas and Melisande” (finished in 1902), Schönberg’s Romantic side was unmistakably evident in his music, his increasingly complex scores still lush with the sonorities of a sensuous world of sound; “Transfigured Night” and the “Gurre-Lieder” are timeless witnesses to late-Romantic composing style, poised on the gateway onward to “other planets.”

This special exhibition focuses on Schönberg’s childhood and youth in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt district, his school years and early friendships with other artists, and his stylistic development up to his breakthrough into other artistic spheres, highlighting in particular his earliest musical autographs (shown at the Center for the first time), personal memorabilia and richly anecdotal stories from contemporaries about the man who would later become a “conservative revolutionary.”

Therese Muxeneder