I began studying Schoenberg's vocal music a couple of days ago (again, for a comprehensive exam). Along with lots of listening, score study, and poring over journal articles, I have been reading Charles Rosen's slim volume, Arnold Schoenberg. Here are a few interesting tidbits and insights into one of the most revered and reviled figures of 20th century music composition.
Of the string sextet, Verklaerte Nacht, a contemporary of Schoenberg said:
"It sounds as if someone had smeared the score of Tristan while it was still wet."
How about this Richard Strauss v. Schoenberg action:
"Only a psychiatrist can help poor Schoenberg now...He would do better to shovel snow instead of scribbling on music paper."
Schoenberg on the occasion of Strauss' 50th birthday: "He is no longer of the slightest artistic interest to me, and whatever I may once have learned from him, I am thankful to say I misunderstood."
Another Strauss TidbiT from Charles Rosen:
"Strauss is known to have been disconcerted
[haha- good one, Charles] by the growing virtuosity of modern orchestras and their ability to give an unfortunate clarity to passages written to sound as a sweeping and harmonious blur."
Reminds me of some of the chorales from Bach's St. Matthew Passion, which would have sounded more dissonant in his tuning system.
by Charles Rosen
"A dissonance is any musical sound that must be resolved; a consonance is a musical sound that needs to no resolution."
"If dissonance is understood as that which demands resolution (and this definition must be maintained if
the expressive role of dissonance in the language of musical representation is to be understood), if it has meaning only as part of an opposition consonance-dissonance, then the elimination of consonance, of resolution, destroys the basis for expression, makes dissonance itself meaningless. The powerful emotional force of Schoenberg's music would then be intelligible only against an inherited background of traditional harmony, and would itself be an incoherent system, dependent on a musical culture it was intent on destroying."
Oh, the irony.