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From the Romantic to the 20th century: marking the birthdays of Clara Schumann and Arnold Schoenberg

Today we’re having a look at two very different musical artists – composers Clara Schumann and Arnold Schoenberg.

Clara Schumann was one of the first known women in classical music. She was a child prodigy who impressed the elite of the classical music world, grew up to marry her piano teacher, Robert Schumann, and lead a high-profile career as a performer. Her legacy extends also to composing, and those works are gradually becoming better known today – back in her day, she performed her own works along with pieces that were standard repertoire.

Have a listen to her piano music recorded by Jozef De Beenhouwer. What do you think? If she were a man, would she be part of the standard repertoire today?

Clara Wieck Schumann was born in Leipzig in 1819 and died in Frankfurt, 1896.

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Mention the composer “Schoenberg” and you’ll get a strong reaction from musicians, positive or negative. While his early works were harmonious, they grew increasingly atonal (meaning, melodies you couldn’t hum easily) and the rhythm free-flowing and unpredictable (not toe-tappers). His later-known music, without a key to adhere to (like “D Major”) , made for some frustrating rehearsals and uncertainty for audiences unfamiliar with his music.

Schoenberg created a new musical language, serialism, where every note was represented equally, instead of traditional melodies and keys (like “C major” or “F minor”). While there’s no question Schoenberg’s influence on modern composing, (having composer John Cage and jazz pianist Oscar Levant among his students) I don’t think serialism caught on – I mean, I’ve never heard of a Festival of Serialism (and if there is one, let me know).

Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded the Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31. Give it a shot and try and imagine how the heck to rehearse this piece, which sounds so random. While I intellectually appreciate what Schoenberg did, it’s not my preferred music to sit and listen to. It’s just too esoteric for me, and alienating.

Arnold Schoenberg was born September 13, 1874 in Vienna, and died July 13, 1951 in Los Angeles.

#ComposerBirthday963

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