Ed Zubrow asks:
> Having been listening to a lot of Richard Strauss lately, I am a bit
> perplexed by [this quote from Arnold Schoenberg]:
> "I was never *revolutionary*. The *only revolutionary* in our time was
> I know that Schoenberg admired Strauss and that the latter supported
> Schoenberg, though he was befuddled by the development (pun intended)
> of his music.
I don't really know, but I can always guess. What seems revolutionary
to us, to Schoenberg was merely a tiny evolutionary step. Schoenberg
always saw his dodecaphony as a way to discipline post-Wagnerian
chromaticism. More and more dissonance was coming into music anyway
(look at Strauss's Elektra or Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy). What bothered
Schoenberg was the lack of an organizing principal. Music often modulated
for no reason at all. The old function of modulation delineating the
parts of form meant less and less, because the music was modulating
practically from bar to bar. Schoenberg wanted to reassert the primacy
of form, almost always classical or classically-derived form. After his
tone poems, Strauss was the great formal revolutionary, especially in
his operas. Rosenkavalier is in that sense even wilder than Elektra.
The "atonality" that hangs up so many listeners meant very little to
Schoenberg. Indeed, he saw little difference between something like his
Pierrot lunaire and Verklaerte Nacht.
However, I would also say that Schoenberg mistook himself. His view
of form really was a revolutionary step. We see form differently than
Brahms did, largely due to Schoenberg. The "method of composing with
twelve tones" took a fundamentally different mind set than the classic
Viennese tradition, no matter how much Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern tried
to bridge the gap.
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