THERE can be little doubt that this century’s most consequential reputation in the field of serious music is that of Arnold Schoenberg. His is the only name of our time to occupy the same kind of niche in the history of music as that of the greatest composers of the past 250 years-Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Brahms-and it can be argued that his influence upon his successors has been greater than that of any of his predecessors save Beethoven and Wagner. For his work has done more than fundamentally change the course of music. The very act of listening to it has had the effect of altering the way in which all music, both later and earlier, has been heard. His compositions, moreover, have spawned not only fervent disciples and slavish imitators but, equally important, an opposition which by its ferocity and duration testifies to his power. And this is, and has been, consistently true despite the fact that, to this day, there has never existed any sizable audience for Schoenberg’s major mature works.
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