With the most physically tangible vision – to form an estate during his lifetime – Arnold Schönberg established a foundation for an exhibition of his artistic legacy and intellectual activity for posterity. In 1998, his estate came to Vienna.

During his lifetime, Arnold Schönberg was officially honored twice by political authorities in his native city of Vienna: in 1924, on the occasion of his 50th birthday, by Mayor Karl Seitz at a festive event in the City Hall; and in 1949 – in his absence – on the occasion of his 75th birthday by Mayor Theodor Körner, who, after a unanimous decision by the Senate, awarded the composer the title “Citizen of the City of Vienna” via the Austrian Consulate in Los Angeles. Four years after the end of the war, the revolutionary Schönberg, having been despised in many places because of his progressive art, persecuted because of his Jewish identity, and finally forced into exile from Europe, was officially declared to be a citizen. Branded as “degenerate” during the era of National Socialism, the Jewish composer expressed his “pride” and “delight” – in an act of separation between cultural history and politics – at the honor bestowed upon him: “this is a new, or actually a renewed bond that brings me closer again to the place, the nature, and the essence where the music I have always loved so much was created, and to which – according to the measure of my talent – it has always been my greatest ambition to be a part of” (Letter to Theodor Körner, October 5, 1949).

It was not until his 100th birthday that one of the most influential figures in the musical life of the 20th century was able to return to his hometown, from which many of his relatives, friends, or acquaintances had been expelled or deported after 1938. On June 5, 1974, Arnold and Gertrud Schönberg’s urns, which had been transferred from Los Angeles to Vienna, were interred in a grave of honor erected by the City of Vienna at the Central Cemetery. His repatriation was institutionally consolidated with the establishment of the International Schönberg Society. In the composer's residence in Mödling, which had been saved from demolition, the Society was active until the 1990s with courses on interpretation and analysis, symposia, lectures, and concerts, as well as documentation activities, the publication of a journal, and a series of other publications. With the transfer of the Mödling property in the spring of 1997, the International Schönberg Society made a decisive contribution to the establishment of the Arnold Schönberg Center Private Foundation, the permanent financing of which had been unanimously approved by the Vienna City Council in December 1996. Schönberg’s estate was transferred from Los Angeles to Vienna at the request of his children Nuria Schoenberg Nono and Ronald and Lawrence Schoenberg, and inaugurated with a Schönberg Festival in March 1998.

From the beginning, work on the estate represented the core of all efforts to “educate the general public with regard to Schönberg’s interdisciplinary artistic influence,” according to the wording of the Center’s Foundation Purpose. In 2010, Austria submitted an application to UNESCO to elevate the “Arnold Schönberg Estate” to the rank of World Documentary Heritage. It was included in the “Memory of the World” list the following year. This symbolic recognition was made in the sense of a contribution towards the preservation of the documentary heritage of humanity and elevated the 1996 endorsement for the care of the estate to an international level.

Since its founding, the Center engages in the scholarly maintenance of the estate, shares the latest developments in research through the Journal of the Arnold Schönberg Center, ensures the supra-regional availability of the collection through digitization projects, presents selected objects from the archive in exhibitions, supports the appreciation of Schönberg’s achievements through pedagogical projects, and is also active in organizing concerts, symposia, and workshops. A multitude of cooperations on four continents underlines the international orientation of the institution.

We will celebrate our 25th anniversary in March 2023 with friends from the founding years and musicians performing at the Center for the first time, a special exhibition on Schönberg’s groundbreaking twelve-tone method, and the continuation of our long-standing cooperation with the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna – in the concert hall, in new publications, in our digital collection, via social media, and through personal communication.

We are grateful for your interest, and look forward to welcoming returning as well as first-time guests at the Center in Vienna and at the Schönberg House in Mödling! 

Therese Muxeneder