The Beauty of the Second Viennese School Art and Music and the Social Disconnect in Current Culture From a Century Ago to Now, and Its Current Social Resonances

Peter Peyman Farzinpour
3 min readJan 19, 2024
Arnold Schoenberg Painting of Alban Berg
Arnold Schoenberg Painting of Alban Berg
Berg Standing above Schoenberg’s Painting
Berg’s Iconic Photo of him Standing above Schoenberg’s Painting

This is one of my favorite painting’s of Arnold Schoenberg’s- and I think one of his greatest ones (many are not aware that alongside being a “notorious” composer, he was also a painter). The painting is a portrait of his famed student, Alban Berg. What’s even more wonderful is the now, very iconic photo of Berg, overlooking the windowsill, with his painting right below him. This makes me think of how sad and awful it is that their beautiful and groundbreaking music was so misunderstood and neglected not only in their own time, but even more so after an entire century, when many classical composers finally gain some level of acceptance and even appreciation. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards for the so-called “Second Viennese” composers- Schoenberg and his two illustrious students, Berg and Anton Webern. (All the while, Stravinsky, something of a pseudo modernist and avant-gardist, had quite a time of it, both while alive and thereafter, as he never pushed the envelope quite enough to ruffle too many feathers- and yes, I’m fully aware of the early riots his music had caused- but that all served him quite well). But retuning to the Second Viennese, has society become so intellectually, musically, and artistically profligate that even now, the major orchestras are programming video game and popular film music alongside the diarrhea of young, “in” composers (read EID or IED politics replacing merit) that’s it’s become virtually impossible to hear ANY music by the great, Second Viennese Composers on orchestral programs (or their lineage, for that matter), especially in the U.S.? Sadly, the answer seems to be yes, and it won’t be changing anytime soon, if ever…

Incidentally, For those of you who wish to rant and rave against my politically incorrect remarks, save your breath as plenty of people are already doing so, and ironically, I’m neither American, European, white, nor fit the neat boxes of a POC, or ALAANA, conveniently excluded by all as a result of blatant racism and discrimination against my background. To place this into context, a few years ago, while attempting to receive grants to re-stage a marvelous opera composed by a young yet renowned Italian composer, which I had conducted/ premiered to great success in NYC, I was later repeatedly turned away by the various grants organizations, even though the committees responded that the production and opera were excellent. The issue, however was that the subject matter was simply NOT “current” and didn’t align with their current sociopolitical interests. Ironically, the subject matter of the opera was that of three characters- one escaping the Armenian genocide, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, and an Italian immigrant trying to forge a better life in the U.S.- all of whom had passed through Ellis Island and whose actual words and recordings were incorporated into the opera. This opera seemed to have nothing metaphorically in common with what’s happening in the U.S. today, at least to the various committees! I know that if the operatic characters were simply swapped with the “appropriate” current sociopolitically favorable figures, the grants would have been rolling in, with a cross-country tour. But I’ll leave it at that for now…

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Peter Peyman Farzinpour

Peyman Farzinpour is a conductor, composer, multimedia arts director and professor. He is the Director of ENSEMBLE / PARALLAX and Farzinpour Creative Ventures.