Although Schoenberg developed a revolutionary new method of organizing pitch, what is often overlooked is that serialism is just exactly that: a method of organizing pitch, and not a style per se. A variety of styles can be accomodated by this method. Folks who are a little gun-shy of serialism (or its aesthetic shadow) are sometimes caught up short when they actually listen to Schoenberg's music. For the fact is, all through his journey of exploring how pitch should be organized in a composition, which made him something of a revolutionary, stylistically he was always post-Romantic in temperament - which, ironically, made him something of a dinosaur to serial idealogues in the 1950s, such as Pierre Boulez.
In a way which invites comparison to Bartók's six, Schoenberg's four quartets span his career. The striking thing, perhaps, is how unified they are in "voice," despite the composer's epochal adventures in How to Organize Pitch. These pieces are seldom performed by string quartets in the states, and it is difficult to see why, since in many respects, they are no harder on the ears than the Bartók quartets, which enjoy a solid berth in chamber recitals.
The first movement of the third quartet plays itself out in a very scherzando vein; it may even strike some as strangely cheerful in activity, considering its acerbic chromaticism.
The third movement of the fourth quartet is, simply, beautiful. If anyone wonders if Schoenberg was capable of writing beautiful music, this Largo is quite possibly the strongest case pro.
There is a restlessness to the music, it is always surging ... somewhere. So I am not sure that it can be my favorite music in the world; but it is well made, perfectly suited to the medium of the string quartet, and there are often passages of beauty which startle with their strangeness.