op. 33a: Mäßig >>> sources

op. 33b: Mäßig langsam >>> sources

DURATION: ca. 6 Min.

Universal Edition
Belmont Music Publishers (USA, Canada, Mexico)

In 1928, Emil Hertzka, the Director of Universal Edition, contacted Arnold Schönberg requesting permission to use his Piano Piece op. 11, No. 1, in a planned anthology of modern piano compositions. Schönberg, however, decided to compose a new piece (op. 33a). Two years after the publication (1929), this was followed by the composition of Piano Piece op. 33b during a stay in Barcelona. In his Piano Pieces op. 33, Schönberg makes consistent use of a technique which combines twelve-tone rows, in which two forms of a row can be used at the same time without repeating individual tones. This expanded the number of possibilities for combination while also preserving the conclusiveness of the twelve-tone writing. The relatively short duration and unity of the pieces are reminiscent of romantic forms: the "Intermezzi" by Johannes Brahms, for instance, whom Schönberg greatly esteemed.
The first piece in op. 33 has a rather impulsive and brilliant character, the second is restrained, more lyrical. A closer formal examination of the work clearly reveals the traditional origin of its elements. For example, op. 33a begins with a theme that consists of six chords; after a transitional passage this theme is played a second time one octave higher. A brief linking section is followed by the second theme, distinguished by a melody in the bass and a characteristic model of accompaniment. After the melody is repeated in the treble, a short developmental section begins, followed by a recapitulation in which the first theme can be heard in broken chords. The condensed sonata form is easily recognisable from the combination of two themes, a kind of elaboration and the recapitulation. Schönberg's op. 33b is structured according to altogether similar principles, although here the second theme appears before the first in the recapitulation. His final compositions for solo piano demonstrate his endeavours to fit new musical ideas into traditional contexts.

© Arnold Schönberg Center