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Nr. 1: Mäßig

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Nr. 2: Mäßige Achtel

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Nr. 3: Bewegt

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DURATION: ca. 14 Min.

VERSIONS:
Nr. 2 arr. Ferruccio Busoni (1910) (Klavier)

PUBLISHER:
Universal Edition
Belmont Music Publishers (USA, Kanada, Mexico)

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The Three Piano Pieces were written in Schönberg’s extremely productive creative phase in 1909, during which he also composed the Five Pieces for Orchestra, op. 16, and “Erwartung,” op. 17. Besides fundamental innovations in the handling of material (mainly in the solution of the form-building hierarchy of tonic thinking), important elements of musical tradition remain. In the first piece from op. 11, the rough outlines of a three-part form (A–B–A’) are recognisable, additionally, a conventional thematic work somewhat in the sense of Liszt’s transformation technique is clearly seen at the beginning. Also a connection can be seen with the last piano intermezzi by Brahms, with their closely-woven motival technique, well-balanced articulation and rhythmic structure. The second piece, with its long, melancholy theme over a bass ostinato of two notes can of course be more clearly seen in connection with inherited experience than the final piece, where the considerable density of the writing and impulsive upsurging sounds made Theodor W. Adorno speak of it as an example of “informal” music. In 1910, Schönberg’s radical “need for expression,” instinctive, accompanied by artistic/religious ideas, seemingly unconditional treatment of traditions, in reality turned out to be extremely rationally thought through. Ernst Bloch’s term “logic of expression” seems, applied to Schönberg, to be two-faced: “Every chord,” says the composer, for example in his “Theory of Harmony” “is a compulsion of my need for expression, but possibly also a compulsion of an inexorable but unconscious logic in the harmonic construction.” The aesthetics of an inconsiderate egocentricity of the will for expression, which Schönberg and Wassily Kandinsky shared at this time, made possible almost imperceptible motival knotting techniques and a well-balanced proportional thinking in the sequences of tension and relaxation by avoiding repetitions in the piano pieces, the general application of thematic work and naturally tonal triads. This was obviously not a procedure which thoughtlessly destroyed tradition, but only fundamental abstracting, in which all that which in its “classical form patterns” had already become a cliché, a worn-out gesture, was to be led back to a substance which had not yet been narrowed into a scheme: on a balanced structure of relationships, densely and loosely constructed, loud and soft, fast and slow, by means of which traditional schooling in form (but of course extremely easily absorbable) still continues to be perceivable.

Matthias Schmidt
© Arnold Schönberg Center