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Nr. 1: Sehr langsam (1920)

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Nr. 2: Sehr rasch (1920)

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Nr. 3: Langsam (1923)

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Nr. 4: Schwungvoll (1920/1923)

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Nr. 5: Walzer (1923)

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PUBLISHER: Wilhelm Hansen (Music Sales Classical)

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"Anyone writing for piano should never forget that even the best pianist has only two hands. […] The only way is to write as thinly as possible: as few notes as possible." (Arnold Schönberg: Der moderne Klavierauszug, 1923) This epigraph reveals one of Schönberg's central concerns in composing for the piano: he constantly strove for clarity through the most efficient means of expression. Although Schönberg was not a pianist himself, he had distinct aural expectations of his works for the instrument, and he found the medium conducive to working out and conveying the essence of his musical ideas. Schönberg composed works in almost all genres and frequently used his piano compositions for testing new ideas. For example, the Piano Pieces, op. 11 (1909) are of particular importance for the abandonment of a tonic-based tonality and both the Five Piano Pieces, op. 23 (1920-23) and the Suite for Piano, op. 25 (1921-23) were composed in the "experimental early phase" of dodecaphony.
During the summer of 1920 and over the course of the next three years Schönberg began and eventually completed three sets of small compositions, the Five Piano Pieces, op. 23, the Serenade, op. 24, and the Suite for Piano, op. 25. It is in these works that Schönberg's serial idea finally took hold. The composition of the Five Piano Pieces and the Piano Suite occurred in part almost concurrently: a sketch of the fifth movement from op. 23, the Waltz - which is considered the first twelve-tone work - is dated 26 July 1921, and sketches and initial drafts outlining parts of op. 25 - the Prelude and the Intermezzo - also originate from the summer of 1921. "The fifth piece is a waltz whose basic shape consists of twelve notes in fixed order. This note-row revolves constantly throughout the movement, starting ever anew as soon as its previous run is over. To begin with, it appears as waltz melody, vertically, and shaped rhythmically into three motives. The accompaniment gives the same succession of notes, starting, however, with another note, and partly collecting them into chords." (Erwin Stein: New Formal Principles, 1924)

© Arnold Schönberg Center