Piano Concerto (Schoenberg)

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Arnold Schoenberg's Piano Concerto, Op. 42 (1942) consists of four interconnected movements: Andante (bars 1–175), Molto allegro (bars 176–263), Adagio (bars 264–329), and Giocoso (bars 330–492) (Alegant 2002–2003, 74). It features use of the twelve-tone technique and only one tone row, though he does at points take some liberties with the permutation of the row.[citation needed] The opening melody of the concerto is thirty-nine bars long and presents all four modes of the tone row in the following order: basic set, inversion of retrograde, retrograde, and inversion. Both of the inversions are transposed.[citation needed] The concerto was the result of a commission from Oscar Levant (Anon. n.d.).

The manuscript contains markings at the beginning of each of the four movements, suggesting an autobiographical connection between this work and the composer. The markings are "Life was so easy", "Suddenly hatred broke out", "A grave situation was created", and "But life goes on", each matched with a suitable expression in the music (Anon. n.d.). These markings were not included in the final published version, as Schoenberg disapproved of this kind of fixed musical interpretation: they were to guide his composition of the work, and not to provide a programmatic reference for the listener.[citation needed]

Lou Harrison said, "One of the major joys ... is in the structure of the phrases. You know when you are hearing a theme, a building or answering phrase, a development or a coda. There is no swerving from the form-building nature of these classical phrases. The pleasure to be had from listening to them is the same that one has from hearing the large forms of Mozart. ... This is a feeling too seldom communicated in contemporary music, in much of which the most obvious formal considerations are not evident at all. ... The nature of his knowledge in this respect, perhaps more than anything else, places him in the position of torch-bearer to tradition in the vital and developing sense" (Miller and Lieberman 1998, 22).

The composition is around 20 minutes long. Its first performance was given February 6, 1944 at NBC Orchestra's Radio City Habitat in New York City, by Leopold Stokowski and the NBC Symphony Orchestra, with Eduard Steuermann at the piano (Anon. n.d.).


  • Alegant, Brian. 2001. "Cross-Partitions as Harmony and Voice Leading in Twelve-Tone Music", p. 14-25, Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Spring), pp. 1–40.
  • Alegant, Brian. 2002–2003. "Inside the Cadenza of Schoenberg's Piano Concerto". Intégral 16/17:67–102.
  • Anon. n.d. "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra op. 42". Arnold Schönberg Center (accessed 19 December 2010).
  • Miller, Leta E., and Frederic Lieberman. 1998. Lou Harrison: Composing a World. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-511022-6.
  • Schoenberg, Arnold. 1944. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra Op. 42 (score). Los Angeles: Belmont Music Publishers.
  • Schoenberg, Arnold. 1975. Style and Idea: Selected Writings of Arnold Schoenberg, edited by Leonard Stein with translations by Leo Black. New York: St. Martins Press. Reprinted, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. ISBN 0-520-05286-2 (cloth); ISBN 0-520-05294-3 (pbk).

Further reading[edit]

  • Arnold Schoenberg Center. 2008. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra op. 42 Programme notes (15 July).
  • Bailey, Walter B. 1982. "Oscar Levant and the Program for Schoenberg's Piano Concerto". Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 6, no. 1 (June): 56–79.
  • Benson, Mark F. 1988. "Arnold Schoenberg and the Crisis of Modernism". Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Bishop, David M. 1991. "Schoenberg's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, op. 42: A Reexamination of the Evolution of the Series in the Sketches". Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 14, no. 1 (June): 135–49.
  • Brendel, Alfred. 2001. "On Playing Schoenberg's Piano Concerto". In Alfred Brendel on Music: Collected Essays, 311–21. Chicago: A Cappella. ISBN 1-55652-408-0.
  • Gartner, Richard. 2010. "Resisting Schoenberg? The Piano Concerto in Performance". MA diss., Open University.
  • Haimo, Ethan. 1998. "The Late Twelve-Tone Compositions". In The Arnold Schoenberg Companion, edited by Walter B. Bailey, 157–75. Westport: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-28779-1.
  • Hauser, Richard. 1980. "Schoenbergs Klavierkonzert—Musik im Exil". Musik-Konzepte, special issue: Arnold Schoenberg: 243–72.
  • Johnson, Paul. 1988. "Rhythm and Set Choice in Schoenberg's Piano Concerto". Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 11, no. 1 (June): 38–51.
  • Litwin, Stefan. 1999. "Musique et histoire: Le concerto de piano op. 42 d'Arnold Schoenberg (1942) / Musik als Geschichte, Geschichte als Musik: Zu Arnold Schönbergs Klavierkonzert op. 42 (1942)". Dissonance, no. 59 (February): 12–17.
  • Liu, Wenping (刘文平). 2006. 怀念调性——勋伯格《钢琴协奏曲》Op.42创作特点研究 [Yearning for Tonality: A Study of Schoenberg's Piano Concerto, op. 42]. Tianjin Yinyue Xueyuan xuebao (Tianlai)/Journal of Tianjin Conservatory of Music (Sounds of Nature) 1, no. 84:55–61 and 74.
  • Mäkelä, Tomi. 1992. "Schönbergs Klavierkonzert opus 42—Ein romantisches Virtuosenkonzert? Ein Beitrag zu Analyse der kompositorischen Prinzipien eines problematischen Werkes". Die Musikforschung 45, no. 1:1–20.
  • Maurer Zenck, Claudia. 1993. "Arnold Schönbergs Klavierkonzert: Versuch, analytisch Exilforschung zu betreiben". In, Musik im Exil: Folgen des Nazismus für die internationale Musikkultur, edited by Hanns-Werner Heister, Claudia Maurer Zenck, and Peter Petersen, 357–84. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag. ISBN 3-596-10907-8.
  • Maurer Zenck, Claudia. 2002. "Klavierkonzert op. 42". In Arnold Schönberg: Interpretationen seiner Werke, 2 vols., edited by Gerold Wolfgang Gruber and Manfred Wagner, 2: 95-108. Laaber: Laaber-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-89007-506-8.
  • Mazzola, Guerino, and Benedikt Stegemann. 2008. "Hidden Symmetries of Classical Tonality in Schönberg’s Dodecaphonic Compositions". Journal of Mathematics and Music 2, no. 1 (March): 37–51.
  • Newlin, Dika. 1974. "Secret Tonality in Schoenberg's Piano Concerto". Perspectives of New Music 13, no. 1 (Fall-Winter): 137–39.
  • Petersen, Peter. 1990. "'A Grave Situation Was Created': Schönbergs Klavierkonzert von 1942". In Die Wiener Schule und das Hakenkreuz: Das Schicksal der Moderne im gesellschaftspolitischen Kontext des 20. Jahrhunderts, edited by Otto Kolleritsch, 65-9. Studien zur Wertungsforschung 22. Vienna: Universal Edition.

First movement[edit]

  • Alegant, Brian, and Donald McLean. 2001. "On the Nature of Enlargement." Journal of Music Theory 45, no. 1 (Spring): 31–71.
  • Mead, Andrew. 1985. "Large-Scale Strategy in Arnold Schoenberg's Twelve-Tone Music". Perspectives of New Music 24, no. 1 (Fall-Winter): 120–57.
  • Mead, Andrew. 1989. "Twelve-Tone Organizational Strategies: An Analytical Sampler." Integral 3: 93–169.

First, third, and fourth movements[edit]

  • Rothstein, William. 1980. "Linear Structure in the Twelve-Tone System: An Analysis of Donald Martino's Pianississimo." Journal of Music Theory 24: 129-65. Cited in Alegant (2001).

External links[edit]