Description

It was Christmas Day 1928 when Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) began this Klavierstück (literally, piano piece). He finished it exactly four months later, on 25 April 1929 – the date which appears at the end of this draft manuscript in Schoenberg’s hand. The composer was initially approached by Emil Hertzka, director of Universal Edition, for permission to include an earlier work (the first of the Op.11 set) in an anthology of new piano pieces. Instead he decided to offer something new. Op.33a was published in 1929 in the series Musik der Zeit, but had to wait until 1931 for its first public performance, in Berlin.

Lasting around two-and-a-half minutes, the piece has a moderate tempo (maßig) but a volatile character, with sharply contrasting changes in dynamic and register. It is built on a twelve-tone row, the notes of which appear in the first six chords in both their original form and in inversion.

This manuscript shows the work as it was to be published, albeit with a number of corrections and alterations – sometimes initialled, and appearing in both ink and coloured pencil. Mainly these amend wrong notes, clarify accidentals and dynamics, or (as in bar 12) show second attempts at spacing and voicing parts across the hands and staves.  The manuscript only came to light in 1970 when it became part of the collection of O. W. Neighbour, which was presented to the British Library in 2015. An initial, and partial, draft also exists in the archive of Universal Edition in Vienna which shows the piece in an earlier stage of development.

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