Concerto for Piano and Orchestra op. 42 (1942)
Programme notes

Schönberg's Piano Concerto, op. 42, which was originally commissioned by his former student Oscar Levant, is conceived as a single-movement form displaying the characteristics of a multimovement sonata cycle. Like the program of the concerto it divides into four parts. The opening melody of the Concerto, lasting thirty-nine bars, presents the four modes of the tone row in the following order: basic set, inversion of retrograde, retrograde, and inversion. (Both inversions appear in transpositions.) "The listener need not be aware of this. The unifying impact of musical material often remains indirect, whether in Schönberg or Beethoven." (Alfred Brendel) Schönberg noted on his final manuscript that the concerto was composed between 5 July and 29 December 1942, but the earliest sketch is marked 27 June 1942. The musical portion of this sketch consists of nearly four measures for piano alone, equivalent in melodic and rhythmic contour to the final version of measures 1-4, but employing a different twelve-tone row. The opening pages of the sketches contain three different versions of the main theme using three different sets. Each version uses exactly the same rhythm. Another sketch uses the final form of the row, suggesting that it was written after the 27 June sketch. The manuscript includes the four parts of the programme (which - according to Schönberg scholarship - is clearly autobiographical), each accompanied by a musical example from one of the four sections of the concerto. The first statement of the programme "Life was so easy," is illustrated on this sketch only by a schematic presentation of the row. The second statement, "Suddenly hatred broke out," at the top of the left corner of the page, is matched by a close approximation of the musical material that begins the second section of the concerto, although it appears there at a different transposition. The third statement of the text, "A grave situation was created," introduces three sketches related to material from the third section of the concerto, although in far different form from that which they take in the finished work. Statement four, "But life goes on," is matched by a literal representation of the melodic material that opens the final section of the concerto, followed by sketches for other motives in the finale.

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