UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Performance practice considerations in Schönberg's Fünf Klavierstücke, Op. 23 Bagan, Christopher Bagan


The Fünf Klavierstücke, Op. 23 (1923) of Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) exemplify an important development in his compositional style, as the free atonality of the 1910s gives way to transformations of ordered pitch-class sets and the development of the 12-tone method. The academic discourse on Schoenberg’s Op. 23 has largely concentrated on details of compositional technique, while comparatively little has been written on the actual performance of these pieces and their valued contribution to piano literature. In Op. 23, Schoenberg develops and refines a scrupulously detailed approach to notation, covering the score with an unprecedented number of performance markings. While many of these symbols are conventional, their sheer number and the complexity of their interaction require detailed investigation if Schoenberg’s intentions are to be understood and realized. I posit that Schoenberg recognizes the limitations of notation, using it more as a descriptive rather than prescriptive medium, and allowing for contextual rather than absolute interpretation. Through this approach I have developed three functional categories for markings found in Op. 23: comparative, reinforcing, and prescriptive. Comparative markings are Schoenberg’s essential and flexible vocabulary for describing in notation the defining features that should be perceived in the presentation and interaction of the musical ideas. Reinforcing markings visually assist the comprehension of musical ideas by confirming their intuitive interpretation. Only the remaining few markings fall into the category of prescriptive markings, reserved for those with little or no room for variance. The first two chapters of this study of the notation and performance of Op. 23 develop these categories alongside the few interpretive suggestions provided by Schoenberg himself. Chapters 3 and 4 explore performance considerations in Op. 23 regarding fingering, pedaling, and the shaping of tactile and temporal aspects. Chapter 5 combines all these aspects in a case study of Op. 23/2, showing how they function together in the performance and interpretation of a complete piece.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International