Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Leopold Stokowsi

Music History Monday: Can’t We Be Friends?

On February 6, 1944 – 73 years ago today – Arnold Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto received its premiere. It was performed by the pianist Eduard Steuermann and the NBC Symphony conducted by Leopold Stokowski. In his book “Fundamentals of Musical Composition” Schoenberg advised that when working on even the simplest of compositional exercises: “the student should never fail to keep in mind a special character. A poem, a story, a play or moving picture may provide the stimulus to express definite moods.” In his Piano Concerto Schoenberg took his own advice; he described its four linked movements with this modest four-line poem: Life was so easy [When] suddenly hatred broke out; A grave situation was created, But life goes on. Schoenberg’s quatrain refers to World War Two, which was in its darkest days at the time the concerto was composed in 1942. The concerto is a powerful, lyric, concise, hauntingly beautiful piece. Yes, beautiful: a twentieth century masterwork. It is also a product of Arnold Schoenberg’s maturity, written using his own “12-Tone Method”. As such it poses certain aesthetic challenges, all easily overcome if we take the concerto for what it is: a work of Romantic era expressive content, phrase structure, […]

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