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The New World of Arnold Schönberg's Piano Music

This course ends at 12 noon Pacific Time on March 26, 2020. If a Statement of Accomplishment is available for this course, it will be available for download until March 31, 2020.

About This Course

This course will introduce you to the solo piano works of Arnold Schönberg (including the Three Piano Pieces (Opus 11), Six Little Piano Pieces (Opus 19), Five Piano Pieces (Opus 23), Suite for Piano (Opus 25), and Piano Pieces (Opus 33a & b). Schönberg's piano works are windows into the stylistic trajectory of the composer's entire output, and we will follow his development from late Romanticism to serialism, one of the key techniques in Western classical music in the 20th century.

We will discuss the history and musical details of each work and give suggestions for pianists who are practicing and performing the compositions. We will also encounter related compositions by other composers and get a tour of Schönberg's house in Austria. You will be able to test your knowledge using review questions and compare your reflections on course content with other students.

You will explore:

  • Schönberg's solo piano music and its historical context.
  • Vocabulary and strategies for analyzing the music and your responses to the music.
  • How to practice and perform the compositions.
  • Additional, related repertoire.


There are no prerequisites for the course but there are optional units for participants who read music to analyze the compositions. Course units about the history of the compositions will likely be of interest to all participants while units about practicing and performing were designed primarily for pianists working on the repertoire.

Course Staff

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Dr. Thomas Schultz

Thomas Schultz has established an international reputation both as an interpreter of music from the classical tradition – particularly Bach, Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt – and as one of the leading exponents of the music of our time. Among his recent engagements are solo recitals in New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Paris, Ghent, Seoul, Taipei and Kyoto, and at the Schoenberg Festival in Vienna, the Piano Spheres series in Los Angeles, Korea’s Tongyoung Festival, the Festival of New American Music in Sacramento and the April in Santa Cruz Festival. From 2004 to 2011 he gave a series of six recitals at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, playing repertoire ranging from major works by Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Chopin to rarely heard music by by Schoenberg, Rzewski, Cage and Na. He has also given recitals in New York at Bargemusic and the Goethe Institute. He has appeared as a soloist at the Other Minds Festival in San Francisco, and in chamber music performances with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Da Camera Society of Houston, Robert Craft’s 20th Century Classics Ensemble and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. In 2005, 2010, 2014, and 2017 he gave masterclasses on the piano music of the Second Viennese School at the Schoenberg Center in Vienna and in 2016 gave performances of the complete solo works of Schoenberg in Vienna, San Francisco, Seoul and Taegu, Korea. Beginning in the summer of 2018, he is giving an annual series of masterclasses for young artists at Stanford University.

His recitals are notable for programming that celebrates the continuing vitality of the piano repertoire, juxtaposing the old and the new. He has worked closely with such eminent composers as Cage, Feldman, Wolff, Rzewski, Earle Brown, Jonathan Harvey, Hyo-shin Na and Elliott Carter (in performances of the Double Concerto at the Colorado Music Festival and at Alice Tully Hall in New York). Since 2002, Schultz has included in his recitals works written especially for him by Frederic Rzewski (The Babble, 2003), Christian Wolff (Touch, 2002; Long Piano, 2005), Hyo-shin Na (Rain Study, 1999; Walking, Walking, 2003; Sea Wind, 2010), Walter Zimmermann (AIMIDE, 2001/02), and Boudewijn Buckinx (The Floating World, 2004; Romancing the World, 2005). In 2012 – John Cage’s centennial year – Schultz was Artistic Director of the John Cage – 100 Years Festival at Stanford University and played recitals dedicated to Cage’s solo piano music at the festival, at Crown Point Press gallery in San Francisco, and at Bargemusic in NYC.

Schultz’s recording of solo works by Cage was released in 2018 on the Mode label and his recording of Christian Wolff’s Long Piano in 2009 by New World Records. Additional solo CDs, (a double cd of the Goldberg Variations of Bach and Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated, a cd of works written for him by Buckinx and Wolff, a cd of the complete solo works of Schoenberg, and recordings of music by Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Liszt, Satie and Busoni) are on the Wooden Fish label. His recordings of works by the Korean composer Hyo-shin Na on CDs from the New World, Seoul and TopArt labels have received special recognition. Schultz’s recording of Stravinsky’s Concerto for Two Solo Pianos is on the MusicMasters label and he can be heard in chamber works of Earle Brown on a Newport Classics recording. 

Schultz’s musical studies were with John Perry, Leonard Stein and Philip Lillestol. He has been a member of the piano faculty at Stanford University since 1994.


"This was a fine undertaking, equally impressive for its thoughtful planning and for its strong, fearless execution. Schultz brought a depth of feeling to the music that gave even the splashiest passages an undercurrent of soulfulness. To dispatch Rzewski's extraordinary masterwork with the sort of fiery elegance and formal command that Schultz brought to the piece is another order of achievement entirely.”

“Expect performances of expressive depth and formal clarity."

Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle

“Schultz cuts a tall, imposing figure, and although he can fire the big technical guns at will, he seemed to be most interested in color, in exploiting the massive range of the Fazioli piano in a sympathetic hall. These qualities were immediately put on display in a strikingly characterized performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Klavierstück IX….He captured the unrelenting driving elements of Rzewski's piece but also produced a variety of colors that went beyond even the composer's own virtuosic performance on record.”

By Richard S. Ginell, The Los Angeles Times

"A sensation... a stunning program... these were sterling performances of quality scores written between 1919 and the present. Schultz is the master of an enviable keyboard technique that is nourished by an incisive intellect. He' s an impressive artist who makes clear that technique alone does not lead to a satisfactory performance of contemporary music; the instinctive musicality that Schultz brings to his work is equally important."

Wes Blomster, The Boulder Daily Camera


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Tysen Dauer

Tysen is a Ph.D candidate in musicology at Stanford University. His research revolves around human responses to music and uses methods from music studies and experimental psychology. His current work investigates diverse reactions to American minimalist compositions in the long Sixties. He also performs as a solo and collaborative pianist.

Special Thanks

Many thanks to Stanford’s Music Department, the Schoenberg Center in Vienna and the Schoenberg Family for their generous help and assistance in developing and producing this online course.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I earn a Statement of Accomplishment?

Yes. Participants who want a Statement of Accomplishment need to correctly answer 60% of the graded questions. Graded questions do not require you to read music. They are marked with "♪". Optional questions requiring musical knowledge are marked "♪♪".

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