In the period between the composition of his operas Von Heute auf Morgen (1928 - 29) and Moses und Aron (1930 - 32), Schoenberg wrote a handful of works on a smaller scale. In the Two Piano Pieces, Op. 33 (1928 - 31), the composer returned to the keyboard as a means of compact yet intense expression. Aside from a two-piano arrangement of the Chamber Symphony No. 2 and the Piano Concerto (1942), the Two Pieces, composed at different times and originally published separately, are Schoenberg's last works for piano.
Schoenberg's direct, non-virtuosic keyboard style is clearly evident in these pieces. Unlike the individual movements of the Suite, Op. 25, the Op. 33 pieces have no title; like the Suite, though, they employ Schoenberg's then-recently developed twelve-tone technique. The texture of Op. 33 is distinct from that in the earlier work. In the Two Pieces, especially the first, the presentation of row forms is largely vertical -- that is, as part of a chord as opposed to a contrapuntal line. Heterogeneous passages provide the contrast necessary to give the work its shape; a cantabile melody in the uppermost voice contributes to a sense of continuity. The overall atmosphere is more subdued and controlled than that in the similar pieces of Op. 11.
The second piece of Op. 33 is more linear in conception than the first. The intensity grows as segments featuring several layers of sound contrast with mostly chordal passages, which dissipate before the return of the initial material at a faster tempo. The opening in particular features more ideas subjected to repetition than does the first of the Op. 33 pieces, as well as melodies that exhibit an arch-like shape.