Although the best of Nielsen's piano works are among the finest ever produced in Scandinavia, he wrote only sporadically for the instrument. Nearly nine years separate the suite Das Luciferiske of 1921 from the present Three Pieces, the first two of which were given their premieres in April 1928; the third was completed in November of the same year. Nielsen's music had taken a dark, adventurous turn in this period, and these piano pieces share much with the contemporaneous Symphony No. 6 and Clarinet Concerto.
The Op. 59 pieces are definitely of their time; one can hear clear echoes of Bartók, the Impressionism of Debussy, and even the early twelve-tone works of Arnold Schoenberg. After an Impressionistic opening, the first piece moves to more abrupt and dissonant material. Nielsen's own imagery describing the closing pages cleverly captures the mood: "Think of a tipsy fellow trying to keep his dignity and upright position by holding on to a lamp-post!" The grandiose opening of the Adagio leads to tender and haunting music, with sudden outbursts that have an almost Beethoven-like ring to them. A tough-minded, forceful Allegro non troppo, parts of which are probably the closest to atonality that Nielsen ever got, brings this rich and emotionally complex set to a close.