Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


School of Music


Lori E. Piitz


Debussy and Schoenberg were arguably the most important composers at the turn of the twentieth century. Their musical and theoretical innovations influenced many generations of composers, and opened doors for new possibilities in music. Debussy and Schoenberg represent two different musical directions born of two different artistic conceptions and traditions. In comparing the two composers one can see the opposition between France and Germany, between impressionism and expressionism, between tradition and revolution. They both wrote significant piano pieces that illustrate the evolution of their compositional techniques and styles. Debussy and Schoenberg left letters and essays with their opinions about music, and also about each other, which provide another interesting point of comparison.

This paper will investigate the development of Debussy’s and Schoenberg’s styles based on an examination of their scores and their own writings. With the aim of better understanding the early influences on both composers, this study will first discuss late romantic musical trends at the close of the nineteenth century. It will briefly relate the composers’ biographies and philosophies, and analyze what influenced their lives, their music and their ideology. Finally, this paper will examine how their music was received by the public and how each composer influenced contemporary and future composers. Schoenberg’s Three Piano Pieces, op. 11 and selected preludes of Debussy will be used as the primary examples.



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