Beethoven the architect of massive great formal structures shows himself in these pieces to be equally a master of the small miniature, deftly creating an immediate impression with his opening gestures and developing his motives with unfettered originality. There is noble simplicity about No. It contrasts a strongly driven contrapuntal opening section with a dreamy section that alternates with it.
This section starts out like a barcarolle, but then drifts off to explore a wealth of musical ideas, some of them coy and playful, other verging on pure sound theatre. It lacks the vehemence of expression that characterizes the other three ballades, Opp. The work is dominated by two principal themes of contrasting character but united by common elements of basic melodic structure.
The first, announced at the outset, is a songful melody that begins by rising up six scale notes, echoed by antiphonal responses in the left hand. Its contrapuntal profile is that of two voices expanding out in opposite directions from a central point, a pattern that intensifies on the following page into celebratory cadences exploding out into ecstatic arpeggios to the low and high registers simultaneously. The second theme changes the mood completely. It is a dancelike melody of instrumental character that descends six scale notes, outlined in a series of coquettish leaps made all the more coy by the constantly syncopated rhythm in which they are presented.
While this second theme dips often into the minor mode, it rarely stays there long, often slipping back into the major when cadencing. The minor mode is thus constantly restrained from taking on the mask of tragedy. While the first theme remains elegantly static throughout the work, the second undergoes considerable development in a texture of ornamental figuration that dances alternately above it and then resonantly rumbles below. This development is the dramatic heart of the piece, and immediately follows a third theme area of remarkable flamboyance, with extroverted multi-octave arpeggios issuing into joyously rambunctious passagework over large swaths of the keyboard.
Alexander Scriabin Piano Sonata No. Oh how easy it is to become possessed by Scriabin, one of the most enigmatic and controversial artistic personalities of all time. Once one is bitten and the venom, in the form of his sound world, enters the body and soul, the e ects become all-encompassing, even life-threatening! Scriabin was not only the rst to introduce madness into music; he also managed to synthesise it into an infectious virus that is entirely music-borne and a ects the psyche in a highly irrational way.
He tapped sources as yet poorly documented or understood. The Sonata No. In fact, the sonata is headed with an extract from the poem, which accompanied the symphonic work:. I summon you to life, hidden longings! You, sunken in the sombre depths of creative spirit, You timid embryos of life, To you bring I daring! From this moment, there are no more compulsory modulations; cadences vanish and the elements that constitute the sonata form become more di use. For 60 years musicologists tried to break the code behind his harmonic system and only in did the Soviet musicologist Dernova managed it.
The reason the code was unbreakable was mainly because the chords were thought to relate to some kind of a tonal centre. Apart from its architectonic properties, another perplexing quality of a Scriabin chord is the sheer variety of moods it can induce, depending on the context: in the Fifth Sonata the same chord can sound icy, cosmic and even frightening bar 23 or warm, hopeful and nostalgic bar This is where, for me, Scriabin wins over serialism where any potential variety of moods is mostly a by-product of randomness within the limits of the simplistic rules applied.
Originally a tone poem for orchestra, the work quickly became available in any number of transcriptions and arrangements—including one, surprisingly, for church organ. Pictorially vivid, learnedly constructed, and transparently textured, it bears all the marks of the French musical imagination. Pictorial touches within the score include the tolling of the midnight bell, represented by the 12 repeated half-notes on D that open the piece. Chopin was born in March , Schumann in June of the same year. They started out as fellow poets of the piano.
By the s the piano had become a bourgeois status symbol; there was a reliable market for published piano compositions and an appetite for recitals by piano virtuosi. He released small-scale works regularly; the more accessible of his pieces fueled demand for his more adventurous works. When he withdrew from active concertizing, his compositional desire to explore, innovate, and experiment had free rein.
Robert Schumann might have followed a similar path had he not abandoned piano performance even before his intended career trajectory was launched due, so the legend goes, to a hand injury. Many new fans of the VRS may not know of the long, rich history of VRS Schumann performances dating back to the earliest days of the society.
But all are considered to some degree — problematic. Then there are the nocturnes. Chopin transferred the singing lines of opera into keyboard guise — pianistic bel canto, if you will. The many and varied nocturnes can be considered prime examples of cavatinas for piano: plenty of emphasis on a singing right hand, with lots of flourishes and subtle bits of decorative embellishment.
Then there is the unabashedly erotic content of the nocturnes and barcarolles. While the proper bourgeois of his era were disinclined to discuss this impulse in the frank post-Freudian terms we use today, they certainly understood the thoughts and feelings music could evoke. The Nocturne in F minor Op. The Nocturne in E major Op.
Both are relatively straightforward and focus on depth of feeling, not virtuoso display. Schumann certainly knew firsthand the struggle to go from poetic aphorisms to more substantial and formal in every sense compositions. Clara worshiped tradition. She was the first pianist to play all thirty-two Beethoven sonatas in public. She composed preludes and fugues. The Grand Sonata 3, in F minor Op.
No doubt the publisher was concerned with commercial possibilities: a five-movement behemoth was just too long for most amateurs to bother with. For close to two decades, Schumann left well enough alone. After , he was unable to complete any further compositions.
He died in Johannes Brahms gave the revised composition its premiere in The music of Sergei Rachmaninoff seems to glimmer out from somewhere deep in the Russian soul. Prominent in his sound world is the ringing of bells large and small, from the tintinnabulation of sleigh bells to the weighty pendulum swings of cathedral bells evoked so dramatically in the opening of his Piano Concerto No.
These traits are particularly concentrated in his two sets of Preludes Op. The Op.
The hauntingly fragile melody of the Prelude in F sharp minor Op. This is Rachmaninoff at his most intimate, his most confessional, his most vulnerable. The majestic Prelude in B flat major Op. While the Prelude in D minor Op. The Prelude in D major Op. Its melody sings out from the middle of the texture, swaddled at first by a sonic glow of bell-like overtones, then topped with a gently undulating descant, and finally crowned with echoing chimes in the highest register.
The real jackboot-strutting military march of the set is the Prelude in G minor Op. Punchy, menacing, and triumphant by turns, it yields in its middle section to a bout of soldierly homesickness to spin out a lyrical melody of yearning sighs and wistful countermelodies. Unruffled calm reigns over the elegiac musings of the Prelude in E flat major Op. The Prelude in C minor Op. The Prelude in B minor Op. Pianist Benno Moisevitch, in conversation with Rachmaninoff, wisely guessed its emotional wellspring: the yearning for a homecoming that would never come.
Its principal motive is a dotted figure, wavering modally between major and minor, that is soon accompanied — and then overwhelmed — by an utterly heartbreaking storm of throbbing triplets that reverberate clangorously like massive swaying church bells, thundering towards a resolution that never arrives. The sound of sleigh bells greets the ear in the jangling accompaniment figure of open 5ths that begins the Prelude in G sharp minor Op. The Prelude in D flat major, 13th and concluding prelude of the Op.
But minor keys were all the rage in the s, the age of Sturm und Drang storm and stress , an age when composers such as C. Bach sought to elicit powerful, sometimes worrisome emotions from their audiences by means of syncopated rhythms, dramatic pauses, wide melodic leaps, and poignant harmonies in minor keys. The s was also the period in which the harpsichord was gradually giving way to the new fortepiano, precursor of the modern grand, and there is much in this sonata to suggest that it still lingered eagerly on the harpsichord side of things, at least texturally.
The kind of writing you fond in the first movement especially is the sort that speaks well on the harpsichord.
And while this second theme is set in the relative major, its subsequent appearance in the recapitulation is re-set in the minor mode, yet a further sign of the serious tone that pervades this movement. In place of a slow movement, Haydn offers us a minuet and trio, as vividly contrasting as the first and second themes of the first movement.
The minuet is in the major mode, set high in the register, sparkling with trills and astonishing us with melodic leaps as large as a 14th. The trio is in the minor mode, set low, and grinds away in constant 16th-note motion, outlining scalar stepwise motion throughout. The toccata-like finale is a sonata-form movement with equally vivid contrasts between its door-knocking minor-mode first theme in repeated 8th notes, replete with imitative contrapuntal chatter, and its breathless major-mode second theme in constant 16th-note motion.
As in the first movement, both themes recur in the minor mode in the recapitulation. Transformed into a grim cadence, it issues into a first theme in doppio movimento double time that spills out in panting fragments of melody riding atop an agitated accompaniment in a constant horse-hoof rhythm. It is perhaps for this reason that it is the poised lyricism of the placid second theme that dominates the recapitulation to take the movement to unsuspected heights of glory in its luminous final bars.
A drama of contrasting poles of emotion, the explosive vs. The movement begins with a powerful crescendo of jackhammer octaves that establishes a mood of brutal resolve and muscular exuberance that is interrupted by an episode of lyrical daydreaming. This middle section, with its sleepy, repetitious melody and gentle left-hand murmurings, is hypnotic, almost static, breathed out in a series of long sighs that are recalled at the very end of the movement, even after the opening turmoil has returned.
The emotional centre-weight of this sonata is its third movement, the famous funeral march that was destined to accompany John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and Chopin himself to their graves. With its incessant dotted rhythm and plodding, drone-like bass, it solemnly paces onward in the style of funeral marches from the French Revolution, of the sort that Beethoven memorialized in his Eroica Symphony and his Sonata in A at Op.
This melody is enveloped by a haze of overtones drifting up from a nocturne-like pattern of accompaniment figures that stretch over two octaves in the left hand, seamlessly connecting it to the sound world of the sombre dirge at its return. Written in a single line of parallel octaves that ripple across the keyboard in ghostly patterns of little harmonic consequence, it seems to evoke a spirit world immune to the passions that motivated the previous movements.
Liszt was not only a dazzling virtuoso performer in the technical sense, he also was an emotional athlete capable of evoking the most tender of psychological states in music of a confessional intimacy that his age found utterly compelling, and of which the present age has not grown weary.
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But in music of such capricious charm, there await hidden perils for the serious performing musician. For what but an unerring sense of style filtered through a respect for artistic decorum, and an innate theatrical air held in check by an instinct for good taste, separates a Liszt from a Liberace? The theme was not, in fact, by Corelli.
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It was rather a traditional Iberian folk-dance melody, a slow sarabande known as La Folia that many other composers had used before, Bach, Vivaldi and Liszt among them. What follows is a series of textural variations largely based on the underlying harmonic progressions in the theme. Or rather, two sets of variations, separated by an intermezzo.
The first set comprises Variations in which the theme is at first left largely recognizable, its rhythmic outline merely altered within the bar. Then momentum builds relentlessly from the scherzo scamper of Variation 10 to the aggressive jostling of Variation At this point Rachmaninoff pauses to regroup, both aesthetically and pianistically. He inserts an intermezzo in a free improvisatory style with many parallels to the 11th Variation in his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini that alternates mordent-encrusted thematic musings with scintillating washes of sparkling keyboard colour.
And then he seems to start over again, presenting us once again with the theme, but in the major mode and more richly, more darkly harmonized. It is the same melody, but it seems more world-weary, more resigned than when he heard it at first. There is an eerie sort of nostalgia that weighs it down, as if it had aged.
The final variations become increasingly animated until reaching a heaven-storming pitch in Variation 20, in which walls of sound echo back and forth between the lowest and highest registers.
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How will it end? Rachmaninoff, having red all his big guns, then backs away from the enormity of what he has just done.
Johann Sebastian Bach Partita No. Each dance is in binary two-part form, and performance tradition has it that each part will be played twice. When the galanteries consist of a matched pair of the same dance form, another tradition says that the first will be played again after the second to round out the group into a nicely symmetrical A-B-A pattern.
The Partita No. Even when the pace is slow, as in the sarabande, the tone remains distinctly bright and chipper. Anyone who has attempted the opening mordent on a 32nd note without first dipping his fingertips in a hot double espresso will know exactly what I mean. The fireworks begin in earnest in the Allemande, a toccata-like romp of 16th-note chatter up and down the keyboard, often split between the hands. The Sarabande is the longest movement in the work, clocking in at a robust minutes of performance time. The first ticks along in a constant flow of 8th notes like a mechanical clock while the second is all soothing and sustained in a rhythmically even succession of quarter notes.
Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Sonata No. It comprises a sonata-form first movement churning with rhythmic bumps and dynamic surprises, a slow movement of extraordinary expressive grandeur, an unusually lyrical scherzo and a rondo finale with robust contrasts of tone and mood. Noticeable right off the bat in the first movement is how melody-making takes a back seat to the manipulation of raw sound.
The movement opens with a rhythmic tapping in the bass that morphs into a series of scale passages in contrary motion. Rude shocks interrupt the flow until a smoothly flowing second theme can establish a more lyrical train of thought. The contrast between the fortissimo ending of the first movement and the piano opening of the second, marked Largo con gran espressione, is shockingly dramatic. This movement, too, makes use of dynamic contrasts but in a different way. It is the silences and pauses inserted into the opening theme, combined with its deep resonance in the lower registers of the keyboard, that give this movement its immense gravitas and extraordinary depth of feeling.
Its middle section is full of harmonic tension and an almost operatic sense of drama. The Trio in the monstrous key of E flat minor is a real piece of work, murmuring away conspiratorially in a rippling shimmer of broken chords punctuated regularly by sharp ffp accents. The rondo finale is by turns gracious and volcanic, an odd combination that Beethoven pulls off with aplomb.
The opening theme is lovingly endowed with many little sigh motives and colourfully orchestrated in both the mid and high registers of the keyboard. Its main thematic foil in the movement is a stormy patch of heavy chords over a surging left-hand accompaniment of rolling broken chords in the minor mode. The waltz developed in the last half of the 18th century out of country dances from Austria and Southern Germany, and in the Romantic era was absorbed into the world of salon music for the well-heeled.
While it maintained its essential musical characteristics—triple meter with one chord to the bar—various nuances congenial to the Romantic spirit were introduced. Another was the amount of melodic content he saw fit to give to the left hand. It is not a folk dance, but originated from court ceremonies. It moves along at a steady pace, with an accent or a prolonged note on the second beat. It is in AB form, with the phrases ending on the second beat.
Commonly found in the old suites. In plainsong, a form of trope. Rather similar to a Pastorale, usually in ABA form. It usually has a melody in dotted rhythms, with a broken chord accompaniment. Dampers on a piano sostenuto - sustained sotto voce - softly, in a low voice spianato - smooth, even spiccato - separated, detached. Played with the point of the bow. Also, compositions written for that medium. The basic movements included were the Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gigue, and then usually one or more others such as the Gavotte, Minuet, Bourr6e, Passepied, etc.
The suite was often preceded by a Prelude. Also referred to as an instrumental composition of numerous movements, often of a dance-like character. It frequently alternated modes, and increased in frenzy towards the end. See monophonic, polyphonic, homophonic ; also means sonority. A theme may also include rhythmic, harmonic, and other factors. Also, a part in polyphonic music e.
B bagatelle - literally, a "trifle" - a short unpretentious composition. E e, ed. F facile - light, easy familiar style - chordal style in polyphonic music. This article does not cite any sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.
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Related Atonal Canon: nocturne - intermezzo - cadence
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