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Posted 02 June 2013 - 12:32 AM
'kipedia sez: The Suite bergamasque is one of the most famous piano suites by Claude Debussy. Debussy commenced the suite in 1890 at age 28, but he did not finish or publish it until 1905. The Suite bergamasque was first composed by Debussy around 1890, but was significantly revised just before its publication in 1905. It seems that by the time a publisher came to Debussy in order to cash in on his fame and have these pieces published, Debussy loathed the earlier piano style in which these pieces were written. While it is not known how much of the Suite was written in 1890 and how much was written in 1905, we do know that Debussy changed the names of at least two of the pieces.
Grove sez: Although Debussy's Classical preoccupation is most explicit in his last works, he always considered himself essentially Classical, to the extent that clarity of form and expression are themselves an integral part of the music's expression (as a pianist he was noted for playing in time, without exaggeration or left-hand anticipations). Rhythmic augmentations of an almost archaic kind occur in the closing pages of works from the Suite bergamasque to En blanc et noir, and hemiola is a basic element of the piano pieces Danse and Masques. Dance is endemic to his idiom, and the enormous variety of rhythm on the music's surface includes rubato and flexibility written into the notation, for example through tied-over beats. (Any rhythmically sloppy performance therefore shreds his carefully designed architecture, both within phrases and on a larger scale.) His notation is more descriptive than Ravel's, and a passing indication like ‘Lent’ (as on the last page of Reflets dans l'eau) often indicates an effect written into the notation without requiring any change in underlying pulse. In Jeux and the piano Préludes especially, double bars are usually signposts of surface texture rather than larger structural transitions, requiring no tempo fluctuation except where indicated; his frequent indication // in later works (as in ex.1) merely signals the end of a nuance, not a hiatus.
Posted 02 June 2013 - 12:40 AM
'kipedia sez: The Two Arabesques (Deux arabesques), L. 66, is a pair of arabesques composed for piano by Claude Debussy. They are two of Debussy's earliest works, composed between the years 1888 and 1891, when he was still in his twenties.
Although quite an early work, the arabesques contain hints of Debussy's developing musical style. The suite is one of the very early impressionistic pieces of music, following the French visual art form. Debussy seems to wander through modes and keys, and achieves evocative scenes through music. His view of a musical arabesque was a line curved in accordance with nature, and with his music he mirrored the celebrations of shapes in nature made by the Art Nouveau artists of the time. Of the arabesque in baroque music, he wrote: “that was the age of the ‘wonderful arabesque,’ when music was subject to the laws of beauty inscribed in the movements of Nature herself.”
Grove sez: Although the nature of influences exerted at one remove is not easy to define, it must be acknowledged that the development of free verse in poetry and the disappearance of the subject or model in painting made Debussy think about issues of musical form. Furthermore, the virtues of stylization (Japanese prints), the value of the quick sketch (Camille Claudel), the qualities associated with the ‘arabesque’ and the possibilities of a dreamlike world bordering on anguish (Munch, Poe) were all aesthetic notions that Debussy retained from his association with poets and artists of the symbolist era. He often discussed music with a vocabulary borrowed from the visual arts; in the guise of M. Croche, he ‘talked about a score as if it were a picture’; he liked to use the word ‘arabesque’ to describe widely different kinds of music, from plainsong to Javanese music, by way of Bach. The very titles of his works are indicative of his closeness to the visual arts (Arabesques, Nocturnes, Images, Estampes) while critics compared him to Monet, Le Sidaner or even Klimt.
Posted 15 June 2013 - 09:59 AM
Schubert's third Musical Moment
'kipedia sez: Along with the Impromptus, they are among the most frequently played of all Schubert's piano music, and have been recorded many times. No. 3 in F minor has been arranged by Leopold Godowsky and others. It has been said that Schubert was deeply influenced in writing these pieces by the Impromptus, Op. 7, of Jan Václav Voříšek (1822).
They were published by Leidersorf in Vienna in 1828, under the title "Six Momens [sic] musicals [sic]". The correct French forms are now usually used – moments (instead of momens), and musicaux (instead of musicals). The sixth number was published in 1824 in a Christmas album under the title Les plaintes d'un troubadour.
Grove sez: The publications of 1824, although not voluminous, are substantial. He also contributed, as he had in 1822, to a collection of shorter piano pieces published for the holidays by Sauer & Leidesdorf. These later became nos.3 and 6 from his popular collection of Moments musicaux (d780)
The much smaller collection of Moments musicaux, impromptus and Klavierstücke that Schubert composed between 1823 and 1828 are examples of the favourite Romantic genre of the short, self-contained piano piece that became popular during the 1820s (precedents go back at least to Beethoven's op.33 bagatelles of 1802). The six Moments musicaux, composed between 1823 and 1828, use familiar formal patterns such as the minuet and trio (nos.1 and 6) as a vehicle for enigmatic and sorrowful expression that is quintessentially Schubertian. The enduring popularity of no.3 in F minor, originally published as Air russe, derives at least partly from its anticipation of a pas seul by Tchaikovsky.
Posted 18 June 2013 - 12:22 PM
'kipedia sez: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote 27 concertos for piano and orchestra. These works, many of which Mozart composed for himself to play in the Vienna concert series of 1784–86, held a special place for him; indeed, Mozart's father apparently interrupted him composing a "harpsichord concerto" at age 4. For a long time relatively neglected, they have come to be seen as containing some of his greatest achievements. Concertos Nos 1-4 (KV. 37, 39, 40 and 41) are orchestral and keyboard arrangements of sonata movements by other composers.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart began his series of preserved piano concertos with four that he wrote at the age of 11, in Salzburg: KV 37 and 39-41. The autographs, all held by the Jagiellonian Library, Kraków, are dated by his father as having been completed in April (KV 37) and July (KV 39-41) of 1767. Although these works were long considered to be original, they are now known to be orchestrations of sonatas by various German virtuosi. The works on which the concertos are based were largely published in Paris, and presumably Mozart and his family became acquainted with them or their composers during their visit to Paris in 1763–64.
The concerto is scored for strings, piano (or harpsichord), and pairs of oboes and horns, as above. The movements are: Allegro spiritoso, Andante staccato and Molto allegro. The first and third movements are again from Raupach, whilst the slow movement is based on one by Johann Schobert, a composer admired by Mozart.
Grove sez: At every stage of their travels the Mozarts acquired music that was not readily available in Salzburg or met composers and performers who did not normally travel in south Germany and Austria. At Ludwigsburg they heard Nardini (on 11 July 1763 Leopold wrote to Salzburg, ‘it would be impossible to hear a finer player for beauty, purity, evenness of tone and singing quality’), and in Paris they met, among others, Schobert, Eckard and Honauer, from whose sonatas, as well as sonatas by Raupach and C.P.E. Bach, Mozart later chose movements to set as the concertos k37 and 39–41.
It is likely that the full extent of Mozart's original output during the 1760s will never be known. Not only were many of his early autographs heavily corrected by his father, but it is clear that some works, such as the pasticcio concertos k37 and 39–41 and to a lesser extent the J.C. Bach arrangements k107 (fig.12), were jointly composed. Other compositions, among them the Sonata for keyboard and violin k8, take over, wholly or in part, movements first written by Leopold. A related problem concerns Leopold's Verzeichniss of 1768, which describes ‘13 symphonies for 2 violins, 2 oboes, 2 horns, viola, and basso, etc.’ (Zaslaw, A1985). Of the early works in the genre attributed to Wolfgang, only eight are demonstrably genuine and known to have been composed by this time, while another four are of uncertain authorship and date. Even if all these symphonies are genuine and early, at least one other is missing. Leopold's list describes additional lost works, including six divertimentos in four parts for various instruments, six trios for two violins and cello, solos for violin and bass viol, minuets, marches and processionals for trumpets and drums. Also, as with many composers of the time, several works are known only from sources with no direct connection to the composer. Some may be authentic, but in other cases there is insufficient evidence for or against Mozart's authorship (for the symphonies see Eisen, L1989).
The Cambridge Companion to Mozart sez: Mozart was acquainted with and wrote for harpsichord, clavichord, organ, clock organ and piano. Whereas his earliest keyboard works, such as the fourpasticcioconcertos K. 37 and 39–41 and his earliest surviving original concertos, are idiomatic to the harpsichord, there seems little doubt that from the sonatas K. 279–84 onwards Mozart’s keyboard music was geared to the piano.
Posted 18 June 2013 - 12:33 PM
'kipedia sez: In the works of his mature series, Mozart created a unique conception of the piano concerto that attempted to solve the ongoing problem of how thematic material is dealt with by the orchestra and piano, and with the exception of the two exceptionally fine early concertos KV. 271 (Jeunehomme) and KV. 414 (the "little A major") all of his best examples are from later works. He strives to maintain a mean between a symphony with occasional piano solos and a virtuoso piano fantasia with orchestral accompaniment; twin traps that later composers were not always able to avoid. His resulting solutions are varied (none of the mature series is really similar to any of the others structurally, apart from at a broad level) and complex.
KV. 503 was the last of the regular series of concertos Mozart wrote for his subscription concerts. Although two more concertos (K. 537 and K. 595) would later follow, this work is the last of the twelve great piano concertos written in Vienna between 1784 and 1786.
Though the orchestra lacks clarinets, it does include trumpets and timpani. The concerto is one of Mozart's longest, with a duration of about 33 minutes. It has the following three movements: Allegro maestoso, Andante in F major and Allegretto.
While the concerto is frequently compared to the Jupiter Symphony, Girdlestone considers its closest parallel to be the String Quintet in C, K. 515. The expansive first movement is one of Mozart's most symphonic concerto movements. This movement subtly slips in and out of the minor several times. One of the secondary themes of the concerto's first movement is a march that often reminds people of the then unwritten Marseillaise. Beethoven references this concerto in his own Fourth Piano Concerto. In addition, the famous motif in the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony resembles one found in this concerto. Also, Mozart's 25th and Beethoven's 5th concerti have a strong march-like theme in the first movement that is first played in minor and then soon appears gloriously in major. The tranquil second movement is in sonata form, but lacks a development section. It extensively uses the winds. The third movement is a sonata-rondo that opens with a gavotte theme from Mozart's opera Idomeneo. Girdlestone considers this movement to be very serious-minded. Like the first movement, it touches upon the minor; however, it ends confidently and triumphantly.
K. 503 has long been neglected in favor of Mozart's more "brilliant" concertos, such as K. 467. Though Mozart performed it on several occasions, it was not performed again in Vienna until after his death, and it only gained acceptance in the standard repertoire in the later part of the twentieth century. However, it is now regarded as one of Mozart's greatest works. Mozart's pupil Johann Nepomuk Hummel valued it, as can be seen in the influence it had on Hummel's own Piano Concerto in C, Op. 36.
Grove sez: With his return to Vienna in late November 1783, Mozart entered on what were to be the busiest and most successful years of his life. It was chiefly for these concerts that, between February 1784 and December 1786, Mozart composed a dozen piano concertos (from k449 to k503), unquestionably the most important works of their kind.
The Concerto k503 is sometimes described as neutral or cold. But on the whole the late works can be characterized as noticeably more austere and refined than the earlier works, more motivic and contrapuntal, more economical in the use of material and texturally less rich. There are fewer new themes in development sections or in exposition codas, and second-group material is frequently derived from primary ones by some form of extension or contrapuntal treatment.
More detailed analyses here and in the Cambridge Companion.
Posted 20 June 2013 - 10:23 AM
Grove sez: By the end of 1781, Mozart had established himself as the finest keyboard player in Vienna; although he was not without competitors, few could match his pianistic feats. The most serious challenge, perhaps, came from Clementi, with whom Mozart played in an informal contest at Emperor Joseph II's instigation on 24 December. Clearly Mozart was perturbed by the event: although he was judged to have won, and Clementi later spoke generously of his playing, Mozart in his letters repeatedly disparaged the Italian pianist. It is likely that Clementi's skill took Mozart by surprise; the emperor must have been impressed as well, for he continued to speak of the contest for more than a year. That same month saw the appearance of Mozart's first Viennese publication, a set of six keyboard and violin sonatas (k296 and 376–80, of which two, k296 and 378 had been composed earlier). They were well received; a review in C.F. Cramer's Magazin der Musik (4 April 1783) described them as ‘unique of their kind. Rich in new ideas and traces of their author's great musical genius’.
Possibly as a result of the natural development of Mozart's style, or through a wish to accommodate his changed circumstances, the extravagance of Mozart's ‘late Salzburg’ works gave way, after his permanent move to Vienna, to leaner, more transparent textures and a less ornamental manner. This is true particularly of the six accompanied sonatas published in December 1781 (although only four of them, k376–7, 379 and 380, were composed there; k296 was written at Mannheim, and k378 at Salzburg in 1779 or 1780). At the same time, however, they are broader in conception than the earlier sonatas, with greater forward thrust and, in k380, a deepened sense of rhetorical contrast between full chords and rapid passage-work. Above all, they display a new relationship between the instruments. Although they remain piano sonatas with accompaniment, and contain passages where the violin part could be omitted without damaging the sense of the music, the violin nevertheless increasingly carries essential material, melodic or contrapuntal, and engages in dialogue with the keyboard. The violin part has even greater prominence in k454, composed for Regina Strinasacchi, while in k526, arguably the finest of Mozart's accompanied sonatas, the two instruments are equal in importance. The same trend is evident in the piano trios k496, 502, 542 and 548.
Cambridge sez: According to a review from April 1783 published in Carl Friedrich Cramer’s widely read and influential Magazin der Musik: "These sonatas are unique of their kind. Rich in new ideas and traces of their author’s great musical genius. Very brilliant and suited to the instrument. At the same time, the violin accompaniment is so ingeniously combined with the keyboard part that both instruments are constantly kept in equal prominence; so that these sonatas call for as skilled a violinist as a keyboard player."
Posted 20 June 2013 - 10:28 AM
'kipedia sez: A berceuse is "a musical composition usually in 6/8 time that resembles a lullaby". Otherwise it is typically in triple meter. Tonally most berceuses are simple, often merely alternating tonic and dominant harmonies; since the intended effect is to put a baby to sleep, wild chromaticism would be somewhat out of character. Another characteristic of the berceuse, for no reason other than convention, is a tendency to stay on the "flat side"; noted examples including the berceuses by Chopin, who pioneered the form, Liszt, and Balakirev, which are all in D♭.
Ourchopin.net sez: Berceuse is a lullaby, or a cradle song. Dedicated to lady Elise Gavard, this work is a clear example of Chopin’s talent in improvisation and construction of variations. The harmony is just as simple as it can be: one modulation repeated every bar throughout the work. The melody and its fourteen varying accompaniments however are truly a work of art. They resemble flowers and ornaments built on different branches of a tree: beautiful and delicate; therefore the work requires pianists’ mastery of touch to interpret. The main melody opens with a simple single melody line in four bars and then repeated with a lower phrase which together makes the new melody in thirds, sixths and ninths in the next six bars. In the second time, the lower phrase is in double speed for two bars. Then in the next four bars, the melody is repeated in this third time with grace notes and slows down to the trills where the fourth variation is getting faster for four bars. The melody is then modulated in triplets of thirds circling and rising in its fifth variation. Next in the sixth variation, the staccatos of triplets with the last beat missing sound like the rhythm of rocking cradles. The seventh variation has thirds cascading down and melody modulation through the bass A flat. In the eighth and ninth variations, the modulations are moving faster and faster with rising chords in staccatos, and phrases in double triplets in highest octaves before turning down to the successive trills, which rise up two octaves and turn down again for the last time. The dream has gone far away before returning to reality. The last four variations become less and less complicated, and finally revert back to the simplest melody from the beginning, and into sleep.
Posted 20 June 2013 - 10:33 AM
'kipedia sez: Transcendental Étude No. 11 in D-flat, "Harmonies du Soir" is the eleventh étude of the set of twelve Transcendental Études by Franz Liszt. This étude is a study in harmonies, broken chords played in quick succession, full octave jumps, chromatic harmonies, chord variations, interlocking hands, bravura, massive chords, especially proper pedaling, and performance as a whole. This piece is considered one of the most artistic of the études, along with No. 12 "Chasse-neige".
The piece begins with an introduction containing slow broken octaves in the left hand and chords in the right hand. After a group of arpeggios, the main theme is introduced in the left hand, a beautiful descent followed by a chromatic ascent with harmonies changing with each note. It is accompanied in the right hand by bass notes (crossing over) and octaves which seem to "sing along" with the left hand. Eventually, after a build up with large chords in the right hand and octaves deep in the bass in the left hand, this theme is played again this time with harp like arpeggios in both hands. The piece continues in this manner for a while until the second theme, a chordal section marked Poco piu mosso is introduced. It begins pianississimo but then grows to an appassionato climax. The music then seems to fade out, followed by an entire new section of the piece, marked Piu lento con intimo sentimento. This section's song like melody is accompanied by arpeggiation in both hands (bringing out the main melody is a surprising technical feat, due to the wide spacing of the arpeggios in each hand). After a recitative passage, the music goes somewhere unexpected. The second theme is brought back, this time fortissimo and marked triomfante with chords in both hands. The most technically difficult part of the entire piece consists of multiple pages of chordal jumps and repetition, requiring a large amount of stamina. The music eventually dies down, and after an arpeggiated variation of the first theme, the music dies out.
Grove sez: The works most representative of Liszt’s virtuoso years are the six ‘Paganini’ Studies and the 12 ‘Transcendental’ Studies. The sets were published with the titles Etudes d’exécution transcendante d’après Paganini and Grandes études respectively, before they were revised in 1851 with their final titles of Grandes études de Paganini and Etudes d’exécution transcendante. In their earlier versions these works remain among the most daunting challenges in the piano literature, and they offer telling proof of Liszt’s pre-eminence among the pianists of his time.
The 12 ‘Transcendental’ Studies A173 are closely related to the ‘Paganini’ Studies in style and virtuosity. These pieces exist in three versions (Mazeppa has an additional version dating from 1840 as well as an orchestral version as a symphonic poem), since the 12 Grandes études A40 are elaborate reworkings (with the exception of no.7, later called Eroica) of the juvenile Etude A8 (1827). It was not until the final version that Liszt added the poetic titles. The tonal plan of these 12 studies follows that of the original 1826 set. Liszt unfolds a descending circle of 5ths, with each alternate study in the relative minor of its predecessor. Since 24 studies were announced for the 1838 publication, we infer that Liszt originally intended to continue the key scheme and complete the circle. Robert Schumann reviewed this 1838 version for the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, and aptly described them as ‘Studies in storm and dread … fit for ten or 12 players in the world’.
The 1851 revisions of both sets of studies were designed to allow the pieces to ‘speak’ more effectively. Liszt smoothed out some of the more intractable difficulties and clarified the textures, giving the pieces a leaner, more brilliant sound. The revisions made these works more widely accessible and accommodated the changing requirements of the modern piano, with its heavier action. Nevertheless, even with the more complicated textures ironed out, these works make enormous demands on the pianist.
Posted 20 June 2013 - 12:15 PM
Grove sez: Mendelssohn composed piano music throughout his career, but maintained an ambivalent attitude towards much of the piano music of his own time. Though attracted to the music of Hummel, Ludwig Berger and Moscheles, he dismissed many of the fashionable virtuosos as shallow and uninspired (thus, Kalkbrenner was an ‘indigestible sausage’). He greatly admired the pianism of Chopin and Liszt, but found some of Chopin's works mannered and Liszt's music ‘unpremeditated’. In Mendelssohn's own mature keyboard music, three influences stand out: the contrapuntal rigour of Bach, the dramatic gestures and transcendental utterances of Beethoven's middle and late periods, and the scintillating pianistic textures of Weber.
Not surprisingly, Mendelssohn's fascination with Bach's counterpoint is evident in his piano essays of the early 1820s, whereas the influences of Beethoven and Weber only gradually emerge, beginning around 1823. The sonatas op.6 in E and 106 in B, betray their origins in Beethoven's op.101 and Hammerklavier sonatas. Mendelssohn's debt to Weber is perhaps most evident in the Perpetuum mobile in C (op.119), modelled on the finale of Weber's Piano Sonata no.1 in C, and the Rondo capriccioso op.14 of 1830, indebted to Weber's Concert-Stück.
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