It's All About Halloween!
Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale), composed in 1971 for the New York Camerata, is scored for flute, cello and piano (all amplified in concert performance). The work was inspired by the singing of the humpback whale, a tape recording of which I had heard two or three years previously. Each of the three performers is required to wear a black half-mask (or visor-mask). The masks, by effacing the sense of human projection, are intended to represent, symbolically, the powerful impersonal forces of nature (i.e. nature dehumanized). I have also suggested that the work be performed under deep-blue stage lighting.
The form of Voice of the Whale is a simple three-part design, consisting of a prologue, a set of variations named after the geological eras, and an epilogue.
The opening Vocalise (marked in the score: "wildly fantastic, grotesque") is a kind of cadenza for the flutist, who simultaneously plays his instrument and sings into it. This combination of instrumental and vocal sound produces an eerie, surreal timbre, not unlike the sounds of the humpback whale. The conclusion of the cadenza is announced by a parody of the opening measures of Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra.
The Sea-Theme ("solemn, with calm majesty") is presented by the cello (in harmonics), accompanied by dark, fateful chords of strummed piano strings. The following sequence of variations begins with the haunting sea-gull cries of the Archezoic ("timeless, inchoate") and, gradually increasing in intensity, reaches a strident climax in the Cenozoic ("dramatic, with a feeling of destiny"). The emergence of man in the Cenozoic era is symbolized by a partial restatement of the Zarathustra reference.
The concluding Sea-Nocturne ("serene, pure, transfigured") is an elaboration of the Sea-Theme. The piece is couched in the "luminous" tonality of B major and there are shimmering sounds of antique cymbals (played alternately by the cellist and flutist). In composing the Sea-Nocturne I wanted to suggest "a larger rhythm of nature" and a sense of suspension in time. The concluding gesture of the work is a gradually dying series of repetitions of a 10-note figure. In concert performance, the last figure is to be played "in pantomime" (to suggest a diminuendo beyond the threshold of hearing!); for recorded performances, the figure is played as a "fade-out".
Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) [is] a kind of oceanic equivalent of Olivier Messiaen's birdcalls, based on the songs of the humpback whale. Crumb first heard the eerie submarine singing of the huge mammals on tape in 1969; the twenty-minute Vox Balaenae for electric flute, electric cello, crotales and electric piano was finished two years later. The composer directs that
each of the three players should wear a black half-mask (vizor-mask) throughout the performance of the work. The masks, by effacing a sense of human projection, will symbolize the powerful impersonal forces of nature (nature dehumanized). Vox Balaenae can be performed under a deep-blue stage lighting, if desired, in which case the theatrical effect would be further enhanced.
Typically, Crumb calls on the pianist to play upon the instrument's strings pizzicato and also to produce harmonics; the cello is tuned scordatura (B-F#-D#-A); the flutist is called upon to sing and play simultaneously. The work itself is a three-movement fantasy, beginning with a Vocalise (... for the beginning of time) for the flute that is suddenly interrupted by leaping, incantatory chords on the piano. There follows a set of five variations on Sea-Time (each with the name of a different geologic period) whose sea-theme, played in harmonics, is stated by the cello and piano. The last movement is a radiant Sea-Nocturne (... for the end of time) -- the Messiaen reference is unmistakable here -- with a performance direction of "serene, pure, transfigured".
Out of Doors is a set of five piano solo pieces, Sz. 81, BB 89, written by Béla Bartók in 1926. Out of Doors (Hungarian: Szabadban, German: Im Freien, French: En Plein Air) is among the very few instrumental compositions by Bartók with programmatic titles.
Out of Doors contains the following five pieces with approximate duration based on metronome markings:
With Drums and Pipes - pesante 1'45"
Barcarolla - andante 2'17"
Musettes - moderato 2'35"
The Night's Music - lento - (un poco) pìu andante 4'40"
The Chase - presto 2'00"-2'12"
The title refers to the musette, a type of small bagpipe. Bartók's was inspired by Couperin, who wrote keyboard pieces imitating this instrument. The piece consists mostly of imitating the sound effects of a poorly tuned pair of musettes. There is little melody. With drums and pipes and Tambourine of Bartók's Nine little pieces similarly consist of sound imitations of folk instruments.
A noteworthy instruction reads Due o tre volte ad libitum (play optionally two or three times), giving the performer a degree of freedom rare in classical music scores, and underlining the improvisatory and spontaneous nature of folk bagpipe music. The Sostenuto pedal of the grand piano is necessary for a right rendering of the final four bars.
The so-called "Russian Five" were essentially untrained composers in the late 19th-century who held jobs in fields outside of music. Of the five, Mussorgsky (who was "really" a military engineer and clerk, but who had taken piano lessons as a child and become quite good) is regarded today as the most important. This importance is due partly to his distinctive, original style; but it also stems from his creation of (at least) two genuine masterworks: the opera Boris Godunov and the suite of piano pieces Pictures at an Exhibition.
Mussorgsky's inspiration for Pictures was the death of his dear friend, the architect and visual artist Victor Hartman. Having died at age 39, Hartman had not yet had the opportunity to realize any of his architectural visions, and Mussorgsky was angered that his friend would have no legacy. The Architects' Society arranged an exhibition of some of Hartman's sketches – some of architecture, others of characters or scenes from everyday life. The tribute was enough to give Mussorgsky ideas for his composition, but not enough to give Hartman any lasting place in history. Today, of all of the sketches that were captured in music, only six can be positively identified.
The piece is known today primarily through the orchestral version created by Maurice Ravel in 1922. In fact, the work had already been orchestrated multiple times, by a variety of lesser names. Some conductors today find that Ravel's version, in spite of its color, sacrifices some of the coarse nature inherent in Mussorgsky's piano original. Furthermore, Ravel worked from Rimsky-Korsakov's edited version of the piano part – the only one available at the time – which changed some notes and rhythms. It is not uncommon to hear different orchestrations of the piece in the modern concert hall, with many conductors embracing little-known versions (or cut-and-paste compilations); the Russian pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy has gone so far as to re-orchestrate the entire work himself.
None of the orchestrations, however, change the fundamental spirit of the piece. Mussorgsky imagines himself making his way down the hallway that showcased his late friend's work, with his stately procession represented by the Promenade that opens the piece and returns several times. Upon stopping at each image, he reflects on what he sees. Between the early movements, the promenade returns regularly, as Mussorgsky is conscious of moving from one scene to the next. As the work progresses, however, he becomes less aware of the interval between pictures, and more immersed in the continuous psychological experience of moving from one state of mind to the next. By the end, the composer sees himself transformed by the connection with Hartman through his visual expressions of Russian pride and humanity.
Gnomus. This movement is fairly self-explanatory, although it would be fascinating to see the picture – reportedly of a gnome-shaped nutcracker – that inspired such thorny writing from Mussorgsky. Ravel, in his orchestration, uses a wide variety of percussion instruments, adding to the mysterious, otherwordly atmosphere.
The Old Castle. The Hartman sketch evidently depicted a troubadour outside of an old castle, with his song here carried by the alto saxophone. The saxophone never really caught on as an orchestral instrument, and its rare appearances are usually in works by early 20th-century French composers (including Ravel) or jazz- influenced Americans (especially Gershwin). Here, the noble and exotic quality of the saxophone's sound makes it an ideal choice. The saxophone plays in no other movement of the piece.
Tuileries. This movement is the shortest of the work (except for some of the promenades), and captures the simplicity of Paris gardens with their visitors.
Bydlo. Bydlo means "ox-cart," and the movement seems to summon the spirit of peasant workers. The strain of the melody is captured by assigning it to a low brass instrument. Ravel specified "tuba" but wrote the part in a much higher range than the tuba player is asked to play in anywhere else in the piece. Some orchestral tuba players bring along a second, higher-pitched instrument for this movement only; the present performance assigns the solo to the euphonium.
Ballet of Chicks in their Shells. This is the first movement for which the sketch has been positively identified. Hartman was assisting in the costume design for a ballet production, and the sketch shows two people wearing egg-shaped outfits and wearing chick "helmets." The agitated peeps of the chicks are captured in high woodwinds and pizzicato strings.
Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle. Hartman created two independent sketches of Jewish men – one rich (with a fur hat) and the other poor (sitting by the street with a cane). The rich Jew is represented by the brash strings (and some woodwinds) in the opening of the movement, whereas the poor Jew, asking for money, is realized by the high trumpet in an annoying, repetitive figure. Rather than convey an anti-Semitic message, the composer probably sought to make a social commentary: the rich and poor live in separate worlds, and it is far too easy for the rich to take no notice of those who have been less fortunate.
Limoges. Probably the most colorfully orchestrated movement, this lightfooted scherzo depicts women gossiping at a French market. The melody is passed back and forth between the violins and various woodwind instruments, all while a diverse group of percussion instruments contributes to the feeling of general chaos.
Catacombae. From the bustle of the market place, the listener is plunged into the foreboding underground. Almost entirely focused on the brass, this movement moves with deathly slowness, making its way through eerily shifting harmonies. Because the sound of the piano necessarily starts to decay after the keys have been struck, making the instrument incapabale of a true sustained sound, this movement benefits more than many of the others from an orchestral treatment. The following section, Cum Mortuis in Lingua Mortua, is a transformation of the promenade melody; the Latin translates to "With the Dead in a dead language." Visible in the sketch for "Catacombae" is a cage full of skulls, and Mussorgsky wrote in the margin of his piano original, "The creative genius of Hartman leads me to the skulls and invokes them; the skulls begin to glow."
The Hut on Fowl's Legs. Given such a bizarre title, the Hartman sketch is a disappointment. The "hut" is a clock, perhaps of a size to sit on a desk (although the scale of the sketch is hard to determine); the "fowl's legs" are small chicken legs, easily overlooked, incorporated into the body of the clock base. More important in understanding the character of the movement is Mussorgsky's subtitle, "Baba Yaga." Baba Yaga is a witch from Russian fairy tales, living ina hut with hen's legs which permit it to rotate in place. Each new victim (a lost child) is lured inside and crushed to death, to be later eaten by the witch. Hartman intended his sketch of the clock to be reminiscent of Baba Yaga's mysterious hut, so Mussorgsky used the sketch as a springboard to write a movement about the witch herself.
The Great Gate of Kiev. In the spirit of greatest nationalistic affirmation, Mussorgsky drew inspiration from a patriotic competition for the final movement of the work. Hartman had submitted a design to be considered for the proposed new, grand entrance to Kiev, which was to commemorate Alexander II's successful escape from assassination there. No winner for the contest was ever selected, and no gate was ever built. Still, Hartman's impressive design received attention and a following, due to its resonance with the Russian people's pride of their nation and heritage. Hartman's sketch included a chapel, and Kiev had a long history of religious importance, so Mussorgsky adopted a sense of reverence in his tribute to the would-be gate and its city. The piano original is no match for the splendor of Ravel's orchestration, especially in the full chords that end the piece – leading some scholars to conjecture that Mussorgsky thought of his piece in orchestral terms from the very beginning.
Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. 2 in B major, Op. 14 and subtitled To October, for the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution. It was first performed by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and the Academy Capella Choir under Nikolai Malko, on 5 November 1927. After the premiere, Shostakovich made some revisions to the score, and this final version was first played in Moscow later in 1927 under the baton of Konstantin Saradzhev. It was also the first time any version of the work had been played in Moscow.
Shostakovich later revisited the events of the October Revolution in his Twelfth Symphony, subtitled The Year 1917.
The symphony is a short (ca. 20 minutes) experimental work in one movement; within this movement are four sections, the last of which includes a chorus. In a marked departure from his First Symphony, Shostakovich composed his Second in a gestural, geometric "music without emotional structure" manner, with the intent of reflecting speech patterns and physical movements in a neo-realistic style. This choice may have been influenced at least partially by Vsevolod Meyerhold's theory of biomechanics.
Largo Meant to portray the primordial chaos from which order emerged, instrumental voices merge in this 13-voice polyphonic beginning, like impulses released from the void. This was considered Klangflächenmusik (cluster composition) before the term was officially coined.
Quarter note=152 A meditative episode which Shostakovich described as the "death of a child" (letter to Boleslav Yavorsky) killed on the Nevsky Prospekt.
Poco meno mosso. Allegro molto.
Chorus: "To October" The choral finale of the work sets a text by Alexander Bezymensky praising Lenin and the revolution.
Shostakovich placed far more emphasis on texture in this work than he did on thematic material. He quickly adds sonorities and layers of sound in a manner akin to Abstract Expressionism instead of focusing on contrapuntal clarity. While much of the symphony consequently consists of sound effects rather than music, the work possesses an unquestionable vitality and incorporates the basic elements of the musical language he used in the rest of his career.
The Symphony No. 10 in E minor (Op. 93) by Dmitri Shostakovich was premiered by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under Yevgeny Mravinsky on 17 December 1953, following the death of Joseph Stalin in March of that year. It is not clear when it was written: according to the composer's letters composition was between July and October 1953, but Tatiana Nikolayeva stated that it was completed in 1951. Sketches for some of the material date from 1946.
In content and structure, the 10th Symphony is an example of Shostakovich’s synthesis of allusions to the symphonic tradition on the one hand, and encoded references to his own particular time and place on the other.[according to whom?] The first and longest movement is a slow movement in rough sonata form; the second a fast scherzo with syncopated rhythms and endlessly furious semiquaver passages; the third a moderate dance-like suite of Mahlerian Nachtmusik - or Nocturne, which is what Shostakovich called it; and the fourth a slow andante (again heavily influenced by Mahler) that suddenly changes into a fast finale that has the pace of a doom-laden Gopak.
It was Shostakovich's first symphonic work since his denunciation in 1948. It thus has a significance somewhat comparable to that of the Fifth Symphony in relation to the 1936 denunciation. As in that work, he quotes from one of his settings of Pushkin: in the first movement, from the second of his Four Pushkin Monologues, entitled "What is in My Name?". This theme of personal identity is picked up again in the third and fourth movements. The second movement is a short and violent scherzo, described in Testimony as "a musical portrait of Stalin, roughly speaking". However, according to musicologist Richard Taruskin, this proposition is a "dubious revelation, which no one had previously suspected either in Russia or in the West". The third movement is a nocturne built around two musical codes: the DSCH theme representing Shostakovich, and the Elmira theme.
Dance of Death, also variously called Danse Macabre (French), Danza de la Muerte (Spanish), Danza Macabra (Italian), Dança da Morte (Portuguese), Totentanz (German), Dodendans (Dutch), Surmatants (Estonian), Dansa de la Mort (Catalan) is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one's station in life, the Dance of Death unites all. The Danse Macabre consists of the dead or personified Death summoning representatives from all walks of life to dance along to the grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child, and labourer. They were produced to remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain were the glories of earthly life. Its origins are postulated from illustrated sermon texts; the earliest recorded visual scheme was a now lost mural in the Saints Innocents Cemetery in Paris dating from 1424–25.
Krzysztof Penderecki has said that he looks on his Symphony No. 1, written when he was 40 years old, as something of a summing-up of his first stylistic period. "I was then attempting to make a reckoning of my two decades' worth of musical experience—a time of radical, avant-garde seeking. It was the summa of what I could say as an avant-garde artist." Composed in 1973, the Symphony No. 1—Penderecki's first large work for full orchestra—was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, Perkins Engines Group. It was first performed in the Cathedral of the city of Peterborough on July 19, 1973.
Formally, the five-part arch of the symphony, inspired by a painting of two angels that Penderecki had seen in Ravenna, is analogous to a sonata-allegro, with its statement of the main ideas of the work, the development of those ideas, and their return in something like their original guise. But the ideas in this work are not melodic themes, as would usually be the case; the structure of Penderecki's symphony is held together by the multifarious tone colors produced by the large orchestra and its expanded percussion section. Some of the textures produced are busily contrapuntal, while others remain static for extended periods. Many of the sonorities familiar from Penderecki's notorious early works, such as the Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (1960), are present here as well—tone clusters, wild glissandi, microtones, strident chorales, and a wide variety of extended techniques for all the instrumental choirs.
The work's first section, "Arche," opens with a series of seven strikes of the slapstick. Other percussion instruments and pizzicato strings gradually join in as the music gains momentum. A sustained octave A in the horns leads into "Dynamis I," the beginning of the development section, featuring brass fanfares and some faster-paced, scherzo-like music. A central, mysteriously beautiful section in the form of a passacaglia is the largest part of the work. "Dynamis II" repeats in varied form some of the sounds and gestures of "Dynamis I," and another A in the horns leads into the concluding "Arche I"; it ends with a still, spare coda, featuring a throbbing low A flat in the double basses.
"Toccata and Fugue in D minor" redirects here. For the "Dorian" Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 538, see Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 538.
Title page of BWV 565 in Johannes Ringk's handwriting. Bach's autograph does not survive, and this is the only known near-contemporary source.
The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, is a piece of organ music attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach. It is one of the most famous works in the organ repertoire. The attribution of the piece to Bach has been challenged since the 1980s by a number of scholars.
As indicated by the accepted title of the piece, the Toccata and Fugue is in D minor. The Toccata begins with a single-voice flourish in the upper ranges of the keyboard, doubled at the octave. It then spirals toward the bottom, where a diminished seventh chord appears (which actually implies a dominant chord with a minor 9th against a tonic pedal), built one note at a time. This resolves into a D major chord, taken from the parallel major mode.
This is followed by three short passages, each reiterating a short motif, and each doubled at the octave. The section ends with a diminished seventh chord which resolved, through a flourish, into the tonic, D minor. The second section of the Toccata is a number of loosely connected figurations and flourishes; the pedal switches to the dominant key, A minor. This section segues into the third and final section of the Toccata, which consists almost entirely of a passage doubled at the sixth and comprising reiterations of the same three-note figure, similar to doubled passages in the first section. After a brief pedal flourish, the piece ends with a D minor chord.
The subject of the four-voice fugue is made up entirely of sixteenth notes, with an implied pedal point set against a brief melodic subject that first falls, then rises. The second entry starts in the sub-dominant key rather than the dominant key. Although unusual for a Bach fugue, this is a real answer and is appropriate following a subject that progresses from V to I and then to V below I by a leap. A straightforward dominant answer would sound odd in a Baroque piece.
After the final entry of the fugal melody, the composition resolves to a held B major chord. From there, a coda is played as a cadenza much like the Toccata itself, resolving to a series of chords followed by arpeggios that progress to other paired chords, each a little lower than the one preceding, leading to the signature finale that is as recognizable as the Toccata's introduction.
In the Hall of the Mountain King (Norwegian: I Dovregubbens hall) is a piece of orchestral music composed by Edvard Grieg for the sixth scene of act 2 in Henrik Ibsen's 1876 play Peer Gynt.
It was originally part of Opus 23, but was later extracted as the final piece of Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, Op. 46. Although a performance of the full piece runs to slightly less than 3 minutes, its easily recognizable theme has helped it attain iconic status in popular culture, where it has been arranged by many artists.
The piece is played as the title character Peer Gynt, in a dream-like fantasy, enters "the royal hall of the Old Man of the Dovre (the Mountain King)." The scene's introduction continues: "There is a great crowd of troll courtiers, gnomes and goblins. The Old Man sits on his throne, with crown and sceptre, surrounded by his children and relatives. Peer Gynt stands before him. There is a tremendous uproar in the hall." The lines sung are the first lines in the scene.
Grieg himself wrote: "For the Hall of the Mountain King I have written something that so reeks of cowpats, ultra-Norwegianism, and 'to-thyself-be-enough-ness' that I can't bear to hear it, though I hope that the irony will make itself felt." The theme of "to thyself be... enough" – avoiding the commitment implicit in the phrase "To thine own self be true," and just doing enough – is central to Peer Gynt's satire, and the phrase is mentioned by the mountain king in the scene which follows "In the Hall of the Mountain King".
The Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25, was composed by Johannes Brahms between 1856 and 1861. It was Clara Schumann who owned this masterpiece, as she was the pianist for the first performance in 1861 in Hamburg. It was also played in Vienna on November 16, 1862, with Brahms himself at the piano supported by members of the Hellmesberger Quartet. Like most piano quartets, it is scored for piano, violin, viola and cello.
The quartet is in four movements:
Andante con moto
Rondo alla Zingarese: Presto
This first movement, a sonata form movement in G minor and common time, begins immediately with the first theme, a declamatory statement in straight quarter-notes, stated in octaves for the piano alone. This theme is the opening cell that governs the content of the rest of the musical material in the movement. The other instruments soon join in to develop this initial theme and cadence in G minor. There are numerous secondary themes in the exposition, in B-flat major (for all instruments), D minor (beginning with violoncello solo), and two in D major: the first being the D minor theme in the major mode and developed differently as well (heralding a key signature change to D major), and the second being a more exuberant idea for all instruments (marked 'animato'). The exposition ends in D major and is not indicated to be repeated. The development section is notably short, developing only the main opening theme. The recapitulation begins with a key signature change back to G minor and the musical content is identical to the beginning for the introductory theme. The recapitulation moves to A minor for a significant portion, and notably, one of the initial themes returns later in G major. The resolution is short-lived, as it moves back to the minor mode, where it cadences after an imitative development of the first theme in G minor, ending with a desolate G minor chord for all instruments, the highest notes being the third and fifth scale degrees of the tonic triad.
The second movement, marked Intermezzo and Trio, is in C minor and compound triple meter. It is in ternary form and functions like a scherzo, the more traditional second or third movement of a piano quartet. The consistently repeated eighth notes creates an effect of perpetual motion, even agitation, although the melodic themes are quite lyrical. The intermezzo flirts between major and minor and ends in C major. The trio, in A-flat major, is quicker and less agitated than the intermezzo; the trio has two primary themes, the first being in A-flat and the second beginning in E major. The intermezzo is repeated, followed by a brief coda in C major that restates the theme of the trio.
The Andante, a massive slow movement, is a ternary form movement in E-flat major in triple time. The first subject is very lyrical. A second idea, which brings back the repeated eighth notes from the intermezzo, begins the transition to the second main section. The second section is in C major and starts with fortissimo chords in dotted rhythm for the piano solo. The second theme itself is rhythmically energetic and exuberant in character. It is initially stated by the piano and accompanied by light sixteenth note gestures by the strings, although this is later reversed. After a surprising twist, in which the instruments land on a diminished-seventh chord, the first theme returns, first in C minor and then in the home key of E-flat major. A long coda helps to stabilize the often dissonant and unstable harmonies of the movement. Like the previous movements, this movement develops a plethora of themes. The final cadence of this movement, from the minor subdominant to the tonic, is used to conclude many of Brahms's slow movements, such as that from the Piano Quintet. The voicing of the last chord is ominous: the highest note of the strings is the violin's open G string, while the piano plays a tonic chord (again with the third on top) two octaves higher.
This fast rondo (marked 'presto') is in G minor in duple time. The subtitle "Rondo alla zingarese" has given it the nickname "Gypsy Rondo." Like many of Brahms's finales, this uses as its principle theme a very fast, rhythmic, tonal, simple idea (see the finales to his Piano Quintet and Double Concerto), this one covering an irregular number of measures. The formal design resembles: ABACDBCADCBA, although the movement is more nuanced than this because each section is in ABA form and cadenzas occasionally interject between sections. This movement is notable for its difficulty, rhythmic and metrical complexity, and harmonic exploration (for instance, after the final D section, the piano plays a cadenza based on the B section that modulates from G minor to F-sharp minor), and has remained one of the most difficult movements to perform in all of Brahms's chamber music.
Bartók - Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta interval expansion example, mov. I, mm. 1-5 and mov. IV, mm. 204-9,  Play (help·info).
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Sz. 106, BB 114 is one of the best-known compositions by the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. Commissioned by Paul Sacher to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Basel Chamber Orchestra, the score is dated September 7, 1936. The work was premiered in Basel, Switzerland, on January 21, 1937 by the Basel Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sacher, and it was published the same year by Universal Edition.
As its title suggests, the piece is written for string instruments (violins, violas, cellos, double basses, and harp), percussion instruments (xylophone, snare drum, cymbals, tam-tam, bass drum, and timpani) and celesta. The ensemble also includes a piano, which may be classified as either a percussion or string instrument (the celesta player also plays piano during 4-hand passages). Bartók divides the strings into two groups which he directs should be placed antiphonally on opposite sides of the stage, and he makes use of antiphonal effects particularly in the second and fourth movements.
The piece is in four movements, the first and third slow, the second and fourth quick. All movements are written without key signature:
The first movement is a slow fugue. Its time signature changes constantly. It is based around the note A, on which the movement begins and ends. It begins on muted strings, and as more voices enter the texture thickens and the music becomes louder until the climax. Mutes are then removed, and the music becomes gradually quieter over gentle celesta arpeggios. The movement ends with the second phrase of the fugue subject played softly over its inversion. Material from the first movement can be seen as serving as the basis for the later movements, and the fugue subject recurs in different guises at points throughout the piece.
The second movement is quick, with a theme in 2/4 time which is transformed into 3/8 time towards the end. It is marked with loud syncopic piano and percussion accents in a whirling dance, evolving in an extended pizzicato section, with a piano concerto-like conclusion.
The third movement is slow, an example of what is often called Bartók's "Night music". It features timpani glissandi, which was an unusual technique at the time of the work's composition, as well as a prominent part for the xylophone. It is also commonly thought that the rhythm of the xylophone solo that opens the third movement is based on the Fibonacci sequence as this "written-out accelerando/ritardando" uses the rhythm 1:2:3:5:8:5:3:2:1.
The last movement, which begins with notes on the timpani and strummed pizzicato chords on the strings, has the character of a lively folk dance.
The Requiem Mass in D minor (K. 626) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was composed in Vienna in 1791 and left unfinished at the composer's death on December 5. A completion by Franz Xaver Süssmayr was delivered to Count Franz von Walsegg, who had anonymously commissioned the piece for a requiem Mass to commemorate the February 14 anniversary of his wife's death.
It is one of the most enigmatic pieces of music ever composed, mostly because of the myths and controversies surrounding it, especially around how much of the piece was completed by Mozart before his death. The autograph manuscript shows the finished and orchestrated introit in Mozart's hand, as well as detailed drafts of the Kyrie and the sequence Dies Irae as far as the first nine bars of "Lacrimosa", and the offertory. It cannot be shown to what extent Süssmayr may have depended on now lost "scraps of paper" for the remainder; he later claimed the Sanctus and Agnus Dei as his own. Walsegg probably intended to pass the Requiem off as his own composition, as he is known to have done with other works. This plan was frustrated by a public benefit performance for Mozart's widow Constanze. A modern contribution to the mythology is Peter Shaffer's 1979 play Amadeus, in which a mysterious messenger appeared and ordered Mozart to write a requiem mass, giving no explanation for the order. Mozart then came to believe that the piece was meant to be the requiem mass for his own funeral.
"O Fortuna" is a medieval Latin Goliardic poem written early in the 13th century, part of the collection known as the CarminaBurana. It is a complaint about fate and Fortuna, a goddess in Roman mythology and the personification of luck.
In 1935–36, "O Fortuna" was set to music by the German composer Carl Orff as a part of movement "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi" of his cantata Carmina Burana, which it opens and closes. It opens on a slower pace with thumping drums and choir that drops quickly into a whisper building slowly into a steady crescendo of drums and short string and horn notes peaking on one last long powerful note and ending abruptly. A performance takes a little over two and one-half minutes.
Orff's setting of the poem has become immensely popular and has been performed by countless classical music ensembles and popular artists. It can be heard in numerous movies and television commercials and has become a staple in popular culture, setting the mood for dramatic or cataclysmic situations. "O Fortuna" topped a list of the most-played classical music of the past 75 years in the United Kingdom.
O Fortunavelut lunastatu variabilis,semper crescisaut decrescis;vita detestabilisnunc obduratet tunc curatludo mentis aciem,egestatem,potestatemdissolvit ut glaciem.Sors immaniset inanis,rota tu volubilis,status malus,vana salussemper dissolubilis,obumbrataet velatamichi quoque niteris;nunc per ludumdorsum nudumfero tui sceleris.Sors salutiset virtutismichi nunc contraria,est affectuset defectussemper in angaria.Hac in horasine moracorde pulsum tangite;quod per sortemsternit fortem,mecum omnes plangite!
O Fate,like the moonyou are changeable,ever waxingand waning;hateful lifefirst oppressesand then soothesas fancy takes it;povertyand powerit melts them like ice.Fate – monstrousand empty,you whirling wheel,you are malevolent,well-being is vainand always fades to nothing,shadowedand veiledyou plague me too;now through the gameI bring my bare backto your villainy.Fate is against mein healthand virtue,driven onand weighted down,always enslaved.So at this hourwithout delaypluck the vibrating strings;since Fatestrikes down the strong man,everyone weep with me!
The Robert Browning Overture is unlike any other work in the Ives canon. It is a densely dissonant, almost expressionistic work. Rather than employing Ives' characteristic "layered" dissonance, the piece seems to progress in a manner more like works such as "Men and Mountains" or "Sun Treader" by Ives' friend Carl Ruggles.
Apparently, Ives was never completely satisfied with the work. In his biography of Ives, Jan Swafford calls the Robert Browning Overture one of Ives' "orphans." In his Memos, Ives makes the following remarks substantiating Swafford's claim:
[The Robert Browning Overture] is a kind of transition piece, keeping perhaps too much (it seems to me) to the academic, classroom habits of inversion, augmentation, etc. etc., in the development of the first theme and related themes. But the themes themselves, except the second main theme, were trying to catch the Browning surge into the baffling unknowables, not afraid of unknown fields, not sticking to nice main roads, and so not exactly bound up to one key or keys (or any tonality for that matter) all the time. But it seemed (I remember when finishing it) somewhat too carefully made, technically--but looking at it now, most twenty years after, it seems natural and worth copying out [Memos 76].
Ives originally conceived the Robert Browning Overture as a single work in a cycle of overtures called "Men of Literature." Other authors that Ives intended to represent were Matthew Arnold, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Henry Ward Beecher, and John Greenleaf Whittier. However, Ives completed only the Robert Browning Overture.
The Hungarian Dances (German: Ungarische Tänze) by Johannes Brahms (WoO 1), are a set of 21 lively dance tunes based mostly on Hungarian themes, completed in 1869.
They vary from about a minute to four minutes in length. They are among Brahms's most popular works, and were certainly the most profitable for him. Each dance has been arranged for a wide variety of instruments and ensembles. Brahms originally wrote the version for piano four-hands and later arranged the first 10 dances for solo piano.
Only numbers 11, 14 and 16 are entirely original compositions. The most famous Hungarian Dance is No. 5 in F minor (G minor in the orchestral version), but even this dance was based on the csárdás by Béla Kéler titled "Bártfai emlék" which Brahms mistakenly thought was a traditional folksong.
Variations for piano, op. 27, is a twelve-tone piece for piano composed by Anton Webern in 1936. It consists of three movements:
Sehr mäßig ("Very moderate")
Sehr schnell ("Very fast")
Ruhig fließend ("Calm, flowing")
Webern's only published work for solo piano, the Variations are one of his major instrumental works and a seminal example of his late style.
The work's title, Variations, is ambiguous. In a letter dated 18 July, Webern wrote: "The completed part is a variations movement; the whole will be a kind of 'Suite'". Only the third movement was completed at the time, and it is clearly a set of variations. The form of the other two movements conforms to the "Suite" plan: the first movement is a ternary form, ABA, and the second is a binary form. However, to refer to an entire work by the form of its last movement is very unusual, and numerous attempts have been made to explain the title.
Webern scholar Kathryn Bailey outlined three possible views on the structure of the piece. Webern's Variations may be considered any of these:
A three-movement sonata: sonata form – binary scherzo – variations
A three-movement suite: ternary movement – binary movement – variations
A set of variations, in which the first two movements have little connection to the third
One of the earliest explanations was offered by René Leibowitz, who in 1948 described the first movement as a theme and two variations, the second movement as a theme with a single variation, and the third movement as five variations of yet another theme. Willi Reich, a member of Arnold Schoenberg's circle, described the work as a sonatina which begins with a set of variations (first movement) and ends with a sonata form (third movement). Reich claimed his explanation was identical to Webern's and stemmed from the two men's conversations, however, the authenticity of this claim has been questioned.
Night on Bald Mountain (Russian: , Noch' na lïsoy gore) is a composition originally by Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881). Inspired by Russian literary works and legend, Mussorgsky made a witches' sabbath the theme of a 'musical picture' titled St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain (Russian: , Ivanova noch' na lïsoy gore), completed on 23 June 1867 (St. John's Eve). A Night on the Bare Mountain was never performed in any form during Mussorgsky's lifetime. The Rimsky-Korsakov edition premiered in 1886 in Saint Petersburg, and has become a concert favorite. The original tone poem by Mussorgsky was not published until 1968, and although it is seldom heard, it is gradually gaining exposure and popularity.
Many listeners became acquainted with Night on Bald Mountain through the Disney animated film Fantasia (1940), which used an arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov's edition made by Leopold Stokowski.
Note: The Russian word "" (lïsaya) literally means "bald", but is used in this case figuratively for a mountain supposedly barren of trees. In the United Kingdom the title is rendered Night on the Bare Mountain.
Symphonie fantastique: Épisode de la vie d'un Artiste ... en cinq parties (Fantastic Symphony: An Episode in the Life of an Artist, in Five Parts) Op. 14 is a program symphony written by the French composer Hector Berlioz in 1830. It is an important representative piece of the early Romantic period, and is popular with concert audiences worldwide. The first performance was at the Paris Conservatoire in December 1830. The work was repeatedly revived between 1831 and 1845 and subsequently became a favourite in Paris.
The symphony is a piece of program music that tells the story of "an artist gifted with a lively imagination" who has "poisoned himself with opium" in the "depths of despair" because of "hopeless love." Berlioz provided his own program notes for each movement of the work (see below). He prefaces his notes with the following instructions:
The composer’s intention has been to develop various episodes in the life of an artist, in so far as they lend themselves to musical treatment. As the work cannot rely on the assistance of speech, the plan of the instrumental drama needs to be set out in advance. The following programme must therefore be considered as the spoken text of an opera, which serves to introduce musical movements and to motivate their character and expression.
There are five movements, instead of the four movements that were conventional for symphonies at the time:
Rêveries – Passions (Daydreams – Passions)
Un bal (A ball)
Scène aux champs (Scene in the Country)
Marche au supplice (March to the Scaffold)
Songe d'une nuit de sabbat (Dream of a Witches' Sabbath)
Medea's Dance of Vengeance is a composition (Opus 23a) by the American composer Samuel Barber derived from his earlier ballet suite Medea. Barber first created a seven movement concert suite from this ballet (Medea, Op.23), and five years later reduced this concert suite down to a single-movement concert piece using what he felt to be the strongest portions of the work. He originally titled it Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, but shortly before his death, he changed the title to simply Medea's Dance of Vengeance
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