Un Andante Romantique Opus 13 No. 3 in G♭ Major

1 part6 pages04:305 days ago85 views
Piano
Un Andante Romantique Opus 13 No. 3 in G♭ Major is an Étude composed by Charles-Valentin Alkan in 1837.

In his book “Charles Valentin Alkan: His Life and His Music”, William Alexander Eddie has written:
“Less interesting [compared to the two other compositions] is the final étude of op 13 which is much more mundane musically, and merely functions as a thumb and second finger trill étude. Its opening melody is curiously similar to Beethoven's setting of 'Ode to Joy' in the Symphony No. 9. This étude has an over long dominant pedal but some internal harmonic shifts and applied sixths harmonies give the piece a degree of freshness and the pastoral atmosphere of op 13/3 is reflected in later pieces by Liszt such as the 'Eglogue'.”

Symphony No. 8, 1st Movement

12 parts38 pages08:3520 days ago169 views
Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, French Horn, Trumpet, Timpani, Strings(5)
The Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Opus 93 is a symphony in four movements composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1812. Beethoven fondly referred to it as “my little Symphony in F”, distinguishing it from his Sixth Symphony, a longer work also in F.

The Eighth Symphony is generally light-hearted, though not lightweight, and in many places cheerfully loud, with many accented notes. Various passages in the symphony are heard by some listeners to be musical jokes. As with various other Beethoven works such as the Opus 27 piano sonatas, the symphony deviates from Classical tradition in making the last movement the weightiest of the four.

The work was begun in the summer of 1812, immediately after the completion of the Seventh Symphony. At the time Beethoven was 41 years old. As Antony Hopkins has noted, the cheerful mood of the work betrays nothing of the grossly unpleasant events that were taking place in Beethoven's life at the time, which involved his interference in his brother Johann's love life. The work took Beethoven only four months to complete, and is, unlike many of his works, without dedication.

The premiere took place on 27 February 1814, at a concert in the Redoutensaal, Vienna, at which the Seventh Symphony (which had been premiered two months earlier) was also played. Beethoven was growing increasingly deaf at the time, but nevertheless led the premiere. Reportedly, “the orchestra largely ignored his ungainly gestures and followed the principal violinist instead.”

When asked by his pupil Carl Czerny why the Eighth was less popular than the Seventh, Beethoven is said to have replied, “because the Eighth is so much better.” A critic wrote that “the applause it received was not accompanied by that enthusiasm which distinguishes a work which gives universal delight; in short—as the Italians say—it did not create a furor.” Beethoven was angered at this reception. George Bernard Shaw, in his capacity as a music critic, agreed with Beethoven's assessment of the work, writing that indeed, “In all subtler respects the Eighth is better [than the Seventh]”. But other critics have been divided in their judgement.

The first movement is in the home key of F Major and is in fast 3/4 time. As with most of Beethoven's first movements of this period, it is written in sonata form, including a fairly substantial coda. As Antony Hopkins has noted, the movement is slightly unusual among Beethoven's works in that it reaches its dramatic climax not during the development section, but at the onset of the recapitulation. To this end, the concluding bars of the development form a huge crescendo, and the return of the opening bars is marked fff (fortississimo, i.e. extremely loud), which rarely appears in Beethoven's works, but has precedents in the 6th and 7th Symphonies. This extravagance is balanced, however, by the quiet closing bars of the movement.

The opening theme is in three sections of four bars each, with the pattern forte–piano–forte. At the onset of the recapitulation, the theme is made more emphatic by omitting the middle four bars.

Un Andante Romantique Opus 13 No. 2 in C♯ Major

1 part9 pages05:2828 days ago320 views
Piano
Un Andante Romantique Opus 13 No. 2 in C♯ Major is an Étude composed by Charles-Valentin Alkan in 1837. The composition was dedicated to Chrétien Urhan. Opus 13 No. 2 is in fact a piano solo of his Concerto da Camera Opus 10 No. 3 in C♯ Major, a chamber concert. However, the orchestral parts of Opus 10 No. 3 have been lost, but were reconstructed by Hugh Mcdonald in 1995.

In 2015 an introduction to this composition, most likely composed in 1843, was published on IMSLP. The introduction was dedicated to Eduard de Hartog.

In his book “Charles Valentin Alkan: His Life and His Music”, William Alexander Eddie has written that:
“Many [...] texturally interesting passages are apparent in the second étude of op 13 which first existed as a version with strings con sordini. The 1833 review described this étude in glowing terms. The arrangement for solo piano is no less effective with the implied melody being sustained by pedal. For 1833, this is a novel textural effect. Moreover, Alkan's evanescent harmonies with applied suspensions, chromatic shifts and a delicate transference of the implied melody into stereotypical arpeggios are all remarkably innovative given the early date of composition. The middle section of op 13/2 is notable for a continuation and expansion of the arpeggios, this time over a richly sonorous bass melody in submediant key, before the return to a densely chordal version of the opening section and a finely executed decay of the arpeggio figuration towards an altered plagal cadence which is the focal point of the whole étude. In summary, op 13/2 is certainly one of the finest of the early period works of Alkan and deserves a place in any pianist's repertoire. Perhaps this fusion of string compositional direction and shimmering textures gave rise to Blanchard's designation of the op 13/2 Étude as 'both austere and pleasing'.”

Symphony No. 7, 4th Movement

12 parts55 pages08:27a month ago310 views
Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, French Horn, Trumpet, Timpani, Strings(5)
The Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Opus 92, is a symphony in four movements composed by Ludwig van Beethoven between 1811 and 1812, while improving his health in the Bohemian spa town of Teplice. The work is dedicated to Count Moritz von Fries.

At its premiere, Beethoven was noted as remarking that it was one of his best works. The second movement, Allegretto, was the most popular movement and had to be encored. The instant popularity of the Allegretto resulted in its frequent performance separate from the complete symphony.

The work was premiered with Beethoven himself conducting in Vienna on 8 December 1813 at a charity concert for soldiers wounded in the Battle of Hanau. In Beethoven's address to the participants, the motives are openly named: “We are moved by nothing but pure patriotism and the joyful sacrifice of our powers for those who have sacrificed so much for us.”

The piece was very well received, such that the audience demanded the Allegretto movement be encored immediately. Spohr made particular mention of Beethoven's antics on the rostrum (“as a sforzando occurred, he tore his arms with a great vehemence asunder ... at the entrance of a forte he jumped in the air”), and “the friends of Beethoven made arrangements for a repetition of the concert" by which "Beethoven was extricated from his pecuniary difficulties.”

The last movement is in sonata form. According to music historian Glenn Stanley, Beethoven “exploited the possibility that a string section can realize both angularity and rhythmic contrast if used as an obbligato-like background”, particularly in the coda, which contains an example, rare in Beethoven's music, of the dynamic marking fff.

In his book Beethoven and his Nine Symphonies, Sir George Grove wrote, “The force that reigns throughout this movement is literally prodigious, and reminds one of Carlyle's hero Ram Dass, who has 'fire enough in his belly to burn up the entire world.'” Donald Tovey, writing in his Essays in Musical Analysis, commented on this movement's “Bacchic fury” and many other writers have commented on its whirling dance-energy: the main theme is a precise duple time variant of the instrumental ritornello in Beethoven's own arrangement of the Irish folk-song “Save me from the grave and wise”, No. 8 of his Twelve Irish Folk Songs, WoO 154.

Symphony No. 7, 3rd Movement

12 parts38 pages09:272 months ago280 views
Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, French Horn, Trumpet, Timpani, Strings(5)
The Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Opus 92, is a symphony in four movements composed by Ludwig van Beethoven between 1811 and 1812, while improving his health in the Bohemian spa town of Teplice. The work is dedicated to Count Moritz von Fries.

At its premiere, Beethoven was noted as remarking that it was one of his best works. The second movement, Allegretto, was the most popular movement and had to be encored. The instant popularity of the Allegretto resulted in its frequent performance separate from the complete symphony.

The work was premiered with Beethoven himself conducting in Vienna on 8 December 1813 at a charity concert for soldiers wounded in the Battle of Hanau. In Beethoven's address to the participants, the motives are openly named: “We are moved by nothing but pure patriotism and the joyful sacrifice of our powers for those who have sacrificed so much for us.”

The piece was very well received, such that the audience demanded the Allegretto movement be encored immediately. Spohr made particular mention of Beethoven's antics on the rostrum (“as a sforzando occurred, he tore his arms with a great vehemence asunder ... at the entrance of a forte he jumped in the air”), and “the friends of Beethoven made arrangements for a repetition of the concert" by which "Beethoven was extricated from his pecuniary difficulties.”

The third movement is a scherzo in F Major and trio in D Major. Here, the trio (based on an Austrian pilgrims' hymn) is played twice rather than once. This expansion of the usual A–B–A structure of ternary form into A–B–A–B–A was quite common in other works of Beethoven of this period, such as his Fourth Symphony, Pastoral Symphony, and String Quartet Opus 59 No. 2.

March Opus 33ter No. 1 in A Minor

1 part4 pages01:322 months ago392 views
Piano
The Love for Three Oranges is a satirical opera by Sergei Prokofiev. Its French libretto was based on the Italian play L'Amore delle tre Melarance by Carlo Gozzi. The opera premiered at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, on 30 December 1921.

Prokofiev arranged the march and scherzo from the opera for piano solo in his Opus 33ter. Opus 33bis is a compiled arrangement of the opera, containing six movements.

Une Improvisation Opus 12b No. 1 in E♭ Major

1 part5 pages01:392 months ago446 views
Piano
Une Improvisation Opus 12b No. 1 in E♭ Major comes from a set of three improvisations for piano composed by Charles-Valentin Alkan in 1833 and was dedicated to Madame Cottin de Guibeville.

Symphony No. 7, 1st Movement

12 parts61 pages13:573 months ago317 views
Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, French Horn, Trumpet, Timpani, Strings(5)
The Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Opus 92, is a symphony in four movements composed by Ludwig van Beethoven between 1811 and 1812, while improving his health in the Bohemian spa town of Teplice. The work is dedicated to Count Moritz von Fries.

At its premiere, Beethoven was noted as remarking that it was one of his best works. The second movement, Allegretto, was the most popular movement and had to be encored. The instant popularity of the Allegretto resulted in its frequent performance separate from the complete symphony.

The work was premiered with Beethoven himself conducting in Vienna on 8 December 1813 at a charity concert for soldiers wounded in the Battle of Hanau. In Beethoven's address to the participants, the motives are openly named: “We are moved by nothing but pure patriotism and the joyful sacrifice of our powers for those who have sacrificed so much for us.”

The piece was very well received, such that the audience demanded the Allegretto movement be encored immediately. Spohr made particular mention of Beethoven's antics on the rostrum (“as a sforzando occurred, he tore his arms with a great vehemence asunder ... at the entrance of a forte he jumped in the air”), and “the friends of Beethoven made arrangements for a repetition of the concert" by which "Beethoven was extricated from his pecuniary difficulties.”

The first movement starts with a long, expanded introduction marked Poco sostenuto that is noted for its long ascending scales and a cascading series of applied dominants that facilitates modulations to C Major and F Major. From the last episode in F Major, the movement transitions to Vivace through a series of no fewer than sixty-one repetitions of the note E.

The Vivace is in sonata form, and is dominated by lively dance-like rhythms, dotted rhythms, sudden dynamic changes, and abrupt modulations. The development section opens in C Major and contains extensive episodes in F Major. The movement finishes with a long coda, which starts similarly as the development section. The coda contains a famous twenty-bar passage consisting of a two-bar motif repeated ten times to the background a grinding four octave deep pedal point of an E.

Gnossienne No. 4

1 part2 pages03:423 months ago952 views
Piano
The Gnossiennes are several piano compositions written by the French composer Erik Satie in the late 19th century. The works are for the most part in free time (lacking time signatures or bar divisions) and highly experimental with form, rhythm and chordal structure. The form as well as the term was invented by Satie.

Satie's coining of the word gnossienne was one of the rare occasions when a composer used a new term to indicate a new “type” of composition. Satie used many novel names for his compositions (vexations, croquis et agaceries and so on). Ogive, for example, had been the name of an architectural element until Satie used it as the name for a composition, the Ogives. Gnossienne, however, was a word that did not exist before Satie used it as a title for a composition. The word appears to derive from gnosis. Satie was involved in gnostic sects and movements at the time that he began to compose the Gnossiennes. However, some published versions claim that the word derives from Cretan “knossos” or “gnossus”; this interpretation supports the theory linking the Gnossiennes to the myth of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur. Several archeological sites relating to that theme were famously excavated around the time that Satie composed the Gnossiennes.

It is possible that Satie may have drawn inspiration for the title of these compositions from a passage in John Dryden's 1697 translation of the Aeneid, in which it is thought the word first appeared: “Let us the land which Heav'n appoints, explore;/Appease the winds, and seek the Gnossian shore.”

The Gnossiennes were composed by Satie in the decade following the composition of the Sarabandes (1887) and the Trois Gymnopédies (1888). Like these Sarabandes and Gymnopédies, the Gnossiennes are often considered dances. It is not certain that this qualification comes from Satie himself – the sarabande and the Gymnopaedia were at least historically known as dances.

The musical vocabulary of the Gnossiennes is a continuation of that of the Gymnopédies (a development that had started with the 1886 Ogives and the Sarabandes) later leading to more harmonic experimentation in compositions like the Danses gothiques (1893). These series of compositions are all at the core of Satie's characteristic late 19th century style, and in this sense differ from his early salon compositions (like the 1885 “Waltz” compositions published in 1887), his turn-of-the-century cabaret songs (Je te veux), and his post-Schola Cantorum piano solo compositions, starting with the Préludes flasques in 1912.

The Gnossiennes Nos. 4–6 were published only in 1968, long after Satie's death. None of these appear to have been numbered, nor even titled as “Gnossienne” by Satie himself. The sequence of these three Gnossiennes in the 1968 publication by Robert Caby does not correspond with the chronological order of composition. It is extremely unlikely that Satie would have seen these compositions as three members of a single set.

The fourth Gnossienne was composed in 1891. It is composed tonally in D minor even though its key signature is empty, the piece features a bass line centred on its minor key, sounding D, A, D, F, A, D, F, D, A, F, D, A, D. The bass part then transposes into a C minor chord I ostinato, following the pattern C, G, C, E♭, G, C, E♭, C, G, E♭, C, G, C. Section B, usually considered a very inspired section, uses semiquavers to contrast the minor melody of Section A.

Étude Caractéristique Opus 2 No. 4 in B♭ Major

1 part3 pages01:283 months ago406 views
Piano
Étude Caractéristique Opus 2 No. 4 in B♭ Major (called “Repos d'amour”) is the fourth Étude from the set “Douze Études Caractéristiques de Concert pour le Piano” by Adolf von Henselt. It was published in 1838, and was dedicated to King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

For this composition, the publisher G. Schirmer has also written that it is:
“Essentially a study for beautiful tone-production, legato playing and expression.”

Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral” 5th Movement

12 parts37 pages08:573 months ago377 views
Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, French Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Strings(5)
The Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Opus 68, also known as the Pastoral Symphony (German Pastoral-Sinfonie), is a symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, and completed in 1808. One of Beethoven's few works containing explicitly programmatic content, the symphony was first performed in the Theater an der Wien on 22 December 1808 in a four hour concert.

Beethoven was a lover of nature who spent a great deal of his time on walks in the country. He frequently left Vienna to work in rural locations. The first sketches of the Pastoral Symphony appeared in 1802. It was composed simultaneously with Beethoven's more famous—and more fiery—Fifth Symphony. Both symphonies were premiered in a long and under-rehearsed concert in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna on 22 December 1808. The composer said that the Sixth Symphony is “more the expression of feeling than painting”, a point underlined by the title of the first movement.

The symphony is scored for piccolo (fourth movement only), 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B♭, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in F and B♭, 2 trumpets in C and E♭ (third, fourth, and fifth movements only), 2 trombones (alto and tenor, fourth and fifth movements only), timpani (fourth movement only), and strings.

The finale, which is in F Major, is in 6/8 time. The movement is in sonata rondo form, meaning that the main theme appears in the tonic key at the beginning of the development as well as the exposition and the recapitulation. Like many classical finales, this movement emphasizes a symmetrical eight-bar theme, in this case representing the shepherds' song of thanksgiving.

The coda starts quietly and gradually builds to an ecstatic culmination for the full orchestra (minus “storm instruments”) with the first violins playing very rapid triplet tremolo on a high F. There follows a fervent passage suggestive of prayer, marked by Beethoven pianissimo, sotto voce; most conductors slow the tempo for this passage. After a brief period of afterglow, the work ends with two emphatic F-Major chords.

Gymnopédie No. 3

1 part1 page03:454 months ago1,246 views
Piano
The Gymnopédies, published in Paris starting in 1888, are three piano compositions written by French composer and pianist Erik Satie.

The Gymnopédies are the first compositions with which Erik Satie tried to cut himself loose from the conventional 19th century “salon music” environment of his father and stepmother. In September 1887, Satie composed three sarabandes (Trois Sarabandes), taking a quote from J. P. Contamine de Latour's La Perdition by way of introduction. By this time, Satie knew Contamine personally.

Satie apparently used the word “gymnopédiste”, before having written a note of his later famous gymnopédies. The anecdote of Satie introducing himself as a “gymnopaedist” in December 1887 runs as follows: the first time Satie visited the Chat Noir cabaret, he was introduced to its director, Rodolphe Salis, famous for serving sharp comments. Being coerced to mention his profession, Satie, lacking any recognisable professional occupation, presented himself as a “gymnopaedist”, supposedly in an attempt to outwit the director. The composition of the three Gymnopédies started only two months later, and was completed in April 1888.

Satie claimed his Gymnopédies were inspired by reading Gustave Flaubert's novel Salammbô. Also Puvis de Chavannes' symbolist paintings may have been an inspiration for the atmosphere Satie wanted to evoke with his Gymnopédies.

Later the same year the third Gymnopédie was published. There was, however, no publication of the second Gymnopédie until 7 years later, with several announcements of an impending publication of this gymnopédie being made in the Chat Noir and Auberge du Clou periodicals.

The melody of the piece uses deliberate, but mild, dissonances against the harmony, producing a piquant, melancholy effect that matches the performance instructions, which is to play the piece “gravely” (grave).

Air de Ballet Opus 24 No. 2 in D Minor

1 part8 pages04:304 months ago572 views
Piano
Air de Ballet Opus 24 No. 2 in D Minor is the second of two pieces in the set called “Gigue et Air de Ballet”. It was publicated in 1844 and dedicated to his brother Napoléon Alkan.

In his book “Charles Valentin Alkan: His Life and His Music”, William Alexander Eddie states that: The craggy uncompromising style of the Gigue contrasts sharply with its companion piece, the Air de Ballet which is less inspired. Here the model is the opéra ballet of Rameau, thus illustrating Alkan's subtitle to this piece “dans le style ancien”. This “ancient style” in Alkan's Opus 24 is exemplified by square harmonic modular phrase structure, a quasi chanson rhythm and a persistent use of the Dorian mode with its characteristic flattened seventh and an omission of the third of chord at cadences thus blurring the major/minor tonality. All these factors combine with Alkan's characteristic use of the five bar phrase, his liking for tonic-centred melodies and a romantic reinforcing the lower bass octaves. Despite the length of the piece (207 bars) which contains much simples repetition of ideas, Opus 24 has considerable charm from the direct opening D Minor rondeau theme in pungent octaves designated “très carrément” to the delicacy of the first couplet with its soprano tenor delicate texture. A delightful harmonic surprise is the sudden move to B Minor via a D Major and an inner use of melodic chromaticism. This couplet theme is picked out as part of the triplet melodic variant. After a reprise of the rondeau theme, Alkan announces the second couplet in the dominant key which in its heavy use of tonic/dominant harmony, self-contained sequences and incessant use of right hand octaves is more reminiscent of his early style. His dense use of chordal and heavy left hand octave textures indicates a move towards a more uncompromising massed style.

Étude Caractéristique Opus 2 No. 3 in B Minor

1 part7 pages03:294 months ago613 views
Piano
Étude Caractéristique Opus 2 No. 3 in B Minor (called “Exauce mes vœux!”) is the third Étude from the set “Douze Études Caractéristiques de Concert pour le Piano” by Adolf von Henselt. It was published in 1838, and was dedicated to King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

For this composition, the publisher G. Schirmer has also written that:
“An excellent Étude for strenghtening the fifth finger and increasing the stretch of the right hand, besides affording opprotunity for a singing tone production.”

Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral” 4th Movement

14 parts22 pages03:535 months ago382 views
Piccolo, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, French Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Timpani, Strings(5)
The Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Opus 68, also known as the Pastoral Symphony (German Pastoral-Sinfonie), is a symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, and completed in 1808. One of Beethoven's few works containing explicitly programmatic content, the symphony was first performed in the Theater an der Wien on 22 December 1808 in a four hour concert.

Beethoven was a lover of nature who spent a great deal of his time on walks in the country. He frequently left Vienna to work in rural locations. The first sketches of the Pastoral Symphony appeared in 1802. It was composed simultaneously with Beethoven's more famous—and more fiery—Fifth Symphony. Both symphonies were premiered in a long and under-rehearsed concert in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna on 22 December 1808. The composer said that the Sixth Symphony is “more the expression of feeling than painting”, a point underlined by the title of the first movement.

The symphony is scored for piccolo (fourth movement only), 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B♭, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in F and B♭, 2 trumpets in C and E♭ (third, fourth, and fifth movements only), 2 trombones (alto and tenor, fourth and fifth movements only), timpani (fourth movement only), and strings.

The fourth movement, in F Minor, depicts a violent thunderstorm with painstaking realism, building from just a few drops of rain to a great climax with thunder, lightning, high winds, and sheets of rain. The storm eventually passes, with an occasional peal of thunder still heard in the distance. There is a seamless transition into the final movement. This movement parallels Mozart's procedure in his String Quintet in G Minor K. 516 of 1787, which likewise prefaces a serene final movement with a long, emotionally stormy introduction.

Étude Caractéristique Opus 2 No. 2 in D♭ Major

1 part7 pages02:555 months ago591 views
Piano
Étude Caractéristique Opus 2 No. 2 in D♭ Major (called “Pensez un peu à moi, qui pense toujours à vous!”) is the second Étude from the set “Douze Études Caractéristiques de Concert pour le Piano” by Adolf von Henselt. It was published in 1838, and was dedicated to King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

For this composition, the publisher G. Schirmer has also written that:
“In order to hold the eighth and quarter notes without straining the hand or wrist, swing these easily back and forth. Very small hands need only mark well the eighth and quarter notes; striving, however, to connect the notes of the melody in as legato a manner as possible. Let the right thumb always play softly.”

Esquisse Opus 63 No. 49 in C Major

1 part2 pages04:195 months ago577 views
Piano
Esquisses (Sketches), Opus 63 is a set of 49 short piano pieces by French composer Charles-Valentin Alkan and published in 1861. The pieces are divided into four books; the first pair of books and the last pair each comprise between them pieces in each of all the major and minor keys. Book 4 ends with an extra, unnumbered, piece, “Laus Deo”, in C Major.

Unlike many other of Alkan's pieces, such as the Opus 33 Grand Sonate and the Opus 39 set of etudes in all the minor keys, these 49 pieces do not focus mainly on virtuosity and transcendentalism and instead contain more of Alkan's sentimental and evocative writing. Alkan's innovation is also vividly present in the pieces. The 45th piece, “Les Diablotins”, features wrenched cluster chords and the 48th piece, “En Songe”, is a dreamy and quiet piece all except for the very final chord, which is a sudden F Major chord with the dynamic ff. The 39th piece, “Héraclite et Démocrite”, features two sharply contrasting themes for the respective philosophers, and at some passages Alkan overlaps the themes to create a solemn and sad theme in the left hand and a bouncy and joyous theme in the right.

Esquisse No. 49 is in C Major and is called “Laus Deo”.

Scherzo No. 1 Opus 20 in B Minor

1 part17 pages08:535 months ago1,208 views
Piano
The Scherzo No. 1 in B Minor, Opus 20, is a composition for solo piano written by Frédéric Chopin between 1831 and 1832 and dedicated to Thomas Albrecht. The piece begins with the tempo marking Presto con fuoco. The piece is dark, dramatic, and lively. It is complex and considered to be one of Chopin's more difficult works.

This first Scherzo takes A-B-A-Coda form and begins with two chords in fortissimo. At tremendous speed, a series of dramatic outbursts in the B Minor tonic follows. Near the center of the piece, the music leads into a slower section in B Major; finally one hears a tangible melody in the middle register, surrounded by accompaniment in both the left and upper right hands. Chopin quotes here from an old Polish Christmas song (Lulajże Jezuniu); the tempo in this section is marked Molto più lento. The B Major area dissolves as the harmony mysteriously changes character via secondary dominant. The two chords from the beginning reappear, superimposed over vestiges of the middle section. Then the beginning presto repeats itself in the familiar minor tonic.

The lead-in to the dramatic, virtuosic coda is similar to the approach toward the Molto più lento, but slightly different (as it is with Chopin's Second and Third Scherzi). This final section incorporates dizzying arpeggiated flights up and down almost the entire keyboard, suspended by a climactic series of nine ten-note chords (E♯ diminished seventh (with diminished third), augmented sixth chord in root position, secondary leading-tone chord of tonic B). After the resolution and a rapid chromatic ascent over four octaves in both hands, the piece comes to a triumphant conclusion via a bold minor plagal cadence.

In his rendition of the Scherzo No. 1, Vladimir Horowitz famously duplicated the chromatic scale near the ending into interlocking octaves, a technique he often used as his signature on other pieces. The interlocking octaves were meant to be played at the same speed as the original chromatic scale. Franz Liszt was reputedly the first to play it this way.

This piece was written in 1831, during the November Uprising against the Russian Empire. A friend of Chopin's, Thomas Albrecht, to whom it was dedicated, convinced him to stay in Vienna, away from his family in Poland, to build his musical career. During this time he only played one concert, where he performed his concerto in E Minor. Because of the struggle and the war, his compositions changed from pieces of a brilliant style to works in a new, darker tonality. Chopin composed this piece and several of the Opus 10 etudes around the same time.

Scherzo is “joke” in Italian, and Robert Schumann commented on the work's apparent disregard for its title: “How is 'gravity' to clothe itself if 'jest' goes about in dark veils?” It is dark, suspenseful, and full of chaos – the first clear melody is in the slow B Major middle section, but returns to a chaotic murmur soon after. It is hypothesized that this portrayed Chopin's feelings toward the war, or told a story about rebellion in his homeland. This may reflect Brahms' sentiment with his own ironic scherzos.