Posted in Listening for Part 5: The Classical Era

Sonatas

This is a list of sonatas I’ve listened to. Before I start, I will mention that I have analysed most of Mozart’s and Beethoven’s sonatas a few years ago when I studied musical form in an extensive way. I will photograph my notes for the blog and add them at a later time. For now, I have decided to include sonatas I haven’t listened to and previously encountered.

Haydn – Sonatas No. 50 and 52

Although I have studied classicism, as I noted above, Mozart and Beethoven were the main course due to how syllabus is structured. As such, I have actually never listened to Haydn’s music other than just in passing, which is a shame since it was his model that the two have followed. I was really surprised to see his output in the genre, which is around 60 in number. Reading about them, I found that they range from being ‘popularist’ to ‘experimental’. While I plan to listen to more examples, for now I have chosen the famous No. 50 in C major and 52 in E flat major, which were the only two not written for his students, but for the virtuoso pianist Therese Jansen during his second visit to London.

The first movement in No. 50 is the mono-thematic sonata form, which I have mentioned regarding the Emperor quartet in the arrangement exercise. Having studied the multi-thematic sonata as the ordinary form, I find the mono-thematic type that Haydn preferred as a real refreshment and would like to spend more time analyzing these examples and even composed my own in the future.

On the other hand, although No. 52 is also mono-thematic, what really surprised me was its use of French Overture as the primary subject with dotted notes and march-like momentum. Similarly, the second subject is based on the topical connotation of ‘music box’ register, which I read signified the meaning of distance. This relates to the point I made about Haydn’s use of musical topoi established by previous traditions and how it is important to consider them when analyzing his works, which I believe to be more than pure absolute, abstract music. I hope to research this more in the future.

What is also important to consider is that these two sonatas were written for a different instrument – the English pianos, which were capable of many things that the pianos in Vienna couldn’t achieve at the time. In this sense, the practical possibilities of the instrument allowed Haydn to experiment with different sonorities and more distant keys, exploiting the available timbral and dynamic options. As such, I believe these two sonatas are a good example of concreteness of Haydn’s compositions, which both draw on, expand and defy the established tradition – all in the name of practicality.

Posted in Project 3: Mozart and Development Sections

Exercise 5.6

This exercise is about highlighting certain features in Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C major. Here is my marked score:

Overall, this development section is very short – only thirteen bars in length (bars 29-41) The material is based on the short G-major arpeggiated codetta that closed the exposition (bars 26-27), this time commencing in g minor. Creating a polyphonic texture, Mozart intertwined the ascending and descending scale passages that were heard in the transition (bars 5-13), with the hands changing the function (annotated with orange arrows). Almost the whole development is sequential, both on a larger level – bars 29-32 being transposed a fourth lower in bars 33-36, and the smaller level – the ascending and descending scale passages going first a major second higher (bars 31-32) and appearing in different intervals later. The whole section modulates from g minor – d minor – a minor – F major, ending on the cadence IVb to V. Interestingly, the recapitulation of the first subject area is actually a false recapitulation in the subdominant – a famous example at that.

In short, I have already analysed this sonata a few years ago when I studied musical form. It was still nice to go back to it and remind myself of certain features.

Posted in Project 2: String Quartets, Uncategorized

Exercise 5.5

This exercise is about making a piano arrangement of the first 30 bars of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 18 No. 1. The brief specified to include some basic background information regarding the piece, which I will commence this post with.

Beethoven’s Op. 18 is consisted of six string quartets, commissioned for Prince Joseph Lobkowitz and published in 1801. In composing the quartets, Beethoven drew from the legacy of Haydn and Mozart, even copying Haydn’s Op. 20 and Mozart’s 1785 quartets, in order to understand how to write for the medium (11). I found this especially interesting – although he had studied violin in his apprentice years and had played viola in the Bonn orchestra, Beethoven was primarily a pianist who improvised and composed at the keyboard (10), and as such he had to study the genre. Along these lines, it is not surprising that he had heavily revised quartet No. 1, writing to his friend Karl Amenda: “I have greatly changed it, having just learned how to write quartets properly.” In this sense, the quartet is an important evidence of Beethoven’s growth as a musician and composer, showing his mastery over the quartet texture he had recently started exploring.

The first movement, Allegro con brio is in F major in 3/4 follows, opening with a two-bar motif that is boldy stated in unison. The motif permeates the whole movement, overlaid into Beethoven’s rather complex contrapuntal writing. The motif also introduces the organization of two-bar segments in terms of the metrical beat, with the first being strong and the second weak.

My arrangement of the first 30 bars for piano is below:

In my opinion, the first half of this segment was quite easy to arrange. I didn’t have to alter anything in terms of pitches. The articulation also remained mostly the same, except for two instances of dynamic reconsideration at bar 14 and 16 in which I could only retain diminuendo, but not the initial crescendo due to the differing nature of the instruments. While the violin could easily achieve the rising and falling dynamics of a long note in a single sustained bow by altering pressure, this is impossible on the piano due to the percussive nature of keys.

Continue reading “Exercise 5.5”
Posted in Project 1: Sonata Form

Exercise 5.3

The task of exercise 5.3 is to reflect on the previous two exercises – 5.1 and 5.2, considering the questions outlined in the brief. The aim is to write 250 words.

  • What are your thoughts on the investigation of Haydn’s Emperor that you have carried out?

Generally, I am quite used to the analytical approach to musical form, having applied identical methods to the one used in this project in my previous studies. Looking at different elements such as the tonal plan, texture and the character of the themes helps distinguish specific structural components and allows the musician to dissect the work and explore in detail how the material has been organized. Personally, I always learn a lot by delving deep into a composer’s work, which is what this type of investigation enables.

  • What kind of information does it tell?

I think beside the more general information such as the harmony, texture and other elements I’ve mentioned above, the analytical method of musical form also reveals how the composers themselves interact with the established conventions of style and genre of their own time. In the case of Haydn’s Emperor, the investigation imparts both the more standard qualities of the sonata form, but also the moments when there are certain innovations and deviations from the usual practice.

  • What does it leave out?

I believe that in the case of Haydn’t Emperor, the pure analytical approach left out some historical considerations. For example, if investigated only from the formal aspect as a piece of absolute music, it would be easy to miss out on the pastoral and other topoi being evoked in certain parts of the movement (see exercise 5.2). Along these lines, a completely objective stance that only relies on the notation in an isolated way could overlook Haydn’s reliance on the specific topics created by the previous generations in order to musically elicit specific landscapes and sentiments.

  • Is it a useful thing to do?

I would definitely answer yes to this question. However, I don’t believe the pure analysis should be used in an isolated way, but should be combined with other approaches when considering a piece of music. While it is immensely important as a method, particularly for musicians to dissect specific details of a composition, I would argue that the formal analysis alone could leave out some functional and historical aspects, just like in this example. As such, I would suggest that this type of investigation should be supplemented with a broader examination of different cultural, social and ideological circumstances that surrounded the creation of not only a musical work, but also impacted the wider formation of one’s musical vocabulary and treatment of form.

Posted in Project 1: Sonata Form

Exercise 5.2

This short exercise is about listening to the first 30 bars of the first movement of Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 76 No. 3 in order to describe different qualities of the themes and passages, writing about 100 words on the topic. However, I have slightly extended this post to include the full movement, since I believe there are some interesting moments going on in the development and recapitulation.

In terms of the exposition, in the primary subject area, I was expecting to see more standard forms such as a straightforward sentence or period. Instead, I was surprised to see how it is structured motivically, with the first and second theme almost being in a reciprocal, call-and-response kind of relationship in the first two bars, one being in forte and other silently answering in piano. The themes are also similar, and seem to stem from the same basic rhythmic and melodic idea. In bar 5, when the dotted theme appears, it is intertwined on top of the viola and cello playing the motif of the first theme. This weaving creates very stimulating textures that continually provoke interest. Overall, there seems to be a nice balance between the stasis provided by the pauses in the first four bars and the gradation achieved at the end of the first subject area, where the texture becomes very dense, culminating with the repetition of the high Cs in the violin.

The transition reuses the material of the first theme, but also introduces novel moments with trills and new rhythmic figures. At the moment of the arpeggiated dominant chord for the new key of G major in bar 22, there is another interesting call-and-response kind of moment, as the p melody suddenly reaches the fiery subordinate subject area. The melody of the theme is rather similar of the second theme from the primary subject area. It is important to note that Haydn was fond of mono-thematic sonatas, and the influence can be noticed indeed, In this rendition though, the texture is a lot more saturated, with the near-galloping of the repetitive semiquaver notes of the accompaniment. Unlike the previous more imitative and polyphonic texture, here the theme is more monophonic with violin playing the lead role. The sudden key change also makes this subject area a lot dramatic, shifting from G major to G minor in order to have a cadence at Eb. There is another transition-like moment, which brings back the more-polyphonic treatment. Suddenly, the fiery theme intrudes and repeats again concluding in G major. I would argue that there is a short 3-bar codetta at the end, before the exposition is repeated.

Although technically this would be the end of the exercise, I felt inclined to mention a few moments I found very interesting in the development and recapitulation of the piece. Firstly, in the development, I found the moment E major appears very intriguing. (bars 65-74) With the drones and the general nature of the melody, it can be identified that the theme recalls the genre of Musette. (I have marked this instance as green on the score – please refer to my annotation in exercise 5.1) In fact, looking back at some rhythmic moments, the exposition also contains some moments of the pastoral topoi, such as the evocation of hunting horns in the fast repeated notes and the dotted rhythm resembling country dances. In the recapitulation, there are two instances, which I have marked purple in the score (again refer to exercise 5.1) the rhythm and textures are completely different to the rest of the piece. I would argue that they present yet another kind of musical topics, though I haven’t yet extensively researched this subject to understand completely what these illustrate. Nonetheless, I see some elements of court-based music in the first, faster texture (bars 105-107) almost like concertato-style, while the second instance (bars 109-113) reminded me of the more church-like music with slower minims. All these moments really stood out to me.

In the next exercise, I will provide a reflection on the two previous exercises.

Posted in Project 1: Sonata Form

Exercise 5.1

The aim of this exercise is to mark the first appearances of the themes in the first sonata allegro movement of Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 76 No. 3, also know as the ‘Emperor’. The themes should be marked in both the exposition and the recapitulation. Beside the main themes, however, I also highlighted two interesting musical instances with the green and purple color. I also labelled some of the keys.

Here is the slideshow of all the things marked in the score:

I will write a reflection, discuss the themes and explain the additional instances I’ve labelled in the following two exercises, as their brief has specified.

Posted in Project 1: Sonata Form, Uncategorized

Exercise 5.0

This exercise is about the Classical sonata form. The task is to refer to the outline in the brief and make notes regarding the main sections found within its structure. Since I have already researched the sonata form in my previous studies, I did already write extensively about it early on in the Composing 1 unit here. As such, I decided to include some snippets from that post, which illustrate the main points.

To begin, I’ve delineated some historical background on how the form was developed in the post, which I have compiled into a slideshow below:

I have then described each section, which I’ve also grouped into another slideshow:

To conclude, I think the whole post was very detailed and that there isn’t much to add. All the notes it provides have a great level of information for the following exercises for this project, so it was good to read through everything again and remind myself of certain things.

Posted in Project 1: Sonata Form, Uncategorized

Research Point 5.0: Classicism in the 18th Century

The task of this research point is to write 400 words about Classicism of the 18th Century and how it related to science, philosophy, politics and other fields, with the focus on the way it impacted the arts and music.

To begin, it is worth mentioning that the term Classicism itself refers to a network of ideas and attitudes, as well as different artistic traditions in the West through history. But perhaps the most important is its ethos “to construct an ideal vision and version of human experience that should inspire and instruct by its nobility, authority, rationality, and truth … and to provide convincing models for imitation.” (Greenhalgh, 2016)

This ideal was first taken by the ancient Greek and Roman artists, and in the subsequent generations, the term classicism came to signify those who admired, imitated or reused their antique artworks and literature, rediscovering the systems of measurement and proportion that have been used to achieve the main characteristics of beauty, including “harmony, clarity, restraint, universality and idealism”. (Britannica, 2018)

However, classicism doesn’t necessarily denote direct influences by the antiquity and can broadly represent ‘distant responses’ of the past in one’s contemporary culture: “Each generation’s classicism is cumulative – a data bank of ideas, forms, and motifs based on contributions made by previous centuries.” (Greenhalgh, 2016) Interestingly, although Western music was still theoretically somewhat influenced by the antiquity, in practice, however, it stood as an art form that has mainly accumulated the post-antique customs and techniques. As such, the 18th century music was marked as ‘classical’ not in terms of its relationship with the antiquity, but in terms of reaching a high ‘standard of excellence’ (Greenhalgh, 2016) that contrasted the preceding ‘baroque’ phase. In this sense, it was established by the German-speaking composers of Europe, including Haydn, Mozart, Gluck and the young Beethoven, as a new caliber of polished and refined music, allowing for the standardization of certain genres and musical forms, as wells as the structure of symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles. (Britannica, 2018)

In terms of the wider culture, while the Renaissance regarded the binaries of feeling/reason, humanity/nature, social/personal, generic/individual, church/state etc., as one harmonious whole, Classicism began polarizing and distancing them, evidenced in the rise of Enlightenment. This current of philosophical thought had its primary origin in the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, with rationalism becoming its main doctrine, and it is often associated with the liberal political and revolutionary ideas, especially being linked to the French Revolution of 1789. (Bristow, 2017) The ideas of the structural clarity and objectivity from the philosophy particularly influenced the musical style as it switched to homophony and crafted the main sonata-form.


Greenhalgh, M. (2016) ‘Classicism.’ In: Grove Art Online. At: https://www.oxfordartonline.com/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000017983 (Accessed 20th Oct 2019)

Britannica (2018) Classicism and Neoclassicism. At: https://www.britannica.com/art/Neoclassicism (Accessed 20th Oct 2019)

Bristow, W. (2017) Enlightenment. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy  At: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/enlightenment/ (Accessed 20th Oct 2019)

Posted in Listening for Part 4: Moving towards 20th century, Uncategorized

Impressionist compositions

In this post I will list the impressionist compositions I have listened to.

Maurice Ravel

  • Jeux d’eau, Bolero, La valse

I have listened to these three pieces prior to the unit, as they were also included in some posts for Composing 1. Personally, Ravel is my favorite composer in his unique treatment of the themes, but also the way he would bring the musical genres to the extreme, with Bolero and La valse ultimately leading to the destruction of their ostinato rhythms, having been previously subjected to the intoxication of the dance elements. Unlike the two, jeux d’eau is very liberating in its flourishes of passages that seems to freely emanate from the piano without any musical constraint.

  • Le Tombeau de Couperin

This is actually my first encounter with the piece. I always thought of Ravel as an impressionist musician and as such I was somewhat surprised by his neoclassic endeavor to structure the piece as a traditional Baroque suite. To me this shows how the general, theoretical labels of style that are given to composers don’t necessarily fully reflect their practice. In fact, like Debussy, Ravel rejected the impressionist tag. In any case, the intention with which Ravel created the piece is more impactful. The title of tombeau refers to an earlier musical tradition in France, in which a piece or a collection of pieces were written as a memorial to honor a departed colleague or master. Although he initially planned to honor Couperin Le Grand, one of the founders of the French school of keyboard music, it was emotional to read that Ravel changed his plan with the World War I having taken lives of many people he had known. Making it a more personal gesture, Ravel dedicated each movement to a departed friend. In this sense, I wasn’t expecting that the music itself would be light-hearted.

While I knew many dance forms, the piece introduced me to a new one – forlane of the Venetian origin, popular with gondoliers. Coincidentally, this movement was the most dissonant and yet, in the sudden moments when it would reach more tonal resolutions, I found it to be my favorite in the whole composition. In fact, I find this mix of dissonance/atonality and consonance/tonality within the same movement quite interesting – something I would rarely dare to approach myself in composition, unless there was a programmatic motive. But this piece might have persuaded me to give it a go.