‘Classical Symphony’ – Prokofiev: Second Movement

Rehearsal Numbers 2 to 5, second movement in Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony contains these key rhythmical features/elements;

  1. the frequent use of sixteenth notes
  2. syncopation
  3. conjunct motion between notes
  4. staccatos and pizzicatos

The entire piece being a Neo-Classical piece, the above features are thought to be popular rhythmic features in Neo-Classical music.

Mostly throughout the entire movement, staccatos are frequently used. This can especially be seen at rehearsal letter number 3 (or from measure 18 – 27). These staccatos throughout the piece give the sweet feeling, just as it is listed “molto dolce” at bar 5. In addition, the syncopations adds up to the mood of the second movement; a Larghetto being a movement with a slow tempo, before the third movement having a faster tempo (Non Troppo Allegro). Bars 16 – 18 have syncopation in use with the flutes and strings. These syncopations are made by the notes having slurs, while another instrument playing in staccato. One of the changes that happens from rehearsal letter 2, is how the notes are more disjunct, seen with the flutes and first violins at measure 16 – 18. They still use sixteenth notes, although have bigger leaps in intervals. This movement is in fact filled with steps and sudden leaps all the time, which makes the melody line conjunct. One of the other main features of the conjunct melody are how the string section pluck their strings (pizzicato) in many parts, such as from rehearsal letter number 3 (bar 20 – 26). In addition, bar 20 and 21 is where the melody phrase cross over the bar lines. Conjunct motions are not thought to be normal in Classical music, thus it makes sense that Prokofiev’s piece is written in the style of Neo-Classism.

Listening Log Week 2: Symphony No.40 in G Minor, first movement (W.A. Mozart)

Also called as the Great G minor Symphony, this symphony was originally composed in 1788. Mozart composed this symphony to perform in England, however this never really happened. The symphony includes an orchestra of one flute, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, and strings. Originally in 1788, this symphony did not include the two clarinets. Although sometime after the trip to England got cancelled, Mozart chose to add two clarinets in the orchestra. This symphony is one of Mozart’s most famous symphonies, although it is not clear whether Mozart actually ever performed it.

The first movement of this symphony is in the Sonata Form, which includes the Exposition, Development, and the Recapitulation. Throughout the entire first movement, the music is homophonic, in the tempo of Allegro, and in a duple meter. The Exposition being the introduction of themes, forms the basis of the entire movement. (o:00) on track 13 is where the first theme is introduced by the violins, along with the violas playing in a agitated way. The clarinets come in at (0:16), introducing the listeners to the bridge. The bridge starts at (0:24), where the theme is restated by the entire orchestra. This time, the theme is played much louder in forte, as well as the strings rushing through. At (0:50), there is an obvious end to the bridge, where the orchestra plays the note in unison. Track 14 starts with a statement of the second theme. The violins are playing the theme in mezzo piano, while there is a call and response with the woodwinds. From (0:24), there is a crescendo, as well as the violins taking over the melody, ascending. After reaching its high point, the strings are descending in scale, where it reaches (0:37). This is where the first theme is restated  by the woodwinds and strings. The strings alternate their dynamics from soft to loud, as the woodwinds and strings are responding to each other. (0:55) is where the exposition ends, starting with the strings rushing down the scales, followed by an emphatic ending with a chord in unison.

Track 15 covers the Development of the Sonata Form. The very first theme is reintroduced at (0:00) by the violins, with a newly combined harmony. (0:14) wakens the listener by the sudden crescendo leading up to forte. Here, the very first theme is played by the violins, also responded by lower violins. After the forte, there is a sudden drop in dynamics, where the violins and woodwinds play a phrase of the theme in piano. The violins play the phrase, then the woodwinds respond to the violins with the same phrase. At (0:53), the woodwinds changes this response to a three-note motive, which gives an unresolved sound to the phrase. However at (0:59), there is a sudden forte, where the descending three note motive is traded back and forth by the violins and the lower strings. This could be said as the climax of the Development, which hints the end to this section to the listeners. For the ending of the Development, there are no strings, giving a change in sound and dynamics. At (1:08), the flutes and clarinets again trade these three note motives, while descending in scale. This leads up to the Recapitulation; the final section of the Sonata Form.

The Recapitulation on track 16 begins with a restatement of the very first theme with violins. This is answered by the woodwinds. The woodwinds respond to the violins with louder chords. After creating tension, at (0:24), the violins repeat the theme once again. The woodwinds ascend, which introduces the listeners to the bridge at (0:35). This part is played in forte, where the violins ascend in scale with the three motives, while the lower strings create the homophonic texture. At (0:40), the strings rush through the scales, giving a strong ending in unison once again. This marks an ending, although brings back the second theme one more time before the Recapitulation ends. At (0:00) of track 17, the second theme is played by the violins with slurs in mezzo piano, while the woodwinds respond. At (0:24), the strings become louder with a crescendo, and also ascends in scale. When the strings hit their high points, they start to descend. However the lower strings ascend in scale, then rush down the scale once again,  leading to (0:42). This is where  the rhythmic motives from the first theme is used for the strings and woodwinds to call and respond again. They also alternate from loud to soft, bringing back the listeners to a section from the Development. At (0:58), the strings respond to the woodwinds with the three note motives, this time in forte, leading up to the Coda in track 18.

The Coda on track 18 starts off with strings playing eighth notes down the scale. However the strings rises few notes at certain points. After the descend, the strings and woodwinds slowly ascend at (0:06). The notes are also echoing amongst the strings as well. These chords are played in forte, increasing tension, and resolves with the chords played by woodwinds in piano at (0:10).  (0:12) is where the first theme is played again, but this time slower, in ritardando. The theme is answered by the strings and woodwinds at (0:22), which plays in forte, introducing the end to the movement. The Coda ends with the tonic, third, then tonic once again. The woodwinds play an octave higher of the strings for cadence.

Listening Log Week 1: Symphony No.94 in G Major (F.J. Haydn)

The “Surprise Symphony” by F.J. Haydn was composed when Haydn had visited London in 1791. This symphony being one of the London symphonies was also first performed there in 1792.

The second movement of this classical symphony, has a tempo of Andante formed by various instruments, many of them used frequently for orchestral pieces. Since this is the second movement, it is likely that the movement before (first) would have been in a faster tempo, and in Sonata form. And if we were to predict the third movement, it would be in a medium tempo, formed in a Minuet-Trio form. For instrumentation, this symphony includes flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets, first and second violins, violas, cellos, basses, and the timpani. The symphony also includes harpsichords, which is interesting, since harpsichords were used frequently during the baroque period. The classical period usually had the piano replacing the harpsichord, although this symphony brings back the usage of harpsichords.

The second movement of this symphony is composed in C major, which would be a subdominant key. The time signature is in 2/4 time. Just like many other classical symphonies, this symphony has a homophonic texture, right from the beginning. It has a duple meter, with a Theme and Variations form. This form introduces a theme or a main melody at the beginning, and continues on with different variations of the theme. At (0:00), the very main theme is introduced. This theme is first played in staccato, only with the first and second violins. This theme  consists of two sections of 8 measures, which is also often in classical symphonies. The first “surprise” can be heard at (0:32), where all the instruments play an accented chord with a sudden fortessimo. These “surprises” are said to be for listeners who found slow movements  boring. One of the things that enhances the “surprise” is how the measures before are played in pianissimo.  At (1:07), the theme is decorated into the first variation with a higher pitched countermelody played by the violins. The second variation at (2:14) is played in C minor, along with the timpani and the trumpets. These changes to the minor keys often happened in classical symphonies. By playing in minor keys, the change in the music still maintained tonality and consonance, which was a common factor for the classical age. However, this variation also includes the violins playing the theme in major. In addition, in order to increase the “surprise” to the change, the dynamics are again at fortessimo or forte in staccato. (3:23) on the time introduces the third variation to the theme. With the third variation, the rhythmic values to the theme is changed. The eighth notes are doubled to quarter notes, played by the oboes. At (3:39), this returns to the regular rhythm with the oboes and the flutes, in mezzopiano or piano, in staccato. Finally with the fourth variation at (4:29), woodwinds, brasses, and the timpani plays the theme in fortessimo, introducing an end to the movement. From (5:10 – 15), the instrumentation has a crescendo, giving anticipation for a cadence. However, from (5:15 – 20), there is a decrescendo, making the listeners expect longer notes from then on. (5:21) is where the instruments have an accented fortessimo, reminding the listeners of the “surprise”, once again. At (5:32) , we hear the violins chromatically descending. The orchestra plays an extremely dissonant chord at (5:45), and stresses on it, giving the feeling of suspense and climax. This dissonance is resolved at (5:54), where the oboes and the entire orchestra plays the final theme. Finally, at (6:19), the second movement hits a cadence, expressing the end to the second movement. 


Pachelbel’s Canon in D: Analysis

Video of Pachelbel’s Canon in D

This piece is probably the best known work of Pachelbel, and is one of the most famous works of Baroque music. This is the only canon that Pachelbel wrote, and was originally composed for three violins, and a cello.

The melody is extremely memorable, especially with the violin arrangement, where all the violins imitate the melody of one another. Even though the entire piece itself is calm and peaceful, it still contains dynamics, which creates a merry mood. This is also the reason why the piece is highly popular for a “wedding song”.
This piece has a polyphonic and a homophonic texture, however it is created by one musical idea. After the double bass starts playing the first two bars of the bass part, the first violin enters with the main melody. After another two bars, the second violin imitates the same melody, repeating itself. This creates the polyphonic texture and harmony to the piece, as the chord progression goes from D major, A major, B minor, F sharp minor, G major, D major, G major, and finally A major. This piece is played in a classical genre, and its tempo varies within who it is played or arranged by. Slower arrangements usually vary from 40 to 70 beats on the quarter notes, although on the original sheet music, there is no indication of the tempo. This piece was written in the period of middle Baroque (written in 1680). The main melody of this piece has a very conjunct contour line, where the motif is repeated within different instruments.