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21. Rachmaninov – Prelude in g minor, Op. 23 No. 5

Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) was one of the finest pianists and composers of the early 20th century. Rachmaninov is known as the very last holdout of the Romantic era – while his contemporaries were exploring possibilities of new musical trends of the early 20th century (including polytonality, atonality, serialism), Rachmaninov seemed to have his heart stuck back in 1880. His music is full of beautiful soaring melodies, sweeping emotion, a keen sense of the dramatic, as well as tonality, clear structural thinking, and a good amount of “conventionality” of the old days.

Rachmaninov wasn’t a particularly happy person, by his temperament, and by circumstances in his life. This is evident in his music – there is a very deep melancholy present in all of his music, which makes some of his melody writing strikingly beautiful. Fellow Russian composer Igor Stravinsky called Rachmaninov “Six Feet of Gloom.”

But actually, Rachmaninov was Six and a Half Feet of Gloom. And his hands were famously gigantic – he could reach over an octave and a half on a piano with his hands (with his left hand, he could play a C-Eb-G-C-G chord). And he utilized the size of his hands in his piano writing, using large and complex chords and wide arpeggios, which creates this truly colossal sound in much of his piano music.

On that, here is one of the thirteen Preludes from his Opus 23 set:

Rachmaninov – Prelude in g minor, opus 23, No. 5

“A” section:

0:09 Opening motif. Very structural, angular, heavy, and insistently rhythmic. Listen for repeated usage of the “3 short notes” building block. Not much lyrical melody going on, but it has a very “lurking” kind of quality.

0:45 Second idea: Also very structural and rhythmically defined. Listen for the alternating of high register and low register notes, using a large span of the piano. Small buildup going higher and higher in register, before it releases and resolves back downwards with a quick run of descending notes.

1:02 Repeat of opening motif, but more forceful instead of “lurking.” at 0:54, the progression gets interrupted, and a sequence of descending large chords takes over and then winds down, alternating with an “insistent” low note.

“B” section:

1:29 Suddenly, a completely different texture and character – where the opening section was structural, angular, and rhythmic, this section is very melodic, fluid, weightless, expansive, relaxed – overall, very “liquid.” Listen to the large arpeggios in the left hand, again, spanning a large range of the piano, supporting very expressive and evocative melodic material played in the right hand.

1:56: Another round of the new melody, but in between the left hand arpeggios and the right hand melody, listen for the 3rd voice in the middle (which hand is playing this?!). This trick developed during the Romantic era – writing in a such a way where it sounds like there are more than 2 hands playing.

2:32 Hints of a transition back to the A section.

“A” section and coda:

2:42 Back in the A section theme, but with different developments than before – compared with the earlier counterparts, sometimes feeling more urgent, agitated, even a bit macabre.

3:06 Second idea, pretty much same as the first time around. At this point, note the very “conventional” and organized structure that this prelude is following.

3:24 Back to initial theme, here with the most deviation and development from the original premise.

3:42 Closing coda section. And then it all ends in a little whirlwind and a wisp.

20. Elgar – Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D

Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) is certainly not a one-hit wonder, but on a popular level, he’s pretty much known entirely for one piece, which most know as the “Graduation March.”

It seems like the composers of different parts of Europe had strengths in different areas of classical music. The Germans produced many great symphonies. The Italians have a big claim on opera. The Slavic nations of eastern Europe take the dances. But the British seemed to love marches like nobody else – no other country’s composers wrote marches that had the grandeur, power, and spirit like theirs did.

Having said that, Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” March No. 1, in my opinion, is the piece of classical music that suffers the most of having its soul sucked out of it when re-framed for its typical modern/popular usage. Used as a graduation march, the music is flat, ceremonial, quiet, unintrusive, and ultimately, just a background music.

However, in it’s original form, the music is dynamic, soaring, joyous, extroverted, even flamboyant, and of gigantic scale and force. Here it is:

Elgar – Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D

In the UK, the “Graduation March” portion is sung with lyrics, and the piece is also commonly known as “Land of Hope and Glory.”

“A” section

0:00 The very opening has a somewhat unstable feeling about it, but clearly sets a tone of high energy. Listen to all the activity in the brass and percussion. This is a march, of course, and those sections will play a big part in driving this piece.

0:08 The harmonies settle down, busy melody in the strings. Primary theme of the A section, followed by some developmental stuff.

0:47 Primary theme again, following a big chromatic scale in the woodwinds.

0:55 British people bouncing.

1:23 And primary theme one more time, but leading into something new.

1:38 Intro again, but this time it concludes itself cleanly and then quiets down quickly.

“B” section

1:53 Here is the part that everybody knows. Seems like it’s a British tradition to hum along the first time around. This is the quieter and solemn part which has basically been clipped out and looped as the “Graduation March.”

2:49 The same exact thing, but fuller. And the audience sings along with “Land of Hope and Glory.”

3:11 Listen to the stretch in the tempo at the close of this half section – a good conductor will hold it back a bit here, and let this “tidal wave” of sound build up before the big splash, using snare drum and timpani for the build.

3:30Another tempo stretch and “tidal wave.”

“A” section #2

3:48 “B” section closes, and we launches back into a second “A” section. Almost exactly the same as the first time around, but a bit abbreviated.

“B” section #2

4:47 Big exposed chromatic scale cranks up the tension, before we launch back into a huge “B” section again, but this time in a higher key. Now, percussion instruments in full force, and there’s also a pipe organ blasting in all ranges to add to the sheer volume. This is pure romantic era and patriotic excess.

5:15 Tidal wave. They’re bigger this time around, now including a thundering bass drum roll.

5:35 The most drastic tempo stretch of the piece is this one. Right at the big juicy high note here for the audience to sing. It must be awesome to be among this.

5:48 Elaborate and stretched out closing to the “B” section.

Closing section

5:56 Brief closing section, using material from the primary “A” theme.

6:08 And the crowd goes wild. So the official national anthem of the UK is “God save the Queen” (from which Americans used the same melody for their “My Country Tis of Thee”). But this is one of those patriotic songs of a country that is just way better than the official national anthem. It almost makes me want to be British.

19. Suppé – “Light Cavalry” Overture

Not unlike other genres, classical music has a lot of one-hit-wonders too. The Romantic-era composer Franz von Suppé (1819-1895) is maybe a two-hit-wonder, or maybe one-and-a-half. Anyway, his “Light Cavalry” overture holds its place as one of the most recognizable pieces in classical music – of a certain category, perhaps.

For an initial road map of how to listen to this piece, listen for all the contrasting sections, joined together without “seamless transitioning” in most cases, and altogether expressing a very wide range of moods. You will definitely know the most famous part, the “cavalry” theme.

Probably by usage and association (and not necessarily the composer’s intent), the overture may be reminiscent of a 1920’s silent film. So I’ll suggest a hypothetical “script” to what each section may be depicting, and have that side-by-side with a more analytical rundown.

Performed by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan, possibly the best conductor alive today:

Suppé – “Light Cavalry” Overture

Time Script Analysis
0:04 The good guys, with their heads held up high and sunlight shining above them, do their best to protect their citizens. They conclude with their “team good guys” pose. Trumpets playing rhythmically in arpeggios. It’s a very “military” reference.
0:24 But somewhere in the distance, bad guys are lurking, waiting to cause trouble. Similar, but the differences – much more muted french horns, quieter, more “obscure” than the brightness and brassy-ness of the trumpets. And of course, they’re playing in minor tonality.
0:47 Being a good guy is hard work. Woodwinds alternating with full orchestra, which eventually takes over. Development and buildup back to…
1:14 The good guys again. Trumpets playing the “military” motif again, this time with support from trombones.
1:54 Oh no, our village is being raided by hooligans, and other bad people! Help! Help! People running amok. Tempo increases, and lots of tension all of a sudden. “Unsteady” melody in the violins. Also, we’re in minor again. in 2nd grade, they tell you that “minor” is “sad,” but note the different qualities that minor tonality brings in different sections of this piece.
2:26 And here comes the cavalry! The good guys are here to save us! The “cavalry” theme – note the rhythmic element of the motif, which sounds like the galloping of horses. First played by the brass, and then the whole orchestra joins in. Like one big party now. And we are in major tonality
3:48 The good guys won and chased off the hooligans… but not before they did their damage. Sad-sounding clarinet solo, almost singing as a character in an opera, in a free-feeling tempo.
4:18 All the townspeople are crying. Our crops are destroyed! Our stores were looted! Some of our homes were burnt down! And they stole my cow! We are all very sad. What ever shall we do now? Alternating back to minor again. This emotion-drenched theme, played by all the violins, violas, and cellos in unison, is very Hungarian. The recurring sequence of notes at the end of each phrase is undoubtedly a Hungarian musical idiom.
5:45 But here comes the cavalry again! Somewhat abruptly, the “cavalry” theme returns once again.
6:38 The good guys chase the hooligans out of the town. And the people are safe again! Ending “coda” section – the “military” theme once more, in full orchestration.

Also, anybody ever heard of “Dudley Do-Right”? It’s this old cartoon from the 1960s, a spin-off/segment of Rocky and Bullwinkle, definitely before my time. The intro music for the show was very influenced by this overture. See if you can hear the connections!

Watch and listen here:

Dudley Do-Right theme song and intro

This didn’t really fit into my larger scheme of lectures, but wasn’t that a fun piece?

18. Ravel – “La Valse”

Another influence upon Ravel was the great tradition of Viennese Waltzes of the late 19th century, the most famous of all (or most “popularized”) being this one (the famous excerpt starts at 1:30):

Listen and Watch on Youtube: Johann Strauss II – “The Blue Danube” Waltz

Ravel’s work “La Valse” is kind of an homage to the great tradition of Viennese Waltzes, but it’s very different kind of work in that the waltz is not the form of the piece, but the subject of it. The waltz in this piece is more like a character, and we see it “journey” and develop throughout the work. There’s a lot to this piece – i’ll do the chronological analysis first, and then, far more interesting, i’ll give my commentary and analysis on what I think this piece is REALLY about.

Ravel’s own preface to the work, describing the setting:

“Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter: one sees at letter A an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the fortissimo letter B. Set in an imperial court, about 1855.”

Listen and Watch on Youtube: Ravel – La Valse

0:00 It opens with a “formless void” kind of setting, full of mysterious, dark sounds of the orchestra (notably, exposed double basses, bassoon, and bass clarinet). There are pieces coming in an out of view, but it is disjoint, disorganized, and out of focus. There is some semblance of rhythmic feel though.

0:45 Starting to come together. The picture is still very hazy though, and there isn’t a clear sense of direction yet. Listen for the rising and then descending chromatic scale played by the flute – there are lots of “loose ends” still needing to be rounded up.

1:20 Now, it’s more cohesive. There is a steady pace, there is clear tonality, and some waltz melodies are able to hold themselves together. Listen to the cellos and bassoons playing in sort of duet, perhaps indicative of pairs of dancers in the waltz.

2:08 More cohesiveness – a glittering harp entrance brings in an elegant melody in the strings. Now the waltz is beginning to swing and spin.

2:41 The burst of the chandelier lights, as per Ravel’s written comments. Compare the before and after – there is a lot dimness and haze before (which Ravel could write better than anyone), and suddenly, a burst of light and clarity. Then it gets quiet again.

4:01 Exposed bass drum/timpani strike begins a faster/louder section, punctuated by rhythmic brass.

4:32 Back to a quieter section. A lot of alternating of quiet and louder sections in this piece. Also, notice that there is not really one main melody to this work – there are something like 7 or 8 different melodic ideas in this piece. I never tried to nail them all down though, and i’m not sure if doing so is that necessary.

5:52 Waltzing among the strings. Soon after, goes into higher register in the strings. This is perhaps the most “perfectly-formed” waltz incident in this piece.

6:42 Solo violins play waltz melody, with a lot of rhythmic liberty taken. Lots of little “gestures” in this passage.

7:24 Tense feeling. From around here onwards, it starts to feel increasingly unsettled.

8:01 After a dissonant buildup, the sound scurries away, and it briefly plunges back to the formlessness of the start, and works its way back into focus again.

8:43 The waltz is trying, but it doesn’t quite recover it’s earlier beauty and elegance. Notice the “interruption” at 8:46. It’s as if one pair of dancers bumped into another, and nasty glares were exchanged.

8:53 The waltz sings out again, but is unable to keep itself together elegantly, and it becomes noisier and uglier.

9:29 Interruptions again – this time, twice.

9:38 Now the different waltz ideas are starting to become more fragmented and overlap with one another. The feeling is as if the dancers – nicely choreographed before, and everyone knew when to come in – are now starting to clash, come in at the wrong times, and dance in each others’ space. Musically speaking, the rhythm and meter of the waltz are now becoming more irregular, and also the overall tempo is now starting to exceed the range of speed that would be appropriate for dancing to (in theory), and it will continue to get faster.

9:50 Buildup to a big climax – sounds like a dam bursts, and now water is pouring through uncontrollably, before it starts to calm down.

10:30 Waltz pushing along. Listen to the very long chromatic scale in the bassline – creeping up one note at a time while there is this mounting tension and increasing volume in the higher-pitched instruments. When it all reaches the top, it’s one of those moments when everything seems to stand still for a split second, right before it all explodes. And there is this sound of terror in the “explosion” – a bass drum is played along with a tam-tam, which is a large, brass gong, and then immediately following are the brass punctuated with a cymbal crash. As is typical of Ravel, he utilizes a very large, varied and important percussion section in this piece.

11:09 The whole orchestra, now sounding heavy, loud, and clumsy, trying to give the waltz one last hurrah.

11:37 Still trying, but really not coming together anymore. There’s now more irregularity than waltzing at this point. Note the fragmented phrases and lack of continuity – imagine what the great dance hall must look like at this point, if you even can!

12:14 Amid all the instability, the strings briefly interrupt everything.

12:21 Here, your ear wants the phrase to come to a cadence. Even without knowing the technical stuff of music, your ear just want the phrase to end a certain way, which is to return to the tonal center. But, it gets stuck, like a broken record just before it becomes…

12:26 Utter chaos. The instability has reached a point of no return. One image I get is that a bunch of scientists and engineers have lost all control of their great machine, which is now violently shaking, blaring loud warning sirens, and steam is pouring out uncontrollably from the top of the machine, and it’s all about to come crashing down. Earlier, the regularity of waltz was lost, and then tonality began to loosen and then fall apart, and finally, all rhythm and tonal center are now gone, and we are left with this madness. But again, with Ravel, this is extraordinarily carefully-crafted madness. Finally in the end, it comes to a crash.

So that’s the analysis, but what is this piece REALLY about?

To cut to the chase, I think this piece is social commentary about present-day European society. The original title of the work was actually Wien, which is German for Vienna – much more direct. Vienna was perhaps the center of European culture, and this piece is about what has happened to it during Ravel’s lifetime. Ravel was no stranger to conflict – during his lifetime, he saw several bloody revolutions and attempted revolutions, and ultimately, participated himself in World War I. The Waltz, to Ravel, was a symbol of old Europe and all its beauty, dignity, and civility. But, something got lost as time went on, and it all began to fall apart and descend into ugliness, instability, and chaos. What was lost could not be recovered, and perhaps there is a pessimism stated in this piece, that European culture had reached its apex, and was now in a downward spiral of self-destruction.

Fascinating, isn’t it?

Next: Suppe’s Light Calvary Overture

17. Ravel – Piano Concerto in G, III. Presto

After the 2nd movement gently lulled you to sleep, the 3rd movement gives you a rude awakening, and then takes off at a frenetic presto pace, and doesn’t relax for very much. It also doesn’t do much “exploring” like the 1st movement does – this movement just goes and goes without losing much momentum. Each of the 3 movements of this concerto have a completely different character than the other two – i’ve pondered a lot what justifies calling this one concerto and not 3 distinct pieces. Maybe the huge contrasts IS the unifiying idea, i’m still not sure. Anyway, enjoy the wild ride:

Watch and listen on Youtube: Ravel – Piano Concerto in G, III. Presto

0:15 It starts off with a a punctuated rhythmic idea, which will serve as sort of a “section marker” for a bit. The piano comes in sprinting. In technical terms, I believe piano is playing parallel fifths, which gives it this kind of “geometric” quality.

0:26 all of a sudden, a clarinet comes in absolutely screaming. WHAT was that?

I believe this is Ravel’s response to the recently-composed “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, who is America’s great jazz/classical crossover composer. “Rhapsody in Blue” begins with what became a landmark moment in the history of the clarinet, at the premiere of the work.

Watch and listen on Youtube: Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue

1:09 After another “section marker,” we’re at something different – kind of a marching idea. Horns play in chords, then answered by a trumpet playing in arpeggios, which is perhaps referential of military bugle call. The snare drum adds a militaristic element too. By the way, it may be significant that Ravel participated in World War I as a truck driver for the French army. So maybe his military experience is intersecting into his art. Or maybe it’s not connected at all, and he just felt like writing something with a march feel, we’ll never know.

1:52 A new idea here – maybe this is the “running around like a chicken with its head cut off” motif. I couldn’t begin to analyze the method to the madness that is going on here – only that i’m certain that there is in fact a lot of method here, all carefully constructed to create the “wonderfully chaotic” feeling about this passage.

2:02 Everything quiets down, and a solo bassoon plays the “sprint.” I played the bassoon for about 3 weeks, and from what I gathered, the bassoon is definitely not the most agile instrument in the orchestra, so this must be ridiculously hard to play cleanly.

2:21 Big buildup begins – lots of different instruments chiming in with different ideas, leading back to something of a recapitulation, as he likes to do. Ravel has a very modern vocabulary, but is also very loyal to 3-part (ABA) forms.

2:43 Recapitulation. Roles are switched now – the piano plays the “screaming” motif, while violins are doing the “sprint.”

3:06 “Military” motif again.

3:21 “Running around like a chicken with its head cut off” motif again.

3:34 Big two handed chromatic scale in octaves by the piano.

3:44 And it ends how it began, with a boom by lots of low instruments together, led by the bass drum. And check out Leonard Bernstein on the piano conducting that last boom with his upper whole body. And the crowd approves.

Next: Ravel’s “La Valse”

16. Ravel – Piano Concerto in G, II. Adagio assai

Watch and listen on Youtube: Ravel – Piano Concerto in G, II. Adagio assai

After hearing the first movement, you may be surprised at just how different the second movement is, in many ways. What comes to mind as you listen?

Some “obvious” adjectives may come to mind as you listen – quiet, peaceful, beautiful, serene, clear, gentle.

When you compare this movement to the first movement, you may think of some additional words – steady, orderly, stable, fluid, simple – vs. constantly changing, dynamic, active, busy). In huge contrast to the first movement, Ravel takes one idea/texture, and works with it for a very long time. For about 3 whole minutes, the piano plays entirely alone – no exploiting the huge spectrum of colors that Ravel extracted from the orchestra in the first movement.

If the first movement was like a patchwork quilt, where lots of smaller ideas are put together in a cohesive fashion, this movement shows Ravel working with one single, continuous piece of musical fabric. And apparently, he can do both quite well.

Chronological hilights:

0:02 Main theme. Notice the left hand accompaniment – like a slow waltz, metered in 3. This will continue on steadily for just about the entire movement. “Endless” melody in the right hand. By the way, as effortless as this all sounds, Ravel apparently really had to toil over this before it took final form.

3:00 With the trill in the right hand, it feels like it will resolve in a clear cadence, but Ravel finally brings in another instrument, a flute, and gently begins taking us elsewhere – slightly more tension now. Following the flute is an oboe (playing in very high register), then a clarinet, then flute again to finish the section. Strings also sneak in in the background.

4:03 Now, a more dissonant and tense melody in the right hand, with added colors of some woodwinds in the background, which eventually resolves and stabilizes with the strings.

5:01 Tense moving notes in the piano right hand, with some rising chords in background woodwinds, then coming to a clean resolution.

5:37 Tension again, and the music swells and becomes stormier for a moment.

6:11 The tension subsides heading back into a recapitulation, and now, one of the most beautiful “scenes” in all classical music, in my book. Flowing scale-like work in right hand of the piano, matched with the main theme carried by the unusual and distinctive timbre of an English Horn. Again, a very long and unbroken musical fabric. Put together, it almost reminds you of some beautiful nature scene – water delicately cascading down a stream, lush greenery, and everything is just in a state of perfect harmony and serenity.

8:03 Another deceptive cadence, in formal terms, and this is perhaps the coda. Other instruments join in – horns open the way, and then some various woodwind moments.

8:34 Trill in the piano right hand begins, and gradually fades out, and the movement comes to a quiet close.

Next: 3rd movement of the same concerto.

15. Ravel – Piano Concerto in G, I. Allegramente

Watch and listen on Youtube: Ravel – Piano Concerto in G, I. Allegramente

Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G is one of two that he completed at about 1930, the other being a Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, written for a famous pianist of the day who lost his right arm fighting in World War I. Written relatively late in his life, it's a dazzling work that really shows Ravel at his best in creating with exotic colors and textures, often being very visually evocative, and also working with larger-scale structure and “architecture.” There’s a remarkably wide range of influences in the concerto, including classical era ideals, contemporary French influences, folk music, and perhaps most notably, American Jazz. The concerto is a pretty difficult piano piece, filled with fiery and exciting virtuoso-type work, but it also contains some remarkably delicate and beautiful moments that rival those of even the very best melodists of all classical music.

Before an in-depth chronological analysis of the first movement, some broader patterns and ideas on what to listen for in this piece:

Lots of ideas and thematic material. The very opening of the movement moves very quickly from one idea to the next – Ravel introduces a ton of stuff just within the 1st minute. However, after a few minutes, it settles down some, and you’ll notice that Ravel will spend longer amounts of time on one idea.

Frequent changes in tempo or pace. Listen for different instruments interrupting eachother – sometimes juxtaposing a different pace on top of what another instrument is doing, sometimes taking over and dictating a new pace altogether.

Huge variety of colors. Listen for lots of solo wind and brass instruments, and instruments sometimes being used as “sound effects.” Often, an instrument will come in only for a quick few notes – just adding a splash of color to a more forefront idea. Listen for exposed usage of percussion instruments (as opposed to rhythmically supportive percussion, perhaps).

Many different “characters” in the orchestra. In classical era concertos (such as those of Mozart), the orchestra largely functions as one “character” interacting with the solo piano, but in Ravel’s orchestra, it seems more that instruments of the orchestras are each more like individuals, and the piano is joining a very busy group conversation.

Now, for chronological hilights:

0:26 – It begins with a snap of a whip, which is a percussion instrument made of 2 flat pieces of wood, which are slapped against each other. The ensuing motif is played by flutes, piano, and snare drum. It’s a very odd combination of instruments, but listen to the haze effect that it creates.

0:50Trumpet melody, and a bunch of instruments creating a noisy percussive effect. Can’t name them all, but there’s trombone in there with the repeated “dirty” sliding sound.

1:26 – New idea and new pace. A clarinet introduces the “jazz” motif. Jazz had started appearing in Paris cafes, and Ravel was quick to experiment with the new sounds of it. There’s a lot going on in this opening section, but Ravel will cycle back to all of it later on. Of the spectrum of “spontaneous” to “deliberate,” Ravel’s process and perspective on composing is absolutely deliberate. The great Russian composer Igor Stravinsky called Ravel “The finest of Swiss watchmakers,” in regards to the perfectionistic precision and craftsmanship that Ravel put into his music.

2:06 – I’ll call this the “rising” melody, which in technical terms, is built upon a pentatonic scale. Ravel was big on experimenting with all sorts of scales and modes (hard to really explain this well in only few words). Listen to the response to the “rising” melody, this kind of this creepy, dissonant sound, created by a bunch of instruments, which doesn’t seem to “agree” with the rising melody. Makes for an interesting juxtaposition.

3:02 – The piano runs off at a new pace. Listen at 3:20 for the “jazz” motif played in a rapid descending sequence by the piano.

4:09 – After a wild ascending piano mini-cadenza and another exposed bass drum hit, back to a legitimate recapitulation, quite true to the classical sonata form idea of a recapitulation. Ravel held Mozart in very high regard – not necessarily apparent when you look on the surface and all of its dazzle and modern musical vocabulary, but Ravel’s large-scale structure, and how he organized ideas, are actually very classical. In this section, we hear a lot of the same ideas from the start of the movement, but mostly played by different instruments than before.

4:56 – Suddenly, everything seems to come to a halt, and a harp floats in playing a very “mystical” texture.

5:16 – Suddenly again, a bass drum strike, and a flute plays the “jazz” motif with a crazy “fluttering” effect (of which I don’t know the proper term), then likewise echoed by a trumpet. Underneath, the strings are doing these crazy sliding harmonic noises. Sorry, again, very hard to describe this in a few words.

6:09 – The piano plays the “rising melody” alone, doing a “three hands” effect – the right hand is holding a trill, while the left hand is playing both melody and accompaniment to itself.

7:09 – Add strings to the “rising melody” – beautiful textural work here between the strings and piano.

7:30 – At the peak of the melody, it sounds like something cracks, and dissipates into a million pieces of crystal-ly dust, and cascades down gently into still water… ok, I have no idea, but something like that.

7:37 – New idea – starting with the lowest note on the piano, a new hard-driving pace lead by the piano. At 8:09 is something that’s undoubtedly a jazz idiom. Hard to describe more than what you just hear out of it.

8:20 – Almost at the end of the movement, with the help of the bass drum, it sounds like a huge wave is building. Listen to all the added colors at the ending, including french horns playing in high register in chords. Power ending.

Next: 2nd movement of the same concerto.


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