Chant Pastoral in C Minor
Brahms, Johannes Akademische Festouverture, Op. Chopin, Fryderyk Concerto No. Davies, Tansy.
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Chant Pastoral in C Minor
Romanian Concerto. Musgrave, Thea. It is the only really novel piece in this work, in which the poetic idea, which plays such a large and rich part in the majority of works which followed, is completely absent. This is admirably crafted music, clear, alert, but lacking in strong personality, cold and sometimes rather small-minded, as for example in the final rondo, which has the character of a musical amusement. In a word, this is not Beethoven. We are about to meet him. Everything in this symphony is noble, energetic and proud; the introduction largo is a masterpiece.
The most beautiful effects follow in quick succession, always in unexpected ways but without causing any confusion. The melody has a touching solemnity; from the very first bars it commands respect and sets the emotional tone. Rhythms are now more adventurous, the orchestral writing richer, more sonorous and varied. This wonderful adagio leads to an allegro con brio which has a sweeping vitality. The grupetto in the first bar of the theme played by violas and cellos in unison is subsequently developed it its own right, either to generate surging crescendo passages or to bring about imitations between wind and strings, all of them at once novel and lively in character.
In the middle comes a melody, played by clarinets, horns and bassoons for the first half, and rounded off as a tutti by the rest of the orchestra; it has a masculine energy which is further enhanced by the felicitous choice of accompanying chords. The andante is not treated in the same way as that of the first symphony; instead of a theme developed in canonical imitation it consists of a pure and innocent theme, presented at first plainly by the strings, then exquisitely embellished with delicate strokes; they faithfully reproduce the tender character of the main theme.
This is the enchanting depiction of innocent joy, scarcely troubled by passing touches of melancholy. The scherzo is as openly joyful in its capricious fantasy as the andante was completely happy and calm. Everything in this symphony smiles, and even the martial surges of the first allegro are free from any hint of violence; they only speak of the youthful ardour of a noble heart which has preserved intact the most beautiful illusions of life.
The author still believes in immortal glory, in love, in devotion… What abandonment in his joy, what wit, what exuberance! The various instruments fight over particles of a theme which none of them plays in full, yet each fragment is coloured in a thousand different ways by being tossed from one instrument to the other. The finale is of the same character: it is a scherzo in double time, perhaps even more delicate and witty in its playfulness. It is a serious mistake to truncate the title which the composer provided for the symphony.
It reads: Heroic symphony to commemorate the memory of a great man. As will be seen, the subject here is not battles or triumphal marches, as many, misled by the abbreviated title, might expect, but rather deep and serious thoughts, melancholy memories, ceremonies of imposing grandeur and sadness, in short a funeral oration for a hero. I know few examples in music of a style where sorrow has been so unfailingly conveyed in forms of such purity and such nobility of expression. The first movement is in triple time and in a tempo which is almost that of a waltz, yet nothing could be more serious and more dramatic than this allegro.
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The energetic theme on which it is built is not at first presented in its complete form. The rhythmic writing is extremely striking in the frequent use of syncopation and, through the stress on the weak beat, the insertion of bars in duple time into bars in triple time.
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When to this irregular rhythm some harsh dissonances are added, as we find towards the middle of the development section, where the first violins play a high F natural against an E natural, the fifth of the chord of A minor, it is difficult not to shudder at this depiction of indomitable fury.
This is the voice of despair and almost of rage. Yet one wonders, Why this despair, Why this rage? The reason for it is not obvious. Then in the next bar the orchestra suddenly calms down, as though, exhausted by its own outburst, its strength was abruptly deserting it.
A gentler passage follows, which evokes all the most painful feelings that memory can stir in the mind. It is impossible to describe or merely to indicate the multiplicity of melodic and harmonic guises in which Beethoven presents his theme. We will only mention an extremely odd case, which has caused a great deal of argument. The French publisher corrected it in his edition of the score, in the belief it was an engraving error, but after further enquiry the passage was reinstated. The first and second violins on their own are playing tremolando a major second B flat, A flat , part of the chord of the seventh on the dominant of E flat, when a horn gives the impression of having made a mistake by coming in four bars too soon, and rudely intrudes with the beginning of the main theme which consists only of the notes E flat, G, E flat, B flat.
The strange effect produced by this melody built on the three notes of the tonic chord against the two discordant notes of the dominant chord can easily be imagined, even though the distance between the parts greatly softens the clash.
But just as the ear is about to protest against this anomaly, an energetic tutti cuts off the horn, ends piano on the tonic chord and gives way to the entry of the cellos which then play the complete theme with the appropriate harmony. But it is said that the author attached much importance to it. It is even related that at the first rehearsal of the symphony, M. Ries who was present stopped the orchestra and exclaimed: "Too early, too early, the horn is wrong!
As a reward for his indiscretion, he was roundly taken to task by a furious Beethoven. There is no comparable oddity in the rest of the score. The funeral march is a drama in its own right. Multaque praeterea Laurentis praemia pugnae Adgerat, et longo praedam jubet ordine duci. Post bellator equus, positis insignibus, Aethon It lacrymans, guttisque humectat grandibus ora.
The ending in particular is deeply moving. The theme of the march returns, but now in a fragmented form, interspersed with silences, and only accompanied by three pizzicato notes in the double basses. When these tatters of the sad melody, left on their own, bare, broken and lifeless, have collapsed one after the other onto the tonic, the wind instruments utter a final cry, the last farewell of the warriors to their companion in arms, and the whole orchestra fades away on a pianissimo pause.
Following normal practice the third movement is entitled scherzo.
Chant Pastoral in C Minor Sheet Music by Theodore Dubois
In Italian the word means play, or jest. At first sight it is hard to see how this kind of music can find a place in this epic composition. It has to be heard to be understood. The piece does indeed have the rhythm and tempo of a scherzo ; these are games, but real funeral games, constantly darkened by thoughts of death, games of the kind that the warriors of the Iliad would celebrate around the tombs of their leaders. Even in his most imaginative orchestral developments Beethoven has been able to preserve the serious and sombre colouring, the deep sadness which of course had to predominate in such a subject.
The finale is just a continuation of the same poetical idea. There is a very striking example of orchestral writing at the beginning, which illustrates the kind of effect that can be produced by juxtaposing different instrumental timbres. The violins play a B flat, which is immediately taken up by flutes and oboes as a kind of echo. Although the sound is played at the same dynamic level, at the same speed and with the same force, the dialogue produces such a great difference between the notes that the nuance between them might be likened to the contrast between blue and purple.
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Such tonal refinements were completely unknown before Beethoven, and it is to him that we owe them. For all its great variety this finale is nevertheless built on a simple fugal theme. Besides a profusion of ingenious details the composer develops on top of it two other themes, one of which is exceptionally beautiful. The melody is as it were derived from a different one, but its shape conceals this.
On the contrary it is much more touching and expressive, far more graceful than the original theme, which has rather the character of a bass line and serves this function very well. This melody returns shortly before the end, in a slower tempo and with different harmonies which further enhance its sad character. The hero costs many a tear. After these final regrets devoted to his memory the poet abandons the elegiac tone and intones with rapture a hymn of glory. Though rather brief this conclusion is very brilliant and provides a fitting crown to the musical monument.
Beethoven may have written more striking works than this symphony, and several of his other compositions make a greater impact on the public. Whenever this symphony is performed I am overcome with feelings of deep and as it were antique sadness; yet the public seems hardly moved.
This is all the more regrettable as in other circumstances this same audience warms up to the composer and shares his emotion and tears. It is fired with an ardent and genuine passion for some of his compositions, which may be equally worthy of admiration but are nevertheless no more beautiful than this work.
It appreciates at its true worth the allegretto in A minor of the seventh symphony , the allegretto scherzando of the eighth , the finale of the fifth , the scherzo of the ninth. It even appears to be deeply moved by the funeral march of this symphony — the Eroica.