Analysis for Composers #12

Analysis for Composers #12

in any concerto there's a confrontation between individual and group soloist and orchestra this confrontation is what makes that you can cheerio form distinctive and ultimately is at the core of its designer although concerto might resemble a symphony in its overall form many of its memorable moments should come from that confrontation but there are actually many possible relationships being an individual and a group dividual can lead or follow take part in the group or reject it and so on analysis class has never seemed to talk about this but it's basic to a composers way of thinking about the concerto form in this lesson we'll look at Beethoven's fourth piano concerto and catalog some of the possible interactions between the solo piano and the orchestra in Beethoven's time the concerto usually started running like a symphony presenting various thematic material and extended orchestral passage without the soloist the soloist normally only entered after this initial orchestral exposition here Beethoven tries something very new at the time the soloist starts the movement alone and g-major then the string is come in with the same material but a distant key B major this straightforward little dialogue beating individual and group is made special by the fact that both the piano solo and the orchestra start off with the same melodic note but with very different harmony [Applause] this is the simplest relationship between solo and orchestra one appears after the other alone presenting similar material next the orchestra presents the theme begin back in G major in a more imitative texture now things proceed rather as in a typical Mozart concerto exposing more material in the orchestra alone but the pianos arrival at the start leaves us wondering what its destiny will be why was it so prominent just to disappear so soon the next time the piano comes in it replies alone to the orchestra with the motive just heard the same one is in the opening theme but this time the dialogue takes a different turn the motive simplifies and speeds up into a little repeated note formula at which point the orchestra insists once again on the omnipresent repeated note motive after a quick scale descending and rising back up the piano then as a solo would be here a little bit sown here the orchestra is just background supporting the piano let's listen [Laughter] this is another very common kind of interaction because soloist and orchestra to hurt together but the foreground is flexible moving back and forth between them at rehearsal see the piano becomes much more active careening around with quick arpeggios now the piano accompanies the orchestra which punctuates the arpeggios with that for mode upbeat motive once again but the word accompaniment does not really do justice to what's happening here for the piano is also adding a level of energy that very much enhances the overall momentum this is the liveliest music we find up till here [Applause] now the piano introduces a new theme in the right hand but here the accompaniment is shared between the pianos left hand which provides movement and the orchestra and enrich sustain strings in the background this is a more complex texture one of several such possibilities inherent in the concerto idea after some more dialogue the music modulates to the dominant where another theme arrives at rehearsal D now the bassoon and then the clarinet present a singing line while the strings fill out the harmony but the repeated note motive the piano dances around the woodland line on a kind of header often II he was in chromatic double neighbor motive here the orchestra returns to a theme previously presented during the long orchestral exposition which has never yet appeared in the piano after a few modulating bars the theme comes back and c-major the piano supplying flowing figuration around it note that the piano part is not just empty passage work it has little non harmonic tone flourishes that give it color and personality the cliche idea of acara was just a piece to show off the soloist nothing can share with us by second-rate composers are like that the Beethoven goes to a great deal of trouble here to compose rich figuration I call this quasi counterpoint on the occasions when Beethoven does use simpler arpeggio figuration as here the line is arranged to have a specific member will contour in this case a series of rising waves no but also the accompaniment here in the orchestra as it exchanges two motives in invertible counterpoint between strings and winds again the piano has momentum and energy now let's look at the second movement of this concerto here Beethoven has invented a completely new kind of concerto texture the word is short and based on two ideas the first one that appears right away in the orchestra is rather assertive in character loud with lots of abrupt dotted rhythms the second one appears when the piano enters and it's lyrical rather introspective throughout the movement orchestra and piano each continue to present their respective ideas but without managing to influence the other rather like two people talking but I'm willing to really listen to one another the piano eventually becomes more expensive for the high singing line now the orchestra is reduced to just the barest bits academy compliment you then the piano presents a somewhat more energetic cadenza eventually quieting down to a simple cadence the orchestra then returns with this original motive but now very very quietly in the bass even more striking as the mysterious sustained a pedal in the upper strings the firmly assertive theme has now completely changed character becoming much more tentative six bars before the end of the movement the dotted note motive disappears completely the piano intervenes with the last sigh in its original character and then as a very slow arpeggio on a budget or over the last chord Beethoven here has transformed the confrontation and into a kind of sad peaceful sharing between the two actors the sensitive individual has succeeded in calming down the aggressive group the effect is extraordinarily poignant this is thinking about the possibilities of the concerto situation at a very deep level never before attempted the contrast between individual and group is clearly a social metaphor it doesn't take much effort to imagine how potent this would be in real life you


  • Wing Flanagan says:

    For me, this puts Beethoven's 4th in a new perspective. I had not realized how modern (relatively speaking) it was. I think I mentioned before how much I love his fifth concerto (and I still do) , but it seems downright frivolous by comparison, now. How much I have to learn…

    Thank you, Alan, again and again, for your great spirit of generosity and love of music…

  • Ishag Shafeeg says:

    Loving these!

  • Franco Bonanni says:

    Thank you prof. Belkin it interesting how you compare and underline every aspect of the motive and their development. You guide us step by step to observe the comparison. Your explanation are built on sound real and evidence in the score writing. How I woild like to be your student…thank you again.

  • Nando Florestan says:

    Thank you!

  • Amund Vaage says:

    I very much enjoy these analyses!
    So interesting!
    Thank you !

    Is the oboe a little flat in general in this recording?

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