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Discussion of Four Musical Pieces of Still, Gershwin, Copland, Márquez

  • Composer: William Grant Still
  • Composer Dates: 1895-1978
  • Piece: Suite for Violin and Piano: III
  • Date of piece: 1990
  • Medium: Violin, Piano

Discussion: The playful piano accompaniment at the beginning of the piece invites a choppy violin tune. A lively staccato tune is interrupted by a legato melody. The piano changes the emphasis from clean accompaniment to developed song. The violinist first leads his part on the lower strings, after which he breaks down into passages up to the highest notes. Towards the middle, a part is introduced where the piano and the violin communicate in the form of a dialogue. The piano often pauses, but towards the end of the piece, it picks up speed at a moderate pace, after which, together with the phrases from the violin, the part ends up brightly.

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Personal Impressions: An unusual piece that keeps a steady pace for two minutes. The suite creates a fantastic impression of unexpected development since it is impossible to guess what will happen next: now a short melody, directly a smooth transition, now a dialogue form. The violin rushes from the lowest notes through the passages to the solo tune on the high strings. When, towards the end, the violin starts to play at intervals, accompanying the increasing tension on the piano, a sense of something grandiose is created. Nevertheless, in my opinion, such unusual transitions and motives resemble life in all its unique manifestations: from ups to downs and with an exquisite point.

  • Composer: George Gershwin
  • Composer Dates: 1898-1937
  • Piece: Rhapsody in Blue
  • Date of piece: 1924
  • Medium: Orchestra, Piano

Discussion: The opening melody on the clarinet is accompanied by a light abrupt accompanying part, allowing oneself both classical jazz moves and unusual passages. Later, the clarinet transfers the solo’s right into the hands of the stringed instruments to the sedate tempo of the chords of the brass band. The piano enters loudly and unexpectedly, foreshadowing a loud splash of the entire orchestra, followed by a playful tune in high notes. The piano is given a moment free from the orchestra, during which the pianist alternates the bass note with expressive chord playing. Light piano passages turn into passionate and loud playing across the entire keyboard until finally, the whole orchestra joins in, playing one of the most famous motives of this piece. Towards the end, the piece’s main theme is revealed, and the orchestra and piano come to the finale with all the grandeur inherent in the orchestra slowing down the tempo.

Personal Impressions: The combination of jazz and classical music elements from the very beginning of the piece is breathtaking. A fresh approach for its time, which Gershwin discovered, coupled with the “blues tones” mentioned in the title, creates the effect of grandeur and light and light sadness, which is inherent in the blues. The melodic transitions in the piano solo parts remind me of the emotional throwing, which later became one of the main themes of blues compositions up to our time. The repetition of the theme is like an obsessive thought that triumphs at the end of the work, announcing victory or defeat. The dynamics of the improvisation are constantly changing from piano to forte, leaving no passing moments in such a long piece.

  • Composer: Aaron Copland
  • Composer Dates: 1900-1990
  • Piece: Appalachian Spring, Part 1 and Section 7
  • Date of piece: 1944
  • Medium: Chamber Orchestra

Discussion: Melody carries sound in the chorus of wind instruments accurately and slowly. In which there are no violent outbursts, the progressive development of the melody leads the changing euphony to the end as quiet as the beginning. It is difficult to grasp a single theme in the work, but the general mood remains throughout the entire first part. The seventh part of the piece is already more dynamic, combining both fast passages and accompanying melodies in staccato that accompany the main theme. Brass and string orchestra echoes in constant triumph, while glissandos sound in the background throughout the stave.

Personal Impressions: The pacification that the piece creates from the first notes sweeps through the extended chords until the end of the first movement. The feeling of a landscape is made; it is not without reason that the sculptor Isamu Noguchi provided visual support for the premiere. The transitions of chords and intervals created by the brass and string orchestra seem to be constantly resolved into the tonic while maintaining the vector of melody development. The spring landscape, just as neat and barely perceptible in winter colors, ultimately echoes the melodies of the first part of this work. The seventh movement seems to be telling about spring in its very heyday, the exuberant growth of plants and flowers, the triumph of fauna and flora, an endless spring holiday flowing into summer on major chords. This work is one of the brightest in the dynamic aspect, carrying the image of a static picture.

  • Composer: Arturo Márquez
  • Composer Dates: 1950-…
  • Piece: Danzón No. 2
  • Date of piece: 2007
  • Medium: Orchestra

Discussion: The flavor of Mexican national music is heard from the first seconds in the percussion of the piece. The clarinet immediately joins in with the part, gradually summing up the intro of the entire orchestra. However, the culmination is not long in coming, and the orchestra enters with a lively melody of echoing bass winds and strings. Percussion retains a sense of rhythm, which the exuberant theme tries to speed up and slow down. In the middle of the piece, the piano enters the sounds of violins in the Latin manner, somewhat reminiscent of tango. The false ending allows the orchestra to pick up speed exceptionally quickly for a spectacular conclusion to the piece.

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Personal Impressions: The expressive touch of Latin and Mexican art creates an unusual take on classical music. As soon as percussion was added to the melodic course of the clarinet, the piece sounded fresh and with a national flavor. The expressive performance of the orchestra ideally echoes the author’s idea. The work is saturated with short melodies, the fighting nature of percussion, and dynamic explosions as if it reflects the waywardness of the Latin people.

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