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Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra Music Theory

Concerto for Clarinet Aaron Copland The Clarinet Concerto consists of three parts: two movements with the full orchestra, with a clarinet solo in between. The first movement, somewhat quieter than the second, starts off slowly, with each instrument or section joining in at a different time, rather than all at once. Since the clarinet is the only wind instrument present in this piece, it is easily able to establish and separate itself from the other instruments, rather than blending in as it would in a larger group, although it would sometimes play lines similar to that of the violins, and would be less prominent. As a result, the texture of the piece would often switch between homophony and polyphony, as a melody was always present, but whether or not it was split between the clarinets and another instrument, or the two played it simultaneously, changed continuously. The cadenza between the two movements at times seemed to emphasize the upper registers of the clarinets range, and the timbre was often very shrill as a result. The second movement was dynamically louder than the first, and seemed to focus on a minor tonality more often than the first, but still not to a great extent. The piano was featured more often in this movement than the first, changing the overall sound. The piece as a whole seemed to be largely tonal and consonant, with most dissonant parts resolving to consonance tonally, although there were some parts that did not sound completely tonal in a traditional sense, although this may have just been due to a form of theory I had not yet been acquainted with. I found it intriguing that the piece should be arranged for clarinet, piano, and strings, as I was expecting brass or at least some other woodwinds to be present if a clarinet was to be included. The clarinet worked very well with the strings, blending in when necessary,

and taking advantage of its particular timbre to stand out at other times. The piano, on the other hand, did not seem to mix quite as coherently with the other instruments, often sitting awkwardly on top of the other parts without assimilating. Overall, the musicians performed well, and with the exception of a few mistakes during the cadenza, executed their parts almost flawlessly. Should This Be Found Perry Goldstein Should This Be Found is based on the journals of Robert Falcon Scott during his ill-fated second expedition to the South Pole. The dynamics of the piece changed quite often, but the tempo remained fairly constant and brisk, but not too fast. Woodwinds and brass were introduced, instead of having only strings as in the clarinet concerto, and a soprano was used to sing passages from Scotts journal to contextualize the movements. The bitonality of the piece made for some very dissonant passages, and most of the piece did not seem to be consonant, at least in a traditional sense, but at times, usually at the end of a movement or to highlight a certain part of the text, the dissonance would briefly resolve to consonance. The instruments seemed to stay away from the highest parts of their registers so as to let the soprano stand out, and this proved to be quite successful for the most part. The Voyage Out and Land at Least, which detailed the beginning of the journey and the arrival at Antarctica, respectively, appeared to be mostly major, as they signified the more positive and joyful parts of the story. Initially, Penguins seemed to do so as well, describing the playfulness of the penguins and their interaction with the adventurers. However, this particular movement ended on a more ominous and sinister note, foreshadowing the disastrous ending of the expedition. The next movements, Impressions on the March and In Winter Quarters appeared to favor a more minor tonality, as the conditions of the expedition worsen and, upon finding out that the South Pole had been previously discovered, it was realized that the entire trip would end fruitlessly. The last movement, Summit,

the Pole, and Beyond, ends very quietly, as Scott dedicates his journal to his wife and child before passing away. Using a more diverse range of instruments produced a much fuller and fleshed-out sound than having mostly strings with a single woodwind player and a piano player. The orchestra itself sounded very pleasant, however, the soprano was singing in an exceedingly high range, producing a very shrill timbre. This helped her parts to be heard above the rest of the orchestra, which was most likely the intended effect, and could be somewhat piercing in certain sections. The orchestra as a whole, however, performed very well, and the end result was very pleasant. Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98 Johannes Brahms This piece by Brahms was the most clearly consonant and tonal piece of the works showcased in this concert, and seemed to abide by the compositional guidelines we learned in class most strictly. The four movements were named after their intended tempos: "Allegro non troppo," Andante moderato, "Allegro giocoso," and "Allegro energico e passionato." Compared to the instrumentation of Should This Be Found, some of the wind instruments were removed, but not to the degree of the concerto. The movements seemed to be major for the most part, with the exception of the last movement, which seemed to be more minor. The tempos did not reach any real extremes, fast or slow, and the piece appeared to be composed so that each instrument was playing in their most pleasant sounding range, as there were no shrill or jarring timbres. Although I enjoyed the other two pieces, it was refreshing to hear a piece that was completely tonal in a traditional sense, as the more modern ideas from the previous piece, though very interesting, took their toll after a while. The parts were elegantly arranged to complement one another, and the voice leading was much smoother and more linear than the other pieces. The

musicians performed very well, especially the cello section, who handled some particularly challenging runs very well. The break from the dissonance of the last piece provided a very pleasant closing to the concert.