We thought it would be fun to share a peek behind the curtain into some of the in-depth technical and theoretical thinking and research that goes into putting a concert like The Lover together. This season, in an effort to enrich the Criers' interpretations, we're trying a new system: an "Artistic Wheel." Each piece that we perform gets a "spoke" on the wheel - one Crier who is responsible for collecting historical and theoretical information about the piece. All of the spokes meet up with the "axle" (who coordinates the process) and compare notes, searching for common threads between pieces and talking about the meta-interpretation of the concert as a whole. Below is the document produced by the spokes and axle, with insights on The Lover as a whole. It gets pretty technical (fair warning) and if you find your eyes glazing over, you might rather skip to the summary at the end. Also - a word to the wise - in a concert called The Lover, it is perhaps inevitable that sex comes up, so those with delicate sensibilities, consider yourself warned... Emotional and psychological parallels provide a map to illuminate the harmonic terrain and melodic contour.
grab a score....
The importance of the Interval of the 2nd; major, minor (and quarter tone!) and its function within melody, appoggiatura and harmonic modulation.
In the harmonic sense the minor 2nd is represented frequently by the Neapolitan chord (flat II), as well as 1/2 or whole step modulations to definitive key areas giving it structural relevance as well.
Melodically speaking, the interval of the 2nd is present in the main/opening theme of the Tchaikovsky, the Wolf and the Ginastera-*(here the appoggiatura is further ornamented with a falling quarter tone grace note)
In their original conception each piece existed as quartets and sextets, conversations of love in more intimate mediums.
Wolf Opening the Lover's journey, the Wolf, (written in 1887-only 3 years before Souvenirs), suggests flirtatious courtship ...
Light hearted charm and wit dance between the lines of major and minor. Melodically speaking, this is apparent from the main theme, for example 1st violins bar 16-20. Also within the melodic decent of the 2nd theme from bar 161.
In a harmonic sense- the first motion of a minor 2nd is in bar 9, with the brief appearance of E Flat Major, the flat 6 of our home key of G Major, or the Neopolitan of the Dominant (D Major), which is the next key area we arrive at in measure 33. However, even this arrival is flavored by the interval of the 2nd- with a trill... again flirting around/postponing any real resolution.
The Neapolitan appears in bar134
This is in addition to the larger architecture of the G Major, F# Minor/Major key areas (that sharon points out in her document). Sharon has expressed some of her stylistic concepts: narrow vibrato to not disturb harmony, keeping strokes small, tight articulation, short, transparent...
This seems well suited to the concept of two lovers who playfully tease each other, but in their innocence don't seem to seduce with a knowledge of the full spectrum of heightened climaxes, ecstasy or pain.
Souvenir de Florence (a more detailed analysis)
Understanding the melodic use of the descending minor 2nd and the harmonic motion by the descending major second.
The importance of the minor 2nd is revealed in bar 1-built on a 1st inversion dominant 9th chord, the 1st violin melody begins with a descending minor 2nd (from B Flat, the 9th (or 2nd)) defining the motive and creating the passionate yearning character.
We only have to wait 16 bars to get to the Neopolitan chord, thus the importance of the minor 2nd both in its melodic and harmonic sense after less then 20 bars.
The first substantial arrival is to the Tranquillo section, which exists in C Major. (in a sturdy root position) This harmonic motion down a major 2nd, suggests a modal character - reminiscent of folk music. (this modal harmonic motion is also found in the last movement, moving from d minor to C major during the first few lines). The conversation passes between C Major and a minor
We walk through many modulations to arrive at B Minor briefly in Bar 80....This is only to prolong our need to arrive at A Major... But rather then arriving in the home key at the double bar 92, we cross into A Major through the 2nd theme, which sits on the new dominant chord E Major. Analogous to the main theme and its harmonic tension in bar 1, the melody of the 2nd theme begins with the descending major 2nd- a decent from F# to E (remember this is over E Major, the dominant of A Major). When we do hit A Major at letter C, the instability or vulnerability of this section is defined by the fact that the chord is not in root position, but the 3rd is in the bass. (similar to the use of A Major in 1st inversion in bar 1) We navigate through f # minor, D Major and more, suggesting the pitch A as a reference but not as a home key (at all in this section since the appearance of the bar line and key change marking at measure 92).... until finally 13 bars after E in a light-hearted pizz cadence.
After passing through transitional material, the next major arrival is of the Neopolitan of the recent A Major, 17 bars after F - B Flat Major.
We pass through many modulations and manipulations of the motivic material... the next big arrival is at letter I. Built on an A Flat minor chord (a tri tone away from this movement's home key of d), the violas are the primary voice of interest here, singing an appoggiatura from a minor 2nd above the 5th.... E natural (F flat) to E Flat.
The next tranquillo appears in F Major, shortly after we hear the 2nd theme in D Major, (built on the dominant - A Major), at its peak expression at letter P and finally arriving in the relief of D Major, outlined by the same pizzicato chords 13 bars later. The inevitable d minor is postponed as long as possible, finally taking over at the piu mosso.
The main theme of the 2nd movement also highlights the flirtatious minor 2nd decent, or appoggiatura with the first two notes of the melody.... and concludes the same line with a turn around the major 2nd.
In the 3rd movement the Neopolitan is pronounced 8 and 1/2 bars before letter E... in 1st inversion.... with a pizzicato conclusion, followed by a bar of tutti rest with a fermata on it... leaving silence after this harmony change, to intensify or elongate its impact.
One other unusual use of harmony in this piece, at this point in time, (perhaps in addition to the use of the modal modulations from D to C in the 1st and 4th movements) is a modulation by way of a 3rd relationship. This occurs in the 3rd movement after the double bar l'istesso marking (the nutcracker like area). Moving around in A Major, Tchaikovsky takes us to F Major in the 4th bar of H, using it as a path back to A Minor, the home key of the movement.
The fourth movement avoids the dominant (A Major) for as long as possible, never having it appear within the context of the 1st theme until the very end... pivoting around the motion from d minor to C major or g minor. the 2nd theme appears in C Major with an arrival on its dominant at the climactic unison G after letter D. When we return to the 1st theme in d minor (after F)... we must note the sneaky F Major (motion to the 3rd) in the 3rd bar of H. Finally after the heavily modulatory fugue (starting in d minor again) we return to the 2nd theme now in D Major (glorious and rejuvenating) 8 before letter O. We visit the same theme in B Flat major (a 3rd down). We immediately go through a heavily chromatic decent through dominant and diminished chords and turn a corner 4 before Q in our return to D Major. Finally after waiting the entire movement to reach the dominant of its home key of D... we arrive together for a tutti unison A at letter R. Ascending chromatically afterwards back to the D major and through the coda... all the way home... with a few memories of what we've been through illustrated by the b flat chromatic descent from Piu Vivace.
Concerto for Strings can be viewed as containing the micro level of chromaticism in comparison to the other composers here.
Most obviously we see his use of the 12 tone row, or purely chromatic language utilized both in an expressive melodic fashion and in his efforts to achieve simultaneity with both rhythm and harmony. The best example harmonically is bar 195 from the 2nd movement, where we found every pitch used, while still in the context of major and minor triads. Melodically, we have the row from the slow movement. However, Ginastera shows his dedication to beauty in the Western harmonic sense, by choosing to adjust the row in its vertical relationship to the other voices when he wishes- never bound by the 12 tone row in an academic sense. We can interpret the use of the quarter tone, (also within an appoggiatura like we found in many of Tchaik's themes) as being a choice for expression- in a very vocal and human way. Therefore even when we see the row in the slow movement, or the dual tonalities in the 2nd movement, or even the rubbing of minor 2nds and tri tones in the 4th movement - we can still conceptualize these harmonic choices as being expressive and beautiful. ... having the emotional depth of Schubert and the shimmering hue of many French composers... Meanwhile never forgetting our rhythmic roots in South America.
In contrast to both the innocence of the Italian Serenade, and the impassioned (but still of this world) Souvenirs, the Ginastera is more more psychologically complex. Introduced with a melancholic narrative, the 1st movement finds some harmonic stability from a pitch center of G. The opening evokes a very vocal, though perhaps non human expression, the quarter tone ornamenting the appoggiatura seems to dip into another dimension, intoxicating us from the start. This piece in the center of the program, may function as a exploration of the sub-conscious, the raw self we find in dreams, the juxtaposition of past, present and future... the psychedelic.
We must carefully distinguish each movement from the next. Understanding the 1st as a narrative, improvisatory freedom and heated expressionism for each soloist, in contrast to the more linear, non vibrated fleeting 16th note unison passages, animal like shrieks or rustic chords. Full of sound effects, the 2nd movement can rely on its many arpeggios, palindromes within melody for something tangible in the left hand. It help us keep the pulse if we conceptualize a composite rhythm between the voices and flow through long horizontal lines, dove tailing one another. In the Anguished Adagio, we can be a force of nature in our expression of tension and climax in the middle of the movement, while book ending this intensity with the lonesome introduction of the violas- commented on by the violins with sighs, always remembering an emotional touch in the left hand. The canonic row also has a lonesome quality, but the outline of the minor triad at the start keeps us somewhat rooted to the earth. The finale can be influenced by a quote the principals find inspiration from : "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee"
While embodying the rustic freedom of the gaucho, cowboy of las pampas, we still must stay unified be highly attentive to the voicing/balance. Beginning with a tone cluster around f, with various similar 3note cluster meeting points, we have a major arrival at 69 around G# and A in 149. We may reference the plot of Bomarzo, Ginastera's opera that was banned in Argentina after its premiere just 1 year after that of this Concert for Strings, as an insight into the more complicated psychological episodes of the piece
..."struggles with sex, submits to violence, and is tormented by the metaphysical anxiety of death."
"Pier Francesco Orsini, the Duke of Bomarzo, a stunted hunchback, drinks what his astrologer Silvio de Narni claims to be a magic potion that will grant the Duke immortality. However, the drink turns out to be poisoned. After the poison starts to work, Bomarzo begins to recall his life in a series of flashbacks. His father drags the young Pier Francesco into a room where a large skeleton dances and haunts him. Later, his father falls in battle. In Florence, the young, virginal Pier Francesco goes to see to the courtesan Pantasilea. However, he sees his image in her room of mirrors, to his disturbance. Pier Francesco's brother Girolamo falls from a cliff and dies, and Pier Francesco becomes the new Duke of Bomarzo. He meets Julia Farnese, who prefers Bomarzo's brother Maerbale, to his anger. At a dance festival, the Duke experiences various dreams. While courting Julia, he spills a glass of red wine on her dress, which he interprets as a premonition of death.
Bomarzo and Julia eventually marry, but Bomarzo then becomes impotent. As time passes, the Duke creates large stone sculptures on his estate, symbolic of his tortured feelings. He starts to think that Julia is betraying him with Maerbale. The Duke orders his slave Abul to kill his brother. The astrologer Silvio mixes the magic potion as Bomarzo’s nephew Nicolas watches. Nicolas then poisons the drink. After he drinks the potion, the Duke dies."
Lovers.... Perhaps... The Wolf can be an expression of flirtation, comical, mischievous but Innocent..(light articulation, chromatic melodic turns)... the courtship of two virgins... not really a realization of what the spectrum of satisfaction is... (no full cadences) and If Tchaik is expressing himself as having the psychological understanding of lust, suspension, prolongation, brushing lightly just above the root of the chord while playing in the dominant... total foreplay... avoidance of the dominant... ever fully satisfied? then the Ginastera must be our subconsciousness... dream state... all of the aspects of our selves that we are afraid of... aspects of ourselves that are mesmerizingly intoxicating to other people, the most wild sex, the most horrific sorrow, ecstasy.. simplicity, the juxtaposition of time- past-present future-present-past, and the simultaneity of the various dimensions and how the inform each other.... the union of two people... or the union of all of our various selves.