Sarah Boyson's Blog

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Grieg’s Lyric Pieces

May 8th, 2011 by Sarah Boyson · Uncategorized

Edvard Grieg was a Norwegian born pianist and compoer. Grieg was inspired by Norwegion folk music and that is evident in his compositions. Short character pieces such as these were common in the late 19th to early 20th century. Grieg became a master at composing works that fell into this category. It is evident in Lyric Pieces. Lyric Pieces is a collection of many piano miniatures averaging 2 to 3 minutes in length. Each pieces has its own mood. Some pieces are more virtuosic than others. Each piece has its own theme that can be clearly traced throughout and understood easily. Harmonically, everything seemed simple. The rhythms, on the other hand, always kept my attention. My favorite pieces that illustrates that point is Op.38 – 1. Berceuse. The B section of Op. 38 is radical mood swing compared to the A section. The A sections returns making this a relatively coherent piece. I didn’t feel such a strong connection to the work as a whole. There are about 60 short pieces in the whole set which makes it hard to understand the main idea or meaning behind the work.

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Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition

May 1st, 2011 by Sarah Boyson · Uncategorized

Mussorgsky, in my opinion, is an odd yet extremely brilliant composer. He was not formally taught in a conservatory. He obtained his knowledge of composition through Rimsey-Korsakov and through observing operas by Verdi. In Mussorgsky’s suite, Pictures at an Exhibition, contains fifteen little individual sections. Each title gives an image for the listener to keep in the back of his/her mind while listening.
Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is one of my favorite piano compositions. It starts out with the Promenade. This movement of the suite is full of so much emotion and imagery that my mind is never dormant. With every beat comes wondrous harmonies that allow my mind to roam free and depict any scene I want that fits with the mood. In some parts there is a drone in the left hand which give me a point of reference and better helps me connect with the melodic right hand. Following the Promenade is No. 1, “Gnomus.” I greatly enjoy this sections due to the varying tempi, with frequent stops here and there, all combined with a frantic right hand melody. My favorite part of Pictures at an Exhibition is a recap of the Promenade throughout the whole suite. By bringing back a theme that the listener has heard previously, Mussorgsky allows the listener to feel a part of the composition and helps them better connect themselves to what is going on. Such virtuosity is necessary to perform this composition. The pianist must be strongly connected with the music in order to get the point across and gain audience approval. The performance I listened to was by Evgeny Kissin, a Russian pianist. From the information I found in my research, Kissin was a child prodigy. He most certainly captured the essence of Mussorgsky’s Pictures of an Exhibition. I was nothing but captivated by the genius composer, Mussorgsky, and the raw talent of Kissin.

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Strauss Der Rosenkavalier (Act 1)

April 24th, 2011 by Sarah Boyson · Uncategorized

The introduction to act 1 of Strauss’s Rosenkavalier, “Wie du warst! Wie du bist,” begins triumphantly. The first ten seconds immediately caught my attention. I was nothing less than enthralled and the rich texture of the string section perfectly complimented by the brass section. Harmonically this introduction was intriguing. The mood changes once the curtain open. The orchestration radically calms down and we are introduced to Princess Marie Therese and Count Octavian Rofrano. What I found interesting was that Octavian is played by a mezzo-soprano. A mezzo-soprano is a good range for a woman to play the character of a young man and it was extremely clever for Strauss to take advantage of that. Princess Marie Therese is neglected by her husband so she looks for a new romance. The Princess is much older than Octavian. Their love is strong but she is worried that, with time, Octavian will start to look to look to younger women for love. When one of the Princess’s relatives enters, Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau, Octavian dresses up as a chambermaid so that the secret love affair is not discovered. Here the orchestration picks up tempo and dissonant intervals are heard making me feel the tension in the air. As Baron Ochs talks to the Princess she is distracted by Octavian. The orchestration here becomes loud and drowns out Ochs voice and more focus is put on the love connection between the Princess and Octavian (all while he is still dressed as a chambermaid). My favorite part of this opera was Strauss’ use of the waltz. When this opera was first being performed some people reacted negatively to the waltz. I think it was a brilliant idea to incorporate this into the opera because of its light, delicate feel. The waltz isn’t too heavy and adds a carefree feeling to the scene when its used.

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Wagner’s Parsifal

April 17th, 2011 by Sarah Boyson · Uncategorized

Parsifal, being Wagner’s last opera, is one that took 25 years to write (1857-1882). This opera immediately caught my attention in that it is full of Christian values and beliefs. From briefly reading Peter Bassett’s Wagner’s Parsifal: The Journey of the Soul, I found out that symbols such as the Grail and the Holy Spear are used in the music drama which I found intriguing. This certainly intensified the urge to listen to this work.

The Good Friday Music from Act III is very calm and peaceful. The vocal line is sweet and floats about the orchestration. There are times when the orchestra is prominent with no vocal accompaniment. Wagner’s focus on the orchestration is present and can be grasped by any listener. The music alone tells a story that enhances the words of the text. Wagner knew well how provoke certain feelings through the orchestration. The Good Friday Music gets more and more intense and complex as time goes on. The music becomes fuller and thicker as the scene goes on. The feeling is somewhat melancholy but there is an underlying sense of hope lingering.

Between scene 1 and 2 of this opera is the “Mittag. Die Stund’ ist da” The brass section here is grand, loud, and upfront to the listener. The constant, steady beat of the drum gives and eerie dark mood to this piece. Once the chorus enters the strings become my main focus. The mood becomes a little lighter with the strings but it is still mysterious feeling.

Wagner did an exceptional job at making this music drama organic. He creatively combined the vocal line and melody to relate to the text to produce one soulful, organic work.

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Verdi, Don Carlos (Act IV)

April 10th, 2011 by Sarah Boyson · Uncategorized

Verdi composed Don Carlos for the Parisian Opera in 1867. It was based off a play by Schiller. This story line is full of love triangles. The text was originally set in French but Verdi make revisions and eventually set the text in Italian.

This opera is about tormented human emotions in love and also torment from political power. The music, however, shows me beauty and strength, something that should always be present in the back of ones mind during awful situations. The text tells me one thing while the music helps me cope with the issues at hand.

The music accompaniment also reflects the text in that it picks up tempo at intense moments. Also, when anxiety is being provoked the harmonies become more dissonant and give the listener a chance to feel emotion through music rather than just by text alone. The vocal ranges are large and show the capabilities of each voice. Also, large vocal ranges can help with feeling certain emotions drawn from the text. The dark tones of the music perfectly reflect the seriousness of this act giving the listener the full slew of emotions presented by Verdi.

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Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel & Clara Schumann

March 19th, 2011 by Sarah Boyson · Uncategorized

The composers Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel and Clara Schumann were possibly the most important female figures in the Romantic Era. Both women were friends who dealt with almost the same struggles. Felix Mendelssohn was Fanny’s younger brother. She had to work extra hard to get out of his shadow and make a name for herself as did Clara with her husband, Robert Schumann.

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel’s Trio for Piano and Strings in D minor, Op. 11 dates back to 1846. The opening movement, Allegro vivace, lives up to its title. This is an ubeat fast movement. The piano makes the accompaniment feel restless and slightly anxious. The strings here carry the melody beautifully. There seems to be a sense of longing for something here. The harmonies create a tension and a drive throughout the movement. The next section, Andante espressivo, is slow and very contemplative. The piano accompaniment here reflects the violin part. They both play similar gestures at the same tome or in succession to each other. The third movement, Lied, is a moderately upbeat piece that has light and airy feel. The counterpoint between the piano and violin is exquisite. By simply listening to the piano accompaniment, one can tell that Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel was an extremely talented individual who put loads of care and thought into each note and harmony. The last movement, Allegro moderato, begins with a long piano introduction. When the strings enter, the beat becomes fat and heavy. There is a lot of action going on in this movement. The rhythms change quite often here, always keeping my attention.

Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for violin and Piano, op. 22, no. 2, was composed in 1855. This three movement composition is well structured and truly shows Schumann’s abilities as a composer. She begins her composition with a slow movement, Andante molto. The piano and violin compliment each other well in the opening movement. The slow tempo really allows the violin to be as expressful and lovely as possible. The second movement, Allegretto, with its moderate tempo and ornaments and trills in the piano and violin give an overall happy mood. Neither the piano or the violin rest in this movement. There is always a constant drive and direction here. I feel the last movement was composed on a sunny day. Who could be sad with this fast tempo with constant beautiful arpeggiations in the left hand of the piano? The melody in the violin is expressive and wonderfully composed.

Such strong feelings must have been running through these women to compose such beautiful, artistic works. The talent each woman possessed is remarkable.

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Rosinni, La Cenerentola

March 6th, 2011 by Sarah Boyson · Uncategorized

Rossini’s begins his opera with an upbeat, highly charismatic piece. This opener grabbed my attention almost immediately. The theme was clearly presented and could be followed throughout the whole piece which gave me, the listener, a great understanding and feel for it. When Cenerentola’s step sisters enter the orchestration is still cheerful and happy. Once Cenerentola (Cinderella) is alone to sing, her ballad is slow, sad, and heartfelt. I could feel her anxiety and depression from living in such a harsh environment where she is taken for granted daily. The difficulty of this opera is very apparent. Once the sisters find out that the Prince will be arriving soon the tempo increases, vocal lines and orchestration become more chaotic. The mood of the opera is now eager and anxious.
Excitement overpowered the sisters and their commotion wakes up their father, Magnifico. Magnifico is a big powerful guy who has dominance over his family. The orchestration here helps us hear his power and authority.
When the Prince arrives disguised as his own valet, the instrumentation is light, bouncy, and somewhat full of question. A lot of time when the Prince is singing, the orchestration ceases. The Prince sings his line and the orchestra responds. This tells me that the things the Prince has to say are most significant for the audience.
When the Prince sees Cenerentola for the first time he is struck in awe. I could feel that there was an immediate connection between these two. The vocal music exudes a feeling of desire and longing.
The Prince’s real valet, arrives in disguise as the Prince. The sisters are all over the imposter, fooled at his true identity while the real prince sits slyly in the background and lurking for the perfect lady. Occasionally he exchanges glances with Cenerentola. Magnifico recognizes what is going on and refuses to let his step daughter go to the ball. Cenerentola is greatly broken at the thought of not being able to see that lovely gentleman again.
Magnifico lies of the death of Cenerentola. Here the mood shifted from excitement to sadness and grief.
The beggar from the beginning reappears on the scene. Now it is just Cenerentola and the beggar on stage. At first everything is gloomy and sad. But throughout this piece there arrives new hope eagerness in the life of Cenerentola. The beggar turns into Cenerentola’s “fairy godfather” and gives her reassurance that God has a bigger and better plan for her. The orchestral accompaniment throughout this entire act reflects the words and emotions set forth in the text. This comic opera held my attention throughout and always kept me entertained.

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Shubert, Die Forelle; Piano Quintet in A Major (Trout), D. 667

February 27th, 2011 by Sarah Boyson · Uncategorized

Schubert, Piano Quintet in A Major (The Trout), D. 667

The first movement, Allegro vivace, gave me insight on the life of a jovial trout. The quick tempo shows excitement and eagerness in the trout. The warm water is calm, the sun is shining. From the very beginning I felt a carefree, mirthful feeling overpower me. This movement threw me back to my childhood when I would spend my days outside playing not having a worry in mind. Andante, the second movement starts out slow. This part of the trout’s day is more relaxed but also carries a sense of mystery and wonder. Danger feels close in the future. However, when the theme returns my anxious feelings vanish. The trout keeps going on about its business. The third movement, the Scherzo: Presto, is a fast, upbeat movement bursting with life. It is much shorter than the first two movements but it is full of cheerfulness and excitement. The Theme and Variations are next. This is where Schubert connects the Piano Quintet in A Major to Die Forelle for piano and voice. The themes of both these compositions are similar. The instrumentation in the Piano Quintet captures the idea and mood of the poem perfectly. A minor key is established as the fisherman catches his target and then returns back the the tonic as the variations end. Allegro Guisto closes this set of movements. Even though the trout has been caught I am left with a feeling of joy. Life is precious and we all need to appreciate it, learn from our mistakes, and be happy. I feel the Allegro Guisto depicts the life of all the other fish who learned the trouts mistake of taking the bait. The other fish are smarter and can use their cleverness to stay alive and be well and merry trout in a calm stream.

Die Forelle

Closing my eyes and listening to this piece I envision calm, rolling waters due to the arpeggios in the left hand piano accompaniment. The mood which Schubert conveys through his music is 100% related to the text of the poem. The first two verses set the scene and introduce us to the trout. The music has a light and airy texture to it. The dynamics enhance the feeling of flowing water through the stream. As the text reaches the point in which the fisherman catches the trout the mood shifts from easiness to anxious and suspense. The piece grows more intense as the fifth verse approaches. I could feel the trout was in danger before his actual capture. The ending makes me wonder how the mood of the piece can be cheerful and upbeat right as the tout was caught. This seems like is should sad and depressing. Maybe I need to live with the piece more to understand its meaning.

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Beethoven Missa Solemnis.

February 24th, 2011 by Sarah Boyson · Uncategorized

No one can compare to the brilliant works of the one and only Ludwig van Beethoven. Although completely deaf when writing this piece, Beethoven managed to create a work of art. The ringing D major chords in the beginning of the Kyrie gave me a sense that this entire work was about to be grand and full of excitement. Upon reading the text before listening to this masterpiece I was concerned about how Beethoven could take four words and turn that into a ten minute long movement. After listening I was blown away by the range and difficulty of the vocal parts. One could obviously take from the Gloria that it is song of praise. The music is upbeat, robust, and it contained energy of mass proportions. The orchestral part beautifully accompanies the voices in this movement. The tempo was so uplifting to me as a listener that I often found myself smiling with my head bobbing with the beat. The Credo is presented in a “matter of fact” kind of way. The text proclaims all the things that a Catholic believes in. When the text reaches the serious point where Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and became man the music from the orchestra relates to it perfectly by playing pianissimo. That whole section was delicate and made my spirit light as well as allowing me appreciate the meaning behind the text. The Sactus, being a slow movement, put me into a thinking stage. The harmonies are dark and mysterious. I feel like I am being drawn back into the 800s where chant dominated all. In this movement there is a lot of orchestral parts being played with no voices. This allowed my ears and body to feel the music and feel the praise towards God bringing me peace within. The Agnus Dei is also a slow, mysterious movement. Beethoven was an extremely talented individual who, even though he was deaf when composing this, could make the music reflect the words of the text. By doing this he drew me in so close to his music and I could feel a personal and religious connection to this piece. Overall, the orchestration was heavy in parts but it was also nicely complimented with light airy sections. There is much variety in this composition keeping me interested and begging for more.

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Hello world!

February 16th, 2011 by Sarah Boyson · Uncategorized

Welcome to your blog. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

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