Advanced Higher Music

  • Category: Music & Movies
  • Words: 1861
  • Grade: 100
The classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in 1756 in Salzburg, Austria, is probably the greatest composer in Western musical history. He began composing when he was five, and when he was six he performed in concerts in numerous courts with his older sister. He composed his first opera 'La Finta Semplice' at the age of twelve. In 1779 he was given the position of court organist, then two years later he was summoned to Vienna where he lived until he died in 1791, leaving a requiem which he had started writing unfinished. Among his numerous concertos, Mozart composed four horn concertos. In this essay I will be writing about the third movement, a fast and spirited rondo, of Mozart's fourth Concerto for horn and orchestra, kochel no.495.

In my opinion, Mozart's horn concertos have similarities with certain works by the early 20th century composer Ronald Binge, who was one of the most successful of his generation. As he came from a poor family, they didn't have the money to pay for Binge to go to music college, so he became a cinema organist, where he learnt a lot of light repertoire and developed his skills as an arranger. In 1935, when he was in London, Binge's breakthrough arrived when he became an arranger for Mantovani, subsequently reorganising the orchestra to create it's distinctive sound. One of Binge's most significant works is his Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, which he wrote in 1956. This consists of three movements, the second being a slow and sorrowful 'romance'. In this essay I am also going to write about the Romance by Binge, which is a complete contrast to the third movement of Mozart's Concerto for horn and Orchestra, which I previously mentioned.

Mozart's rondo is in 6/8 time and in the key of E flat major. It begins with the lively 'signature tune' which recurs throughout the movement, thus making it a rondo. The accompaniment to this melody is fairly bare, the strings play crotchets simultaneously on the first and fourth beats of the bar which gives a marching feel to the music. This fast and lively melody is then repeated on the strings, with added grace notes, which give it even more energy.

The first episode begins at bar 16, with the horn playing the melody while the strings play fast quaver patterns, which keeps the hurriedness of the piece. After this short burst of horn melody the strings play a very smooth, legato melody which the horn answers with a quaver melody. The horn once again manages to transform its quaver pattern into a short melody, which the strings imitate.

Bar 38 sees the entrance of a new episode, which is played in an important, prominent way on the horn, as if it is giving some kind of important alarm call. When this is imitated by the strings it is played very legato, which takes away the importance and urgency, so it now sounds more relaxed. The horn plays a counter melody over this, which also takes the emphasis off of the string melody. Just as the melody is starting to get light and airy, the rest of the orchestra comes in with loud crotchets played on the fourth and first beats of the bar. This adds a heavy, sturdy feel, which contrasts with the lightness before it. The long, high notes on the horn in bars 62-65, which descend chromatically, give a slight eeriness to the piece, but the quavers which follow hint at liveliness returning and, sure enough, they lead into the signature tune, which returns sounding even more happy and lively than before, with the marching accompaniment on the strings. The descending semi-quavers which occur in the bass accompaniment, e.g. in bar 71, add even more to the happy feel of this melody.

The third episode starts at bar 84, and in the first bar of it, the horn is unaccompanied. This, and the fact that the horn's note is pitched quite high, and it is playing in a less lively, predominant way, adds a slight feeling of sadness to the music. When the accompaniment comes in, the B naturals on the strings contribute to this sad feeling, and leave us in no doubt that this episode is slightly more serious than the rest of the rondo. Bar 99 starts off with the same string and horn melody as in bar 24. Each quaver pattern moves up a tone which starts to create a build-up, until the climax is reached, when the horn plays a loud and discordant sounding sub-dominant note. This note also gives the phrase a minor feel to it, and it stands out as being more important than the other phrases. The melody played on the horn after this significant F consists of quavers on the first and fourth beats of the bar, and the minor feel remains through the use of D sharp. This important 'minor' phrase is then repeated, for added emphasis.

In the phrase which follows, the first violins play F sharp for a whole bar, moving up a semitone to G, which the horn imitates in the next two bars. The strings then do the same one tone lower, which the horn again imitates. Then the strings do this one final time, a tone lower again, which the horn again imitates, but instead of stopping after the second note and continuing with the chromatic mood, it goes on to play the main melody again, which seems even faster this time, as it's liveliness is so sudden when we were expecting something more sinister.

The fourth episode starts off similar to the first, with the first three notes of an arpeggio on the tonic, C, E and G. But when we hear an E flat instead of an E the second time round, a sudden minor tone is created, which becomes even more dramatic in the next two bar phrase when, instead of hearing the G which we expect, it is replaced with an A flat. The next time this pattern is played, an F sharp replaces the A flat, which adds a slightly discordant sound. This moves on to a quick G, which suddenly makes the piece seem major again, and also makes the piece seem more lively, as it is played in a quick, short way. The lively D jumping occasionally to G pattern leaves us with no doubt that the piece has regained its original happy mood.

This moves on to another jumpy, almost swing-like, happy melody which is in fact an inverted version of the melody in bar 38. Following this is a semi-quaver/crotchet melody on the low C. These quick low notes sound almost humorous, as if Mozart is adding a joke to his music. They are played importantly, pompously even, and this pompous way in which they are played adds to the humorous sound of these notes. The movement regains its composure with the strongly bowed quavers on the strings, which lead to another short phrase on the horn. As this phrase ends on the tonic, it sounds almost finished, but is started up again by the same strong and loud quavers from the strings. The slow chromatic notes on the horn after this sound as if they are leading on to something significant, then as they become shorter, and the accompaniment becomes more bare, even more suspense is created through the rests. Just as everything seems to have stopped there is a sudden loud note, which is held on as if something dramatic is going to happen. Then something dramatic does happen, a big cadenza on the horn which ends, sounding unfinished, on the dominant, then goes straight back into the signature tune again. The strings then do their own lively version of this main melody, ending on dotted crotchets played tremolando, which get higher and higher, creating a huge build-up, until everything stops for the horn to play the first part of the main melody, with a smooth, legato accompaniment which gives the melody a more relaxed atmosphere. The horn then repeats this first part of the melody, this time with the original marching quaver accompaniment on the strings. After this is a descending arpeggio pattern on the horn, and it's quietness and descending nature makes it sound as if the horn is dying out. However at bar 211 the horn makes a big comeback with it's final few breaths, playing an inverted arpeggio style pattern loudly, and accenting the notes for this big, important ending, which is quite a swift ending with the whole orchestra playing the final perfect cadence, quickly and boldly.

Binge's Romance is a slow and sorrowful piece, which needs to be played very expressively. It starts off with very quiet, with slow added 6th chords, going from chord _ to _. When the saxophone starts playing the melody, it is slightly louder than the accompaniment but still quiet, although very expressive and not at all held back. The vibrato on the saxophone helps to convey the emotions in the piece, and expresses so much of its sadness. In bar five, there is a crescendo as the melody goes up to top E on the saxophone and a decrescendo as the melody descends. This crescendo creates a big build up, until the climax is reached (top E). This E is made significant by being longer and louder than the other notes, and it is played with much more vibrato, as if the piece is crying out in sadness.

The triplet in bar eight is unusual as it comes at the end of the phrase. This triplet makes the piece sound as if it is resting for a moment. The short phrase is then imitated a tone higher, but then changes, as instead of a triplet at the end of the phrase there is four semi-quavers before it rests at B, where it finally feels calm again. The semi-quavers give the impression that they're distracting the melody, stopping it from where it wants to go, which adds to the sorrowful slowness of the music. The next phrase slowly ascends, and crescendos as it's moving upwards.
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