Listening Log

Saxophone – pieces

As I personally am a huge fan of jazz, I was already familiar with some of the pieces below, but so far only listened to them without paying much attention to the musical details.

My favourite things

  • Composer: Richard Rogers
  • Year of composition: 1961
  • Instruments: saxophone, piano, drums, bass
  • Performed by: John Coltrane (saxophone), McCoy Tyner (piano), Steve Davis (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)
  • Listened to: 01.07.2020

I heard this piece for the first time whilst looking for cover versions of My favourite things from the film The sound of music. This was the first time I noticed, that this version is (at least during some parts) in a jazzy 5/4 – rhythm, it sometimes also alternates with the original 3/4 – rhythm.

After a few introducing bars from the piano and drum – set, the saxophone can be heard playing the original melody once, before moving into a more improvised sounding alteration of the theme. The warm sound of the saxophone harmonized well with the mainly chord based piano accompaniment and the drums in the background. Several variations of the theme are also played soloely by the piano and the drums. This alteration of the melody line keeps the piece very interesting and entertaining, especially as the bass – line always plays the same chord progression. Knowing, that the piece is written in a minor key, it is interesting to see, how Coltrane managed to create a cheery, jazzy version of it only by using alternating, improvised melody lines.


  • Composer: John Coltrane
  • Year of composition: 1963
  • Instruments: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, piano, double bass, drums
  • Performed by: John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones
  • Listened to: 01. 07. 2020

Unlike the cheery tune of the previous piece, this one starts really dark and mysterious sounding, due to a low pitched tremolo from the piano accompaniment and a slow paced melody in a minor key played on the saxophone. As the tremolo is constantly playing the same note in an octave, it seems to work like a pedal point which’s resolution through a 7th chord was unexpected, yet pleasing to hear. From this point on, the drums join in, and interestingly seem to play an independent rhythmic pattern from the saxophone’s melody line. As the drum kit slowly fades away again, the accompanying chords from the piano gradually move down to the tremolo notes again onto which the saxophone plays a similar melody to the one from the beginning, creating an A-B-A’ -pattern.


  • Composer: John Coltrane
  • Year of composition: 1958
  • Instruments: saxophone, piano, drum-kit, trumpet, trombone
  • Performed by: John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, Kenny Drew,
  • Listened to: 01. 07. 2020

This piece was due to it’s rapid pace incredibly slightly difficult to follow. Nevertheless, the melody line was easier to foresee, as certain patterns where repeatedly played. The drum – kit created alongside the title a clear imaginary picture of a fast moving train. The melody was alternating from one instrument to another, always being played in a varied form. This was furthermore the first piece I’ve listened to, where the drum- kit had a solo as well before the main theme from the beginning was played again.

Yardbird suite

  • Composer: Charlie Parker
  • Year of composition: 1946
  • Instruments: alto saxophone, trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, guitar, bass, drums
  • Performed by: Charlie Parker, Miles Davies, Lucky Thompson, Dodo Marmarosa, Arvin Garrsion, Vic McMillan, Roy Porter.
  • Listened to: 01.07.2020

In contrast to the previous works, this short piece seemed to have no improvised parts at all. Several saxophones and other instruments were used to alternate with parts of an almost similar sounding melody, with a repeatedly played bass – line. Even though the pace of this piece was almost as quick as it was in the previous work, I initially didn’t get the same impression of a generally hectic movement. Nevertheless, the longer I listened to it, the more unsettling it seemed to become.

C Jam Blues

  • Composer: Charlie Parker
  • Year of composition: saxophone, piano, drums, trumpet
  • Listened to: 01.07.2020

This piece created an imaginary picture of an old, cozy pub. For it’s fast pace it had a clear steady melody, which was mainly focusing on playing the right rhythm rather than notes. On the contrary, the fast pace gave the piece a steady beat, which was one of the reasons behind the cheery but also calm atmosphere it created.

Now’s the time

  • Composer: Charlie Parker
  • Year of composition: 1945
  • Instruments: saxophone, piano, bass, drum kit
  • Performed by: Charlie Parker, Miles Davies, Sadik Hakim, Curley Russel, Max Roach.
  • Listened to: 01. 07. 2020

The low registered saxophone at the beginning of the piece, created a warm introduction to this piece. The piece involves several phrases, which always start on different registers and seem to be varied or improvised, nevertheless, at the end of every phrase the melody always repeats the same pattern. The short drum solo towards the end, was slightly disorientating in comparison to the rest of the piece.

Midnight voyage

  • Composer: Michael Brecker
  • Year of composition: 1996
  • Instruments: tenor saxophone, guitar, piano, bass, drum kit
  • Performed by: Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny,Joey Calderazzo,Dave Holland,Jack DeJohnette
  • Listened to: 01.07.2020

Interestingly, this piece sounded less jazzy in comparison to the ones above, although it can definitely be considered as jazz. The pace is much slower, which somehow creates the image of an old crime film. The first few bars introduced a calm, clear melody, which seems to become more and more independent with every repetition of the bass line.

Delta City Blues

  • Composer: Michael Brecker
  • Year of composition: 1998
  • Instruments: saxophone, piano, bass, drums
  • Performed by: Michael Brecker, Joey Calderazzo, James Genus, Ralph Peterson
  • Listened to: 01. 07. 2020

This is the first piece, where the saxophone introduces with an extremely long solo (about ,3 minutes), which initially doesn’t seem to have any structure at all but slowly seems to get into a rhythmical pattern, playing accompaniment and melody simultaneously. All the other instruments join in with a starting point from a descending glissando from the piano. The rest of the piece consists of transition parts between different instrumental solos, often alternating between the saxophone and the piano.

Moose the Mooche

  • Composer: Michael Brecker
  • Year of composition: 1989
  • Instruments: Tenor Saxophone, Trumpet, Piano, Bass, Drums
  • Performed by: Michael Brecker, Freddie Hubbard, Han Jones, Ron Carter, Mel Lewis
  • Listened to: 01. 07.2020

The chord progression and bass line of this piece changed frequently, which made the piece sound slightly chaotic alongside with the jumpy, rapid pace of the piece. Similar to a few examples above, the melody was always handed from one instrument to another whilst the other ones are accompanying. Those melody lines often sounded improvised, which must have been a difficult task, as the performed still tried to harmonically connect to the bass line. I personally really enjoyed the beginning and ending of this piece, as all instruments come together to play one clear melody.

Piccolo flute


  • Composer: Daniel Dorff
  • Year of composition: 2010
  • Instruments: Piccolo
  • Performed by: Gudrun Hinze
  • Listened to: 02.07.2020

Fitting to the title, the piece seems to imitate birds singing. There are rarely any big jumps, the melody seems to be moving up and down using mainly arpeggios. The structure of the piece is similar to a rondo: The first, jumpier part is played twice, each time followed by a short side theme. A longer, slightly more serious sounding part fills the centre of the piece, before the first theme can be hear again. Although, this time, the side theme is partially played in a minor instead of a major key.

Being used to the normally shrill sounding piccolo, I was surprised how well Dorff managed to imitate cheery bird-song with just one instrument.

Viva Italia – Fantasy for flute- piccolo on themes Rossini and Verdi

  • Composer: Marina Manafova
  • Year of composition: 2018
  • Instruments: orchestra, solo – piccolo flute
  • Performed by: Mariinsky Theatre symphony orchestra
  • Listened to: 02.07.2020

Unlike the previous piece, this one involves a whole orchestra, with a piccolo flute as the solo instrument. As the warm underlying chords from the orchestra already create an image of nature, it can be said, that the piccolo was used here as well to imitate birds singing. The orchestra and piccolo often work with echoing motifs. There are rarely any repetitions of melodic themes. Interestingly the mood of the piece chances rapidly, yet seamless; alternating between major, minor, and working with contrasting themes.

Wagner tuba

Ovature from Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold)

  • Composer: Richard Wagner
  • Year of composition:
  • Performed by: Metropolitan Opera Brass section
  • Listened to: 02.07.2020

The most interesting thing about this piece is, that the whole orchestra is almost entirely resting on just one chord for almost 5 minutes. Wagner started with just one note and slowly added the 3rd and 5th to create a major triad, before involving several more arpeggios and scales, also starting and finishing on the same chord. The constant crescendo and the pedal point played continuously by the bass keep this introduction of The Ring especially entertaining, as one is constantly waiting for the chord to be resolved, which only happens at the very end of the opening.

7th Symphony – Wagnr Tubas & Horns Soli

  • Composer: Anton Bruckner
  • Year of composition: 1881 – 1883 (revised in 1885)
  • Performed by: Münchner Philharmoniker
  • Listened to: 02.07.2020

This short extract of Bruckner’s symphony involved a short motif, played by only the tubas and horns. It starts quietly on a minor key, has a constant crescendo and a slow paced forward moving melody. The warm sounds of the brass instruments, make the piece sound incredibly dramatic, before the theme is taken over by the strings.


Sonata No. 1 in F – minor, op. 2

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Year of composition: 1795
  • Instruments: Piano
  • Performed by: Kovacevich
  • Listened to: 02. 07.2020

Even though this was Beethoven’s first piano sonata, especially the first and fourth movement already involved some aspects of this well known fierce temper Beethoven often puts in his works. The quieter middle section involved several ascending and descending scales and arpeggios as well as clearly defined question-answer motifs. Beethoven furthermore often made use of the, in classical music often used, V – I chord progression and the piece continuously has a clear melody line for the right hand, which is accompanied by the left.

I personally have always enjoyed listening to and playing piano sonatas from Beethoven. As already mentioned, some sides of his fierce style can be noticed within this piece already. Nevertheless, one does notice, that he still completely sticks to the traditional rules of the Classical Period. As an example: always playing closed, clear phrases; having one clear melody line; closing open phrases and strictly staying in sonata form during the first movement. For the second and third movement, which were much calmer than the outer ones, his style seems to adapt to Mozart’s and Haydn’s generally more plain and honest sounding pieces.

Sonata Op. 111 No. 31 in C – Minor

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Year of composition: 1821 – 1822
  • Instruments: Piano
  • Performed by: Mitsuko Uchida
  • Listened to: 02.07.2020

The first thing one can notice when comparing those two pieces is, that Beethoven becomes much more rhythmically independent, moving away from the boundaries of the bar lines with syncopation. He furthermore involves more dissonances and generally more dramatic sounding motifs. The three note motif, which is clearly the main motif of the first movement, only appears for the first time after a long introduction, meaning, that Beethoven didn’t follow the rules of the traditional sonata form. With the frequent use of this short motif (seen below), the first movement seems partially almost like a fugue. Furthermore it has to be mentioned, that the melody line is now alternating or shared by both hands.

The second movement is incredibly slow, mainly in piano and incredibly emotional. To emphasize the high pitched melody line, almost every note is played with a new chord and most of the time both of them (melody and chords) are playing the same rhythm. There’s is often more than just one melody.

Beethoven managed to create a piece filled with tension, without making it sound too dramatic. I personally thought, that the parts in which the left hand was accompanying the melody, the chosen octave was too low for the movement of the left hand to be understood properly. Nevertheless, this also contributed to the dark theme of the movement and has probably been chosen intentionally. I was surprised to find a part which sounded through dotted notes even slightly jazzy.

Sonata Op. 13. No.8 “Pathetique”

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Year of composition: 1798
  • Instruments: piano
  • Performed by: Daniel Barenboim
  • Listened to: 03.07.2020

The first movement starts with a slow introduction, which is filled with dynamic contrasts. After an emphasized c – minor triad, an ascending scale with a dotted rhythm leading to a diminished sept – chord can be heard. Within the 5th bar the pace of the piece seems to become faster due to the semiquaver – movement in the left hand. Interestingly, Beethoven works often with chromatic scales, which are sometimes interrupted by some harsh chords. Generally the exposition is dominated by an urging motif, although it never manages to reach a climax and always seems to break within the process of reaching it. The second subject area is created with an alteration of the melody between right and left hand. Interestingly, Beethoven chose this part to be in Eb – major instead of using the normal relative Eb – minor.

Even though I was familiar with the melody of the second movement so far I didn’t know, that it had its origin in this sonata. Beethoven worked with clear defined sections, which are in the order: A – A’ – C – A – C – C’ – A” – A”’. Overall the movement consists of chord – blocks from the left hand as well as a melody line in the right hand. The slow pace and rarely used dissonances make the piece sound incredibly warm.

The Rondo starts with a harsh theme again, which is similar to the secondary subject of the first movement. There is one motif, which is played several times, always with another, often contrasting side theme in between. This movement is in a minor key again and due to its fast pace and loud dynamics full of energy.

Even though it is from Beethoven’s early period some parts of the first section from the first movement sounded even really Romantic, similar to Chopin’s style. It only gets a more classical sounding style within the second half of the first movement.

String Quartet no.1 in F major, op. 18

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Year of composition: 1799
  • Instruments: 2 Violins, Viola, Violoncello
  • Performed by: Suske Quartet
  • Listened to: 03.07.2020

The first movement starts with a lightly haerted forward moving theme in unison, which is continued by the firs violin. The secondary subject often uses syncopation but interestingly doesn’t appear again during the development.

The second movement involves a nostalgic adagio, which is held almost throughout the whole movement. Only shortly before the end the sad sounding movement is interrupted until the movement ends in a pianissimo. The third movement is introduced by a chromatically ascending theme, which s elements are used within the rest of the movement as well, although, in an alternated way.

The fourth movement consists of descending semiquaver – triads. Some elements from the first and third movement are combined.

I personally especially enjoyed the slow, longing motif of the second movements. This piece had more classical features than the previous one (above). I even had the impression, that parts of the second and third movement had a more Baroque – sounding style, or were at least adapted to Haydn’s music. Nevertheless, the piece full of energy and lovely to listen to.

Symphony No. 5

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beehoven
  • Year of composition: 1804 – 1808
  • Performed by: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Listened to: 03.07.2020

The most astonishing thing about this symphony is probably, that the entire first movement is just based on a short four – note phrase at the very beginning. This differs from most other symphonies of the Classical era, as Beethoven used this very short, yet concise motif instead of working with several different motifs to create a distinctive theme.

The second movement is in Ab – major and therefore in the counter parallel to the introduced C – minor of the first movement. This movement consists of an introduction of a hopeful, but also dramatic sounding theme, after which three variations follow.

The third movement is in C – minor again. The scherzo consists of a bass – motif, which is started twice, in crotchets. After the first introduction, the violins give an answer to this theme.

A fanfare – like sounding motif, consisting of four notes again follows, this might be a slight hint onto the first motif again. The trio sometimes seems slightly interrupted due to delayed entries. Towards the end, after a long pedal note, the theme from the beginning can be heard once again, before it’s taken over by the timpani, which is played faster with ever repetition and leads the music directly into the finale.

The finale is in a c – major key signature and stands in direct contrast to the first movement. Interestingly it has the structure of a sonata form again.

Due to the really short, memorable motif at the beginning, this symphony is apart from his 9th, one of Beethoven’s most well – known ones. I was surprised, that Beethoven didn’t divide the third movement and the finale, as it would have still been the normal approach during the time of this composition. Generally this symphony involves a lot of tension as well as heroic themes and is always entertaining to be heard.

Moonlight Sonata (Sonata Op. 27. No. 2)

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Year of composition: 1801
  • Instruments: Piano
  • Performed by: Valentina Lisitsa
  • Listened to: 03.07.2020

The first movement of this sonata is one of the easiest to interpret, really relaxing to play and hear due to it’s slow pace, and is nevertheless thoroughly entertaining. The melody of the movement is accompanied by an almost constantly played arpeggio from the left hand, apart from one short part at the end, where left and right hand swap roles for a few bars and a long held pedal point. Due to this pedal point, it almost seems as if some of the tension created during the movement is constantly held back.

In comparison to the outer two movements the scherzo seems incredibly cheery and carefree. Even though the mood stays the same and it might seem rather monotonous initially, it has a light hearted humor and I personally think that the contrast to the first movement is really important as it takes some of the built up tension.

Just within the first few bars of the third movement all the tension from the first movement seems to come back and is released shortly after at the same time. The focus of the whole composition lies undoubtedly on this movement. It involves several climax points and has some very energetic material, which are alternated with some lighter side – themes.

Having played the whole sonata myself a few years ago, I was really looking forward to listen to it again. I always especially enjoyed the third movement, as it felt like playing something, that seemed initially almost impossible to perform. Moving from one movement to the next it almost seems like every movement increases the difficulty by a certain amount, or that the first and second movement are a warm – up exercise for the third.

Symphony No. 9

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Year of composition: 1824
  • Performed by: Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Listened to: 03.07. 2020

Unexpectedly the first movement doesn’t really involve any memorable themes, but works with different sound colours of the orchestra. The rhythm, pace, mood and dynamics change quite frequently. The second movement is with only 12 minutes the shortest one and puts the string section into its centre.

Normally, the second movement is in contrast to the first and third often calmer and quieter. Nevertheless, Beethoven used the third movement this time as the calmer movement, probably due to the length of the finale. The last movement is the longest and involves the most well – known and most important part of the whole symphony: The melody to “Freude schöner Götterfunken” starts quietly and becomes louder with every repetition.

Knowing that Beethoven wasn’t able to hear this symphony himself, it is astonishing how much detail he put into this last symphony. The non – existent melody during the first movement indicates, that this piece could be counted to the Romantic era already, nevertheless, some aspects of the second and third movement, for example the short contrasting themes sound similar to earlier, classical, symphonies.

String Quartet Op. 131, No. 14

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Year of composition: 1826
  • Instruments:
  • Performed by:
  • Listened to: 03.07.2020

This quartet is parted into seven movements, starting with a traditional fugue, a form developed in the Baroque – era. The pace of the movement is incredibly slow, which creates a tender and longing character. Interestingly it might also reflect Beethoven’s health condition, as he died shortly after composing this piece.

The second and third movement are directly combined. At the beginning of this movement a more lively sounding theme is introduced, which could have also made a great introduction within the first movement. It starts in pianissimo, still sounding a bit shy at the beginning, but builds itself up to a stronger, developed section.

The third movement only consists of 43 seconds and can be seen as a transition between the previous and following movement, which slightly reminds of a slow, romantic dance. One theme is introduced at the beginning and varied several times throughout the movement.

The fifth movement creates a contrast to the previous ones, as it is really fast paced, and works with hectic movements, which are sometimes interrupted by slower parts, to let the instruments “breathe” as it seems. Its abrupt ending leads directly into the sixth movement, which acts, similar to the third one just as a transition.

The last movement starts with a harsh sounding, forward moving theme, which sounds, with its stormy character typical for Beethoven’s compositional technique.

Symphony Fantastique

  • Composer: Hector Berlois
  • Year of composition: 1830
  • Performed by: Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France
  • Listened to: 03.07.2020
  • First movement:

The slow, introduction at the beginning of the piece creates a sad, longing atmosphere, nevertheless, the pizzicato basses indicate a hopeful character as well. After about five minutes this hopeful theme starts to take over and seems to manifest itself more and more with every bar until it reaches a climax, followed by a more cheery sounding theme lead by the strings. After that the music generally becomes more lively, increases in dynamics and tension. Instead of a sad character the music has slowly turned into a slightly dark sounding, but still confident character until it finally reaches its climax with a heroic, energized theme at the end. It is nevertheless, interrupted several times by another darker, quieter theme, the heroic theme seems to fight against. The last chords are calm major triads, which may indicate an agreement between those two themes.

Overall the contrasts of this movement create an imaginary picture of someone struggling with doubts, maybe after having been rejected by something. He or she tries to get another chance and tries to gather courage but is often thrown back by doubts, which he seems to accept at the end of the movement. The contrasting dark and light motifs might also stand for a fight between two people, who, as already mentioned earlier, might have come to a conclusion at the end.

  • Second movement:

This movement starts with a vibrato on the strings in a minor chord, but is lifted up by major arpeggios from the harp. After a short peak point, a warm sounding waltz – like theme starts, creating pictures of people dancing in a noble ball room. This dance seems to be really cheery initially but some concerns are hidden sometimes, as some dark motifs are played in between the energetic waltz – parts, which are repeated in a similar way after each side theme.

  • Third Movement:

One short, major solo motif introduced by the oboe and imitated by the flute can be heard at the beginning. After a rest the oboe introduces with the same theme again, this time moving into a minor key and a different ending note, as if it were slightly unsure. This is imitated again only that the oboe continues paying this time.

After a few minutes the main melody is taken over by several short motifs, most of which sound generous about the scene. Any time a faster paced or louder theme starts it seems to be slowed down almost immediately after its start, which contributes to the overall calm, but slightly peculiar character.

It seems as if those two instruments were having a conversation to which the firstly quietly vibrato notes from the strings are accompanying, only to emphasize the curious and unsure sounding mood. After roughly 15 minutes of the orchestral part, the theme from the beginning is played solely by the oboe again, this time without an answer from the flute, but some dark crescendo sounds from the timpani. Within a scene this might indicate, that the other person, reflected by the flute in this case, has left. The oboe continues with a few more, really sad and lonely sounding passages.

  • Fourth Movement:

Through the emphasized percussion, and generally strong chords, this movement has a very military sounding character, reminding of a march. Overall the mood is very cheerful and energized, as if something was celebrated. Nevertheless, the character quickly switches into a stormier sounding theme until the chord progressions and abruptly and a gloomy, slightly terrifying part starts.

The transition between the fourth and fifth movement is barely noticeable as there is no rest in between.

  • Fifth movement:

A short, similar to a hick up sounding theme from the oboe, followed by a hectic echo in forte from the orchestra suggests that someone is running away from a threat. Suddenly a repeatedly played interval of a descending perfect fourth can be heard, played by a Glockenspiel onto which the rest of the instruments becomes quieter. The following slow marching theme might indicate that someone has died, nevertheless, the interfering pizzicato string parts integrate a playful sound, which reminds of laughter to the overall gloomy and serious mood.

Symphony No. 8

  • Composer: Gustav Mahler
  • Year of composition: 1907
  • Performed by: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Listened to: 05.07.2020

The first, shorter part of the symphony is mainly carried by the choir and soloists, thus it reminds of a long motet. Looking at the structure of the part, one can see that Mahler wrote it in sonata form.

After a preparing pedal note, the choir starts the exposition and introduces two main subjects and themes. The orchestral accompaniment is completely in the background and the main focus is on the antiphony between the soloists. After a few bars, the choir joins in, singing in piano, whilst the subsidiary theme starts to unfold itself. After a long development and the recapitulation, in which both themes are thoroughly processed, the part closes with a triumphant ending. The boys’ choir starts to take over the main voice, whilst all themes from the beginning are played in a variation again. The last few bars lead to an enormous climax.

The beginning of the second part starts with an entirely instrumental passage. This part is in contrast to the previous one full of different emotions, mostly slow paced, and with emotional melody passages. For the first entry of the choir, the orchestra becomes really quiet, and the choir starts to whisper a part from Goethe’s Faust. 1 Further half sung half spoken parts follow the same scheme.

The whole symphony takes about 80 minutes and has overall a mainly heroic sounding character, which often reaches climaxes. Another often used feature is the alteration of the tempo, often to delay and therefore emphasize a climax even further. I preferred the second part, due to its calmer nature. Within several sections I had the feeling, that too many different musical directions where played/sung at the same time. The different moods of the second part where especially entertaining, I enjoyed the warm harmonies of the accompanying orchestra.

1 Kappeler, M. (2017). Mahlers Sinfonie der Taused in der Vorstellung – Heiliger Geist und Goethes Faust. [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 05.07.2020]

Expressing national identity

Chants d’ Espagne

  • Composer: Isaac Albéniz
  • Year of composition: 1892
  • Instruments: piano
  • Performed by: Alicia de Larrocha
  • Listened to: 06.07.2020

The original version of this piece is written for piano, which is trying to imitate the sound of a guitar, which’s sound is often associated with traditional Spanish music.

The first movement Preludio is structured in an A – B – A form,whereas the A – parts consist of rapidly played staccato notes, permanently playing a d (sometimes in octaves) in between the lower melodic line. The centre part is mainly unison or put together with different chords.

Bars 21 – 30 from Chants d’Espagne

When looking at a score, one might think, that Albéniz would have written the piece in Bb – major or its relative G – minor. Nevertheless, if one moves away from the diatonic system, there are some other more oriental sounding scales to consider. As already mentioned, all the notes on the off – beats are either unison or octave Ds, which suggests, that the used scale might evolve around that note rather than Bb or G. Only at the end of the fifth line, when the first chord is played, one can see an F modulated to an F – sharp. Combining the accidentals at the beginning with this sharp, starting on the d, the following scale can be constructed:

The f – sharp here is probably the most important feature, apart from the guitar imitation, that makes the music sound more foreign – although I personally wouldn’t directly consider it as Spanish sounding.

For the second movement I found it difficult to find just one scale, as Albéniz didn’t constantly stick to all accidentals he used, nevertheless, one theme, which is returning several times is the following:

Here, a C – sharp is used in addition to the B – flat accidental, thus a similar scale with the same intervals can be constructed, starting on A – this time. Furthermore, when one looks at the second half of the extract above, one can see, that an “a”, is permanently held in the left hand as a pedal note, which is another indication for the scale to be based on this note. Nevertheless, due to the different accidental changes and the sound of the piano, the movement sounded more classical than Spanish to me.

The light sounding third movement is the first one where the main melody is played by the highest note. Apart from a few bars it sounded similar to a jazzy ragtime, although I can imagine, if it were played by a guitar it might have a different effect.

The fourth movement starts with a short theme, which is repeated directly after with more accidentals.

Whilst those two themes and the following variations might also come from a classical piece, the abrupt starting melody, which has a flamenco and/or tango rhythm in addition to a chromatically decreasing bass line (second line below), creates a tempting atmosphere, which fits well with the chliché of traditional Spanish music.

The last movement was similar to the first one in terms of its atmosphere and also didn’t capture Spanish sounding melodies, due to the jumping bass, it was even similar to a Ragtime.

As already mentioned, in my personal opinion, Albéniz manages to capture an oriental landscape well, especially by using non diatonic scales as a base. Nonetheless, the movement which reminded me directly of traditional Spanish music were the first and fourth one. This was established by the rapid movement and the constantly played D, and it was easy to imagine that this could have also been played by a guitar. Apart from that, I thought the piece was rich in variety and entertaining to listen to.

The score – extracts have been provided by the IMSLP – music library an can be found under:

Five variations of Dives and Lazarus & the original folk song Dives and Lazarus

  • Composer: Vaughan Williams
  • Year of composition:
  • Performed by: London Philharmonic Orchestra (ver. 1), Gustav Holst (ver. 2), Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea (ver. 3)
  • Listened to: 07.07.2020

This piece has overall a really sad and calm character. Even though its written for a strings and harps, the first violins are permanently in the foreground, which reminds of traditional English songs. Seeing, that all parts are repeated several times in varied ways, I personally thought it was really relaxing to listen to it.

I found several versions of the original version of the folk song, some were interpreted acapella with a choir, some with an accompanied solo voice. I had the feeling, that Williams managed to take the most out of the melody, and created a more emotional atmosphere than any of the non – orchestral covers.

The folk tradition

Die Gedanken sind frei

  • Composer: Unknown
  • Year of composition: Unknown
  • Performed by: Rundfunk – Jugendchor Wenigerode
  • Listened to: 08.07.2020

This piece is parted in four stanzas. The first and second one are melodically repeated, whereas the third one repeats itself twice. All three of them are working towards the last phrase, which always has the same text Die Gedanken sind frei (Thoughts are free).

The deeper meaning of he text is working well with the simple melody and even though the key is in major, the piece creates a sad and hopeful atmosphere.

(Some more information about this song can be found in my learning log under the heading “Exercise: The folk tradition”)

Sound of silence

  • Composer: Simon and Garfunkel
  • Year of composition: 1964
  • Performed by: Simon and Garfunkel
  • Listened to: 08.07.2020

The text is covering the topic of the isolation of humans within the modern, superficial society. Similar to the song above, it always ends on the same phrase The sound of silence after every stanza. The stanzas themselves always have the same musical and rhythmical pattern apart from one bridge near the end of the song. The created mood is similar to the previous one sad, calm and hopeful sounding, although, this time the key is also in minor.

Yellow submarine

  • Composer: The Beatles
  • Year of composition: 1966
  • Performed by: The Beatles
  • Listened to: 08.07.2020

The song has a cheery tune, which is easy to remember for people in all age groups. Furthermore, most of the words used have purposely chosen to be short words, so that younger listeners would be able to pick up the melody faster. The whole song consists of nine stanzas. The melodic pattern of each two lines repeats itself once. The only melodic differences made are between the refrain and the normal stanzas. It is highly debated whether this song was really just intended for children to listen to and enjoy, or whether the text has a deeper meaning, which can’t be spotted initially. 2

2 Rybaczewski, D. (2016). “Yellow Submarine” History. [online] Beatles Music History. Availiable at: [Accessed: 08.07.2020]

The thievish Magpie

  • Composer: Gioachino Rossini
  • Year of composition:
  • Performed by: Classical Chamber Chorus Brno
  • Listened to: 09.07.2020

Originally titled La gazza ladra, is an opera with contrasting themes, taking around 3 hours. Especially noted should be the frequent changing opposites between military music and the minor – main theme, which is mainly played by the strings.

The plot takes place in a village near Paris at the time of Napoleons counterrevolution at the beginning of the 19th century. The tenant Fabrizio Vingradito and his wife Lucia are preparing a party for the homecoming of their son Giannetto. The maid Ninetta also longingly waits for him and her own father Fernando, who’s being traced by the government.

When Ninetta reads the wanted poster to Podestá Gottardo, she tampers some aspects in order to protect her father. Fernando sent his daughter a silver spoon, which she is supposed to sell on the market in order to get some money, but whilst doing so she is accused of theft and put into prison and faces the death penalty.

During the process of the execution a magpie is seen, stealing some gold. A merchant follows the magpies trace he finds the silver spoon in its nest and manages to call off the execution just in time. 3

Rossini managed it well to create a cheery, light atmopshere, which leads towards the surprising end. I nevertheless think, that he sometimes covered even the more serious parts, such as the first act and the execution with a too light approach.

I was especially surprised to find an in the media often heard cheery theme within the ouvature, as I initially didn’t know the origin of the theme. (starting at 3:55)

3 Silvester, W. (2019). La Gazza Ladra – Rossini. [online]. StageAgent. Available at: [Accessed: 09.07.2020]

The Barber of Seville

  • Composer: Gioachino Rossini
  • Year of composition: 1816
  • Instruments: 2 flutes, 2 piccolo flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, bass drum, cymbal, triangle, strings, continuo, piano, guitar
  • Performed by: Boston University School of music and theatre
  • Listened to: 10.07.2020

The cheery, amusing mood of the ouvature already suggests, that this opera is meant to entertain in a funny way. In comparison to the previous one I had the impression, that Rossini made a better use of the different colours of instrumental groups. The instrumental parts and accompaniment sounded overall much warmer.

The plot takes place in Sevilla in the 18th century. The cheerful barber Figaro helps the count Almaviva to make Rosina fall in love with him. Rosina on the other hand, who is aware of her secret admirer is strictly guarded and monitored by a doctor called Bartolo. He is planning on marrying his ward Rosina as soon as possible as well. Figaro has a few ideas to stop Bartolos plans. The first one fails and Almaviva, who is dressed up as a student called Lindoro doesn’t get access to Bartolo’s house. The second attempt is almost successful and after several exchanged love letters, disguises and mistaken identities love triumphs and Almaviva can marry Rosina. 4

Serenades, duets and ensembles emphasize the humor of the plot. Nevertheless, after having listened to it for a while, I noticed, that most of the pieces within the opera were quite similar to one another. This obviously caused the cheery mood to be kept throughout, but it also sounded slightly monotonous after a while.

4EnO. (2020) An introduction to the Barber of Seville. [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 10.07.2020]


  • Composer: Guiseppe Verdi
  • Year of composition: 1871
  • Instruments: 3 flutes, 3 piccolo flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bass clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 cornets a pistons, 3 trombones, cimbasso, timpani, drum – kit, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tam-tam, 2 harps, strings.
  • Performed by: San Francisco Opera
  • Listened to: 10.07.2020

The plot takes place in Egypt during the time of the pharaohs. The love of the Egyptian general Radames to the Ethiopian slave woman Aida is endangered due to the upcoming war between their countries. A further threat is the kings daughter Amneris, who is Aidas owner and is also in love with Radames. The Egyptian troops are successful and the triumph of Radames is celebrated. As a reward, the Pharaoh promises him the hand of his daughter. Unfortunately Radames soon is seen as a traitor, as he tells Aida some military secrets. Shortly after he is sentenced to be immured alive and Aida tries everything to safe him. Within the darkness of his grave Ramades finds Aida once more and they both take their lives. 5

I thought that the duality of inner and outer conflicts were portrayed especially well. The triumphant scenes of the ongoing war are mostly played or accompanied by the timpani and trumpets, whereas the inner conflicts of the two lovers are reflected by the softer sounds of the strings and woodwinds. I especially enjoyed the polyphonic pieces, all the voices seemed to be just in the right place to create a full, satisfying sound.

5 Opera online. (2020). Aida. [onine]. Available at: [Accessed: 10.07.2020]


  • Composer: Guiseppe Verdi
  • Year of composition: 1851
  • Instruments: 2 flutes, 3 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, cimbasso, timpani, drum – kit, bass drum, cymbal, strings, banda.
  • Performed by: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera Chorus
  • Listened to: 11.07.2020

Already within the first few bars of the ouvature great tension with several peak points is created. The ouvature is standing in contrast to the first, lightly hearted sounding scene.

Rigoletto, the court jester of the duke of Mantua tries everything to protect his daughter Gilda from the duke. The curse about murdering his own daughter concerns him, as the jester is just a worried father behind his mask. The duke seduces Gilda and lets her get abducted by countiers. As she falls in love with the duke, Rigoletto feels betrayed and defiled. He wants revenge and engages Sparaguhile to murder the him. Gilda takes in the place of the duke during the night of the murder and is therefore killed herself. When Rigoletto wants to throw the corpse into the river, he notices the mistaken identity and the curse has fulfilled itself. 6

Overall this opera had some captivating melodies, which are alternated with arias and choir parts. I enjoyed the contrasting motifs of the music as well as the association of the plot with human sensibility. Even though Verdi partially worked with some tense harmonies, I personally would have preferred it, if he had used a few more bars to built up the peak points, as most of them happened rather abruptly.

6Opera Online. (2020). Rigoletto. [onine]. Available at: [Accessed: 110.7.2020]


  • Composer: George Bizet
  • Year of composition: 1875
  • Instruments:
  • Performed by: Choir and Orchestra of the Staatsoper in Vienna
  • Listened to: 11.07.2020

Already within the ouvature most of the upcoming themes are introduced, mostly arranged in a contrasting order but overall they all have a very cheery sounding character.

The plot takes place in Sevilla ,Spain. Imprisoned after a fight, the Roma woman Carmen, who has a fierce temperament, promises the newly engaged brigarier Don José her love, in order for her to get her freedom back. Don José frees Carmen and lets himself be put into the prison. Two months later he encounters Carmen again with a group of smugglers, there he tells her, that he has fallen for her and has been looking for her ever since. Carmen on the other hand is not interested. When they meet for the last time Don José tries once more to convince her of his love, as she rejects him once again he stabs her and confesses his crime. 7

From all the operas I’ve listened to throughout this course, this one was the one I enjoyed most. The mostly warm contrasting harmonies seemed to be perfectly balance. I furthermore found it interesting, that there were some incidents, where some of the music, for example a short trumpet solo was played directly on the stage instead of coming from the orchestra. Some of the pieces are well known and still now often used within most media sources.

7Opera online. (2020). Carmen. [onine]. Available at: [Accessed:11.07.2020]

Ring cycle

  • Composer: Richard Wagner
  • Year of composition: 1848 – 1874
  • Performed by: Opera North
  • Listened to: 08.07 – 12.07

At the beginning of the world the three daughters of the Rhine guard the gold of the river. A Nibelung (dwarf like figure), called Alberich steals this treasure and forges a ring from it, even though he knew, that he would never be able to fall in love again, but will become powerful.

Whilst Alberich stole the gold, the god Wotan looked after his realm, the upper world. He asked the giants Fasolt and Fafner to build him a fortress. He promised them Freia, his own sister in law as a reward, but changes his mind and wants to pay the Giants with Alberich’s ring instead.

Wotan steals the ring from Alberich, onto which Alberich curses it. The curse fulfills itself when Fafner kills his brother.

A few years later Siegfried is seen for the first time, who has been brought up by Alberich’s brother Mime. Siegfried manages to kill Fafner and takes the ring. Shortly after, he falls in love with Brünhilde and gives her the ring. Alberichs son Hagen gives Siegfried a potion, which makes him forget Brünhilde, and he falls in love with Gutrune instead.

Therefore, Siegfried takes the ring from Brünhilde again, who in revenge tells Hagen Siegfrieds most vulnerable point. Hagen kills Siegfried, who gets a clear mind again within his last moments. He, once more, confesses his love to Brünhilde, who choses to die with him.

Thereafter, the daughters of the Rhine get their gold back onto which the curse is lifted. 8

I already had the opportunity to watch the first part of the Ring cycle in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus and was absolutely astonished by the huge colourful stage as well as the different layers of the music. Nevertheless, I unfortunately wasn’t informed about the plot of the opera and even though I’m a German native speaker, it was almost impossible to understand the text. I assume, if I had another opportunity to watch it in a concert hall, I would probably perceive it in a different way. Nevertheless, I still think, that the plot his highly complicated, the music doesn’t allow any rests and seems to be powerful throughout.

8Classic FM. (2020). Wagner’s Ring cycle: Where to start. [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 08.07.2020]


  • Composer: Richard Wagner
  • Year of composition: 1882
  • Performed by: Wiener Staatsoper
  • Listened to: 13.07.2020

The music of this opera is incredibly powerful. All the leitmotifs are already introduced within the ouvature.

Protected from ever encounter with the world around him, Parsifal grows up pure and innocent with his mother. After her death he finds the bad and painful sides of life within a journey of inner self – discovery. 9

The mainly sacred sounding atmosphere was established through a well used instrumentation of the different parts. It is often the case, that only groups of instruments (woodwind, brass..) are used instead of the whole orchestra.I personally thought, that Wagner managed it well to connect the different themes. Even though most of them were really powerful, I didn’t have the feeling of getting exhausted by the music in comparison to The Ring.

Hintze, W. (2020). Parsifal. [onine] Richard Wagner. Available at: [Accessed: 13.07.2020]

Assignment 3

Fantasy – Impromptu in C – sharp minor

  • Composer: Frédéric Chopin
  • Year of composition: 1834
  • Instruments: Piano
  • Performed by: Daniil Trifonov
  • Listened to: 15.07.2020

This piece includes some parts which have to be played incredibly fast, nevertheless, as there is always one note within the many arpeggios sticking out as the melody line, it has a very passionate, but calm character. It is structured as an A – B – A form, with a coda at the end. The B – part is in contrast to the outer two incredibly fast. Interestingly the second not in one of the normally related major key or dominant, but in the enharmonic equivalent Db – major.

Especially the fast A – parts sometimes reminded me of Beethoven’s Moonlight – Sonata, which was interestingly also written in the same key.

The miraculous Mandarin

  • Composer: Béla Bartók
  • Year of composition: 1918 – 1924
  • Performed by: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Listened to: 15.07.2020

The introducing arpeggios played by the strings reminded me of insects flying around, this effect was emphasized even more when the brass instruments joined in. There seems to be no obvious structure to this piece. It doesn’t focus on just one key and alternates continuously with single instrument groups and the whole orchestra. Overall it created a very uneasy character due to its atonality, the strings even use quarter notes at some parts. The entry at the choir at the end gave the piece and additional chilly, somehow mysterious atmosphere.

As already mentioned within the Assignment, the piano could always be distinguished from the other instrument groups, I nevertheless thought, that just the right amount was used to underline the rest of the music.

Romance in a – minor

  • Composer: Clara Schumann
  • Year of composition:
  • Instruments: piano
  • Performed by: Katherine Nikitine
  • Listened to: 15.07.2020

Even though this piece was written for just the piano, it seemed to me as if the melody could have been written for a voice as well, as it sounded like the piano needed to “breathe” every now and then. Some louder parts were followed by a short break. Instead of leading the melodic line, the bass line only supported the melody partially with chords or even just one note. Even though it has a rather simple structure, the mood is incredibly sad and longing.