Listening Log

Lonely Child

  • Composer: Claude Vivier
  • Year of composition: 1980
  • Performed by: Orchéstre Métropolitain de Montréal diretta da Serge Garant
  • Listened to: 26.11.2020

The piece starts with a slow introduction, which presents an unison theme played by a clarinet and strings. The combination of these instruments creates a short “heroic” sounding effect. Shortly after, a female voice joins in alongside some further wind instruments. Initially, the piece seems slightly chaotic. Nonetheless, as it moves more and more towards a mixture of different sounds, it gets a slightly hypnotic character. Vivier didn’t seem to focus on producing chords ot staying at one key signature, thus it was slightly difficult to fous on any parts of the piece in specific. Even though the high – pitched strings and woodwinds were partially playing atonal clusters the overall effect of the piece was’nt as discomforting as one might have expected.

Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ

  • Composer: Steve Reich
  • Year of composition: 1973
  • Instruments: Glockenspiels, marimbas, metallophone, female voice, organ
  • Performed by: Eighth Blackbird
  • Listened to: 26.11.2020

Having already listened to some of Steve Reich’s pieces before, I was really looking forward to listen to another piece from him. Typically for minimalism, the piece just evoled around a few different chords. In addition to the calming sounds of the marimbas and the organ as an additional bass the piece had a very hypnotic effect, similar to the previous one, but slightly milder character.

Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten

  • Composer: Arvo Pärt
  • Year of composition: 1977
  • Instruments: strings, bell
  • Performed by: Strings of Hungarian State Opera, Tamas Benedek, conductor, Antal Eisrich, percussion.
  • Listened to: 26.11.2020

The piece starts with one tone from the bell played repetitively. The strings seem to join in in a cluster – liker motif, whereas a deeper chord is added once a while. The key is in a – minor. Even though there is one main motif constantly repeating itself, due to the slow dynamical changes and different usage of the lower strings, the piece doesn’t become boring. Whilst the higher pitched strings add a slightly uncomfortable “crying” – like character, the lower ones create a dramatic yet comforting undertone. As the piece continutes, the motif gets darker, and more difficult to be heard.

Piano Concerto in G major

  • Composer: Maurice Ravel
  • Year of composition: 1929 – 1931
  • Instruments: piano, orchestra
  • Performed by: Philharmonia Orchestra, Ettore Gracis (condctor)
  • Listened to: 26.11.2020

The piece is is a slow 3/4 – rhythm. The piano introduces with a calm melody and simple harmonies to accopany. Only after a few minutes the rest of the orchestra joins in. Initially with warm but melanccholic melodies. The second theme, introduced by the orchestra, seems denser than the first one. Some parts move into dissonant harmonies, but the overall character stays calm. Apart from the piano the English horn and oboe can be heard playing a melodic line, whilst the piano and the orchestra accopany. The whining sound of these two instruments fit very well to the rest of the sad sounding theme.

Pictures at an Exhibition

  • Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
  • Year of composition: 1874
  • Instruments: Piano
  • Performed by: Charles Finnegan
  • Listened to: 26.11.2020

The piece describes different pictures, seen at an exhibition. At the beginning one can hear the promenade, which can be heard in between the different pictures in alterated versions.

The first picture is called “Gnomus”. The harmonies from the piano seem to describe different movements of the gnome; fidgeting, interrupted, jumping or sneaking for example. A continuous thrill in the backgound underlines the threatening atmosphere.

The second picture ” vecchio castello” introduces a slow melody with a melancholic character. The continuous bass line reminds of a piece from the middle – ages. The following “Tuleries” has a lighter character again. The following piece “Bydlo” has a heavy character with an octaved based accompanying a variation of a minor melody, mostly played in forte. The next piece “ballet of unhatched chicks”, involves several trills, which would represent the movements of small chickens very well.

“Samuel Goldberg and Schmuyle” represents two Jews, one of which is rich, whilst the other one lives in poverty. The two are represented by different themes. Samuel, the rich one, has a wide and heavy theme whilst Schmuyle’s theme has a more whining sound.

“Limoges”, represents the hectic movement on a market with people running from one place to another. This time, the promenade can’t be heard during the transition to the next part “catacombs”, which involves slow, long and dark chords.

The following part “The Hut on Hen’s Legs” represents the house of a which from Russian legends. Mussorgsky worked with rapidly played dissonant chords and sudden changes in dynamics to create an uncomfotable sounding character. The last part “The Bogatyr Gates” represents a picture of a city gate. A melody is accompanied by heavy octaved bass notes.

Overall it was interesting to have so many different textures of piano music put next to one another, which also shows how many different colours can be produced by just one instrument. I personally felt, that Mussorgsky managed it really well to desctibe the different pictures, as well as the short “brakes” in form of the promenade whilst the audience moves from one picture to the next.




  • Composer: Iannis Xenakis
  • Year of composition: 1971
  • Instruments:  4 first violins, 3 second violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos and 1 double bass
  • Performed by: New Philharmonica Orchestra
  • Listened to: 03.12.2020

Even though almost the entire piece was a collection of a few a tonal combination of sounds, it was interesting to see how many different sounds the string instruments were able to produce. It was difficult to follow any structure. The created sounds varied from pizzicato parts, that sounded like rain to glissandos, sounding like high pitched sirens. Overall, I personally can’t say that I hugely enjoyed it, but it was certainly interesting to see how many more options one has writing for a string instrument, especially when it comes to techniques.

Violin Concerto no.5 – 3rd Movement

  • Composer: W.A. Mozart
  • Year of composition: 1775
  • Instruments: Solo Violin, 2 oboes, 2 horns, strings
  • Performed by: Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie
  • Listened to: 07.12.2020

After introducing and playing a long, cheery theme which appears several times. The theme often alternates between a quiet, solo part, followed by the orchestra echoing it. Two other themes follow, which seem similar to the first one before it reappears. After a while, the key shifts to minor and the solo violin plays slightly faster sequences, slightly reminding of Mozarts “Turkish Marsh”.

Second String Quartet

  • Composer: Aaron Cassidy
  • Year of composition: 2001 – 2002
  • Instruments: violin I, vilin II, viola, cello,
  • Performed by: JACK Quartet
  • Listened to: 07.12.2020

The score for this piece looked really interesting. Due to the current project in the Learning Log (Project 1.2. Introduction to String instruments), I’ve watched some videos, in which some of the contemporary violin techniques are explained. Some of the sounds from this piece are produced by bowing in other places of the instrument. Even though I haven’t had the opportunity to try it, I can imagine that it appears quite difficult to find the right amount of pressure in order to create a sound.

Overall, it was rather difficult to follow any structure of the piece. Nonetheless, it was interesting how many different sounds strings can produce, and some of them might be very useful to create an uneasy mood, for example in film music.


  • Composer: Iannis Xenakis
  • Year of composition: 1971
  • Instruments: Violin
  • Performed by: Irvine Arditti
  • Listened to: 07.12.2020

The whole piece is written for just one violin. The piece starts with a seemingly never ending note, which continuously slides up and down (glissando). Moving forward, the alteration of the pitch seems to accelerate, which makes it almost sound like the violin would be “talking”. Due to the sliding movement, the piece also involves several micro-tones, which makes the sound even more unusual.

Caprice No. 24

  • Composer: Niccolo Paganini
  • Year of composition: 1805 – 1809
  • Instruments: violin
  • Performed by: Itzhak Perlman
  • Listened to: 08.12.2020

This caprice is probably one of the most famous ones. The rapidly played melody is carrying it self quite well. The piece involves arpeggios, scales in major and minor. Nonetheless the sound is overall rather dramatic. Furthermore Paganini included several double stops to support the melody with a hint of a chord, parallel octaves appear as well.

Violin Concerto, Movement 1

  • Composer: Unsuk Chin
  • Year of composition: 2001
  • Performed by: Orchestre Symphonique De Montreal
  • Listened to: 08.12.2020

Due to the overall instrumentation, the music creates a hypnotic sound, which seems to be slightly dissoriented by the solo violin, which increasingly jumps up and down the scale to dis- harmonic notes. The rest of the orchestra slowly adapts to the tension of the violin and starts becoming more dramatic as well. This pattern, the alteration of calmer and stressed parts, seems to carry itself throughout the whole piece. I was surprised that, even though the piece was almost entirely disharmonic, it still had this hypnotic, fary tale – like character.

Moses Fantasy

  • Composer: Niccolo Paganini
  • Year of composition: 1818
  • Instruments: violin, piano
  • Performed by: Antal Zalai
  • Listened to: 08.12.2020

The piano introduces with an 8th – note movement, before the melody of the violin can be heard playing a slow, melancholic melody. This melody is repeated an octave higher shortly after followed by another octave played with artificial harmonics, which didn’t seem as steady as the first two octaves. The second theme is a cheery, faster played major variation of the the first theme, involving several more arpeggios and scales. The third variation is even faster and seems to be much more hectic than the previous two.

String Quartet No. 1

  • Composer: Krzysztof Penderecki
  • Year of composition: 1960
  • Instruments: Violin I, Violin II, VIola, Cello
  • Performed by: Kohon String Quartet
  • Listened to: 08.12.2020

This piece interestingly mostly consisted of producing percussion with the instrument instead of playing it wit a bow. Every now and then a note can be heard, which is produced by the strings. They are often disharmonic and seem overall quite hectic. Nonetheless, the rhythmic pattern of the percussion parts are quite catchy and entertaining in some parts of the piece. Apart from the percussion, Penderecki involved a huge amount of different techniques. Towards the end he even lets the performers play between the bridge and tailpiece, which produces a high pitched squeaky sound.

Pavane in F- sharp minor, Op. 50

  • Composer; Gabriel Fauré
  • Year of composition: 1887
  • Instruments: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 English horn, strings, choir SATB
  • Performed by: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, P. Barton, Piano
  • Listened to: 13.012.2020

The piece starts with pizzicato arpeggios played by the strings. The melody provides a calm, distinctive theme, which is presented in several versions. The overall character is really calm and relaxing. Even though it is kept rather quiet, a long crescendo carries itself over the whole piece. So far I have personally only heard versions without the choir, which sometimes adds a welcoming, slightly contrasting harsh character to the piece. There are some parts from the choir, which also emphasize the emotional mood. Overall I really enjoyed listening to this piece.

Being a pianist myself, I enjoyed the piano just as much as the orchestral version. Having the sound of just one instrument in comparison to a whole orchestra may not seem as colourful at first. The orchestrated version was able to create textural differences with different instrument groups playing together. One important feature which makes it really stand out against the piano version was the choir adding a whole new layer to the piece. Nonetheless, I had the impression that the pianist managed to capture the exact same impression as the orchestrated version provided.

Claire de Lune

  • Composer: Claude Debussy
  • Instruments: Piano
  • Date of composition: 1890-1905
  • Date of first performance: 1905
  • Performed by: Alain Planes
  • Listened to: 16.12.2020

One of the most well-known pieces from Debussy is probably “Clair de Lune”. A really calm piece played on the piano. I found that this piece, unlike many others from Debussy has one easily recognisable theme, which is probably the reason why it’s so popular. After the intro the mood changes from calm and quiet to a more provoking loud character. In the following part Debussy uses quickly played arpeggios to underline a varied version from the main theme. The piece generally alters often between those to moods.

As I have played the piece myself several years ago, I really enjoyed listening to it again. I especially like the fact, that the main motif from the beginning can be heard throughout the whole piece. Within the previous pieces from Debussy I’ve listened to, I always found it difficult to find a golden threat leading the piece.

From the Diary of a Fly

  • Composer: Béla Bartók
  • Year of composition: 1926 – 1939
  • Instruments: Piano
  • Performed by: Kiyotsugu Arai,
  • Listened to: 17.12.2020

This piece for solo piano suits its title very well in capturing the life of a fly. Fitting to its light movements, the piece is written for treble clef only. Within the first few bars, the left and right hand alternate with the same whole tone movement. As the piece continues, the piece this movement expands slightly more and develops into a disharmonic ascending and descending movement of arpeggios and scales. Within the score one can even find a note saying “Ouch, a cobweb”, just when the music has reached a small peak – point. The volume stays rather quiet nonetheless. The end of the piece probably describes an ascending and descending flight before a landing.