Four Part Blues

Four Piano Blues consists of four short and individual movements that consist of different moods and characters. The titles of each movement give straight-forward expectations for the pianist. Like his other repertoire, Copland applied jazz rhythms, while integrating that with a Romantic-esque like expression. The dissonant chords and syncopated rhythms are prominent in Four Part Blues. Also, there is a lack of consistent accompaniment, as well as the frequent use of polymeter. Through this repertoire, Copland explores various jazz features that he learned throughout the years, as well as from his days of composition lessons with the world-renowned Nadie Boulanger.
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Published in 1949, Copland composed all four movements separately between 1926 and 1948. Each movement was dedicated to a pianist. “Freely poetic” was dedicated to Leo Smit in 1947. “Soft and languid was dedicated to Andor Foldes in 1934. Muted and sensuous to William Kapell in 1948, and “With bounce” to John Kirkpatrick in 1926. “With bounce” was originally intended for an unfinished Live Sentimental Melodies and was also used for the 1934 ballet Hear Ye! Hear Ye! (Kleppinger, 2003). Four Piano Blues was premiered on June 13, 1950, performed by Leo Smit (Copland, 1949).
Fantasia in G minor, Op. 77 Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
A fantasia is a genre that has a free form structure. This is a stark difference from other compositional types of genres of the Classical era, like the sonata; its form has a structure of three or four movements, where the first movement is allegro, middle for the slow tempo, and allegro or presto for the final movement. Fantasias are meant for instrumental soloists, especially for the keyboard. Fantasias are meant to imitate the art of improvising, without trying too hard (Encyclopedia Britannica). Performers usually have creative liberty in how they want to execute the improvisatory phrases in order to make it sound natural to the listener. The improvisatory nature of the piece is supported by unexpected key modulations, 32nd-note cadenzas, and the surprise factor exhibited by abrupt tempo changes. From a neuroscience perspective, this repertoire can serve as a metaphor for the gray matter in the brain, which is required for improvisation.
Preludes, Op. 11 Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)

No. 4 in E minor, Lento
No. 9 in E major, Andantino
No. 6 in B minor, Allegro

The preludes model has been used by JS Bach, Frederic Chopin, Sergei Kabelevsky, and so many others. In start of his career, Scriabin was heavily influenced by Chopin’s work; hence, Chopin’s preludes were an inspiration for Scriabin’s Preludes, Op. 11. Chopin’s influences led Scriabin to compose nocturnes, mazurkas, and impromptus. These were all done before 1907; after that year, Scriabin began to develop his own musicality. This volume was composed between 1895 and 1896. These preludes are also considered as Scriabin’s “musical diary,” because each of the preludes were written while Scriabin was traveling for performance purposes. For instance, No. 4 and No. 9 were dedicated for Moscow, and No. 6 for Kiev. The music allegedly suggests Scriabin’s experiences and moods. Valentina Rubcova, a musicologist, suggested that Scriabin’s 24 Preludes Op. 11 is comparable to Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 28. They are similar in structure with the arrangement of parallel major and minor keys following the circle of fifths, which Scriabin strictly associated (Scriabin, 1888-96/1996). Scriabin believed in theosophy, where man is ascending through higher spiritual spheres. For Scriabin, music helped him be closer to the higher spiritual spheres. This philosophy influenced him to experiment with different musical colors, especially with whole-tone scales, octatonic scales, and more use of chromaticism. Dominant-tonic hierarchies are diminished in these preludes. However, these preludes are one of Scriabin’s early work, which still have an obvious pitch. His later works would eventually be atonal, especially with the use of nondodecaphonic serialism (Cairns, 2012); this preceded Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique.
Prèludes, Book I Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Contents [show]1 Voiles2 Minstrels
Like French impressionistic pieces of the day, Debussy’s music was known for captivating emotion and color. Imagining watercolors and blurriness are metaphors for Debussy’s take on French impressionism. Debussy was known for maximizing the use of the piano, especially with pedal techniques, dynamics, articulation, and the overall tone quality (by using different scales and all twelve notes). Voiles means sails or veils in French. Debussy is implying about a sailboat that is going through fog or mist—which are both implemented through pedaling. The composer suggested that the B-flat bass note serves as the anchor of the boat. The mysterious nature of the sailboat is also manipulated through the use of pentatonic and whole-tone scales (Debussy, 1909-10/2011). The realism of impressionistic techniques result in a breathtaking listening experience for Voiles.
Minstrels is a humorous piece that is the final movement of Preludes Book One. This was inspired by minstrels shows (Debussy, 1909-10/2011). Although minstrelsy is considered offensive today, it was huge during the late 19th/early 20th centuries. For better or worse, minstrel shows have evolved to late-night television, like the Tonight Show or the former Letterman show. One can imagine Charlie Chaplin making a fool out of himself in a slapstick fashion. The articulation of staccatos and unexpected accent markings add to the humorous nature of the movement, while rhythm and tempo changes indicate changes in mood.
Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81 Antonín Dvo?ák (1841-1904)
Allegro, ma non tanto
Dvo?ák is known for his music, inspired by Bohemian or Slavic folk tunes. The quintet was part of Dvo?ák’s Slavic period. Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81 was composed between August and October 1887 in Dvorak’s estate, Vysoká. This was Dvo?ák’s second chamber work after Piano Quintet Op. 5. Composed in 1887, this quintet premiered in Prague on January 6, 1888. The first movement consists of two principal themes in sonata form. The main subject is with the cello along with a piano accompaniment, while the second theme rests in the viola player. Chamber music is what brought Dvo?ák’s re-satisfaction for composing (Dvo?ák, 1888/1964). Dvo?ák maximized his use of emphasizing the melody and shifting moods throughout the movement. Also, his musical heritage is proudly represented in this repertoire. 

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