I went to the UNT Concert Orchestra on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012. It was held in Winspear Hall at the Murchison Performing Arts Center at 8:00 pm. The Concert was led by Conductor Clay Couturiaux and featured soloist Christopher Deane, who played the Marimba. The first piece was Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, Op. 35a (1894) by Anton Arensky (1861-1906). The piece was written in 1894, in tribute to Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). It was based on the theme from the poem “Legend”, written by Richard Henry Stoddard (1825-1903).
This poem portrays the crucifixion of Christ. Arensky admired Tchaikovsky so much that he used the theme of “Legend” for a set of variations in the second movement of his Second String Quartet. This piece’s style is a themes and variations. Its instrumentation includes Cello solo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets (A), 2 Bassoons + 2 Horns (F) + Violins I, Violins II, Violas, Cellos, and Double Basses. The second piece was Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra, Op. 34 (1957) by Robert Kurka (1921-1957).
This piece introduced the marimba, which proved to the musical world that it could contend with instruments that had been used in orchestras and also provide a unique sound to the traditional orchestras played in regular concerts. This piece’s style is solo concerto. Its instrumentation includes the marimba and the orchestra. The third piece was Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881). This piece was inspired by the paintings of the artist Viktor Hartmann (1834-1873). This piece’s style is an orchestral suite.
Its instrumentation includes 3 Flutes (2nd and 3rd doubling Piccolos), 3 Oboes (3rd doubling Cor Anglais), 2 Clarinets in A and Bb, Bass Clarinet in A and Bb, Alto Saxophone, 2 Bassoons, Double Bassoon, 4 Horns in F, 3 Trumpet in C, 3 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion (xylophone, triangle, rattle, whip, side drum, bass drum, cymbals, suspended cymbal), 2 Harps, Celesta, and Strings. I picked the pieces was Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, Op. 35a (1894) by Anton Arensky and Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra, Op. 34 (1957) by Robert Kurka. Both of these pieces were distinctly different than one another.
The piece by Arensky depicts a sense of deep sadness and despair as a whole. It starts out containing elements of intimacy and moves towards a slow moving harmony. The structure of the music matched the structure of the original poem. The variations of sounds expressed many shifting moods such as a dialogue between instruments. Mood changed quickly throughout the piece and showed different parts of the melody, from increments of joy, to sadness, to a deep sorrow. The rhythm seamlessly continued throughout the piece acting towards each of the different themes described in its construction.
The piece by Kurka produced a new and different type of classical music that is unique to the orchestra. The use of the marimba stood out from the traditional orchestral instruments. The first movement begins with an alternation between the marimba and the orchestra. Its upbeat sound resonates in a catchy chiming sound whose rhythm is clear yet unexpected. It provides a playful side to a usually stern and focused orchestra. As the second movement begins, it as if the marimba is communicating to the orchestra itself.
As if it is trying to fit in with these classic types of instruments through its unique dynamics and resounding tone. It seems to clash with its orchestral counterparts. By the third movement, it seems as if all the instruments reach an agreement on the legitimacy of the marimba through its colorful and exciting solo. Although both pieces are completely different than one another, they both exhibit emotion. Arensky exhibits cruel sounding music that discusses the importance of religion and a series of events that affects a wide variety of people. It evokes a sense of despair that expresses a deep sounding melody.
Kurka exhibits a different type of music that discusses the marimba’s rise to becoming a part of classical orchestra. Its colorful timbre expresses a joyful and unique melody that pleases the human ear. Anton Arensky (12 July 1861 -25 February 1906), was a Russian composer of Romantic classical music, a pianist and a professor of music. Pyotr Tchaikovsky was the greatest influence on Arensky’s musical compositions. Indeed, Rimsky-Korsakov said, “In his youth Arensky did not escape some influence from me; later the influence came from Tchaikovsky.
He will quickly be forgotten. ” The perception that he lacked a distinctive personal style contributed to long-term neglect of his music, though in recent years a large number of his compositions have been recorded. Therefore, his values are seemingly non-existent because of the major influence of Tchaikovsky and absence of his own personal work. Throughout the performance I did perceive a strong sense of historical value and defines not who Arensky was, but his role model Tchaikovsky and how his music conveyed a strong sense of religious value.
Kurka’s Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra was the first marimba work to enjoy both widespread public appeal and widespread recognition of having a high level of musical sophistication fit for the concert hall. It debuted during the modern style period. It provided important historical value by Kurka finally representing everything that early marimba composers set out to do in one piece: create a sophisticated and serious musical work that is both challenging to the performer and which has widespread public appeal.
I perceived an ongoing struggle throughout the piece, but as the performance continued it conveyed the struggle the instrument had to do in order to become a prominent part of the classical orchestra. Citatation Keunning, G. (1999). Symphony of the canyons. Retrieved from http://lasr. cs. ucla. edu/geoff/prognotes/mussorgsky/pictures. html Strain, James. “Vida Chenoweth. ” Percussive Notes 32. 6 (1994): 8-9. Print. Stevens, Leigh Howard. “An Interview with Vida Chenoweth. ” Percussive Notes 15. 3 (2002): 22-25. PAS Online Archive . Weir, Martin. “Catching up with Vida Chenoweth. ” Percussive Notes 32. 3 (1994): 53-55. Print.
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