The succession of the pieces (Bach – Toccata in D minor, Mozart – Sonata in B flat, Liszt – Transcendental Etude No. 9, and Rachmaninoff – Sonata no. 2 in B-flat Minor) are arranged in order to typify the transgression of music development from the contrapuntal baroque form represented by Johann Sebastian Bach, the gradual transposition of the sonata form between the rococo and classical eras through Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the combination of tonal heaviness and virtuosity as found in the compositions of Franz Liszt and Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Each composition is characterized through the era in which it is composed in order to understand the development of musical forms, styles, and influences from the early17th century to the late 18th century. Bach represented the strict polyphonic harmony of the era characterized through two independent tonal forms in the melody and bass which separated may stand alone as two separate melodies; but combined, the tones form another different melody which sharply represents the ‘detailed heaviness’ of the baroque era, not only characterized in music but also art disciplines as well (Griffiths 101).
Mozart’s sonatas are generally identified as playful tunes ranging from early pieces which show influences of other composers such as Franz Joseph Haydn to later developments which clearly show Mozart’s musical genius. His sonatas are a gradual transition from the polyphonic form to the utilization of the monophonic or single melody form. On the other hand, Liszt and Rachmaninoff represented a total break from the early baroque/classical periods wherein the romantic period identified their works to be focused on expression or emotion while maintaining regard from the development of the classical sonata form.
Liszt’s compositions are noted for its technical beauty and virtuosity requirement while Rachmaninoff’s compositions are generally heavier compared to the varying degrees of tonal structure found in Liszt’s (Copland 91). First, we analyze Bach’s Toccata in D minor. Mainly one of the most recognizable pieces in music, the composition is arranged for the pipe organ where the instrument magnifies the full grandeur of the composition as well as the sound of the instrument itself. The piece is actually followed with a fugue which is generally the follow-up the contrapuntal polyphonic style of the Toccata.
As mentioned, the piece is an example of polyphonic structure where the melody and bass are two separate melodies that produce one harmony. Tempo in common time, the whole structure of the piece is free form with a slight repetition of the theme followed by a series of thematic development. The color is somehow dark, generally typified by the heavy sound of the instrument itself as well as the tonal forte of the chords. On the other hand, Mozart’s sonata sharply contrasts with the color of Bach’s as the melody is lighter with the tempo set to a fast yet playful manner.
The piece is separated into three movements and as the title suggests, it is structured in the sonata form identified through the introduction, exposition, development, recapitulation and coda. Meanwhile, Liszt’s ninth Transcendental Etude vary from a change in color and tone through the succession of octaves which give emphasis on the opposition of high and low tones. The piece is also different in the sense that the melody is much more expressive or romantic through arpeggios and the playfulness of the scales compared with Mozart’s playful theme. Lastly, Rachmaninoff’s Sonata no.
2 in B flat is much heavier compared to the aforementioned compositions because of the emphasis on color and tone. In contrast with Liszt’s, the composition opens with a sudden crash of octaves which introduce the ‘heavy’ theme of the piece. The gradual development into the second movement becomes reminiscent of the Liszt’s’ romantic theme but still identified with heaviness as found in the first movement. Works Cited Copland, Aaron. What to Listen for in Music. New York, N. Y: Signet Classics, 2002. Griffiths, Paul. A Concise History of Western Music. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.