Archive for November, 2013

Where ignorance is bliss…….

It is always nice to come across a piece of music that you do not know that grabs your attention. On the road (as ever??) this week, I switched on the radio (tuned as ever to FMR) and found a piece of chamber music playing. Winds and strings, a favourite combination. Sextet, septet, octet, nonet? With pleasure I anticipated solving the puzzle in the ensuing few minutes. At least for strings, horn, clarinet. Sextet? What was this piece, and by whom? Tuneful – was it Hummel? A new movement began. The composer was using an adaptation of Handel’s Harmonious Blacksmith theme for a set of variations. In F major – good key for making the best of the horn, the solo introducer of the theme. I realised that the movement might be a semitone lower in E major, but it sounded so good and natural in F. A pleasant few minutes of F as the set of inventive variations played; then what sounded as if it must be the finale with the most felicitous tune over a range of an octave, given to the horn. Two horns in the piece, it was now clear. Septet? I arrived back at the hospital, parked and sat in the vehicle until the movement finished in order to listen to the back announcement. Spohr, that made sense. Septet, cool. E major – it won’t be for me, happily.

Two days later I thought I would listen to the new septet again. Classics Online had a performance by the Nash Ensemble. I streamed it, and without doubt, the Spohr sounded in E major throughout. Why? I prefer it in F!

Another concerto

Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto known as the Emperor Concerto is in a majestic E-flat major. Well, it is the most people. Today Rodney Trudgeon played the finale on his morning programme on Fine Music Radio. It sounded instantly in E major, my usual semitone auditory transposition. This was okay because for me E major also has a majestic streak though where E flat major would be a royal blue, E major would be more like the golden threads in a royal cloak. As happens when I’m driving with music playing, my mind wandered. When I returned to the Beethoven, we were in the development section where he travels through three keys – C major, A flat major and then E major before modulating back to the main key. I tuned in as the C major section began – in C major. C major being one of the stronger keys that is less likely to move, I was not surprised. I was interested to see what would happen as we went through three key sequence. And everything sounded as it should with each key’s aural palette intact, even to the point where the Rondo structure of the movement brings back the main theme. It came back E flat major, not E major as at the start. However I was soon aware that the E-flat major tonality was shifting and, by the time Wilhelm Kempff on the piano re-entered, we were back in E major and stayed there all the way through to the end. In truth, we were not all in E major: Mr Kempff and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra were playing in the E flat major that Beethoven had written his Concerto to be played in.

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