Part 1 Toccata in D minor on organ (2 bars)

Part 2 Toccata in D minor on organ (next 2 bars)

Part 3 Toccata in D minor on organ (next 2 bars)

Massive arpeggio

Hello and welcome.

Phantom laugh

Sorry about that. After that introduction there can be little doubt about which key we’re exploring in this Keynotes programmes. Yes, it’s D minor. That was Bach’s Toccata in D minor – well, the beginning of. Like C minor, D minor is a serious key. But, where with C minor’s weighty dialectic one senses that things may improve through the efforts of mankind – that is, C minor is humanist – with D minor there is no such expectation. Where C minor is Nietzsche, D minor is Sartre. D minor is a fatalist. (I hope you are taking notes.) That said, there is a capricious rather sinister flip side to D minor, a product no doubt of its missing sense of a future.

Phantom laugh

Sorry about that. Let’s start with Dvorak. This sunny composer caught the D minor bug. Here is his 7th Symphony, last movement showing D minor’s darker side. Though this being Dvorak, the sun does peep through at times.

Dvorak – 7th Symphony 4th movement

The final movement of Dvorak’s D minor 7th symphony. That was Dvorak taking things unusually seriously, imitating Brahms, I think. So let’s have Brahms and see what he was imitating. A very true piece of D minor – the first movement of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No 1. It doesn’t get more serious than this, in my view.

Brahms – Piano Concerto No 1 1st movement

The opening 5 minutes of Brahms’ Piano Concerto in D minor. I think that within the confines of a whole D minor programme that’s about as much as we can take. Let’s have something lighter now; something to cleanse the emotional palate. Some tick tock Baroque; the regularity in JS Bach’s Prelude in D minor.

JS Bach – Prelude in D minor

Thank you for ending on a major chord, Mr Bach, we needed it. The Prelude in D minor by JS Bach. For Mozart D minor was the darkest of keys. The fateful key. Don Giovanni gets his comeuppance in D minor.

Mozart Don Giovanni excerpt

The Requiem is in D minor.

Mozart Requiem excerpt

For this programme I have chosen the 3rd movement of the D minor Piano Concerto Number 20. In this unsettled Allegro Mozart tries to exorcise his demons by ending with a trite almost cocky tune in D major but it is not antidote enough – the taste of D minor lingers.

Mozart – 20th Piano Concerto 3rd movement

Many composers have taken on D minor to express their deepest and most serious thoughts. Think of Beethoven – the Choral Symphony, Franck’s Symphony, the 9th symphony of Bruckner, Mahler’s 3rd Symphony, Schumann’s 4th symphony, Brahm’s 3rd Violin Sonata, we heard Dvorak’s 7th Symphony earlier. I’m going to bypass the 1st movement of any of these works in case the roof of the studio collapses under the weight of them given the heaviness we have already subjected ourselves to. So let’s take a Scherzo from one of them: also in D minor but a different feel to D minor. Let’s hear the orchestra banging about in D minor in the Scherzo from Beethoven’s D minor 9th Symphony.

Beethoven – 9th Symphony 3rd movement

The Scherzo from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Playfulness as befits a Scherzo, but somehow very serious at the same time. Now here’s another composer banging about in D minor. We’re shifting to the capricious rather sinister side of the key’s nature. This is the weird 3rd movement of Mahler’s 7th Symphony.

Mahler – 7th Symphony 3rd movement

Ghostly banging about in the 3rd Movement of Mahler’s 7th Symphony, also known as Symphony of the Night. And now the D minor phantoms are released….

Phantom laugh

….the demons that Mozart dreaded. Two composers for the theatre put their phantoms of the night in D minor. Who are they?

Sullivan – Ruddigore excerpt

Lloyd Webber – Phantom excerpt

Paintings that come to life in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore and the Phantom of the Opera by Lloyd Webber: demonstrably D minor demons. And I think I know where Lloyd Webber got his D minor idea from.

Bach  Toccata Part 1

Phantoms in films always play the organ and they always play Bach’s Toccata in D minor, don’t they?

Phantom laugh

Well, he seems to agree. Now, let’s extricate ourselves from gloom and phantasms. Here’s a Scherzo in D minor that is truly light hearted and playful.

Litolff – Scherzo

The Scherzo from Concerto Symphonique No 4 by Henri Litolff. And Francis Poulenc was also able to lighten D minor – try the 1st movement of his Double Piano Concerto. Now listen to what D minor did to Frederick Chopin. Chopin’s Prelude in D minor is an angry existentialist tirade. You feel that if the usually wispy Frederick could have ripped the keys from the piano and flung them at the fates he would have done.

Chopin – Prelude in D minor

Tearing the keys off the piano: Chopin’s Prelude in D minor. The D minor Prelude is the last in Chopin’s set of 24 preludes. It is also the last in Shostokovitch’s set of 24 preludes and fugues in all the keys. Shostokovitch put extra effort into his last P&F. They are thematically linked and just as we think the Fugue is ending, he introduces a theme from the prelude at double speed and then combines it with the fugue theme (which first appeared in the Prelude) in a massive climax to his whole magnum opus. Shostokovich’s Fugue in D minor.

Shostokovitch – Fugue in D minor

A round of applause, please, for Shostokovitch and the culmination of his P&Fs – the Fugue in D minor. Let’s have a Schubert song now. Here’s a young woman sitting at her spinning wheel having a tête-à-tête with – well, this is Schubert and this is D minor – it’s a tête-à-tête with Death.

Schubert – Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel

Schubert’s Gretchen playing her spinning wheel in D minor. Some listeners may wonder why there have been so few Schubert lieder or any other lieder in these Keynotes programmes. The reason is quite simple. Singers seem hardly ever to sing the songs in the original key. They so often transpose them into keys that suit their voices that amateurs like me are left with no sense of the original key. But to make up for the deficit I’m going to take us out of D minor for a moment into the sunny key of G major. A breath of fresh air will do us some good. Here are some G major roses on the heath.

Schubert – Heiden roslein

Heiden Roslein by Schubert and, if you don’t know what happened to those G major roses, I’d better not disabuse you, but is was something very D minor-ish. More G major next time on Keynotes. I’m  ending the programme with Richard Strauss who, in his Burlesque in D minor, takes the key by the scruff of the neck and says “Laugh, damn you!”. Enjoy the timpani solos.

R Strauss –  Burlesque

The first part of Richard Strauss’ Burlesque for piano and orchestra. Let’s hear how the piano and timpani take leave of each other at the end of the work.

R Strauss Burlesque ending

Well, that little drum stoke signals the end of our D minor programme. I hope you have not become demented by D minor. Do come back next week – I promise a major key for you in our final Keynotes programme. From me and from D minor….

Phantom laugh

…..and from him and from Keynotes, Goodbye.