E minor and E major

Four chords that start Mendelssohn’s A Midsummernight’s Dream Overture

Yes, tonight 2 keys share the spot light. One a minor, one a major. E minor, the key of folk song and guitars; and E major, a key the colour of liquid chocolate, a sharp key that thinks it’s a flat key.

E minor first then: a key for guitars and folksy types. Let us start in Spain. Granados, Albeniz, Tarrega and Turina all on the guitar.

Granados Andaluza

Albeniz Asturias

Tarrega Mazurka

Turina Fandanguillo

Staying Latin for the next item but this time interpreted by a couple of folksy North Americans

Simon and Garfunkel El Condor Paso, Scarborough Fair

A parkful of appreciation for Simon and Garfunkel. And here are 4 more guys performing in E minor. One can’t imagine this piece in any other key but E minor:

The Beatles: Eleanor Rigby

The Beatles and a string quartet playing Eleanor Rigby. And now some Bohemian folk songs as seen from North America: the E minor 3rd movement of one of the most famous E minor works, Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

Dvorak 9th Symphony 3rd movement

A change of mood: Chopin’s Prelude in E minor. The right hand laments slowly over shifting harmonies in the left.

Chopin Prelude in E minor

Earlier we had S&G, Simon and Garfunkel; now we are going to have some G&S, Gilbert and Sullivan. I think Arthur Sullivan caught a whiff of the story-telling intrinsic to folk songs when he wrote denouement songs for contraltos in the Savoy operas. Dame Hannah explains the curse of the Murgatroyds in Ruddigore in E minor Little Buttercup tells all in HMS Pinafore. And even Anna Russell in her spoof of G&S has dandelion singing in E minor. Here’s ‘A many years ago when I was young and charming’ (weren’t we all?) from HMS Pinafore.

Sullivan – A many years ago

So now you know everything. Litttel Buttercup telling of her nursing troubles. Sullivan’s music and Gilbert’s words. E minor evinced a manic playfulness in young Felix Mendelssohn. Here’s a piano piece: The Introduction and Allegro Capriccioso which starts in a thoughtful E major before the ebullience of his view of E minor escapes.

Mendelssohn Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso

E minor according to Felix Mendelssohn. And if you want further evidence look no further than the Overture to A Midsummernight’s Dream that started this programme, and there’s a piano Scherzo in E minor as well.

Arguably his most satisfying symphony, Tchaikovsky’s 5th starts in a lugubrious E minor but ends in a triumphant E major. To move from the one key to the other, I shall juxtapose the introduction to the 1st movement with the last movement which starts with the same theme in E major, but then has to fight through E minor again to reach the major. Then we shall have truly arrived in E major territory.

Tchaikovsky 5th symphony 1st movement intro and 4th movement

So here we are unequivocally in E major. 4 sharps, but don’t be caught out. E major is a flat key in disguise. It has the rich fullness one associates with keys which boast multiple flats. The composer who taps this vein puts his tune right in the centre of the audible range of frequencies. Here is Chopin’s Prelude to illustrate E major’s sonority.

Chopin Prelude in E major

Mellow, mellow, mellow – you’ll agree? Bring on a French Horn and a sleeping draught:

Mendelssohn Nocturne from A Midsummernight’s Dream

A rich bed of music produced by a sleeping draught in the Nocturne from Mendelsshohn’s A Midsummernight’s Dream.

Beethoven in his 3rd Piano Concerto travels all the way from C minor to cast his slow movement in rich E major. Give me excess of it……..

Beethoven 3rd Piano Concerto 2nd Movement

The rich E major of the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s C minor 3rd Piano Concerto.With a sleeping draught and that rich food i feel quite sleepy. So before we nod off completely here’s Shostakovitch’s Fugue in E major. It runs around the floor like a little animal.

Shostakovitch Prelude in E major

Bach’s Prelude in E major is not exactly dignified either!

JS Bach Prelude in E major

Beofre we go to Brahms, here’s another piece that puts the tune right in the middle of the piano and that’s why it bacme so famous:

Chopin Etude in E

I’m ending with Brahms. He produces the most chocolaty of brown textures, the warmest of burgundy woollen jerseys in the central part of the slow movement of his 4th Symphony in E minor. One can almost feel the fuzzy E major warmth coming from the radiating strings.

Brahms 4th Symphony 2nd movement

Mmmmmm…. I could do with a few more chords like that!

Final chords from Mendelssohn Nocturne

These two extra chords were from Mendelssohn, but what heard before that was the 2nd movement of Brahms’ 4th Symphony. Worth a second look definitely.

But now I am going to go out as I came in.

Midsummernight’s dream overture 1st chord

Good bye from E major

Midsummernight’s dream overture 2nd chord

Goodbye from E minor

Midsummernight’s dream overture 3rd chord

And good bye from me, Tony Westwood and Keynotes

Midsummernight’s dream overture final chord