Start with the short thematic statements that begin Franck’s Symphonic variations

Well, that was a very misleading introduction. I am sorry. You’d get the impression
that this Keynotes programme is about a minor key but it’s not. It’s about F
sharp major and G flat major. The problem is that those 2 keys are so involved
with the infinite that it is very difficult to cut them up into little pieces,
so I had to go to F sharp minor, which is a very quirky little key, in order to
do that. So… welcome. Please step on to my rainbow and come in

Wagner   Entrance of the Gods

You were ushered in there in G flat major courtesy of Richard Wagner – the Gods enter Valhalla on a
shining rainbow of G flat major. G flat major has 6 flats and F sharp major has
6 sharps. G flat and F sharp are the same note so they are identical keys, so
symmetrical that their mirror images are identical. Their surface is as smooth
as glass. Still waters run deep. Here is Schubert to show what I mean.

Schubert – Impromptu in G flat

The rippling contemplation of Schubert’s Impromptu in  G flat major.  That piece can also be played in G  major but it is just NOT the same. Further illustrating this almost static  quality here is a Romance by Robert Schumann. This is written in F# major.

Schumann – Romance

Schumann’s F sharp major.  A song now that encourages immobility by
using G flat major. It says,  ‘stay in  bed’. Here’s Benjamin Godard’s Berceuse.

Godard – Berceuse

The Berceuse from  Jocelyn by Godard. Clearly Frederick Chopin thought the same about these keys.
Here is his Barcarolle for piano gently rocking on the water hoping never to get to its destination. This is in F# major.

Chopin – Barcarolle

Rocking gently in Chopin’s Barcarolle. Now, what key would you sing in if you were paralysed by past losses while sitting next to deep, still – but foreign – waters? Well, F# major naturally, or so Guiseppe Verdi thought.

Verdi –Va pensiero

The chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco by Verdi. That was F sharp major. We’re going to stay with Verdi and shift into G flat major. Verdi introduces the ecstatic love duet from Otello with a group of cellos playing in this key. Two lovers under the stars
reaching for the infinite in their love.

Verdi Otello Love Duet (first 55 seconds)

When Desdemona starts to sing she shifts away from G flat major. Maybe that’s significant. But when Otello wants his kiss, he goes back to G flat. Very winning.

Verdi Love Duet Kiss (start 7′ 51″ into this recording)

An eternal kiss from Verdi’s Otello. Unfortunately, Otello didn’t look at the Key Iago sings in which is F
minor. Here’s another Love Duet – from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers.
Casilda and Luis, lost in love in F sharp major.

Sullivan There was a time

The touching There was a Time from the Gondoliers by G&S. A further example of love in G flat major can be found in Tchaikovsky’s Swan  Lake in the most famous Pas de Deux. A change of feeling now as we switch to F sharp minor. One can make deep statements in this key – take the slow movement of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata as an example – but it has a uniquely quirky side. Here are Tchaikovsky’s baby swans.

Tchaikovsky – Dance of the little swans

Tchaikovsky’s cygnets dancing with linked little wings as they always do in F sharp minor. One is not expected to take them seriously. And this mood exactly is picked up exactly by Shostakovitch in his Prelude for the piano.

Shostokovitch – Prelude (Link also includes Fugue – apparently Vladimir Ashkenzy playing)

Keith Jarrett with Shostokovitch’s quirky little F sharp minor Prelude. JS Bach’s Prelude in F sharp minor is not exactly dignified either.

JS Bach Prelude in F sharp minor.

JS Bach’s Prelude in F sharp minor played by Sviatoslav Richter. Let’s extricate ourselves from F sharp minor and get back to F sharp major and G flat major for a dip into the infinite. To do this we’ll hitch a ride on Cesar Franck’s Symphonic Variations. As we heard at the start of the programme, these begin in F sharp minor…..

Franck excerpt

….but, by the end, Franck has brightened up that theme and has the pianist playing cascading black notes on the piano in F sharp major.

Franck – Symphonic Variations (Start 11 minutes 23 seconds in – Myra Hess recording)

Part of Cesar Franck’s Symphonic Variations. In the last section the pianist spent much of the time on the black notes of the piano. That’s one of the things about F sharp major and G flat major: with so many sharps or flats the black keys of a keyboard instrument are in heavy use. Chopin wrote 2 Studies in these keys: the first is indeed called the Black Note Study because the pianist’s right hand spends most of the time on the black notes. And the second Study is known as “The Butterfly” because the way it’s written the pianist’s right hand opens and closes like a butterfly’s wings.

Chopin –Black note study

Chopin – Butterfly Etude

Two G flat major Etudes or Studies by Chopin. The so-called Black Note and Butterfly Etudes.  I would be wrong not to include some Scriabin in this programme. These 2 keys incorporated or represented the infinite as far as this synaesthetic composer was concerned. Here’s the theme from the slow movement of his piano concerto. Perfect looking-beyond-the-clouds music.

Scriabin Piano Concerto 2nd movement short (Theme statement in the first 1 minute 38 seconds)

The theme from the slow movement of Alexander Scriabin’s Piano Concerto, and later in his life he produced this in F sharp major.

Scriabin – Piano Sonata No4 1 OR

[Scriabin – Poeme no 1 Op 32]

The infinite in the first movement of/ Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No4 in F sharp major. [ Wandering through an infinite universe, that was the hard-to-pin-down Poeme in F sharp major Opus 32 by Alexander Scriabin. ]

Another composer for whom F# major represented the infinite was Olivier Messiaen. To complete the spiritualisation of the key he adds the 6th note to the basic chord.

Messiaen Chord

I’m going to play the final movement of Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony. The whole apotheosis ends with a very long F sharp major chord that gets louder and louder, filling the universe. A feast for the ears as we join in the quest for the infinite. The unusual instrument you hear is an electronic one called the Ondes Martinot

Messiaen – Turangalila Symphony 10

That wonderful F sharp  major chord was created by Messiaen in the last movement of his Turangalila Symphony. Essa Pekka Salonen conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra. For our last piece we shift from F sharp major to G flat major – in other words we have no shift at all – and from one religious composer to another, though very different. This is John Rutter. We’re going to end with a  benediction in G flat major. The Lord Bless
you and Keep you, and if he keeps you in G flat major, you are very blessed.

Rutter – The Lord bless you and  keep you.

I couldn’t think of a  nicer way to end a series and to end a programme. That was a G flat major composition by John Rutter called The Lord Bless you and Keep you, though I imagine you heard that.

Start the Haydn Farewell

(Over the music) Well, here we are: it’s time to say farewell. It’s been a great pleasure for me to wander through the musical
keys with you over the last 18 weeks. My thanks to FMR 101.3 for giving me time on air and support and thanks to the staff at the Wynberg Public
library who helped me find much of the music. And so, for the last time and with the help of the F sharp major ending of Haydn’s Farewell Symphony, it’s goodbye from me, Tony Westwood, and goodbye from all the musical keys (well, we missed out two – I wonder if anyone noticed?) Farewell -  from Keynotes.

Haydn Farewell Symphony ending