G minor

Hello and Welcome! The key for this programme is G minor. G minor is a shy violet – but inside beats a heart of pure, raw passion. Her plaintive gentleness hides a fiery soul of molten lava.  So we’re in for a mixture of plaintiveness and passion. I hope you’ll stay with me.

Shakespeare wrote about G minor in the following terms: She never told her love, but let concealment, like a worm in the bud, feed on her damask cheek; she pined in thought; and, with green and yellow melancholy, she sat like patience on a monument, smiling at grief.

Well, here’s a green and yellow piece: plangent, plaintive and poignant – Chanson Triste by Tchaikovsky

Chanson Triste – Tchaikovsky

And if you want more of the same, try Sibelius’s Valse Triste.

Now listen to this – a marvellous illustration of how keys can dictate to composers how they compose. Here are 5 short tunes, each by a different composer and each is a descending phrase, bringing our the sadness that is part of G minor.  I think you’ll recognise more than one of these tunes.

Descending tunes

Well, do you believe me? Those pieces were Albinoni’s Adagio, Chopin’s Nocturne in G minor, Beethoven’s Bagatelle in G minor, the 3rd movement of Dvorak’s 8th Symphony and The Shepherd Boy, a Lyric Piece by Grieg. – And now in the same order we’re going to hear all 5 pieces.


Chopin Nocturne in G minor

Beethoven Bagatelle in G minor

Dvorak 8th Symphony 3rd movement

Grieg Shepherd Boy

Those pieces in G minor with descending tunes were Albinoni’s Adagio; then there was Chopin on the Piano – Nocturne in G minor. The Beethoven Bagatelle followed, and then we had Dvorak, Symphony No 8, the 3rd movement. We finished with a wistful Shepherd Boy sitting on a rock somewhere, not Schubert’s rock, but Grieg’s rock. That was a Lyric Piece in G minor.

The violin is very at home in G minor. Bitter sweet or passionate? Choose the violin. To illustrate the bitter-sweet here is Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, the 2nd movement.

Violin Concerto 2nd movement – Tchaikovsky.

The violin and G minor: that was Tchaikovsky, the 2nd movement of his Violin Concerto.

And now the passionate violin. This is Bruch’s Violin concerto, in G minor of course, the first movement.

Bruch – 1st Violin Concerto 1

Did you note how all the violins join in the G minor passion at the end of that – the 1st movement of Bruch’s Violin Concerto? I think we should allow those orchestral violins a little more flashing of the eye, don’t you? Here’s Brahms!

Brahms – Hungarian Dance No 1

The gypsy passion of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No 1 in G minor. And now to some Preludes and Fugues. Chopin’s Prelude in G minor is a very passionate affair:

Chopin Prelude in G minor

And  now JS Bach’s Prelude in G minor followed by Shostokovitch’s Fugue in G minor. We’ll mix up the centuries a bit, shall we?

Bach – Prelude Book 2

Shostakovitch –Fugue in G minor Start at 3 minutes and 23 seconds

A change now. Some quite passionate music hiding behind English reserve. Elgar: his Enigma theme – or at least its G minor counter theme – and his G minor friends pictures within – just the G minor ones.

Enigma Variations – Elgar


HDS-P (the first 50 seconds of this clip)




Elgar and his friends pictured within. Well, at least some of them. His Enigma Variations – the G minor ones at least. What is the most famous G minor theme ever? This one made it to the pop charts in the 1970s!

40th symphony 1st movement – Mozart

Mozart 40, do you remember that? I spared you the version with the rhythmic backing . That was the version with oboes, Mozart’s orchestration – so much more suited  G minor than the version he did with clarinets, I think.

The 3rd movement of Mozart’s 40th Symphony seems to have set off a little bit of a trend in G minor 3rd movements. Here are 3 orchestras and 3 composers – Mozart, Schumann and Schubert – so here we have Mozart’s 40th Symphony 3rd movement, Schumann’s Spring Symphony 3rd movement and Schubert’s 5th Symphony 3rd movement, more or less simultaneously.

G minor 3rd movements

Just escaping disaster by the skin of their teeth were the following 3 orchestras: bravely sticking to Mozart’s 40th Symphony 3rd movement were Sir Charles Mackerras and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Inserting the 3rd Movement of Schumann’s Spring Symphony were the BRT Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Alexander Rahbari and getting their oar in with Schubert’s 5th Symphony 3rd movement were the Wes Deutsche Sinfonia, Dirk Jures conducted. And it cost a lot to get them all so please don’t complain.

A fury of passion to end with. Saint Saens in racing mood in the last movement of his 2nd Piano Concerto in G minor. A tear-away tarantella. Get ready, GO!

2nd piano concerto 3rd movement  – Saint-Saens. (Young pianist in action)

Orchestra and pianist working up a considerable sweat there: they were playing Saint Saens’ 2nd Piano Concerto 2nd movement. I think G minor has been revealed to be a lot more than a shy violet.

And with that it’s goodbye from G minor and Keynotes and me. Till next time, from Tony Westwood, Goodbye.