Music Theory

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1000 - 1250
“O viridissima virga” from Introduction to Early Music (An) by Hildegard von Bingen
Composed ca. 1140 - 1179

1251 – 1500
“Non avra ma'pieta questa mia donna” from Discover Early Music by Francesco Landini Composed ca. 1335 - 1397

1501 – 1750
“Concerto Concerto No. 1 in E major Op. 8 No. 1 RV 269, 'La primavera': I. Allegro” from youtube by Antonio Vivaldi Performed by Nigel Kennedy/English Chamber Orchestra
Composed 1723

1751 – 2000
“Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551, I. Allegro vivace from MOZART: Symphonies Nos. 39 and 41 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Performed by Janos Ferencsik (conductor)
Composed 1788

O Viridissima Virga by Hildegard von Bingen
One of the most famous pieces during the medieval period was “O Viridissima Virga”, which was composed by Hildegard von Bingen during ca 1140 - 1179. The purpose of this heavenly chant was to give praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary and hymns were the form of this Christian chant. However, the form of O viridissima virga did not fit the traditional hymn pattern. Instead of having a regular number of lines and syllables per line, none had a regular number of lines per stanza or syllables per line. In spite of this, the chant was apparently strophic with successive verses all beginning with melodic phrases. In all, the form of O Viridissima Virga was relatively vague compared to other hymns of the times.

The piece consisted of only one melody, performed by male voices in sync without any instrumental sounds. In addition, the tone of the piece was modal with tonic pitch of G and the third above it. Since the dynamics of the piece maintained from mezzo piano to mezzo forte without sudden or drastic dynamics changes, the piece flowed smoothly creating a great pleasure to the listeners. I enjoyed the smoothness of the piece and the descending scalar passages greatly adopted throughout the music. However, I did not appreciate much of the free style of the stanzas and the short breaks between each stanza.

Non Avra Ma’Pieta Questa Mia Donna by Francesco Landini
Non Avra Ma’Pieta Questa Mia Donna was one of the well-known pieces created by Italian composer Francesco Landini during ca. 1335 – 1397. Departing from the simple form of homophony in the early medieval period, Non Avra Ma’Pieta Questa Mia Donna was a 3-part ballate with a solo female voice and two accompanying male voices forming a polyphonic rhythm. Each voice was independent yet formed a great harmony throughout the piece. There was no instrumental element in the piece but the mixture of upscale and downscale progressions of the different voices enhanced the fullness of the music compared to ones in the early medieval period. The form of the piece was more definite than the earlier works and there was a clear indication of strophic verses, which is the last stanzas repeating the beginning stanzas. However, the performing style was still indefinite during that period, which gave much power to performers on how to interpret the music.

The purpose of this piece was to express the sorrow of love instead of the heavenly praise of Christianity in the earlier periods. The suave harmony had a quite fast tempo and the tempo remained largo throughout the piece. Also, there were small breaks between stanzas occasionally, much less in frequency and in length compared to the previous piece. The swift tempo and the steady dynamics, which was maintained at mezzo forte for the most parts of the piece, constructed a smooth feeling to the listeners.

Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269 Allegro by Antonio Vivaldi
Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269 Allegro was the first part in Antonio Vivaldi’s most famous work The Four Seasons and it was one of the best-known pieces of the Baroque music. The Four Seasons (Italian: Le Quattro Stagioni) was a set of the first four violin concertos composed in 1723. Instead of using the human voices to perform the melody, the classical string...
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