American Romantics Concert Analysis
Music History II
9 May 2014
On April 30, 2014, the Wyoming Seminary Civic Symphony Orchestra and Madrigal Singers held a spring concert at the Sette LaVerghetta Center Auditorium at Marywood University. Led by Conductor, Rick Hoffenberg the symphony orchestra collectively performed three pieces during the concert: “Overture to ‘The School for Scandal,’ OP. 5”, “Prayers of Kierkegaard” and “Symphony No.3, Op. 33.” These three stylistically different pieces allowed the audience to experience the various sounds of Romantic era music. The two composers showcased during the concert included Samuel Barber and Howard Hanson.
For the symphony orchestra’s performance of “Overture to ‘The School for Scandal,’ OP. 5” I closely shadowed the development of the piece’s dynamic level, tone color, texture and tempo. The ensemble opened the piece with a bold dynamic level led by woodwinds and percussion but immediately transitioned to a lower dynamic level solely involving the string family. Initially, the tone color varied. It was showcased through the woodwind, percussion and string families equally until the strings took center stage becoming the main focus of the opening portion of the composition. Here, the opening texture of the piece was thick and included a variation of instruments such as cymbals, triangles, a bass drum and a variety of strings. The immediate tempo of the piece was fast, however, once the string family took over it regressed back to a slower tempo led solely by violins and violas.
The ensemble’s performance was characterized by a number of shifts in tempo and dynamics. For majority of the middle portion the dynamic level intensified. With the addition of more instruments, the volume of the piece was much louder than it was in the opening section adding strength to the musical atmosphere. Here, the harmonic accompaniment was a combination of woodwinds, brasses and percussion. This variety added to the tone color of the piece. By this point, the sounds of clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, trombones and tubas became prominent adding to the texture because of the variation of different instruments and different sounds generated from them. This created a greater thickness, which transitioned into the final portion of the composition. A flute solo created an initial low dynamic level in this portion. However, the addition of violins and trumpets gradually increased the dynamic level. In the final portion the tone color varied greatly because all the instruments were required to play. Prior to the change in tone color the texture reverted back to thin. Nevertheless, after the flute solo concluded, it thickened again due to the involvement of so many different instruments at one time. Throughout the last portion, the tempo followed a pattern. It started off at a slow pace then increased to a faster pace, regressed back to a slow pace, finally ending with a fast pace. This piece revealed vast changes in texture, tempo and dynamics, which left the audience perpetually interested.
Samuel Barber took a different approach in “Prayers of Kierkegarrd,” with the addition of a chorus. Although having began the piece in 1942 he was delayed over a decade to complete it due to World War II (pamphlet). In this one-movement extended cantata, the piece contained four main subdivisions expressing the use of a chorus, large orchestra in addition to a soprano, tenor and alto solos. For this composition, I followed the development of dynamic level, density, tone color, and texture. The ensemble opened the first section with an unaccompanied chant of male voices. This section was elegant and simplistic because the only element being heard was the tenor tone color of the male voices. Along with the male voices the accompaniment of strings slowly thickened the texture. The...
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