“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
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)
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 instruments, such as violins and cellos, created a form called string ensemble to enrich the melody of the piece. The piece was performed in E major with different melodies, usually more than two, mixing together to create a great harmony. There were many repetitions in the measures of the piece, sometimes with parallel rhythms in different keys. And the fast and cherry tempo created a light and grateful feeling, which was in sync with the theme of spring in this piece. It employed duple meter throughout the Allegro piece and formed a steady but light sense. The dynamics changes of the piece were very drastic, ranging from piano to forte, creating clear images to the listeners.
The cherry tone of the music was my favorite part of the concerto and the great contrast between the first and second violins or violins and basses has drawn me into the theme the music provided. However, the abrupt start of the piece was one of my least favorite parts of the piece because it seemed too sudden and strong to be the introduction of the whole concerto.
Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551 Allegro vivace by Wolfgang Mozart
The 41st Symphony in C major, K.551 was the last of a set of three Mozart composed in rapid succession during the summer of 1788. It was his last symphony and it was also known as the “Jupiter Symphony”. There were many instrumental elements involved in the piece, including piano, first violins, second violins, oboes, flutes, trumpets, and trombones. The general mood for the piece was glorious with triumph.
The first movement of the symphony, which was the Allegro vivace, was a good example for a C major trumpet-symphony tradition. It took the form of a militaristic march with a distinctive duple meter of 4/4. The opening was very loud and strong, setting the tone for the rest of the piece. Also, the brass emphasized the tonic of C followed by the first violins. The dynamics changes were drastic throughout the piece with numerous contrasting motifs. Then, the contrasting motifs expanded and developed, which led to the stormy theme in C minor. There were many repetitions throughout the piece with extensive development. At the end of the piece, the restatement was followed by a chromatically falling bass and then led to C major for a traditional recapitulation with the exception of the usual key transpositions and some expansion of the minor key sections.
I greatly enjoyed the opening of the piece which was very powerful, which set the tone for the rest of the piece. However, the sudden full stop before the expositional code was too abrupt, which distracted me from the theme the piece has set up.
The evolution of music from 1000 AD to 2000 AD
The music has changed greatly since the early medieval period and these changes added much complexity to the music. One of the major evolutions music has gone through was its form. From homophony to symphony, the forms of music have increased greatly in its complexity and fullness. In the early 1000s, music was only performed by mono or up to three human voices without any instrumental accompanies. However, the form of performance has expanded to orchestra, with numerous instruments, such as woodwinds, pianos, and string instruments, by late 1700s.
Secondly, the purpose of the music has changed greatly throughout the years. In the early medieval period, the majority of music was written for the purpose of religious needs. For example, many chants are written to praise God or the Virgin Mary. However, the purpose of music widen as the evolution continued. It gradually expanded to praising humanity and nature in the mid 1300s, then, exponentially developed into any themes that the composers liked to express.
In addition, the dynamics of the piece became more drastic while the performances were required to be more precise. In the early ages, most European chants were performed freely by the singers and the dynamics were mainly kept smooth with numerous breaks between stanzas. However, as the music written notations matured, the composers were able to express its work in a more precise manner, which required performers to strictly follow the written notations.
In short, the music has become more complex and rich in numerous areas, such as forms, rhythms, dynamics, themes, and written notations. Although the earlier music was not as popular as the contemporary pieces, it was still crucial to the history of music because it captured the evolution of the music.