8.17.2010

D.Shostakovich, 34/5,3,2; Baby Thor, Turncoat Picnicker, and Fledgling Archaeopteryx

I'm inspired to follow Chopin's order further now: C-e-D-G-...a! Hee hee! Look it up! It's true! Here we go with D Major:

Picture
de Maria
Prelude No. 5 in D Major: Baby Thor
There are at least two ways, I feel, of understanding and appreciating this prelude. The first is to play it or listen to it being played at top Allegro vivace speed. All 28 seconds worth. The right hand is aural and physical blur and all you can really feel of it is its blindingly fast ups and downs, no rest, various snippets of figures: going hog wild! The left hand has its own thing to say, some tiny motifs based on eighth note rhythm or a three note anacrusis. The two partners rise and fall in momentary climaxes and mumbling decrescendos. V-I and you're done!

The other way to see this prelude was for me the process of getting the thing up to speed, that is, playing it unbelievably slowly. It's an old trick of pianists. And it annoys and perplexes everyone else. However playing it slowly reveals what you would get from close analysis of the sheet music. You begin to see the extremely innovative modulations, the frustrations, the parallelisms. I'm most impressed by the skillful use of the scales and scalar passages with everything in its place, even if that place is surprising or unexpected. A brilliantly crafted burst of playful energy!
Picture
Heade
Prelude No. 3 in G Major: Turncoat Picnicker
In the first prelude we saw all the elements of the piece at odds with each other. It created a sense of controlled chaos which managed to have some type of victory at the end. This piece on the other hand creates chaos together. The different voices and elements are in collusion with each other and the effect is one of increasing disruption, interruption, and surprises. The most ironic moment in the piece is the beginning, a rolling, cradling G Major scale. We are having a picnic in the park with the clouds trundling overhead. Measure 9 is the first interruption in which the proceeding flats of measures 7 and 8 are entirely ignored and the effect is rather sinister. However by measure 11 the flats have returned, only to be ignored by a popping soprano melody on top. It continues like that: mumbling into crunchy forgetfulness (m 15), climaxing at... pianissimo? (m 25), tremolos and dissonant military rhythms (mm 27 and 28) and finally the big kahuna of a fortississimo c-sharp minor (tritone from tonic) with roaring bass tremolos (m 29). The dizzy piece staggers through whole tone passages into A-flat Major (the N). All the consolation there is comes in the form of V7-I, however the I is colored by a non-resolving 6-5 suspension and a blurred puttering of foreign notes.

What did you do to yourself? To your picnic? At each interruption the piece seems to have no wrestling of conscience. It is pragmatic and goes with the flow, even when that flow totally transforms its purpose and character. As it lays there at the end, sprawling and dizzy I feel pity for it, like a parent seeing their child come home drunk. "Let's get you cleaned up. And then you're on restriction." 
Picture
Marshall
Prelude No. 2 in a minor: Fledgling Archaeopteryx
It's a dance! A snarky dance. A little Lydian gypsy flair to it. As if the first four measures of intro weren't convincing enough for you, the first sweeping gesture of the right hand, waaaaaay up in the treble clef, affirms it. (At least how I like to play it and hear it.) These two elements inform and continue the rest of the piece. The rhythmic dance figure, though muffled by outbursts or passages, manages to always return and even recapitulate somewhat at the end. The sweeping, high right hand grows bolder and bolder, spreading its double flagged wings wider as the piece progresses. The rise to the fortississimo (m 25) is completely understandable and logical. As odd as it is, the piece fits within its rules and character. Even the minor Neopolitan6/4 underneath three note whole-tone scales based on f-sharp fully diminished (mm 34-35) is not a defeat. It slips confidently back to its nest and falls asleep, content.

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