8.22.2010

D.Shostakovich, 34/6; El Generalissimo

Prelude 6 is such a blast to play! It is blatantly dry and humorless, a proud stock character with stock, vaudeville tricks up its sleeves, marching, pompously parading. It is the dance of the miles gloriosos. First off let's take a look at the amazingly small amount of material Shosy uses to create this scene:
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First, there's the introduction: This is the most "involved" intro of all the opus: 5 whole measures to usher in the mood. And it does just that, in a bumbling and blustery sort of way and completely in character. This little "prelude to a prelude" gives us a look into what's to come with the bumptious oom-pah rhythm and the harmonic wanderings. What I mean by harmonic wanderings are the piece's tendency to meander off into foreign soil, only to be abruptly called back to tonic by an almost slap-stick accent. In this case the intro has wandered into B-flat major (m 3) and has to get jogged back to b minor by a fortissimo accented F-sharp (measure 4).
Let the fun continue! The left hand is a dramatic cakewalk, laden with pregnant pauses of melodramatic foolery. The right hand is a crunchy (m7ths, M7ths), dry (notice the 16th note rests!), self-glorifying melody. It's important to notice the downward shape of this melody as that seems to be feeling behind the third melody (starting at measure 34), the fourth (starting at measure 40), and what I'm calling the "prelude to the cadence". What is that? Why, I'll tell you!
"Prelude to the cadence" and "Cadence" are the hilarious, awkward, and blunderingly undramatic stock phrases which the piece is assuming gives passion and weight to its performance. They are the buffoon soldier's plastic medals jingling on his soiled uniform. "Cadence" first appears in measures 20 through 21. It's funny! What a cop out! It seems that whenever the prelude gets in trouble it just throws out "Cadence". "Prelude to the cadence" first appears in measure 28, octaves in both hands. It sounds like a sound-bite from the Classical era. But in this case the repeat button gets sticky (mm 29, 30) and is only saved by the timely return of "Cadence". After this these two elements appear again: stepping on each others toes beginning at measure 48 and the not-so-grand climax beginning at measure 57. What bumbling, good fun! 

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