8.27.2012

Goltz Op. 2 No. 3: The Fast Piece

Announcement on the Goltz project: Two words - Musical Examples. Check out posts for Prelude 1 and Prelude 2 for a short clip of the sheet music. I hope it can give you a glimpse of what I'm talking about and make clear my oftentimes philosophic descriptions. I'd still suggest getting the CD. :)
Prelude 3 in G Major, mm. 1–4: Soviet pencil sketch

Given that they are part of a group, individual preludes in a set need only concern themselves with one, or sometimes two, musical moods. Strength lies in numbers, in the succession of contrasting ideas. Thus the casual sight-reader is often presented with pieces of modest technical challenges, such as Goltz's first (Moderato semplice) and second (Un poco andante) preludes. But the "fast piece" is inevitable. Sooner or later all sets come out with a blindingly fast toccata of a prelude that undoubtedly wows the audience and reminds the nonchalant sight-reader of the necessity of arduous practice.

The character of this piece reminds me of the tempo marking in Prelude 10 in C-sharp minor from 24 Preludes, Op. 81 by Stephen Heller (a contemporary of Chopin, not Will Smith's character from Independence Day). That little Romantic piece is marked: Mit rascher Leichtigkeit hingeworfen, in der Art einer Federzeichnung - "Thrown off with quick ease, like a pencil sketch". I think this description fits the character of the Goltz piece quite well. Texturally, the piece maintains a sense of constancy with near-continuous sixteenth-notes scurrying unpredictably above eighth-note dance accompaniment figures. The piece even has a recognizable theme (m. 1) within a miniature, single-subject sonata-allegro-ish form: A (mm. 1–4), A' (mm. 5–11), "development" with climax on dominant (mm. 12–21), and A'' (22–30). The difference between Heller's pencil sketch and Goltz's, is the latter's use of harmony.
A. Laktionov
  • Parallel Harmonies: Chromatic motion can get you anywhere or nowhere. This prelude frequently uses triadic figures in the right hand, most frequently G-F-F#-G, imbuing the tonic with tension rather than rest. Other parallel sections (mm. 10–11) work against a pedal point, increasing the tension even as the harmony stays essentially the same. In particular measure two, with its F-e-Bb sequence, recalls similar antics in Shostakovich's Prelude 5 in D Major.
  • The Wedge: Already mentioned in Prelude 1, the wedge plays an important roll in this piece as Goltz follows the mandates of chromatic contrary motion to its bitter, crunchy end. Take the last D from beat three of measure two and note it splitting (mitosis anyone?) into D#-C#, then E-C, and finally F-B in measure three. A more drawn out rendition of this process occurs at the buildup to the recapitulation (mm. 18–21), where we get from an initial D, through several abortive hesitations, all the way to A-G. This sets us up for a Neopolitan Ab chord (N+V7) that leads us nicely into the tonic.
  • Polytonality: Composers (though perhaps not Milhaud) tend to be upset over analyses that highlight polytonality (thank you Stravinsky). I don't know how else to think about this piece. How else do you describe what happens when (m. 10) the right hand plays a quick succession of C-B-Bb (with heavy chromatic inflections) over a left-hand F#-F-E-Eb (with F# pedal point)? By the time you've considered it, the piece has already moved on to the next measure where it happens all over again transposed up a major second. The lack of cadences increases the difficulty in identifying harmonic direction. Very crunchy!

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