Thursday, February 03, 2005

2nd Essay for Orchestra

2nd Essay for Orchestra by Samuel Barber
Performed by the Columbia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bruno Walter

The piece starts off very ominously with the main melody in the flute played over a sustained bass note dominated by the timbre of the tuba. Barber describes this essay as a piece pictating the struggle and victory of humanity during WWII. Already, after the first few seconds of the piece, one can get an elusion of this. The piece is predominantly in F minor. The main melody is somewhat triadic. The main melody focuses on Do Sol and Te, with an expansion on the Te major triad (Eb major). This melody is stated by the flute first, then the bass clarinet, then variated by the oboe. Using the little knowledge I have learned in form and analysis I would say the piece is ternary in form (ABA -coda). The A section has more of a languid feeling in a complex duple meter. The harmony for the most part has a very dark sensation. Victory has not yet been achieved. Then comes the faster section which is stated by the clarinet. Here, new thematic material makes itself present in a specific rhythm that is used throughout the rest of the piece. The beat then changes to duple. It is sort of a fugue with very complex rest and entrance patterns. The woodwinds dominate most of the texture with brief interruptions from the muted trumpets and strings. The density increases and a crescendo ensues which eventually leads back to the A section where the main theme of Do Sol Te is played in more of a vigorous war-mongering fashion. The intensity is definately at a different level than the first A. The texture is dominated mainly by the trombones and trumpets expouding on the theme, then reducing it to its most simple parts (playing just F C and Eb). The rhythm slow down and the volume decreases and the piece moves into its coda part. It is mostly a chorale of some sort played exclusively by the strings with the melodic interest being in the top line. The harmonic language is definately trying to convey to the listener that victory will be achieved. The brass join in and create an intense and emotional chorale leading drastically to just the 1st and 2nd violins holding an interval. Then, three final chords are played leading to a victorious major chord. The melodic interest of the three final chords are dominated by the intervals in the respective order of Me Te and finally Do.

1 comment:

Scott Spiegelberg said...

This sounds very interesting. I haven't heard this work before (that I can recall), so I will have to rectify the situation.