Monday, May 6, 2013

Now and Again

In contrast to the last four Mondays on this blog, in which a little music furnished a lot of commentary (Schumann's "Of Strange Lands and People, which is about 90 seconds if you repeat both halves; the first blog was all about one chord), today I'm going to offer more music and say only a bit about it.

Gabriel Fauré wrote 13 beautiful Nocturnes for the piano, of which this is the fourth. I want you to pay particular attention to the simple tune at the beginning. Often, in classical music, the opening tune functions a bit like a topic sentence in an essay. It tells us what the piece is going to be about, and as the tune returns, it is transformed, re-imagined, varied. If you lose sight of that tune you miss a lot of what happens later. It can be like knowing the principal character in a play or novel; watching what happens to that person under different circumstances, and how they are able to cope, or not.

In this piece, except for some very subtle similarities, the opening tune really doesn't seem to play that much of a role in what follows. Instead we are treated to several different musical ideas, and the whole vast emotional arc of the piece unfolds in its absence.

But in the end, the tune returns. It is the same melody, and virtually the same accompaniment. Or is it?

My question to you is, after listening to all of what happens in the middle, does it still sound like the same tune? Does it feel the same?

Architecturally, the piece is balanced. What we hear at the beginning is what we hear at the end. But emotionally, does it go somewhere? Where?

I can't give you the definitive answer to this question, for two reasons: one is that everyone will hear this differently, and the other is that, as delicious an emotion as the return of the melody provides for me, I can't describe it.

Fauré: Nocturne no. 4 in Eb

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