Manual No. 2: Harmonie du Soir

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At eight minutes there is a welcome break, but there is no compositional reason for this new section — it just starts when the first section stops. There is a friendliness to the proceedings, like everyone is having a fine time, but there is no threat. This music is pleasant.

A minute or two later a more interesting section drops in: with its free-form drumming and sheets of sound comes a real sense of release. Another medium-tempo rock groove follows without any compositional relation to the previous section. Eventually there is a nice rising motif, a good counterpoint to the excessively anchored root chording. The first and second themes return with slight variation, but there is just not a solid enough idea to validate this minimalistic stance.

Given Mr.


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This composition feels like nostalgia, yearning for a better past when innovation was accessible. Anyone interested in the formation of minimalist rock should certainly listen to the first two Neu! Mercifully, there are moments that transcend. The subtle beats and pulses caused by this create a constant source of interest. From here on it alternates floating and heavy sections. The harmony is fairly naive tritones floating in space , but the sound carries the composition.

The high winds interacting with each other create jagged upper harmonics and ghost intervals — a nice effect. A new slow rock section seems almost gratuitous, but produces some engaging music with Moroccan-esque upper winds motifs over specifically pitched tom-toms that fit into the harmonic content of the piece almost like a bass guitar.

Steve Reich-like pulses add a new layer and continue the uplifting feeling, leaving the final chords shimmering in the back of your skull. A great conclusion. Right off the bat, the energy level is back to the early post-punk era. The piece was written in The drama attached to the performance, hence the phenomenon of the virtuoso who, using his body solely gives life to the score and hypnotizes the audience, complements that perfection. Performing the impossible was and is an attraction, in fact the core of a public musical show, either in the Parisian Salon or in the concert hall.

On this stage, a one-man-show is carried out, where the artist is the stage director, the actor sometimes playing more than one character , the lighting operator and the orchestra. Thus, one must not wonder that Liszt actually invented the piano recital, a perfect arena for such a show. Liszt arrived in Paris when he was twelve years old and lived there for twelve more years — a significant part of his life in many respects.

The aesthetic revolution of French Romanticism made a deep impact on him, while French became his "mother tongue" even though he was raised in a German-speaking environment.

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At the beginning of his career in Paris, Liszt did not write musical compositions, and focused only on performing. But in the early 's, under the catalyzing influence of Paganini, Chopin and Berlioz, he began to elaborate the idea of composing music in which poetry and piano virtuosity would be fused in a new manner. It is therefore surprising that Baudelaire and Liszt did not know each other personally, nor engaged in any discussion or exchange of ideas, even though Wagner describes in his letters a brief encounter between the two over lunch Bernstein , p.

The unique experience of the Soleil Couchant , with its varied harmonies accords with the image attributed to the Romantic virtuoso in mid-Nineteenth Century Paris. Both involve a certain degree of occult, metaphysical aura. The evocative, vibrating terms used by Baudelaire in Harmonie du Soir could also be pertinent to an extraordinary, exalted virtuoso performance while for both the starting point is a sensual experience which is converted to exalted art.

In his demonstration of instrumental mastery, the virtuoso not only wowed his audience, but also gained publicity and the admiration of the critics. By dominating every technical difficulty, he became a free spirit, a unique, triumphant artist who acquired sublimity.

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These accomplishments transformed the performing musician from a talented craftsman into a dramatic figure, who during a unique event could undergo, with his audience, a climactic emotional metamorphosis, out of a paper score and a wooden piano. He only notes that those titles represent generalized moods, and must be considered as an integral part of the piece. Samson briefly refers to the bass pedal notes called Glocken , which feature at the opening bars of No.

Apparently, the process of choosing the titles was for Liszt a multi-level experience in which an extra-musical, overt or covert inspiration played a central role Tanner , pp. Our analysis actually suggests a fresh reading of Liszt's composition, through a methodology which takes into account the histrionic dimension of the performance. The opening sounds of the piece proclaim the fragmentary nature of its essence. The bass pedal on the dominant m. The so-called "melody" in m.

It then becomes a "theme" as the open-ended, melodic fragment fuses with the "bell" element.


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  • But up to m. They actually serve the musical expression of the meditative mood implied by the very title of the piece, as well as by the gestural vocabulary required for the performance. Even if the mm. A distant bell rings quietly from the low piano register, with no distinct rhythm long notes, arpeggios and fermatas.

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    The music in the following bars has a dense texture as the pianist moves his hands over the entire keyboard, displaying an extraordinary gestural passage. The harmonic progressions in mm. These features are the essence of the kaleidoscopic composition of states-of-minds and gestures that develops throughout the entire piece. The music will change in every possible aspect, as is characteristic of Liszt's compositional techniques which culminated in his symphonies and the B Minor Sonata.

    Thus, the wholeness of the piece is accomplished by its ever changing fragmental nature, which functions like a dramatic narrative of feelings. Some musical aspects indeed represent Mid-Nineteenth-Century aesthetics and techniques, such as the implication of tonality through the use of a pedal on the dominant, or the evocation of a "theme" in a remote tonality G: within a confusing key signature E: see m.

    The central relevant aspect to our study is that the music displays a spectrum of thematic manipulations, as well as piano sonorities, that express a personal palette of emotions and body language inspired and motivated by the compositional perception of Harmonies du Soir. These manipulations create a musical form of multi-participant discussion which is sustained by various repetitions and re-composition of existing material, recycling and magnification of different aspects.

    The compositional thought of the piece resembles the continued diversity, unrest, and cyclical tension-relief structure derived from sunset in Baudelaire's Pantoum.

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    At the end, the bass pedal disappears, perhaps because the required Db and dreamy affect were already fully articulated in the last part of the work. The dense, multi-note chords are spread out across the whole range of the keyboard, in such a way that it is impossible to play them simultaneously. While the pianist has to move successively from left to right on the keyboard at bars , he must now simultaneously move his hands from the two extremes of the keyboard to the center m.

    Here the musical kaleidoscope returns to its starting point, and the pianist can now rest on his laurels and enjoy his applauded magic. The new tonality is reinforced after a "virtual" performance in the key signature only, as early as m. It is possible to consider this section as the dividing section of the piece. However, in our view, the radial aspect made up of repetitions is more relevant since it suggests a cyclical structure rather than a linear narrative of development. In the mid-section, from m. The nature of the melody and the " accompagnamento quasi arpa " instruction actually re-interpret the opening bars, and stress the additional difficulty of performance.

    The perceivable melody is of a musical relief to the audience, but the pianist has to "sing" the melodic contour using the right hand for long notes, while the accompanying chords are divided between the two hands over quite an expanded range. Since this has to be done very slowly and quietly, a delicate use of both piano pedals is required, combined with perfect finger control.

    Epiphanies

    The physical gestures that accompany the performance of this section create quite a visual choreography of pianism, combining restriction and stability of touch for the cantabile , with lightness in the floating arpeggios. The approaching fortissimo m. The same cyclical dimension seems to be at work in the treatment of the theme Ex.

    The round nature of the melodic pattern, which begins from m. Mastery of piano-playing is required for the performance of mm. Nor is it easy to maintain the appropriate rhythmic stability while playing syncopated, seven-note chords mm. The choreography now becomes acrobatics, actually magic. The technical difficulties are not meant to be noticed by anyone except the performer whose body language intimates the spiritual energy he must invest. The animato sections consist of the opposing fragments of the opening, i.

    These two elements are, metaphorically speaking, the chips of the musical kaleidoscope mentioned. They fuse together for the first time in a dolcissimo version of the complete theme, which is introduced softly, almost in a whisper, in G major. The G major is not evident in the key signature, but an ambiguity used by the composer to tell us that dramatic events are to follow.

    As expected, the next round of the theme unfolds with a new layout of the musical content, a trionfando m.

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