Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 2
W. A. Mozart composed his Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major, K. 211, in 1775. The work is a concerto for violin. It has three movements: Allegro moderato, Andante and Rondeau. The piece has a sense of unity that is largely provided by re-occurring themes, either in their original form or with some variation. Variety on the other hand is provided by introduction of new themes in the latter movements, as well as development of existing material. Repetition was used in the first movement as a re-capitulation technique, which works to bring a sense of rest at the end of the first movement. In addition, the motifs and themes that were repeated in the second and third movements brought about a sense of unity. Contrast is seen in the cadenza, where the solo violin displays its prominence, and in the different tempi of the movements. This ensures that the piece does not become monotonous and boring. The piece is homophonic in texture as it involves a single melody with chordal accompaniment.
Like most of Mozart’s melodies, this is sweet and melodious and progresses to a final resting point. It is clear, concise, and quite tuneful. Mozart could be said to have divided the melody into two distinct sections that have contrasting ideas, much like a question and its answer. He uses various motifs, which he uses repeatedly and contrastedly and which he develops in order to make the melody quite enjoyable. Mozart is famous for his consonant harmony, and this piece is no exception. The piece is in the major key of D. The piece modulates to the sub-dominant key at various points. It also has a steady pulse in triple meter. The rhythm of the piece can be said to vary according to the movements. The last movement is very rhythmic and syncopated that gives a dance-like feel.
The tempo varies from movement to movement with the first movement being allegro moderato (moderately fast), the second being andante (moderately slow) and the third allegro (fast). The dynamics varied with a few extremes of forte and piano. The instruments used were the orchestra and the solo violin. Because it is a concerto, there were sections where the violin played on its own and sometimes with fewer accompaniments. The most outstanding sound is perhaps that of the solo violin in the cadenza and in other parts of the work.
Brahms: Tragic Overture
Johannes Brahms composed his Tragic Overture, Op. 81 in 1880, perhaps to contrast his Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80 written the same summer. The work is a concert overture (which has its origins in opera) and is of a single movement. Unity in the piece is achieved by use of a memorable theme that re-occurs during the work. Variety on the other hand is provided by the arrangement of the work in sonata form, which achieves variety in tempo and mood. The texture is homophonic, much like that of his contemporaries. The melody can be said to be pessimistic, massive and monumental. The harmony is much more dissonant than it is consonant. This effectively portrays the tragic feel of the work that the composer sought to achieve. All the sections of the overture are in the somber key of D minor but there is evidence of modulation to related keys for a short time in some sections.
The work has a steady pulse in most of its 15-minute life with a triple meter. Syncopation is present in some passages and the rhythm contrasts sharply from part-to-part, even within the same theme. The dynamics as well vary and contrast, in an effort to achieve the effect of the title. The tempo is Allegro ma non troppo (fast but not too much), but this varies in some sections that employ moderato. The dynamics are varied with an effect achieved by the use of different parts of the orchestra at different points. Brahms uses a large orchestra in this work and such instruments as the percussions, piccolo and tuba can be heard distinctively.
Schumann: Symphony No. 2
Robert Schumann finished his Symphony No. 2, Op. 61 in 1846 and published it a year later. The work has four movements: Sostenuto assai, Scherzo, Adagio expressivo and Allegro molto vivace. The work is a symphony (a large work for orchestra) and is both homophonic and polyphonic. Schumann was at the time pre-occupied with Bach and his polyphonic style of writing. Unity is achieved by having the opening theme appear in all movements. The melody is quite valid, judging by the magnitude of the work. However, it features two subjects introduced in the first movement, which are then developed and finally brought back in the recapitulation section. The melody then changes to a joyous mood in the second subject, and is divided between the woodwinds and strings. In the third movement, the melody is tender and depicts a passionate love song, played by the violins. Finally, the melody returns to the material heard in the first movement, this time carried by the whole orchestra.
The work is in the key of C major and modulates to the sub-dominant and other related keys. The harmony is consonant and whenever a theme is carried by a certain instrument, the rest are either quiet, or supporting the melody with chordal-like accompaniment. Tempo varies throughout the work but the stark differences are seen in the movements: moderately fast, very fast, slow and finally, fast and lively. The work is for orchestra therefore orchestral instruments were used. The first movement seems to favor the brass and woodwind sections, the second the string and woodwind sections, as does the third, and in the final movement, tutti.