You are on page 1of 4

Mark Hyman

Ear Training III

Kimiko Yamada

18 April 2017

Listening Log

Polovetsian Dances from Prince Igor, Alexander Borodin

Borodins Polovetsian dances is one of my favorite orchestral pieces. It is particularly

special to me because I performed it with the All West Orchestra in high school. The piece is

popular in orchestral repertoire and its excerpts are often used for orchestral auditions. The

beginning of the piece starts with a nice dance feel that is light and feels like a waltz. Borodin put

the melody in the flute and oboe at the beginning, which helps to set the mood of the section.

The violins underneath the melodic line also drive the dynamics in a subtle but animated way. In

the next section, the tempo is faster and the articulation across the ensemble is more marcato.

This section reminds me of an army going into battle. It features brass instruments with the

melodic line that gives me the image of a stern ruler stepping in during conflict. The celli part

underneath creates a polyrhythm that drives the beat along with bass drum hits on beat one.

Borodin does a wonderful job capturing the emotion and telling a story throughout the piece. The

piece also seems to have at least two themes that are repeated throughout. This ties in with the

story and creates a feeling of familiarity. The end section is similar to the second section but

modulated up: this creates a sense of finality and triumph.

Academic Overture, Johannes Brahms

I also performed this piece in All West orchestra in high school. I like this piece because

Brahms knew exactly what he wanted from it. He wasted no time getting into the piece. The

piece starts out with an almost mysterious tone, created by minor arpeggios. Brahms smoothly

modulates to major and has the horns take over with a long and golden melody. He continually

switches back and forth between minor and major to create a feeling of dread, but also prestige.

The second time he modulates to major, the trumpets take over the melodic line and glide over

the top of the orchestras sound. Brahms seems to theme this piece with a lot of push and pull:

switching back and forth between minor and major, going from soft to loud and back, giving the

melodic line to string and then brass, etc. The stopped horn section in the middle of the piece

also creates a feeling of tension before it goes back to minor, which I think is genius. Brahms

does a fantastic job of writing triumphant brass parts.

Danse Macabre, Camille Saint-Saens

I love how this piece starts off soft and smooth creating an expectation that Saint-Saens

then defies in multiple ways with a style, key, and tonal change. The piece shifts dramatically by

growing and then falling dynamically, doing away with the pizzicato, and then adding what

sounds like baroque violin. Baroque violins have a distinct sound because they use cat gut string.

This unique and shrieking sound creates tension that releases into a nice dance feel in a minor

key that also reminds me of a waltz. This piece is actually written like a waltz it feels in beats of

one, but it is also a compound meter. Saint-Saens repeats this feeling of tension and release

throughout the piece. The dissonant violin part seems to almost signal the start of the dance like a

cantor. In the middle of the piece, Saint-Saens has the brass take over for a small section and this

section rises and falls with each beat, begging for the listener to move along. Saint-Saens
continues to defy expectations by displaying the familiar dissonant violin line, but moving into a

section that is entirely different from the previous times that the line was heard and does not have

a steady dance beat.

Concertino for Trombone, Ferdinand David

This piece is also special to me because I used it for college auditions this past year. It is

a staple solo in the trombone repertoire. The beginning builds up to the entrance of the soloist

through dynamic increase as the line ascends by sequence. David also uses ascending diatonic

scale patterns to lead the orchestra into a peak that consequently begins each new section. The

solo trombone part tells a story and the orchestra seems to respond in a non-intruding, but

uplifting way. When the soloist and orchestra are playing together, it seems like the orchestra is

really just a landscape for the soloist to play on. The orchestra is all support for the melody. The

middle section of the piece is a complete tone change from a triumphant and happy tune to more

of a funeral march vibe. After the funeral march, the melody becomes hopeful, but still remains

minor to show that the sorrow isnt gone. The funeral march returns, but the dynamic is higher

and it seems more confident. Its as if a grieving person accepts their grief. David then returns to

the happy and triumphant beginning. This solo is an excellent example of bravura complimented

by simplicity.

The Maldau, Bedrich Smetana

I performed this piece with the Balmoral Symphony Orchestra and fell in love with it. I

love the busy but delicate beginning with the flute dialogue. The two flutes flow perfectly

together and trade sentences before dying off and letting the violins take over. The horns and

oboe discreetly lead the dynamic changes underneath the string parts. I love the complexity of
the celli parts underneath the fairly simple violin parts. Smetana wrote the piece so that time is

mostly felt in the long melodic lines, but there is constant subdivision underneath; usually in the

form of arpeggios. In the third section of the piece, the tune is felt as more of a pompous dance.

Coming out of this section, Smetana creates tension by adding several instruments in

individually on weird harmonies and releases this into one of the most beautiful melodies ever

written, in my opinion. The phrases throughout the piece are long and allow for a lot of

musicality. The violins sustain their subtle and sweet lines while flutes continue to run through

scale patterns in the background, rising and falling. Smetana is an amazing composer and this

piece is a personal favorite.