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Topic: Lesson 5 Discussion

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  1. #21

    Re: low 6ths doubling

    Quote Originally Posted by marnen
    I'm actually not completely surprised. Brahms certainly liked dark, complex textures.

    I'll check those spots out. Brahms clearly thought about the orchestra in a very different way than I do (Mozart has been a bigger influence on my orchestration), so I suspect I'll learn some interesting things from those examples. ...
    Although this has little to do with Rimsky, one of the main things Brahms brings to orchestration is the general idea of making secondary, inner parts, more motivically significant. This often has the effect of saturating the texture in a somewhat contrapuntal way. (Schoenberg's ideas about total thematic integration are derived from from this tendancy, btw.)

    Quote Originally Posted by marnen
    Interesting, and it certainly makes sense. And come to think of it, aren't there a few Brahms orchestral pieces where the writing is so bass-heavy it either has to be handled with kid gloves or carefully thinned? I'm recalling this very dimly, and could be way off base. ...
    As I said somewhere in an earlier post, Brahms' orchestration does require some discreet handling, but it always "works", in the sense that he gets the sound he wanted. There are also some experts in performance practice (e.g. Roger Norrington) who maintain that the string instruments in Brahms' time used gut strings, and that this had the effect of lightening the sonority.

    Quote Originally Posted by marnen
    Hmmm. The same texture often sounds less heavy on piano than in the orchestra. Perhaps this is an example of Brahms trying to write pianistically for the orchestra...
    This is not likely with a composer as fastidious as Brahms. I think it is more likely the result of his preference for darker colors and for contrapuntal filling in of middle parts.
    Alan Belkin, composer
    Professor of Composition
    University of Montreal

    http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/pers...n/e.index.html (links to examples of my music, as well as my online textbooks)

  2. #22

    Re: Lesson 5 Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by belkina
    I beg to disagree.
    Alan. We disagree.
    Peter L. Alexander
    www.professionalorchestration.com
    www.alexanderpublishing.com
    Learn it right the first time.

  3. #23

    Re: Lesson 5 Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by peter269
    Alan. We disagree.
    Disagreement is for matters of taste, not for facts. I suggest you (re)read the preface to Koechlin, He mentions Gevaert in the first paragraph and Rimsky NOWHERE. He mentions some other primary sources at the end of the preface. (RK is not among them.)

    Are you suggesting he "revised" RK without saying so, unconsciously, or, worse, dishonestly? That is a pretty serious charge to make, which you should be ready to back up much more solidly than you have. You also might have a look at the 2 treatises by Gevaert; their outline also is not so far from RK, and from Koechlin as well. Were they also "revising" RK? In 1863?
    Alan Belkin, composer
    Professor of Composition
    University of Montreal

    http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/pers...n/e.index.html (links to examples of my music, as well as my online textbooks)

  4. #24

    Re: low 6ths doubling

    Quote Originally Posted by belkina
    This often has the effect of saturating the texture in a somewhat contrapuntal way.
    Yup. And that is something I try to do, despite my earlier comments about thinking of the orchestra differently from Brahms.

    but it always "works", in the sense that he gets the sound he wanted.
    The devil's advocate in me has to ask: How do we know what sound Brahms wanted? Only by what he put down on the page, in most cases. If he put down something on the page antithetical to the sound he wanted, we'd have no way of knowing unless he wrote about it (or later revised it, in which case the same questions would apply regarding the revision).

    There are also some experts in performance practice (e.g. Roger Norrington) who maintain that the string instruments in Brahms' time used gut strings, and that this had the effect of lightening the sonority.
    Ah, yes, hadn't thought about that. Rather like Beethoven's piano writing occasionally sounding too heavy on a modern piano because pianos in his day had a lighter sound.

    This is not likely with a composer as fastidious as Brahms.
    I wasn't suggesting that Brahms wasn't fastidious. I was suggesting more that he was thinking of the orchestra in slightly more pianistic terms than was warranted -- in fact, he sketched out several pieces for two pianos before orchestrating them, so we know that at least at times, his compositional process was somewhat pianistic. Perhaps it wasn't always so. I'm really not enough of a Brahms expert to be sure, as much as I love his work.

    Besides, every composer makes errors of orchestration at times. Even Mozart made a few, and he wasn't pushing the orchestral envelope the way Brahms or even Beethoven did.
    Marnen E. Laibow-Koser
    Composer / Web developer
    http://www.marnen.org

  5. #25

    Re: low 6ths doubling

    Quote Originally Posted by marnen
    The devil's advocate in me has to ask: How do we know what sound Brahms wanted? Only by what he put down on the page, in most cases. If he put down something on the page antithetical to the sound he wanted, we'd have no way of knowing unless he wrote about it (or later revised it, in which case the same questions would apply regarding the revision).
    We know because Brahms was an inveterate reviser, and he *was* frequently played in his own lifetime. IOW, if he did not want that sound, he had plenty of occasions to change it. He also consulted frequently with his friend Joachim on instrumental questions, and was always very concerned with getting things "just right".

    Quote Originally Posted by marnen
    I wasn't suggesting that Brahms wasn't fastidious. I was suggesting more that he was thinking of the orchestra in slightly more pianistic terms than was warranted -- in fact, he sketched out several pieces for two pianos before orchestrating them, so we know that at least at times, his compositional process was somewhat pianistic. Perhaps it wasn't always so. I'm really not enough of a Brahms expert to be sure, as much as I love his work.

    Besides, every composer makes errors of orchestration at times. Even Mozart made a few, and he wasn't pushing the orchestral envelope the way Brahms or even Beethoven did.
    I didn't think you were being disprespectful to Brahms. ;-) The main Brahms piece that went through the 2 piano version was the first piano concerto, a very unusual case.

    Btw, Mozart DOES often "push the envelope", although admittedly in fairly subtle ways. A few of examples: the use of trombones in Don Giovanni, his very characteristic doublings (e.g. fl/bn at 2 octaves), and his very indiividual part-writing ...
    Alan Belkin, composer
    Professor of Composition
    University of Montreal

    http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/pers...n/e.index.html (links to examples of my music, as well as my online textbooks)

  6. #26

    Re: Lesson 5 Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by belkina
    Disagreement is for matters of taste, not for facts.
    Alan, I respect what you wrote, but I have a different view. We'll just have to, "agree to disagree." The subject of the lesson/thread is strings, doubling thirds and sixths, and as someone who derives his income as a writer (and a publisher - for total disclosure!), I took my time, on invitation from a press release sent to me, to add what I hope was positive useful pracitical executable input with no self-promotion on my end. And that's where I'm leaving it.
    Peter L. Alexander
    www.professionalorchestration.com
    www.alexanderpublishing.com
    Learn it right the first time.

  7. #27

    Re: Lesson 5 Discussion

    Koechlin's traite is his own independant work, not a revision of Rimsky.

    Jeannot Welter.

  8. #28

    Re: low 6ths doubling

    Quote Originally Posted by belkina
    We know because Brahms was an inveterate reviser, and he *was* frequently played in his own lifetime.
    Excellent answer.

    The main Brahms piece that went through the 2 piano version was the first piano concerto, a very unusual case.
    Wow, I had forgotten about the first piano concerto -- and I can think of two other cases off the top of my head: the Haydn variations and the F minor piano quintet (admittedly not exactly orchestral). So I'm not sure that the concerto is such an unusual case.

    Btw, Mozart DOES often "push the envelope", although admittedly in fairly subtle ways.
    I didn't say Mozart didn't push the envelope, just that he wasn't as much of a radical innovator as Brahms, Beethoven, or Haydn. That's not to say that he wasn't a brilliant orchestrator, or that he didn't achieve strikingly original effects when he wanted to ("O Isis und Osiris, schenket").

    A few of examples: the use of trombones in Don Giovanni,
    I'm not sure that this was pushing the envelope in quite the way I meant. Trombones were commonly used in sacred music at the time (and Mozart certainly used them with this in mind in Don G), and IIRC had already been used in other operas to similar effect. I'd have to say that their use in Beethoven's fifth symphony, though arguably less aurally arresting, was a bigger innovation, in that this was the first piece that brought the instrument out of the theater and church and into the concert orchestra (although there had certainly been solo concert pieces for trombone before this).

    his very characteristic doublings (e.g. fl/bn at 2 octaves),
    Is this particularly Mozartean, or simply a characteristic of a period style?

    Of course, there is the divided-viola trick as something of a Mozart trademark.

    and his very indiividual part-writing ...
    Well, he certainly was firmly grounded in a good contrapuntal education. I'm not sure I follow what was so individual about his part-writing, though.
    Marnen E. Laibow-Koser
    Composer / Web developer
    http://www.marnen.org

  9. #29

    the Mozart "sound"

    Quote Originally Posted by marnen

    (re fl/bn doubling at 2 octaves)

    Is this particularly Mozartean, or simply a characteristic of a period style?
    Offhand I can't recall any examples at all of this in Haydn. I won't say they don't exist, but it's not part of his personal "sound".

    Quote Originally Posted by marnen

    Well, he certainly was firmly grounded in a good contrapuntal education. I'm not sure I follow what was so individual about his part-writing, though.
    I have already explained this in one of my commentaries in the online RK here, but basically, to sum it up here: If you look at RK, his partwriting is straight out of a harmony textbook. Mozart's is MUCH more subtle. For example Mozart abounds in examples where an instrument starts off as a doubling, and then goes its own way at some point in the same phrase. Or starts as a pedal point and then becomes a doubling. This gives Mozart's sound what you might call a kind of "chiaroscuro", the light is always changing in subtle and fascinating ways. The key to doing this is to do it only at SIGNIFICANT places in the phrase, like a climax, a change of motive, a cadence, etc ...

    Oddly enough, the classical composer whose part-writing most closely corresponds to Rimsky's principles is: Mendelssohn!

    I hope this is clear ... :-)
    Alan Belkin, composer
    Professor of Composition
    University of Montreal

    http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/pers...n/e.index.html (links to examples of my music, as well as my online textbooks)

  10. #30

    Re: the Mozart "sound"

    Quote Originally Posted by belkina
    I have already explained this in one of my commentaries in the online RK here, but basically, to sum it up here: If you look at RK, his partwriting is straight out of a harmony textbook. Mozart's is MUCH more subtle.
    Yes, I remember reading that.

    For example Mozart abounds in examples where an instrument starts off as a doubling, and then goes its own way at some point in the same phrase.
    That's a technique I associate with many other composers, but not Mozart. I'll be getting out my Mozart scores now... Mozart is good at selectively doubling only part of a phrase, though. It's something I'm trying to learn to do in my own orchestration.

    Oddly enough, the classical composer whose part-writing most closely corresponds to Rimsky's principles is: Mendelssohn!
    That makes some sense. They were both a little bookish in their approach (which is certainly an odd thing to say for Rimsky).
    Marnen E. Laibow-Koser
    Composer / Web developer
    http://www.marnen.org

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