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Topic: Hamlet Symphony VI - Last Act

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  1. #1
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    Hamlet Symphony VI - Last Act

    Sixth Movement – Last Act of Hamlet

    Hamlet was back in Denmark with, for the time being, great freedom of movement. He had to act fast, but he also needed to enlist Leartes.

    This is where he made his miscalculation and fatal mistake – he should have known the depth of Leartes anger and his thirst for vengeance.

    He should also have, knowing Claudius’ shear wickedness (and predilection for poison), been prepared for a trick.

    Anyway, if Hamlet had acted earlier, or if he did get his revenge, we wouldn’t be talking about the play, now would we?

    Hamlet was clever, but Claudius was treacherous and cast a very wide net. The room full of dead bodies is almost inevitable.

    This last scene body count includes the overconfident Hamlet, the angry, brash Leatres, the vile, plotting King Claudius and the totally oblivious queen.

    As with the other movements, this is not supposed to be a musical replication of the action of play. It isn’t supposed to be background music. It is just supposed to paint some quick sketches – Hamlet talking confidently and calmly to Horatio, an angry Leatres, a short duel (“playing”, this was supposed to be a harmless game) and four deaths. And then the end…., well, we’ll get to that later.

    This movement begins with a slow introduction – it sounds almost calm, if not overly uplifting, but becomes more and more dissonant. The intro ends with two large, alternating dissonant chords which give way to:

    Leartes Theme – This theme is a direct consequence of the two dissonant chords. This is a jerky, agitated, angry and angular theme. The main, more melodic part of theme is an inverse of the romantic Ophelia theme. You can hear the opening phrase of the Ophelia theme, which makes this sound more complete. The two chords come back, first resolving to E minor (most of this is in B minor or C# minor). It finally resolves to…

    Hamlet Theme – C major theme is based on the rhythm of the To Be theme but using more of a melodic/harmonic idea from the heroic theme. These two themes show up briefly in F minor and Ab major. The theme starts to repeat when it is abruptly cut off by Leartes theme.

    There is a bit of development section, which might be thought of as the duel. The two themes fight each other for prominence but are cut off by the “Death Theme”.

    The “Death Theme” isn’t as dark as the name sounds, but it has been heard in reference to the ghost in the first movement, as a dark turning point in other movements, and over the top of Ophelia’s theme when it is cut short at the end of the 4th movement. In this movement it is heard 4 times, once each for the queen, Claudius, Leartes and, finally, Hamlet.

    After the “Death Theme” is heard twice, we hear what can be taken as a recapitulation in that the two main themes are heard again by themselves. Both themes are cut off by, and mixed with, the “Death Theme”. Both themes also take on a darker, sadder hue with the funeral march playing lightly (sometimes not so lightly) underneath.

    After the “Death Theme” is played for Hamelet, suddenly the heroic theme comes in, softly, rising. It works its way up and up ending in C major, still floating above the c minor and funeral march below.

    I didn’t really make the ending happy, per se, but I did want to try to give it a more “Romantic” ending – hints of something beyond. Maybe not even a religious connotation, but more of a noble death, or “victorious in death”. Maybe it is just a gentle reminder of what has been lost. I think, though it ends on a raising, major phrase, the end is almost sadder than a dark, gloomy ending would have been – the symphony could never end on the dark note that ended the fifth movement.


    Hamlet Symphony I: Introduction – The Midnight watch
    Hamlet Symphony II: Hamlet – To Be or Not To Be
    Hamlet Symphony III: Mad North by Northwest
    Hamlet Symphony IV: Remembering Ophelia
    Hamlet Symphony V: At the Gravesite
    Hamlet Symphony VI: Last Act

    Finally finished! Anyway, if you would like to the read the write up of all 6 movements in one place and a few random thoughts I had on completing the project, you can read it here (pdf format).

    Instruments
    Piccolo
    2 Flutes
    3 Oboes
    English Horn
    Eb Clarinet
    2 Bb Clarinets
    Bass Clarinet (Bb)
    2 Bassoons
    Contrabassoon
    4 Horns
    3 Trumpets (Bb)
    3 Trombones
    Bass Trombone
    Euphonium
    Tuba
    Timpani
    Orchestral Bells
    Percussion - Bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, tam-tam and triangle
    Xylophone
    Marimba
    2 Harps
    Full string section and soloists (violin, viola, cello and bass solos)

    Strings, harps, percussion (tuned and un-tuned), flute and piccolo are rendered using Garritan Person Orchestra
    Winds, other than flutes and piccolo, are rendered using Garritan Concert and Marching Band

    As usual, I did not spend a huge amount of time looking for a super realistic rendering, but only good enough to get a general idea of how this would sound with a full orchestra. In other words, this recording is not the finished product, it is a demo on how this piece might sound if played by live players.
    Trent P. McDonald

  2. #2

    Re: Hamlet Symphony VI - Last Act

    An adventuresome, engaging, innovative final movement,
    Trent, to suitably close this considerable undertaking.
    Though not overtly, there's a certain Berlioz-like
    sensibility to it... the idée fixe writ broad, if more
    in its outlines than its thematics.

    This is, to me, the strongest of the movements, as well;
    in addition to being undeniably culminative, structurally
    wrapping up both the narrative and the musical aspects
    of all that has preceded it.

    Bravo, my friend, on the completion of this ambitious
    -- and highly successful -- endeavor!

    All my best,



    David
    -----
    David Sosnowski
    www.DavidSosnowski.com

  3. #3

    Re: Hamlet Symphony VI - Last Act

    Trent, I've really been looking forward to this, well, to all the movements ever since you posted the first one.

    What an amazing patch work of impressionism in this final movement, with effective bursts of percussion, Hamlet's feigned madness controlling the mood here and there - AND, in reference to what you said:

    "...I didn’t really make the ending happy, per se, but I did want to try to give it a more “Romantic” ending – hints of something beyond..."

    --that's a wonderful touch. To refer to something of my own, I played with Wilde's original ending to "Dorian" so that there was a suggestion of a future existence for Dorian after his death. It was effective in the production, and a similar desire from you in this Hamlet is also a powerful theme to add to the mix.

    Along with David, I join in the Bravo you deserve for tackling and completing this massive, highly atmospheric work. Wow - You may experience some post-creative deflation after all this effort. But if you do, I'm sure you'll recover and go on to blaze more trails into your own, unique musical world.

    Thank you, Trent, for this fascinating, dramatic experience.

    Randy

  4. #4
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    Re: Hamlet Symphony VI - Last Act

    Hi David.

    One of the influences of this project was Berlioz, along with Liszt and Wagner. Not there styles or sounds, but how they reused material.

    Besides the 15 page document linked above, I also made a 1 page description which I gave to friends and family along with the CD. Here is a paragraph from it on the subject:

    One of the main ideas I was exploring was the use of different motifs and themes in different contexts. For some I followed the Berlioz method of having a clear theme that always has the same meaning, no matter how it is used. Other themes or motifs follow the Liszt method of changing meaning by context. The third way is the Wagner method of creating meaning for short motives that are then used to add meaning when used elsewhere (not the same as the Berlioz method). I also used the old-fashioned method, I’ll call the Beethoven method, of development – that is, themes and motives are cut up, examined, changed, morphed, etc., to create new ideas, motifs or themes.

    I felt as I progressed with this work that each movement was better than the last, so I agree that this is the strongest, though maybe not my favorite.

    Thanks for listening and for your kind words.
    Trent P. McDonald

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    Re: Hamlet Symphony VI - Last Act

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post
    Trent, I've really been looking forward to this
    Hmmm Randy, so you couldn't wait for it to end? OK, I took your phrase a little out of context.

    My "post-composition depression" is about over (it has been over a month) but I still haven't started anything new yet. But my brain is full of ideas and have at least three years worth of material all planned out....

    I don't know if you read the pdf I posted, but the last little bit, the rising theme at the end, was one of the first things I wrote when I was still playing with themes. Even the instrumentation is the same. As soon as I hit playback I said "the symphony is going to end with this." And it did and it works perfectly (IMO).

    Thanks Randy for your comments and kind words throughout.
    Trent P. McDonald

  6. #6

    Re: Hamlet Symphony VI - Last Act

    LOL Trent - YEAH my quote was out of context!-- because to be clear I said I was looking forward, "...to all the movements ever since you posted the first one..."

    Really, it's quite a feat you accomplished and I can't imagine what it was like to conquer the project. Forever in admiration.

    Randy

  7. #7
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    Re: Hamlet Symphony VI - Last Act

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post
    LOL Trent - YEAH my quote was out of context!-- because to be clear I said I was looking forward, "...to all the movements ever since you posted the first one..."

    Really, it's quite a feat you accomplished and I can't imagine what it was like to conquer the project. Forever in admiration.

    Randy
    Unfortunately it is so easy to miscommunicate on a forum that felt the need to explain I was joking - Talking face to face I never would have had to say something about taking it out of context. Oh well, such is life on line...

    Just wanted to say thanks again for the kind words here and in your thread on your wonderful newsreel fanfare.
    Trent P. McDonald

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    Re: Hamlet Symphony VI - Last Act

    This is a tremendous accomplishment, Trent ! I would even say 'monumental'. I haven't listened to all of it yet, but when I did a repeated listening to certain sections (like the 1st movement), the music came even more alive for me. And your detailed program notes also contributed in no small measure.

    I look forward to listenening (and re-listening) to the rest of this impressive work.

    Best Regards,

    Jack

  9. #9

    Re: Hamlet Symphony VI - Last Act

    I listened to the Last Act, having heard before nrs. 1,2 and 3. Don't you dare removing this form Internet, I am not ready with it!!!!!

    Be sure, I will come back. It is too intriguing to skip this massive work.

    Raymond

  10. #10
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    Re: Hamlet Symphony VI - Last Act

    Quote Originally Posted by jacksiru View Post
    This is a tremendous accomplishment, Trent ! I would even say 'monumental'. I haven't listened to all of it yet, but when I did a repeated listening to certain sections (like the 1st movement), the music came even more alive for me. And your detailed program notes also contributed in no small measure.

    I look forward to listenening (and re-listening) to the rest of this impressive work.

    Best Regards,

    Jack
    Thanks Jack.

    I tried to have the material from each movement develop from the previous movements. What I would hope to happen on listening to an earlier movement after hearing a later one is, even if you don't hear it consciously, your ear would still pick up that a seemingly meaningless phrase or motive later becomes the basis for an important development in a later movement.

    I'm glad you liked the commentary. As I wrote previously, I wasn't so sure if I should post it. I'm glad I did - several people have made comments about it.

    Thanks for listening so far. I hope you enjoy the rest when you get a chance. And thanks again for your comments.
    Trent P. McDonald

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