Monday, February 19, 2018

The Soft Close

This is a previous Tales classical music post first published in August of 2011-and then again one year ago in Feb. of 2017.

'The Soft Close'

When going to the Houston Symphony at Jones Hall with my fetching wife Sheralyn, we never miss this pre-concert program called "prelude."  It is a lecture [and sometimes audio] about the program and composers of that night's concert. It is given by either a local music professor, the associate symphony conductor, one of the symphonies many gifted performers, one of the soloists on the night's program [if there is a concerto], or sometimes the Houston Symphony conductor himself, Hans Graff.   

Update - Feb. 2017:  For the last couple of years we patrons of the Houston Symphony Orchestra have been blessed to have our musical ambassador for the HSO, Carlos Andres Botero, do the prelude lectures. He is fantastic!

Maestro Hans Graf - former conductor HSO
I remember this one "prelude" with Hans Graf where he talked about the program of the night.  I remember him talking about this one piece on the program that he said, "we rarely perform".  I forget now which piece it was, but I remember him saying it is rarely performed, not because it isn't great music, but because he said of the slow, soft climactic end.  The maestro said, 'us conductors are human too, and we love those pieces with the loud, energetic endings that bring the patrons to their feet with a loud ovation."

While most pieces have those exciting climaxes [as the composers also want that loud approval of their music with a big ovation] there are some great, beautiful pieces that close softly, almost inconsequentially.   They still will get ovations, but maybe just not those immediate boisterous standing ovations that the piece with the exciting loud closings get.

There are many examples of great pieces with climaxes that have a softer close. While maybe these pieces don't end loud and energetic, that will bring the concert patrons to their feet immediately, they still have a certain, clear and impactful ending. 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in many [if not most] of his pieces ended them softly.  But while you may say the ending wasn't exciting, they ended precisely and perfectly.  I have one example here, the final movement of Mozart's Violin concerto #5, known as his 'Turkish' concerto for the rondo movement's "alla Turca" theme. 

Also I have an example with one of my favorite composers, Antonin Dvorak, in one of my favorite symphonies, his 9th symphony, "From The New World".   Ironically, the final movement starts off strong and stirring and is loud in many sections, but while the climax seems like it will have a loud ending, it surprisingly closes on a last note
diminuendo [i.e., getting softer].

The great master, Ludwig Van Beethoven, had some of the most stirring, exciting, and loud climaxes in his orchestral pieces, but listen how quiet, but perfect, his Pastoral Symphony #6 ends.

In a final example, [and I know I'm cheating in this example], Franz Schubert's Symphony #8 ends so peaceful and quiet.  Of course, this is Schubert's famous "Unfinished" symphony as Schubert never finished the third or fourth movements where the last movement, usually allegro would have had the "fireworks" ending.  But I love this beautiful piece so much I want to share it, even though the ending of this piece is from it's Andante con moto, 2nd movement. 

Please turn up the volume, put in full screen, and enjoy these great masterpieces with a soft close from the great masters, Mozart, Dvorak, Beethoven and Schubert. 

W.A. Mozart: Violin Concerto #5 in A Major, "Turkish", Movement 3, Rondo 'alla Turca' - Tempo di minuetto:

Antonin Dvorak: Symphony #9 in E minor, "From the New World", 4th movement, Allegro con fuoco:

L. Van Beethoven: Symphony #6 in F Major, "Pastoral", Movement 5, Allegretto:

Franz Schubert: Symphony #8 in B minor, "Unfinished", Movement 2, Andante con moto:


bradley said...

Love that symphony, very cool at the end to see the violin bows on right side all come to a rest and drop slowly in synch!

Big Mike said...

Thanks Brad!