Saturday, July 1, 2017

I Get A Rondo

No, I am not talking about the great Beach Boys song from the 60's, I am talking about a form of composition, rondo, that was developed in the Classical Era of music.  [well, I guess that would include the 60's, the 1760's] 




Rondo [Italian - rondeau] means roundabout or making a circle. In classical music a rondo is where the principal theme keeps coming back [around] immediately after an episode of a different theme or musical idea.  Typically in a rondo, the principal theme or melody will come back 3 times after it is first played for a total of 4 times.

You may say to yourself I have heard a piece or movement of classical music that is not marked rondo, where you hear the main theme more than once.  Usually that will be in the sonata form.  If you remember in earlier posts the sonata form has an exposition, development and recapitulation.  I like to describe sonata form as a beginning, middle and back to the beginning.  So, you will hear the beginning theme over again. 

The rondo form has a different structure than the pure sonata form.  I like to use numbers to explain it [I think most professional music teachers use letters].

If number 1 is the opening principle theme, and numbers 2, 3, and 4 are different themes, then the rondo form is like this:  1 - 2 - 1 - 3 - 1 - 4 - 1.  Note: many times the number 4 theme is the same as the #2 theme, so I could have also properly described the rondo form as 1 - 2 - 1 - 3 - 1 - 2 - 1.  

However one describes it, the important thing to remember is that in the rondo form you will hear the principal theme usually at least 4 different times in the movement [or piece].

There is even a much better description, then I am doing, of the rondo form of composition, explained here:

Music Appreciation on You Tube from Chris Wright - Understanding Music: The Rondo explained:



I love this form of music because when you hear a melody that really grabs you, you get to hear it many times in the music, not just 2 or 3 times.  

Here is another example of a rondo.  In this example, from the quintessential classical composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the major theme is repeated more than 4 times.


W.A. Mozart: Rondo #1 in D Major for piano:




Now turn up the volume to hear one of my favorite rondos, also from Mozart, the third movement of his Horn Concerto #4. 

W. A. Mozart: Horn Concerto #4 in E-Flat Major, Movement 3, Rondo:


Another example of the rondo is from the great master, L.V. Beethoven, from the final movement of his C Major piano concerto.

L.V. Beethoven: Piano Concerto #1 in C Major, Movement 3, Rondo - Allegro Scherzando:


And finally, please turn up the volume and enjoy this energetic rondo capriccioso by the great French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saens. It begins with an introduction, and the rondo theme begins at the 1:59 mark in the following video.

Camille Saint-Saens: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A minor:




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