MUS 121 Jeffrey Phelps, cello and Lee Jordan-Anders, piano 14 October, 2012 Dr. Ford Tidewater Community College CA#1 The Program Sonata in A Major, Opus 69 (1808)Ludwig van Beethoven Allegro, ma non tanto Scherzo, Allegro molto Adagio cantabile/Allegro vivace Sonata (1915) I. Prologue: Lent, sostenuto e molto risoluto II. Serenade: Moderement anime III. Final: Anime, leger et nerveuxClaude Debussy The Concert On Sunday, 14 October, Jeffrey Phelps, cello and Lee Jordan-Anders, piano, performed Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata in A Major, Opus 69 (1808) and Claude Debussy’s Sonata (1915) at Trinity Methodist Church in Smithfield Virginia.
After the introduction of the performers we were asked to hold all applause until the end of each piece. The first Sonata by Beethoven bears the heading of Inter Lacrimas et Luctum, meaning “Amid Tears and Sorrow. ” The first movement, Allegro, ma non tanto, from Beethoven’s Sonata, opened with the cello resting on one note. The timbre of the cello as it began in a lower register was warm and rich, the tempo starting rather slow. The mood was mournful to me at the beginning and I had no idea what to expect. The texture at the beginning of the first movement was monophonic.
As the piano entered the melody for both cello and piano was conjunct with symmetrical phrasing. Here the texture became polyphonic. The tone color of the piano seemed varied to me, alternating throughout the piece between vibrant and subdued. When the mood was not lively it became somber. The dynamics of both instruments changed throughout this movement, from piano to forte and then piano again. The movement of the melody was conjunct at the beginning of the piece and the contour of the melody was wavelike, especially by the piano.
This movement began in a major key then abruptly moved into a minor key, where the dynamics were fortissimo. The texture was polyphonic, the counterpoint producing a call and response, as if the cello and piano were holding a conversation. The melody had a narrow to medium range in the beginning of this movement. Repetition allowed all the themes to reappear throughout the movement, which is a trademark of the sonata. The cello and piano take turns performing small solo passages before veering off to something else. At one point early in the piece I heard a homorhythmic texture when cello and piano played the same notes together.
After a descending melody from the piano the movement then becomes disjunct with a wavelike contour. It seemed to me that when the melody in the cello ascended, the melody in the piano descended. It had a lyrical mood to it and it was beautiful. The harmony, at this point, was still in a major key as the cello took over, characterized by a timbre that was dark. The mood was one of melancholy and I could feel sorrow. It was interesting to watch Phelps and Jordan-Anders subtly cue one another as the dynamics became pianissimo and the tempo adagio. In the lower registers both cello and piano had a timbre that was warm.
In the upper registers it sounded fiery. The texture of the cello here was monophonic with no piano. I was not expecting the explosive part that followed. At about four minutes into the movement the dynamics became fortissimo and I could hear the harmony in a minor key. The contour of the melody descended and was conjunct. There was a return to a major key and the dynamics became piano for both instruments. The mood of this movement reminded me of yearning. The tone color for the piano became brighter here as the cello returned to the warm, rich sound like in the beginning.
The contour of the melody was ascending and conjunct. This movement remained in duple meter throughout the piece. There was a return to counterpoint as both cello and piano played, using a polyphonic texture, the dynamics piano before returning to forte. As the tempo became allegro the cello strings were plucked creating a timbre that was bright and a mood that was lively. There was a return to a monophonic texture for the cello and the dynamics became pianissimo. Since this movement’s form was ostinato, I heard short melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic patterns repeated.
This piece was long, at twelve minutes, and at one point I stopped taking notes, in awe of what I was hearing. The entire piece felt symmetrical to me and was sing able throughout. Beethoven’s Sonata 3, Opus 69 nears a close with a texture that was heterophonic, dynamics that go from forte to piano and a bright tone color for cello and piano. The melody remained conjunct with a contour that was wavelike, by ascending and descending, especially for the piano. The tempo returned to allegro throughout this piece and ended with the dynamics returning to forte and the final cadence as the harmony resolved in consonance.
The second movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in A Major, Opus 69 was Scherzo: Allegro molto and began with Jordan-Anders playing the opening notes of the melody in a narrow range with a melodic movement that was conjunct. The texture here was monophonic for only a few measures. The timbre of the piano was bright and the harmony was minor. I heard the second movement in triple meter, and by the time the cello began to play there seemed to be a return to the polyphonic texture which was common in the first movement. The movement of the melody was disjunct with a medium range, the dynamics of the piano soft (piano) and the tempo allegro.
Phelps began playing in a dynamic that was piano which mirrored the opening measures of the piano part, with a very interesting rhythm I’m not sure how to describe. The rhythm was syncopated with a constant emphasis on beat three of every measure with the second beat marked by silence. The timbre of the cello felt bright, even in its lower register. There was an ostinato form in this piece and again, the cello and piano seemed to talk to each other, with a call and response pattern familiar in the first movement of this sonata.
Movement two seemed to reach a dynamic climax halfway through which was forte, only to return to piano. The melody in the piano alternated between conjunct and disjunct and as the dynamics became louder the contour of the melody was ascending. The exchanges between the cello and piano created a lively mood throughout the movement and the texture once again became homorhythmic with a return to a polyphonic texture. I heard these textures throughout the Scherzo. The timbre of the piano and cello became quite broad with very loud dynamics. The theme was repeated and again, ostinato was at play.
The movement ended with dynamics of the piano forte, the cello and piano using a texture that was heterophonic, because both instruments were playing in unison. The cello was plucked near the very end which created a dull timbre. The piano again employed a dynamic that was piano. This piece was full of manic energy that left me wanting to hear more. The word scherzo means “joke” but this lively little piece was anything but a joke! The third movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in A Major, Opus 69, began with a short Adagio cantabile which started with the piano.
The dynamics were soft. The texture of the piano at the very beginning was monophonic until the cello joined in, and I heard a mixture of textures, but couldn’t quite tell for sure what they were. At one point, early on, I heard both piano and cello playing in unison which made the mixed texture heterophonic as well as heterorhythmic. The melody for both cello and piano was conjunct with a movement that I heard as having a narrow range for the piano and a medium range for the cello. The meter was duple. The dynamic used is piano and the tempo was adagio.
Even though the harmony was major, the mood of the first part felt quite melancholy to me. Remaining in duple meter, the movement shifted from the Adagio cantabile to the final Allegro vivace, the title a clue of what was to come! The harmony remained in a major key however the tempo became lively (vivace) and the mood felt playful to me. The tone color of the cello was once again warm, as I am finding the cello to be. The timbre of the piano was bright and crisp as both instruments seemed to veer apart, trying to find a way to come back together. I felt excited when hearing this movement.
The contour of the melody felt wavelike for both instruments, especially when scales were used, sometimes ascending, sometimes descending. The dynamics changed throughout this movement from soft to loud then back to soft again. I heard the movement of the piano as conjunct but wasn’t sure about the cello. Again, ostinato is at play halfway through the movement and I thought I heard dissonance, as the piano and cello seemed to battle it out. The harmony sounded like it was in a minor key at this point, like the cello and piano were trying to find resolution. The timbre of the piano was piercing here.
The tempo for both instruments became fast and the dynamics loud. Finally, the harmony reached consonance, after the cello repeats the first bar of the theme over and over again while the piano pounds out the accompaniment. The dynamics alternated between soft and loud, cello and piano ending on the final note in unison, the dynamics a startling forte. The first movement of Claude Debussy’s Sonata, Prologue: Lent, sostenuto e molto risoluto, began with Lee Jordan-Anders’ lone piano part that was homophonic in texture with a harmony that was minor. The tone color here was very dark, the mood quite somber.
The program notes for this performance note this Sonata as the first of six projected sonatas for various instrumental combinations that Debussy was unable to complete due to the cancer that made his final years a misery. This sonata was the first composition. I could feel his pain and misery as I listened to this work. The phrasing of the melody was symmetrical with a movement that was conjunct. This movement began with a dynamic that was forte. The texture of the piano was homophonic. The cello entered, with an ostinato form which repeated the part just heard by the piano, giving it a tone color that I heard as a bit subdued and dull.
The melody ascended, then descended, only to ascend again creating a wavelike contour with a conjunct movement. The dynamics continued to be forte. The cello then played alone, giving a monophonic texture. I felt the mood to be sad here, the movement of the melody more conjunct with a medium range. The harmony was minor. The tone color was muted. The melody of the cello began to ascend, the dynamics piano. Here, the piano joined the cello and the mood started to feel agitated. I heard the harmony to be dissonant here as the dynamics became forte.
The texture was homophonic here and the timbre of the cello broad. The melody in the cello descended and was conjunct. The dynamics were piano at this point in the sonata and the tempo andante. The movement came to an end with a shift in harmony from major to minor with an obvious slowing of tempo. The dynamics remained piano. The second movement of Claude Debussy’s Sonata, Serenade: Moderement anime, began with the cello that had a tone color that was dull, almost muffled as Phelps plucked the strings with his fingers, which is pizzicato. The melody was not sing able and I heard the harmony as dissonant.
I’m not sure about the meter, but I heard it as nonmetric because it felt weak to me. The dynamics at the beginning of this movement were pianissimo and the mood was one of distraction or agitation. The phrasing was not symmetrical and as the cello continued in the lower register the piano can be heard, also playing in dissonance above the cello. I had a difficult time with this piece because technically it seemed all over the place. The timbre remained dark and gloomy. The melody became conjunct with a narrow range of three notes with the dynamics moving from soft to loud.
The tempo was vivace at one point, even though this movement’s tempo was rather slow. The tone color of the cello became brighter, as a lone part played in a higher register, making the texture homophonic. This movement closed with a cello part that seemed to be looking for resolution, still with a minor harmony and it seemed to repeat the first part of the piece. The third movement, Final: Anime, leger et nerveux, began in duple meter with the melody of the cello sounding sustained, then alternating between an ascending then descending movement, with a wavelike contour.
The piano became very noticeable as Jordan-Anders began playing in a higher range that had a bright tone color. The melody was conjunct and wavelike, the phrasing symmetrical, for a short while. As the piano descended, the timbre of the cello once again became dull, as Phelps plucked the instrument. The mood turned dark and stormy once again as dissonance became prevalent. I’m sure there were all kinds of technical things going on in this movement that my ear is not trained to detect.
I could clearly hear the return to the earlier theme as both instruments reached a loud dynamic, the final note of the movement struck by both cello and piano. Even though this movement was played with mostly piano dynamics, I could hear a contrast between the changing moods, brought about mostly by frequently changing keys. It was a wonderful performance by Jeffrey Phelps and Lee Jordan-Anders and I am very glad I attended. I left the church remembering why I have a soft spot for classical music, something I’ve not listened to very much in recent years, until I signed up for this music appreciation class.
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