Listening to the instruments in the orchestra – brass

Posted on March 8, 2012

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Leos Janacek – Sinfonietta

Leos Janacek’s sinfonietta is one of the great Czech composers late works, inspired by patriotic pride, the sound of brass ensembles and folk music. The composition seems to be based on conflicting elements of civil freedom and military discipline.

First movement – Allegretto – is featuring only brass and percussion and is based on obsessive repetition of one melodic unit, with some dissonance, creating an atmosphere of overwhelming elementary power, reminiscent to the sound of an advancing military regiment.

Second movement – Andante (The Castle, Brno) – it starts with the clarinet, oboe and flute introducing a dance-like musical theme, on a muted brass background. The clarinet and oboe solos are playful and independent, quite the opposite of the united brass harmonies of the first movement. The strings join in gradually, taking on the theme in different rhythmic variations, creating some chaos and tension overridden by the brass section towards the end of the movement, mainly trumpets and fanfare playing in consonance over the rest of the instruments. The initial theme returns, played by the clarinet surrounded by the soft sounds of strings and harp, concluded by a staccato ending.

Third movement – Moderato (The Queen’s Monastery, Brno) – in contrast with the rhythmic and harmonic diversity displayed in the second movement, the third movement is based on the repetition of the same tender, almost melancholic melody. The instruments are singing the same song in their own way. Again, the brass section joins in, but this time they sound different as compared to the first movement. They seem to have a more interactive conversation with the rest of the instruments.

Fourth movement – (The Street Leading to the Castle) – string and woodwind instruments alternating with brass, the dance-like motif of the second movement returns on a background of “military” discipline dictated by the brass section.

Fifth movement – Andante con moto (The Town Hall, Brno) – strings, clarinets, oboes playing various melodic motifs sound like an increasingly excited conversation between people. The tempo changes after the intervention of the cymbal and firm percussion and the fanfares (I mean the brass section) conclude the movement and the whole composition in a triumphant manner. It is the same motif as in the first movement but this time the music is more graceful and elaborate, complete with harmonious interplay with the string and woodwind instruments.

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