zygis on Apr 10th, 2009Sergei Rachmaninov Moment Musicaux Op. 16 No. 6 in C major
The last piece in the set, number six, is a quintessential nineteenth-century work, and has been described as an “apotheosis or completion of struggle.” The piece was once summarized as:
The final piece or movement of a cycle that is virtuosic and brilliant, employing the entire range of dynamics and sonorities available to the piano, bringing a set of pieces to a glorious conclusion.
—Robin Hancock, Boston University, 1992
zygis on Apr 9th, 2009Sergei Rachmaninov Moment Musicaux Op. 16 No. 5 D flat major
Following the torrential gauntlets of number four is the fifth piece, likened in a Ph.D thesis to a passage in the Bible (1 Kings 19:12, read text), which says, “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” This is in direct reference to the position of the work between two pieces with “incredible pyrotechnics,” as the figurative calm before and after the storm. The piece is similar to the form of a barcarolle, a folk song with a rhythmic tuplet accompaniment. Playing it takes approximately five minutes, and it is 53 measures long, the shortest in terms of measures. It is an adagio sostenuto (sustained at ease) at 54 quarter notes per minute, with a simple melody presented in ternary form.
zygis on Apr 9th, 2009Sergei Rachmaninov Moment Musicaux Op. 16 No. 4 E minor
The fourth piece is similar to the second in the quality of its performance. The fourth piece reveals resemblance to Chopin’s Revolutionary étude in the taxing left hand figure place throughout. Further it looks, sounds, and feels as if it were an improvisation on Chopin’s Prelude in G major (Op. 28, No. 3). The piece is 67 measures long, with a duration of about three minutes, and has the fastest tempo of the set, Presto (quick) at 104 quarter notes per minute, and is the shortest work in terms of playing time.
zygis on Apr 8th, 2009Sergei Rachmaninov Moment Musicaux Op. 16 No. 3 in B minor
Again, the next piece drastically differs from the previous: the continual gauntlets of number two is relieved by the third piece in the set, an “introspective rêverie [daydream].” Drawing on the previous illustration of a “generic hybrid,” this piece is described as a mixture between the song without words and funeral march genres, to create what is called the “most Russian” piece of the set, containing both sonorous bass and a solid melody, characteristics of Russian music.
zygis on Apr 8th, 2009Sergei Rachmaninov Moment Musicaux Op. 16 No. 2 E flat minor
The second piece, referred to as a “glittering showpiece”, is positioned in contrast to the lyrical and “atmospheric” melody of the first piece. The piece is in the quick tempo allegretto (quickly), at 92 quarter notes per minute. It is 131 measures long, the most of all six pieces, but the second shortest in terms of playing time, usually no longer than three and a half minutes (the shortest is number four). This piece represents a typical nineteenth-century étude, similar in style to Frédéric Chopin’s Études (Opp. 10, 12), with a melody interspersed between rapid sextuplet figures. It is in strict ternary form with a coda: identical beginning and ending sections beginning on measures 1 and 85, and a contrasting middle section starting on measure 45. The second section radically changes dynamics, constantly changing from piano to fortissimo and even sforzando. It is, throughout, a relentless torrent of descending half steps and a cascading left hand figure reminiscent of Chopin’s Revolutionary Étude (Op. 10, No. 12, 1831). Ending the piece is a slow coda in Adagio (at ease) which closes with a perfect authentic cadence in E-flat major.
zygis on Apr 8th, 2009Sergei Rachmaninov Moment Musicaux Op. 16 No. 1 in B flat minor
The first piece has an andantino (moderate) tempo, is 113 measures long, and is marked at 72 quarter notes per minute. It is divided into three distinct sections. The first presents a theme in common time (4/4) with a typical nocturne figure for the left hand. A mid-piece pause at roughly the same area in Schubert’s first Moments Musicaux further emphasizes the influence of Schubert. The second part is marked con moto (with motion), at 76 quarter notes per minute, and is a variation of the first theme in the unusual configuration of seven quarter notes per measure (7/4). This part ends in a cadenza. The third section presents the last variation of the theme, again in common time, but in the fastest tempo yet, Andantino con moto, at 84 quarter notes per minute. The piece ends in a coda that returns to the first tempo, and repeats portions of the previous three parts. It ends with a perfect authentic cadence into B-flat minor.