Music Assignment – Essay Example

The works of Benjamin Britten show contemporary concepts that are used within ical music. In his Cello Sonata in C Major, Opus 65, there are several elements of the contemporary style, as well as a different approach to the sound and relationship between the pianist and the cellist. The evaluation of this piece is able to provide a different understanding of classical music and the different ways that musical techniques can be used to create different sounds and responses.
Benjamin Britten was born in 1913 and died in 1976. He was born in Suffolk and began to compose in his early childhood. When graduating from high school, he began to study composition under Frank Bridge, than moved to the Royal College of Music to study under John Ireland and Ralph Vaughn Williams. His first set of compositions introduced him to film music for the documentary, The King’s Stamp. He later went to America and wrote several collaborative pieces with Aaron Copland. When moving back to England, his works began to change under the several influences of contemporary and American music as well as through new musical techniques that he incorporated from other composers and styles. Britten was also a renowned conductor, violist and pianist (Humphrey, 1992).
The Cello Sonata in C Major, Opus 65, was written in 1961. The composition was created after Britten had returned to England and had moved into alternative influences for composition. The different understanding of the works through Copland, as well as influences from the East were all known to effect the different sounds that Britten used in this work. It is known that this sonata was written as a part of a series of cello suites, specifically for his friendship with several Russian musicians, including Dmitri Shostakovich. The performance of the piece was first performed in the West as a collaboration with Shostakovich’s Fourteenth Symphony, which he dedicated to Britten. The cello works of Britten during this time were the only set that he wrote and moved into a performance, with other compositions focusing on symphonic and operatic pieces (Humphrey, 1992).
The musical attributes of Britten’s piece is one that incorporates several of the contemporary methods into the one piece. There are four movements to the piece, which begins with the Dialogo, then is followed by the Scherzo Pizzicato, Elegia and Moto Perpetuo. The first notable attribute that is in each of the movements is the lack of melody that is heard between the cello and the piano. There are small fragments or motifs that are used in each section; however, Britten focuses on other components and makes the melodic line as unrecognizable and secondary. This particular attribute was one that was well known in contemporary methods and was used to create sound, as opposed to focusing on the concept of melody.
The lack of melody that is used in the Cello Sonata leads to the substitutions that help the ear to define the different movements. The first is the harmony and the chord structure that moves through each section. The harmony is heard through the pianist, with block chords that move behind the cellist to support the sounds that the cello is making. The chord progressions don’t focus on a common progression, but instead move into several dissonant harmonies and borrowed chords. The movement in and out of the key signature of C major is a part of this structure and leads to an unrecognizable set of chords. This aspect of the piece remains consistent in each of the movements.
The third attribute of the sonata is based on the rhythmic structure that is used in each of the movements. The driving force and the unification of each piece is through the continuous rhythm that is heard in both the piano and the cello. For instance, in the second movement, the cello uses a continuous pizzicato with the movement of the piece. The motion that is heard in the piece is further defined by the rhythmic structure that moves between the cellist and the piano, similar to a dialogue. The third movement has the same type of rhythm, with alterations in the time signature that move between the piano and the cello for a different sound that is used in each section. These combine to communicate different sections of the piece, specifically which is followed with faster and slower rhythms of the piece.
The concepts that are used in Britten’s Cello Sonata, Opus 65, show the components of contemporary classical music. The rhythmic structure, lack of melody and the way that each of the movements works to form the entire piece shows a different concept of sound. The cello and the piano both work to provide a sense of sound, as opposed to moving through a melody or set of recognizable attributes of classical music. Combining the different concepts of contemporary classical music with the main musical techniques of Britten then works to create an alternative understanding of the musical works that were communicated from this time in Britten’s life.
References
Humphrey, Carpenter. (1992). Benjamin Britten: A Biography. London: Faber and Faber.