L’Orfeo Summary

Order of events:

0.) Sinfonia

1.) “Ecco por ch’a voi rittorno” (Orfeo)

2.) “Mira ch’a se n’alletta (shepherds, chorus)

3.) “Vi ricorda o boschi ombrosi” (Orfeo)

4.) “Ahi caso acerbo (Sylvia – the messenger; recitative)

5.) “Tu se morta” (Orfeo; aria?)

6.) “Ahi caso acerbo” (chorus)

7.) Sinfonia 2

8.) “Ahi caso acerbo” (chorus)

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revisiting — Berlioz!

Symphonie Fantastique (Paris, December 5, 1830)

I. Reveries – Passions

II. Un Bal

  • nebulous start, similar to that of Beethoven’s No. 9
  • triple meter (waltz), A major
  • supposed to represent Berlioz’s loneliness amidst gaiety
  • idee fixe appears amidst the middle of the movement
  • then re-appears, played by a solo clarinet
  • Intro / A / B/ A’ / Coda

III. Scene aux Champs

  • Overall: the scene represents inner turmoil between love and doubt, ending with the conviction that his lover loves someone else
  • scene begins with call and response between the oboe and the English horn (essentially a giant oboe with a double reed, lower range than a horn, used to create a mournful sound here) –> setting a pastoral tone
  • One theme (not the idee fixe) that appears several times, with variations etc.
  • Idee fixe appears (around 6:15), but the counter-melody of bassoons and low strings overpowers it (reflecting the conflicts of idee fixe vs. personal insecurities/inner doubts)
  • Later on: the winds play the idee fixe, while the strings continue to play a variation of the theme of movement III
  • ends with the shepherd’s call (via English horn) and only the response of thunder

IV. March to the Scaffold

  • Joyful tones (beheadings were a source of entertainment in France then…)
  • absurdly low trombones in background
  • idee fixe = clarinet solo RIGHT before the beheading
  • Berlioz puts in specific programmatic detail here

V. Song d’une Nuit du Sabbat

  • unclear key at first, but then the idee fixe appears in a distorted E flat major on a clarinet, sort of making a farce out of the original idee fixe, showing that he’s over her (idee fixe has lost its nobility); turns his lover into an idolatress for the witch’s sabbath
  • Dies irae [Day of Wrath] (accompanied by church bells, the serpent, and the ophieclides) — taken from church texts used for funerals; reminds us that we will all be judged someday
  • Witch’s Dance  — dance-tune passed around whole orchestra in fugal sense, until the whole orchestra joins in
  • Dies Irae and Witch’s Dance combined
  • Ends with col legno on violins/violas


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Messiah – Handel

Section III aria- “O thou that tellest good tidings to zin”

  • Handel avoids the conventional de capo set-up, instead ending the aria short with a chorus

Section III- “For behold darkness shall cover the Earth”

  • sinister aura mirroring darkness covering the Earth

Pifa – after “For unto us a child is born” and before “There were shepherds abiding in the field”

  • pastoral sounding, string instruments only
  • contrast to the sinfonia overture

“There were shepherds abiding in the field”

  • violins mirror angels’ wings beating

“Glory to God”

  • example of an anthem chorus (each line of music with its own music)
  • polyphonic and homophonic textures

“Rejoice greatly, o daughter of Zion”

  • word-painting with ornamentation on “rejoice”
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revisiting pieces: Beethoven


1st movement:

  • Main themes: #1- “The social network”; #2 -“Oh, it’s so soothing it makes me feel sleepy”
  • incomplete sonata form: exposition does not repeat, jumps into the development immediately
  • the recapitulation starts with the introductory passage, repeated at a much greater decibel + with the prseence of a kettle drum.
  • the recapitulation ends with the same loud ending that closed out the exposition: crescendo-ing violins,
  • after the recapitulation, there is the coda (plays with the themes in tonal keys)

2nd movement:

  • 2nd movement is typically supposed to be the slow movement of the symphony. But, here, it is a scherzo (“joke”), which is a jokingly accelerated minuet
  • Meter: Part A and A’ is in triple meter, and Part B is in duple meter
  • Key: Part A is in D minor, whereas Part B is in D major
  • Follows a structure of: (A) Sonata , (B) Trio form (duple), (A) Sonata
  • Instruments: Part B employs oboes and clarinets; contrapuntual melody by bassoons
  • Themes #1 – “Help me I’ve got an exam in the morning and I haven’t studied at all for this test so it’s clear that I’m screwed”
  • Theme #2- “Take me away from all this stress and say that you’ll stay and take this test for me.”
  • Theme #3 (part B of the ABA triple dance form in the middle of movement 2): “Naaaaa na naaaaa I’m a better theme than you naaa na naaa I’m a better theme than you”

Movement #3:

  • Strange: Beethoven uses the triple meter for the 2nd theme, though triple is normally only used for dance
  • 1st theme: “When I fall down, I always get back up right away” (duple)
  • 2nd theme (triple): “Circles go around in circles, slowly wafting upwards until we float down…”
  • lots of anticipatory trumpets

Movement #4:

  • combines many different designs into one: rondo, elements from an oratorio (recitation and choral pieces), variations and themes, one very long sonata form…
  • Ends in Dmajor; though beginning features B flat and D minor chords
  • 1st movement, 1st theme varied with a very minor, vibrato version of Schiller’s Ode to Joy
  • 2nd movement, 1st theme (Help me, I’ve got an exam in the morning…)
  • 3rd movement, 1st theme (when i fall down)


      • 4 minutes – Ode to Joy in D major, calm aura, strings only
      • 5 minutes – brass enters; full orchestration behind melody
      • 8 minutes – choir enters with the “Joy” theme
      • 10: 30 minutes – silence followed by a bouncy, jaunty version of the Ode to Joy — Turkish march (featuring symbols, winds — instruments of a Turkish marching band)
      • 15 minutes – slower tempo, trumpets and trombones supporting tenors and then female singers. Represents the “brotherhood theme” 
      • 18 minutes – Brotherhood and Joy themes combined, as subjects of a double fugal chorus.
      • 20 minutes – fast-paced male/female round of “seine Zauber binden weider”

23 minutes-


    rapid  culmination with percussion, voices, etc.
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Part II identifications

Part II: The Sacrifice: Evocation of the Ancestors

Is it just be or does this sound JUST like “Mamma Mia, here I go again”?!! Evocation of Broadway musicals?

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Distinguishing between Parts of Rite of Spring..

This is going to difficult for me.. but I’m going to attempt to identify key aspects of each part that help me remember the movement.

Part 1: Introduction


  • for the bassoon ostinato: “This is the beginning, this is the beginning..” (monophonic)
  • 2nd obstinato: “Here we go, with the song” (polyphonic) (clarinet?)

— derived from Lithuanian folk song

Part 1: The Augurs of Spring-Dances of Young Girls

–Meter: duple (2/4)

— Key: E flat mostly

— strings + French horn

–This piece sounds like a very clumsy, heavy-on-her-feet dancing girl. My mom gets mad at me because I walk too loudly and “sound like an elephant upstairs”.. So, I would venture to say that this reminds me of my own heavy-footed stomping and attempts to dance.

— flute: “Please stop dancing up there right now. Please stop.”

— trumpet: “I won’t stop. I’m a great dancer.”

— instruments: Horn, trumpets, celli, violins, flute

— pizzicato strings and the theme of “round dances of spring” (spring rounds) introduced (2.25)

Part II: Ritual of Abduction

— horn calls (reminiscent of “a chase”)

–kettle drums: “Take the girl. Take the girl” (sounds like Mickey Mouse — Hey, Mickey…)

–horn: “Help me, help me, help me” & flute: “where we we going, where are we going now?”

Part II: Spring Rounds

— flutes that sound like fluttering birds at the beginning

–clarinets: “Why is it raining, it’s supposed to be spring. Raining, why is it raining now..”

–violins: “I want summer” (boom) “I want summer” (boom)

— trombone/clarinets: “No flowers to pick, only this stupid sacrifice.”

–ominous violins as one ostinato, varied with an airy flute section

–ends with flutes fluttering and clarinet (?) playing its melody (why is raining)

Part I:Games of the Rival Clans 

–horns: “Heyyy, so fast we’re moving on a river” (trumpets/kettle drums/ something like a car alarms: “Watch out for the rocks! Watch out for the rocks!”)

— Horns (1:03): “I have to find a bathroom, I might pee my pants.”

— foreshadows the beginning of “procession of the sage” theme

— trumpets – fanfare

— violins: “We’re at the game, we’re at the game”

Part I: Procession of the Sage

–Beginning: “And here we go, the elders march.”  (brass)

— brass: “Clear the way / for the sage.”

–rinet and a lower wind instrument (maybe horn or bassoon?)

Part I: The Sage

–nearly silent, save for a continuous droning of one chord and the singular interjection of a violin’s 2 notes

Part I: Adoration of the Earth 

– part where the Sage kisses the Earth –> silence essentially

Part I: Dances of the Earth (last part before Part II)

— “Saved! Saved! Saved!”

— “We must pick the girl, pick the girl!” (whoosh)

— gong creating whishing sounds in the background

— imagery: Sounds like taking off in a plane, with the horn mirroring the take-off. You think the plane is going to take off, but each time you expect the lift-off, you are still on the ground. As the plane picks up speed, the noise and tempo accelerates..

Part II: The Sacrifice: Introduction

— woodwinds: “Back and forth, back and forth”

— trumpets, horn, and then taken up by the clarinet (middle of the piece): “So, who’s it going to be? Our sacrifice to the gods.”

Part II: The Sacrifice: Mystic Circles of the Young Girls

— Clarinets: “circles going round and round, gather near, gather near.” (later repeated by the violins)

— Violins: “Move to your left, move to your left. Now to your right. Move to your left, move to your left, move to your left. Now to your right”

— violins that sound like mosquitoes buzzing in the background

Part II: Dance to the Glorified One 

–most strongly associated with Disney’s Fantasia for me (high squeaky violins with drastic bow movements at the start)

— Violins: Don’t take me, don’t take me”

— Stravinsky uses the whole orchestra here, with a variety of specialized orchestral techniques

Part II: Evocation of the Ancestors

-mamma mia

-contrast of 4 solo bassoons and the full orchestra

-percussive chords played at different dynamic levels

Part II: The sacrifice: Ritual Action of the Ancestors

–bass drum and tambourine

— English horn & flute

quiet, consistent beating in the background

— Horn: “Marching forward, marching forward.”

–horn, bass drum: “Here we go, don’t be scared, pass the poison”

Part II: The Sacrifice: Sacrificial Dance

– “Is this the end? Please, no, not me.”

-frenetic dissonance, followed by single chord

-kettle drums (timpani)

-flutes and piccolos prceede the final “Death chord”

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Listening for the Idee Fixe–How to identify?

I’m concerned about my ability to recognize which movement a version of the idee is from, if it is played independently (in a listening question, perhaps..)

So, I’m going to go through and identify different elements that may help be to identify each rendition of the idee fixe.

Movement 1:

  1. At 4:51
  • Introduced by pixicato string accompaniment, and a call and response between the strings.
  • Out of emotional uncertainty, comes the calming idee fixe.
  • Monophonic, into polyphonic: Strings playing the melody alone, then with a quiet accompaniment of strings that then mirrors the melody in dynamics

2. At 6:22

  • Monophonic, into polyphonic
  • Similar to the first idee fixe

3. At 8:45

  • Immediately following the sinister “Hampster treadmill” section, the idee fixe here is polyphonic from the start, with a slower tempo and a more present string accompaniment
  • The staccato string accompaniment starts first
  • The melody sounds more syncopated, in duple meter??

4. At 12:00

  • Final culmination of the first movement, sounds like an explosion of passion and love
  • Absolutely polyphonic, with trumpets, strings, woodwinds
  • Triple meter
  • Kettle drums enter at the end

5. At 12:45

  • Woodwinds only (clarinet maybe??)
  • Slow, flat key maybe?

6. At 13:40 (only part of it)

  • Slow tempo, minor key
  • Smooth resolution with the woodwinds and the strings
  • End of piece

Movement 2:


  • More lyrical, harps audible in the background
  • Waltz triple meter present at part
  • More soothing, floating notes at the start
  • Pixicato (sp?) strings

1.) At 2:05

  • Flute playing the melody in a minor key, with a chorus of strings accompanying

2.) At 5:02

  • Pixicato string occasionally interjecting, otherwise it is largely monophonic
  • VERY slow, then launches into an accelerated part of the waltz


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Movement 5: Witch’s Sabbath

Using the listening guide + my own ears:

We first hear the idee fixe around 1:50, in C major.  It’s played jauntily on a squeaky clarinet, and it conjures images of elfs or other mystical creatures, accompanied by an increasingly loud kettle drum and trumpets. The accompaniment interrupts the idee fixe, though the jaunty idee fixe returns around 2:15. This time, the idee fixe’s melody is still played on the squeaky clarinet, though with more resounding accompaniment. The witch’s dance melody peeks out briefly, before being sequestered by a sinister string instrument in a minor key.

Around 3:30, the church bells begin to ring, with utterings of the witch’s dance in quiet, sporadic minor keys. Around 4:00 minutes, initiated by the woodwinds, we hear “dies irae” enter to the sound of the church bells. We again hear a very distorted version of the witch’s dance.

Around 5:00, dies irae is played distinctively and with exaggerated slowness, on the woodwinds. In between beats, we can hear the strings interjecting.  Around 5:40, the witch’s dance comes back with accelerating tempo, culminating with a crescendo and then a return to a quiet version of the dance in major key. The repetition of the witch’s dance is perpetually interrupted with a burst of trumpets and then starts over again. Perhaps this interruption mirrors the silliness of the whole sabbath ritual, and the failed attempts for this to be “serious.”

Around 7:42, we can barely hear the kettledrums and the eerie, almost nonsensical version of the witch’s dance in a minor key, which ends in a crescendo and a series of quick string interjections.

At 9:00 the overlap of dies irae and the witch’s dance occurs. Shortly thereafter, you can hear what Professor Kelly was talking about in class, with the strings making quick sounds that conjure imagery of rattling bones or chickens scratching. It’s terribly dissonant, but a perfect accompaniment for a version of the witch’s dance to emerge over (this time by the flutes I think??)I think this may introduce the start of the coda, which features a series of crescendos by the woodwinds, a march-like part, and then an ending with a rapid tempo of the woodwinds.


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Daydreams & Reveries: Mvmt. 1

Since the movement is about the trials and tribulations of a lovesick artist, I tried to listen with an ear for the accompanying storyline.

The strings around 2:45 have a smooth texture and sustained whole notes, which both serve to create an ambience of frivolity and floating. Perhaps, these mirror the untethered reveries that the artist is dreaming of. However, we get a sense of the artist’s inner emotional volatility as the key turns to minor and the tone gets more sinister around 3:15. The strings begin to play more dissonant notes, and the quiet yet rapid tempo of persistent strings in the background add to a sense of tension and urgency. The volatility is furthered by the varying dynamics and the tempo, with ranges from low to high volume and fast to very slow tempo.

Following an escalation of more mellifluous musings, we hear the first playing of the main theme (of his Beloved) around 5:34. The violins add polyphonic texture with staccato notes throughout most of the theme. It turns up again at 7:30, though without the presence of the violins in that original tempo.

Around 8:30, pieces of the main theme appear, though the whole piece is not played out. This could represent how his obsession is insidiously seeping into his life, no matter how much he might try to maintain a normal disposition about this love. The maddening nature of his obsession is characterized with the eerie escalation of staccato notes (in a minor key) that play with increasing dynamic.

However, then we are back to the delirious thoughts about romance that fill Berlioz’s mind, represented by the main melody.

We hear a similar convention to the one before of escalating dynamics, tempo, and notes. However, this time the urgency has a more consonant tone. So, it appears that this urgent obsession could prove to be either positive or dangerous and maddening (as hinted as before).

Around 12:37, we hear the melody with the entire orchestra behind it with incredibly polyphonic texturing that we have not yet heard. It ends with the escalating urgency of tempo and note pitch. We then again return to the melody, this same in a very slow tempo, followed by that slightly sinister escalation of notes. This could be representing some sort of juxtaposition between the joy of his love and the deleterious implications it could have.

We end with a very slow tempo, with the strings and the winds quietly and consonantly playing chords, ending in a homophonic chord.

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Beethoven, 3rd movement: reflecting on themes

After listening to all of Beethoven, and particularly the fourth movement, I would like to go back and look for the connections that link together the movement as a whole.

In the third movement, the lingering whole notes and the strings create a peaceful, sleepy ambience at the beginning. Both themes reinforce this mood, but the second theme, in particular, REALLY sounds like a lullaby. The rhythm of the theme really mirrors the words that Louis wrote for it, with the length of the notes varying between whole and short. To a scientist’s mind, the notes seem to map out the velocity of a ball rolling in a circle, with the ball barely making it up the incline and then accelerating down the decline and then repeating this cycle.

Maybe Beethoven puts this slow, harmonious piece as the third movement to trick the listener into what is going next. It creates an incredible juxtaposition with the ominous, tense tones at the beginning of the final fourth movement.

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