Programmatic Music Analysis

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The nineteenth century, the Romantic era of music composition, saw the rise of programmatic music, or music designed to convey a specific story, theme, character, or idea—without any voices. Programmatic music was a stark departure from the prioritization of emfindsamkeit in the Classical era, which had in turn signified a break from the Doctrine of Affections of the Baroque era. While “emfindsamkeit” in classical music referred to the value of music for its own sake, rather than trying to convey a certain emotion or affection, many nineteenth-century composers chose programmatic genres as means of sharing stories or values, like nationalism, folklore, or ancient history. One programmatic genre is the concert overture, a single-movement piece …show more content…
The sonata-allegro form typically includes three sections: exposition, development, and recapitulation. The exposition of sonata-allegro presents the two themes consecutively, introducing them to the audience for the rest of the piece. Beethoven opens with his first theme, a powerful, urgent, and frantic melody in a minor key. At 1:48, however, the tone of the piece changes completely thanks to the second theme, which is emotional, tranquil, and, most importantly, performed in a major key. After Beethoven presents his two themes, Coriolan Overture enters the development section. An extended bridge means that the transition from exposition to development isn’t clearly defined, but it has evidently taken place by 3:30, as the piece enters a period of dramatic long notes held in the lower register followed by sharp accents of higher forte notes played at marcato. This section of the piece, until about 4:40 when the resolution begins, is characterized by its surprises. The development of sonata-allegro is meant to explore the two themes established in the exposition, and Beethoven does so by weaving the two themes together and elaborating on each. The recapitulation again features each of the themes, one entering at 4:40 and one at 5:30. However, an important feature of sonata-allegro relates to the tonality of the themes; while the two themes typically have different home keys in the exposition, the second theme takes on the tonic key of the first theme in the recapitulation. In his Coriolan Overture, although Beethoven presents a minor first theme and a major second theme in the exposition, the recapitulation includes the second theme in a minor key, which completely changes the tone of what had been a light and happy theme in the exposition and development. 6:18 then begins the overture’s coda, which ends

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