Piano Figuration In Sarcasms

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3.3 Piano Figuration
3.3.1 Use of Percussive Figuration
Prokofiev first used percussive figuration in Sarcasms Op. 17 and Toccata Op. 11 written in the same year. At the beginning of Sarcasms, the Tempestoso is depicted by the percussive introduction. The harsh percussive sound in the interval of the augmented fourth is not only reinforced by ff, but also projects an intense emotion. The dynamic contrast in the first four measures further heightens the intensity.

Ex. 3.9 Sarcasms Op. 17 No. 1 The percussive figuration in Sarcasms No. 3 in Ex. 3.3.1 is led by the repetition of a minor third, which creates a mood of uncertainty because the key is not determined. The opening of this piece shows that the left and right hands play in the
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The appoggiaturas rarely impact the main character of the piece. But in Sarcasms No. 2, the writer uses an extensive amount of appoggiaturas and they function as the main body of the piece, propelling the music to develop and expand.
Prokofiev’s use of appoggiatura in Sarcasms Op. 17 No. 2 is so specific that, unlike the fantastic and romantic arpeggios in the earlier pieces he had composed, the appoggiaturas in Sarcasms Op. 17 No. 2 stand out as remarkably aggressive and bizarre. In Example 3.6, the first theme in the introduction of Sarcasms Op. 17 No. 2 is constituted of seventh chords, appoggiaturas, and single notes. The first appoggiatura is made up of 12 notes, and is a major part of the theme.
Example 3.3.4 shows how the first theme occurs again in m.45. As the composer omits the quarter notes, the rallentando section appears for the first time. With the expression marking feroce in m. 46, the contrast is now between the ascending appoggiatura and the descending appoggiatura. As the pulse of the music becomes faster, the competition between the two characters becomes so dramatic that it develops into a long scale as the example shows, which propels the music to the breathtaking climax. The appoggiaturas help build the distinct features of the characters, and help them lengthen the
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17 contains a more dramatic texture than other pieces that were composed before 1912. The author at first entitled the piece “Sarcastic pieces, but later took the advice from Nurok and Nuvel: It was they who conceived the title, feeling that the composer’s original title, Sarcastic Pieces, sounded too banal.”
On the other hand, Asfyev’s impression of the piece involved a sense of “repressed horror” and provoked images of devils “frightened by their own cold, malicious, mocking tone, their own contempt for spirituality.” In his point of view, the piece is like poison; the stark dynamic contrasts directly act on the characters in the piece to produce the shocking, sarcastic mood.

Ex. 3.9.4 Sarcasms Op. 17 No. 1

Example 3.9.4 shows the dynamic of the piece changing from the extreme light pp to the huge ff in just one bar; in the group of the two notes ff to the pp, the tremendous contrast in the same group is extremely ironic and it repeats four times. In my opinion, pp depicts a tiny clown while the ff represents a giant elephant running and playing in the circus. ff is the one character that is really big, teasing the very small one represented by the pp. The strong dynamic contrasts bring more intensity to the music, and the disproportionate pairing sustains Prokofiev’s sense of

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