Passacaglias

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Justin
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Passacaglias

Post by Justin » Tue Sep 25, 2007 7:47 pm

I am a fan of the passacaglias from Shostakovich's Violin Concerto no. 1 and Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. There's something about this musical form which really stimulates me intellectually. I can't think of any more examples off the top of my head (except for Webern's, which I'm not so fond of), but I was hoping some of you could share your favourite passacaglias.

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Sep 25, 2007 7:53 pm

Justin wrote:I am a fan of the passacaglias from Shostakovich's Violin Concerto no. 1 and Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. There's something about this musical form which really stimulates me intellectually. I can't think of any more examples off the top of my head (except for Webern's, which I'm not so fond of), but I was hoping some of you could share your favourite passacaglias.
Welcome to the board, and I'm afraid I have to say, in the kindest way, you have to be kidding. The two most famous and greatest passacaglias are the one for organ in C minor by Bach (infinitely the greatest masterpiece in this form) and the concluding movement of the Fourth Symphony of Brahms. Nothing else in the form remotely approaches this kind of greatness.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Sep 25, 2007 8:32 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Welcome to the board, and I'm afraid I have to say, in the kindest way, you have to be kidding. The two most famous and greatest passacaglias are the one for organ in C minor by Bach (infinitely the greatest masterpiece in this form) and the concluding movement of the Fourth Symphony of Brahms. Nothing else in the form remotely approaches this kind of greatness.
John, could you explain what a Passacaglia actually is...thanks... :?

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Sep 25, 2007 8:48 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:Welcome to the board, and I'm afraid I have to say, in the kindest way, you have to be kidding. The two most famous and greatest passacaglias are the one for organ in C minor by Bach (infinitely the greatest masterpiece in this form) and the concluding movement of the Fourth Symphony of Brahms. Nothing else in the form remotely approaches this kind of greatness.
John, could you explain what a Passacaglia actually is...thanks... :?
Sure; I guess I needed my challenge for the evening. :)

A passacaglia is a set of variations based on a repeated base. The only well-known one before Bach is "When I Am Laid in Earth" by Purcell from Dido and Aeneas, and it is a very nice piece (in fact the only interesting piece in the whole opera). Both Bach and Brahms essentially borrowed an archaic form.

Remember me, but ah, forget my fate.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by some guy » Tue Sep 25, 2007 8:51 pm

Varèse's Arcana.

It's only sort of a passacaglia, but that's the older (baroque) form it's closest to.

(I had not noticed this when I was first enjoying this in the early seventies, but a musician friend of mine was over one day, listened to it (his first experience of Varèse), and said, "That's a big passacaglia!")
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Post by Donaldopato » Tue Sep 25, 2007 9:42 pm

I have been enjoying some Frank Martin recently. His Passacaglia for Orchestra (available on Chandos with the Petite Symphonie Concertante and the Symphony) is a good example of the form and an interesting piece
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Re: Passacaglias

Post by Heck148 » Tue Sep 25, 2007 9:49 pm

Justin wrote:I am a fan of the passacaglias from Shostakovich's Violin Concerto no. 1 and Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. There's something about this musical form which really stimulates me intellectually. I can't think of any more examples off the top of my head (except for Webern's, which I'm not so fond of), but I was hoping some of you could share your favourite passacaglias.
passacaglias and chaconnes are very simliar - melodic varitions over a ground bass.

there are some wonderful examples -

Bach- Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor.
Hindemith - Final movt of Noblissima Visione
Walton - passacaglia from Henry V; and final mvt from Symphony #2 starts as passacaglia
Holst - movt I from Suite in Eb for miliratry band - [a wonderful chaconnem IIRC]

Brahms -Symphony #4. mvt 4

I think the 4th mvt of Shostakovich Sym#8 is one also.

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Post by Yi-Peng » Wed Sep 26, 2007 12:27 am

I will second the Brahms that someone has mentioned before.

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Sep 26, 2007 12:53 am

[quote="Heck148"]
passacaglias and chaconnes are very simliar - melodic varitions over a ground bass.


This is very complicated and part of the problem is that Bach himself, who wrote by a million miles the greatest examples in both forms, introduced the ambiguity. His passacaglia actually drops the pedal at certain points, and his chaconne is famously for an instrument that should not be able to play such a thing to begin with. In the end, it makes no real difference. Theme and variations is one of the great musical forms, and it is all based on harmony. Calling something a passacaglia or a chaconne ends up being arbitrary. You might as well call the Goldberg Variations a chaconne.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Sep 26, 2007 1:01 am

jbuck919 wrote:A passacaglia is a set of variations based on a repeated base. The only well-known one before Bach is "When I Am Laid in Earth" by Purcell from Dido and Aeneas, and it is a very nice piece (in fact the only interesting piece in the whole opera).
Yes, if I ever feel the need for a Funeral i'll have them play that tune... :wink:

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Sep 26, 2007 1:12 am

Chalkperson wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:A passacaglia is a set of variations based on a repeated base. The only well-known one before Bach is "When I Am Laid in Earth" by Purcell from Dido and Aeneas, and it is a very nice piece (in fact the only interesting piece in the whole opera).
Yes, if I ever feel the need for a Funeral i'll have them play that tune... :wink:
And may your wrongs create no trouble. :D

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Sep 26, 2007 2:47 am

Justin wrote:I am a fan of the passacaglias from Shostakovich's Violin Concerto no. 1 and Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. There's something about this musical form which really stimulates me intellectually. I can't think of any more examples off the top of my head (except for Webern's, which I'm not so fond of), but I was hoping some of you could share your favourite passacaglias.
Hey, Justin, welcome to the board. Kick your shoes off and set a spell.

Biber's

One that's getting a fair amount of play right now is Walton's Death of Falstaff from his music to the Olivier movie Henry V. It's being used in the Ken Burns' show The War.

Respighi's, an arrangement of a lute piece by Roncalli.

Bach's
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Post by val » Wed Sep 26, 2007 3:36 am

Let's not forget Buxtehude's powerful Passacaglia in D minor for the organ.

It is a beautiful work, although I accept that some of the Preludes and Fugues are superior.

There is the curious case of Hindemith's opera Cardillac: the last scene, where Cardillac dies, under the fury of the crowd, it is structured in a passacaglia form.
Alban Berg also uses the form of the passacaglia in the first act of Wozzeck.

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Sep 26, 2007 3:44 am

jbuck919 wrote:The only well-known one before Bach is "When I Am Laid in Earth" by Purcell from Dido and Aeneas
Used to marvelous effect in the episode of Band of Brothers when the good German citizens in their Sunday finery were turned out to bury the dead from the concentration camp.
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Re: Passacaglias

Post by Sapphire » Wed Sep 26, 2007 4:25 am

Justin wrote:I am a fan of the passacaglias from Shostakovich's Violin Concerto no. 1 and Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. There's something about this musical form which really stimulates me intellectually. I can't think of any more examples off the top of my head (except for Webern's, which I'm not so fond of), but I was hoping some of you could share your favourite passacaglias.
As an aside - and for the possible amusement of those who have been here rather longer - your reference to Shostakovich's VC No 1 reminded me of a reference I knew I had seen here recently, and I have found it:
Anon wrote:But in all seriousness CM discussion on the web it at it's lowest ebb at the moment, it was much better 10 years back. Now nothing can be said out of fear of injuring the taste of those without taste or discernment. I'm not one of those who thinks all things played on a fiddle has merit, on the contrary most of it is crap, like the Shostakovich violin concerto I heard on ..... today"


(emphasis added by me for extra amusement).

The odd thing is that I agree. Whatever next? I think I know, actually. My tastes are imploding. There is loads of rubbish out there, and I'm moving in the direction of "Anon". I hope I stop before becoming quite so obssessed, though.


Sapphire

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Sep 26, 2007 4:51 am

Sapphire wrote:
Anon wrote:But in all seriousness CM discussion on the web it at it's lowest ebb at the moment, it was much better 10 years back. Now nothing can be said out of fear of injuring the taste of those without taste or discernment. I'm not one of those who thinks all things played on a fiddle has merit, on the contrary most of it is crap, like the Shostakovich violin concerto I heard on ..... today"


(emphasis added by me for extra amusement).

The odd thing is that I agree. Whatever next? I think I know, actually. My tastes are imploding. There is loads of rubbish out there, and I'm moving in the direction of "Anon". I hope I stop before becoming quite so obssessed, though.


Sapphire
That was one of Corkin's jewels, wasn't it? So are you thinking classical music discussions are at a low ebb, or you don't like fiddle music, or you dislike the Shostakovich, or all three? I mean, could you enlighten us before you drift off into obsession?
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Re: Passacaglias

Post by Sapphire » Wed Sep 26, 2007 6:47 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Sapphire wrote:
Anon wrote:But in all seriousness CM discussion on the web it at it's lowest ebb at the moment, it was much better 10 years back. Now nothing can be said out of fear of injuring the taste of those without taste or discernment. I'm not one of those who thinks all things played on a fiddle has merit, on the contrary most of it is crap, like the Shostakovich violin concerto I heard on ..... today"


(emphasis added by me for extra amusement).

The odd thing is that I agree. Whatever next? I think I know, actually. My tastes are imploding. There is loads of rubbish out there, and I'm moving in the direction of "Anon". I hope I stop before becoming quite so obssessed, though.


Sapphire
That was one of Corkin's jewels, wasn't it? So are you thinking classical music discussions are at a low ebb, or you don't like fiddle music, or you dislike the Shostakovich, or all three? I mean, could you enlighten us before you drift off into obsession?
I was picking up on the comment that not ".. all things played on a fiddle has merit ...".

By "fiddle", I include everything. I think there's a danger of becoming so enamoured of classical music that one can unwittingly embrace poor material if you don't watch out. I have made the same mistake. I have become a "completist" in several situations, only to find later that I hardly ever play the stuff. Every now and then it's as well to take stock.


Sapphire

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Post by Febnyc » Wed Sep 26, 2007 6:52 am

British composer Ronald Stevenson wrote a titanic passacaglia - lasting over 80 minutes - entitled Passacaglia on DSCH.

It was, of course, dedicated to Shostakovich, and the score actually presented to him in the year (1962) it was completed. Based on the motif D, E-Flat, C, B, which comes from the German transliteration of the name Dmitri Shostakovich, the work is inscribed "in memoriam the six million" and is a tour-de-force of different musical styles, apparently, as far as I know, relating to historical events.

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by Justin » Wed Sep 26, 2007 4:52 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Welcome to the board, and I'm afraid I have to say, in the kindest way, you have to be kidding. The two most famous and greatest passacaglias are the one for organ in C minor by Bach (infinitely the greatest masterpiece in this form) and the concluding movement of the Fourth Symphony of Brahms. Nothing else in the form remotely approaches this kind of greatness.
:oops: Not kidding here! I don't listen to Bach, and have only heard that Brahms symphony a long time ago. I am now motivated to check it out again.
some guy wrote:Varèse's Arcana.

It's only sort of a passacaglia, but that's the older (baroque) form it's closest to.

(I had not noticed this when I was first enjoying this in the early seventies, but a musician friend of mine was over one day, listened to it (his first experience of Varèse), and said, "That's a big passacaglia!")
We played this in our orchestra a couple of years back, and I never noticed it was a (sort of?) passacaglia! I will have to revisit this one too...
jbuck919 wrote:Calling something a passacaglia or a chaconne ends up being arbitrary. You might as well call the Goldberg Variations a chaconne.
While I agree that there are always ambiguous borderline cases, isn't the difference that, in a passacaglia, the ground bass theme repeats throughout the piece WITHOUT varying (even though it may stray to all instruments and away from the bass)? In a theme and variations, there is no constant unchanging element ... anything may be varied.
Anon wrote:... most of it is crap, like the Shostakovich violin concerto I heard on ...
Well, he might have been talking about the second one ... but assuming he meant no. 1, I don't entirely disagree, since the passacaglia is the only part of the concerto that I like!

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Post by BWV 1080 » Wed Sep 26, 2007 8:27 pm

Britten's Nocturnal concludes with a very cool passacaglia

The Lutoslawski work is a favorite of mine as well

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by Opus132 » Wed Sep 26, 2007 8:58 pm

Justin wrote:I don't listen to Bach
Image

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Sep 26, 2007 8:59 pm

Justin wrote:[While I agree that there are always ambiguous borderline cases, isn't the difference that, in a passacaglia, the ground bass theme repeats throughout the piece WITHOUT varying (even though it may stray to all instruments and away from the bass)? In a theme and variations, there is no constant unchanging element ... anything may be varied.
All great sets of variations are based prfoundly on the harmony of the theme and not necessarily something melodic or literally in the bass. The only exception I can think of, though there are probably others, are the works in that general form of Rachmaninov. This is not an original idea with me and was in fact pointed out expllicitly by Tovey and doubtless known well before him.

One of the ironies of the variation form is that what are probably its two greatest examples are in a state of extreme contrast. The Diabelli variations are based on an almost idiotically simple thieme that was submitted by a know-nothing non-composer. The Goldberg variations are based on a famously beautiful and complex theme that is original with Bach.

I have neglected to mention the works of Max Reger for the simple (and rather inexcusable) reason that I have not taken the time to pull togehter exact references to his works in this form, but they are very fine and no one who loves a passacaglia can neglect them. Google them or be patient with me and I will get back.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Passacaglias

Post by Proton » Thu Sep 27, 2007 8:22 am

Anon wrote:But in all seriousness CM discussion on the web it at it's lowest ebb at the moment, it was much better 10 years back. Now nothing can be said out of fear of injuring the taste of those without taste or discernment. I'm not one of those who thinks all things played on a fiddle has merit, on the contrary most of it is crap, like the Shostakovich violin concerto I heard on ..... today"



:shock: O the humanity! And on the Master's birthday no less.

As the French might put it:

"chaconne á son goût" :wink:

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Post by BWV 1080 » Thu Sep 27, 2007 12:46 pm

Listened to Webern's Passacaglia this morning. Perhaps his first mature piece, still written in a late Romantic style. I think anyone here, even the atonophobes, would find it attractive.

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