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Prelude to Appreciation

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The selected listening example is The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten (1946) that combines the elements of old-fashioned (traditional) style and innovative approaches to the orchestra performance. Improvisation, rhythmic harmony, developing melody, and contrastive tempo of this piece of music opens up the new understanding of classical music as significant element for listening. Live performance by orchestra and experienced conductor is essential, when compared to computer mixed music that have become very popular nowadays.
The first 20 minutes of the listening example provide different variations between slow and fast tempo, harmonic fluctuations of rhythm, based on productive play of all accessible instruments (Youtube, 2012). The introductory part starts with the solemn orchestra part that provides the unison statement of the theme (00:00 – 04:25), including the part of woodwinds (00:41) and percussion (02:07). Then the tempo arises to the threatening tone (04:25 – 05:00) that turns to “violent” performance of strings (5:12 – 6:05). The variation play of different musical instruments start at 03:00 (flutes and piccolo), 03:27 (oboes in the slower tempo with the accompany of strings), clarinets (04:32). The theme is restated by the orchestra at 02:25, while 08:43 string basses take part. Harp strings (09:41) and French horns (10:31) end up in galloping sound of trumpets (11:13), while at 11:47 trombones and tuba proceed up to the part of percussion (12:48), tambourine (13:17), xylophone (13:38), followed by castanets and gong (13:50) and whip (14:03). The entire percussion playing section starts at 14:08 to end in the piccolo part (14:44).
The listening example finalizes the single idea of appreciation by the fast tempo orchestra that symbolizes solemnity in style and composition details. Although one “cannot expect to find an immediate affection” about the listening example, “toleration is sometimes the first and only step to understanding” (The Lecture on “Prelude to Appreciation”). Quality and significance of the piece of music depends on attitude and taste that a person had while hearing the play. As for the Variations and Fugue on a theme by Henry Purcell, Op. 34 by Benjamin Britten performed by the orchestra, the central idea is to show changes of mood in growing tempo and slowing it down, while the approach to rhythm remains the same. The need for emotional expression is significant in this case, as it empowers audience with spirit of grace, solemnity, and festivity.

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