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The Traditional Form of the Violin Concerto and Elements of Chinese Traditional Music Are Both Found in the Use of Melody, Form, and Other Musical Concepts

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Essay Preview: The Traditional Form of the Violin Concerto and Elements of Chinese Traditional Music Are Both Found in the Use of Melody, Form, and Other Musical Concepts

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HUMA 1102(L2) IC 2016 Report

Cen Zhuoran  Student ID: 20308238

The report will discuss how the traditional form of the violin concerto and elements of Chinese traditional music are both found in the use of melody, form, and other musical concepts, in Bright Sheng's violin concerto ‘Let Fly’ performed at The Intimacy of Creativity 2016 World Premiere Concert.

‘Let Fly’ is structured with three movements, from the performance of violin soloist Dan Zhu and the whole orchestra, it is clear to recognize the idea of Sonata-Allegro form in the violin concerto, but also has slightly changes in details. Rather than playing Double Exposition, the first movement starts with the fluent voice of violin, the tonic key is in minor, and the tempo is comparatively in a slow-moving level, with few accompaniments. After playing the first theme in a middle pitch level, harmony is gradually enhanced in the second theme, which create more dynamics of the piece, and the key also turns to the relative major. It is clear to see the idea of ‘question’ and ‘answer’ connect different parts together. Moving to the Development, there is strong modulation in the process. The melody changes the tonal center from different keys, to create sense of variation. Besides, counterpoint is used to give deeper impression of the rhythm. Rich harmony is enhanced, when sensitive sound of violin is accompanied by wind instruments and drums in the background, that gives strong gradation. One outstanding part of the piece is the cadenza performed by Mr. Dan Zhu between the second and third movement. The cadenza is more similar to a freestyle performance but with structure, same melody is performed with different pitches, from low to high, which reflects motion of ‘flying’. Finally, Recapitulation brings the idea of ‘coming home’, with more variation and longer rhythmic values compare to the beginning of Exposition. The flowing melody is expressed with very distinguishable drumbeat and wind music, that leads to the faster tempo, and bring the sense of magnificence in the end.

Although ‘Let Fly’ is based on concerto in Classical music, it is the Chinese element which leads movements into an elegant and unrestrained motion. As the composer Mr. Bright Sheng said, ‘it is the aural image of the violin melody just flying off in the air’, the traditional Chinese style brings flowing movements into the piece, as it changes levels of pitches frequently, and create the atmosphere of ‘spinning’ and ‘flying’ of the melody. From my perspective, feelings about sentimental mood is more emphasized, this type of floating melody could be found in ‘Pagodes from Estampes’ composed by Claude Debussy, that creates the beautiful melodic cycle. Further developed, ‘Let Fly’ uses various techniques in instruments that is rarely heard in the Concerto. In the cadenza, violin creates very sharp and delicate timbre which is quite similar to a Chinese two-stringed bowed instrument ‘Erhu’, especially when it comes to high pitches. Coming to Recapitulation, percussion instruments are frequently used, that creates very shrill sound, just like snapping off a swig, this sound could be found in many accompaniments of Chinese opera. It is also worth mentioning that harmonics is widely used among string instruments, it displays strong comparison with the violin, the former is lively, the latter is fluent and emotional. From these interesting techniques we can observe the melody and tempo of the piece is actually affected by Chinese traditional music.



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