Hungarian Dances

Concert Critique #1

The Hungarian Dances are an intriguing group of works by Johannes Brahms. They are characterized by frequent changes in tempo and volume. These pieces are focused on the melodies created when the instruments are played together. Each piece also contains more than one melody. New melodies, or themes, usually include a change in tempo and a change in dynamics within each piece. The volume differences also stand out on the tracks. They usually go from soft to loud almost suddenly. The change was startling to me the first time I heard it. Certain instruments are singled out in every section also. In some parts you will hear the polyphony in the piece come together very nicely. The plagal cadence used throughout the 4 tracks gives them a storybook feeling. I can imagine any of these pieces being used as score or even background for a song in a just about any Disney animated movie. The theme-and-variations form that is utilized also adds to the feeling. The differences in these pieces, however places them in different movies. Track two sounds like it belongs in a movie such as Anastasia or Cinderella. It sounds like something that I would hear at one of those old-fashioned formal dances. While listening to track three, I could imagine the seven dwarfs hard at work. Track four almost sounds like Mr. Brahms copied it straight out of Fivel Goes West. I could think of any movie other than Fantasia for track 1 though. Overall, these pieces were enjoyable to me because they painted that picture in my mind. I could see the action being played out in my head while listening to the Hungarian Dances.

Bolero by Maurice Ravel is a very long piece. It is not mind-numbing even though it is very repetitive. Ravel prevents this work from becoming boring by changing the pitch or increasing the volume of the piece for every couple of times the beat repeats itself. The fact that the beat is not boring to begin with, also helped to hold my attention. This piece paints a picture in mind. In fact, it almost directs an entire scene from any war movie. When the piece starts off very quiet, it is almost like the calm before the storm when soldiers are preparing for battle. As the piece gets louder the troops are marching forward until at the end when they finally make to the war zone. I did not like, however, how the piece ended so suddenly. It was like the battle and began and ended with one shot. It left me wanting more. Other than the fact that this track ended too soon, I enjoyed everything leading up to the end.

The two tracks by Claude Debussy have an overwhelming sense of urgency to them. The tempo of these tracks is what creates that feeling. The crescendos in these tracks, coupled with the loudness of them, are the main ingredients in the urgent feeling that is given off. The frequent changes in melody are sudden and often confusing. It is sometimes hard for me to catch what is going on in the pieces. I did not enjoy these pieces very much.

Track number eight and tracks eleven through fifteen were piano tracks with faster tempos. The melody was quick, much like the Debussy tracks, but it just sounded much better on the piano. The faster notes flowed instead of jumping around. The song texture comes together beautifully on these tracks. I could not find a story in these pieces, but I enjoyed them simply for their sonic value. Track fourteen was a slower than the others, but it was not slow to the point where it lulled me to sleep like tracks nine, and ten. These tracks were so slow to the point where I was just waiting for them to end.

Track sixteen was also slow but it was somehow different from the others. The changes in pitch and melody kept me interested. The crescendo in the middle of the piece is what caught my attention. When I first listened to it, I thought it was just like the other tedious piano pieces. That crescendo gave the piece and entire storyline. It had a