Bach, Schumann, Balakirev, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev

By guest blog writer Julie Berridge

On November 15, Danny Driver plays the compositions of Bach, Schumann, Balakirev, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev.

French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816 was written by Johan Sebastian Bach between the years of 1722 and 1725. It consists of 7 movements: Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gavotte, Bourrée, Loure and Gigue. Allemande in 4/4 time opens with a gentle interweaving of notes, and then becomes more lively. The Courante is light and quick and the Sarabande, is more stately. (The Sarabande dance started in Spain and as a somewhat lively dance and became more stately when it spread to France.) The Gavotte, a ballroom dance is followed by a country dance. The Loure is a soaring melody and the closing Gigue is a fugue in three voices.

Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 consists of 12 etudes and was written in 1834. It’s been called one of the greatest musical achievements of the 19th century. In these 12 etudes, the piano is made to sound like an orchestra. From the one instrument, we hear woodwinds and brass, drum beats; horns and trombones, and violin and cello.

The second half of the evening features three Russian composers: Balakirev born in 1837, Rachmaninov born in 1873 and Sergei Prokofiev born in 1891. In Balakirev’s Nocturne No 2 in B minor (1901) Chopin’s grand nocturnes can be heard. Rachmaninov is said to have been inspired by the feelings conjured up by images when composing his etudes. Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7 in B♭ major, Op. 83 (1942) was one of his “war sonatas”. It is said that in these sonatas, Prokofiev unfavourable feelings about Stalin were revealed. Ironically though, this Sonata received a Stalin prize.

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