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IB MUSIC

a comparison between French romantic music, Symphony No.3 by Camille Saint Saens and Chinese nationalist music, the Yellow River Concerto inspired by the Yellow River Canata
by

Lindsey Lue

on 12 April 2011

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Transcript of IB MUSIC

Symphony No.3
and
The Yellow River Piano Concerto A formal commentary on the differences and similarities between the two pieces Even though the Yellow River Piano Concerto was composed based off the Yellow River Cantata, it has a formal and melodic structure which includes both Chinese folk music elements and European composition techniques. Several techniques that are employed are the pentatonic scale structure that is common in tradition Chinese folk music along with the presence of Chinese instruments. Although the tradition instruments are included in the piano concerto, the group of different musicians that participated in the rearrangement of the piano concerto based off the Yellow River Cantata, the piano part in the concerto is vibrant and superfluous as it is placed at the center of the piece, where there are often conversations between the piano part and the other instruments. The piano part is able to capture different moods due to the central role it plays in the different movements. An example of a pentatonic scale progression is in this excerpt of from measures 94-99 during a section of the piano solo. This pentatonic scale progression is centered around D flat. This allows the piano part to exhibit an emotional and physically intense melody which leads to the climax. One interesting difference is the key and how they differ due to the context and country that the pieces were written in. Symphony no. 3 is in C minor with a tonic quality. Unlike the symphony, the Yellow River Piano Concerto does not have a center key that it is carried throughout the movements as it has multiple key shifts. The key differs from movement to movement. This is due to the fact that although it is a revolutionary piece in China using Western techniques, it is a combination of both Western and Eastern musical techniques as it is based on the Yellow River Cantata. Although there is no central key throughout the concerto, the piece is modal, focusing on portraying the same ideas in different keys. Within Symphony No. 3, there is a tonic quality such as the usage of chords from a previous key utilized as a transition between different tempos and sections of the movement. In the following example, Saint-Saens utilizes an A minor chord in order to transition to the new tempo while introducing the organ as a medium. This is significant as the key signature is in D minor. This is an example of one of the methods that Saint Saëns utilizes during Symphony No.3 and it really emphasizes the organ part with the difference in key. In general, throughout the Symphony No.3, Saint Saëns utilizes different key signatures to indicate the introduction of a new theme or idea. The first commonality is the similarity in meters. Both the Symphony No.3 and The Yellow River Piano concerto are in triple meter; however they differ in tempo. The Symphony No.3 starts out with an adagio while the Yellow River Piano Concerto begins with an allegro tempo. However, in both pieces, there are allegro and adagio sections within the multiple movements. Within Symphony No.3 this is important since there is a difference in the interpretation of how many movements there are. This is due to the variance in tempo throughout the 2 movements, such as, from adagio to presto within the same movement. The instrumentation of the symphony and the piano concerto are similar even though they were composed in different periods of time. They both feature keyboard instruments and utilize a full orchestra with wind and string instruments. The main difference in the instrumentation is the presence of a pipe organ in the symphony and the traditional Asian instruments such as the erhu within the piano concerto as it is a blend of both traditional western music and eastern music written during the Cultural Revolution. The next significant difference is that Symphony No.3 is a symphony written with a 2 movement structure but is commonly interpreted as having a 4 movement structure in order to simplify the symphony for the musicians. It is also understood as 4 movements in order to support the contrasting themes and keys throughout the piece. The Yellow River Piano also has multiple movements. It has a 4 movement structure but is a symphonic poem. The movements are the Prelude: The Song of the Yellow River Boatmen, Ode to the Yellow River, The Yellow River In Anger, and Defend the Yellow River. Camille Saint-Saëns was a French Romantic composer who is well known for his ability to compose music while expressing his opinions of his surroundings. He was also renowned for his life virtuosic style with technically difficult styles and unique style of playing the piano, with limited movements. He was also unparalleled in his skill of playing the organ. Although the piece was commissioned, Symphony No. 3 was composed as a both a desire for a technically challenging piece for both piano and the pipe organ, and as a tribute to his late friend Franz Liszt (Cole 1). After its introduction, it later became a piece that was popular among the middle and lower class due to its nationalist atmosphere. The Yellow River Piano Concerto has been adapted from the Yellow River Cantata by Xian Xinghai as commissioned by the Communist party during the Cultural Revolution. The composers of the Yellow River Concerto were Yin Chengzong, Liu Zhuang, Chu Wanghua, Sheng Lihong, and Shi Shuheng. Although the piece was commissioned to originally remove the influence of nationalist music, this piece, after its debut, became a popular in the middle and lower class, and redefined Chinese national music from what it was before the Cultural Revolution (Bai 35). The first significant difference between these two pieces is when they were written and why. Symphony No. 3 is an original work by Saint-Saens (Raeburn 129). On the contrary, The Yellow River Piano Concerto is a rearrangement of the Yellow River Cantata composed by Xian Xinghai (Bai 34). However, both pieces were commissioned pieces so there is not much individual influence on either piece. Camille Saint-Saens was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in England to compose Symphony no. 3 in C minor. On the other hand, a collaboration of musicians was commissioned by the Chinese Communist Party to rearrange the Yellow River Cantata into a piano concerto for political reasons. Although both pieces were commissioned, they both similarly became popular music for the middle class after the pieces debut. In conclusion, there are similarities and differences between these two commissioned pieces of music, Symphony No. 3 in C minor by Camille Saint Saëns and The Yellow River Piano Concerto, an arranged piece inspired by the Yellow River Cantata by Xing Xinghai. These two pieces came from different sides of the world; however, they both became populous works after their debuts due to the development of themes and the nationalist feelings that both pieces evoked through different methods. Contrarily, The Yellow River Concerto evolves the theme throughout the piece as if telling a story of development and change. The changing structure is displayed across the movements and all these variations lead up to the final movement where all the variations on the original structure are represented through the repetition of the same theme in different keys with different instruments. The repetition of the theme and the difference in the key structure is what allowed the piece to become a populous work, as the repetition evoked the persistence of the theme and how it represented the Chinese people as a nationalist piece of music. An example of how the key changes so suddenly in the Yellow River Piano Concerto is how the pentatonic scale structure shifts from being centered around the key of D flat to E flat. Although the key the pentatonic scale structure is centered around shifts, an intense emotion is still given off in by the piece. As shown below in measures 137-142 the technically challenging piano part is still portraying the main theme even though the pentatonic scale structure has changed. Although the two pieces have different structures and keys, they both utilize thematic transformation throughout and across the movements. Within Symphony No.3 there are variations on the themes moving throughout the different movements, each movement focusing on a different technical aspect of different instruments. An example would be how the first movement features the majestic, final sound of the pipe organ through chords, and the second movement features the technical skill ability on a keyboard through rapid scale progressions. Throughout each movement, the theme is developed. This is displayed when, the first movement of Symphony No. 3 ends in morendo with a piano dynamic. Unexpectedly, as a shock, the second movement begins with a lively melody that is evident through the Presto tempo scale progressions played by the solo piano part with a forte dynamic. However, later in the second movement, during the Maestoso, the organ part in the Symphony sets the key change with a C major chord that gives a tonic feeling. In the second part of the movement, the theme of the symphony is then repeated in the new key with an emphasis on the organ part. Therefore, the theme does develop throughout the movements. The Yellow River Piano Concerto rearranged by Li Huanzhi, Qu Wei, and Yan Liangkun
Originally composed by Xian Xinghai as the Yellow River Cantata
Symphony No. 3 by Camille Saint Saëns




"nicknamed" the organ symphony due to the instrumentation of the piece
Bai, Shan. The historical Development and a Cultural Analysis of the Yellow River Piano Concerto. Pretoria, South Africa: The University of Pretoria, 2006. 39-78. eBook.
"C. Munch Conducts Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 'Organ' (1/4) ." Web. 11 Apr 2011. <www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bV11c91D4k>.
"C. Munch Conducts Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 'Organ' (2/4)." Web. 11 Apr 2011. <www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-KEVlAbyk8&feature=related>.
"C. Munch Conducts Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 'Organ' (3/4)." Web. 11 Apr 2011. <www.youtube.com/watch?v=ic8-5XvpHhc&feature=related>.
"C. Munch Conducts Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 'Organ' (4/4)." Web. 11 Apr 2011. <www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCKiZRWyv20&feature=related>.
Cole, Katherine. "Symphony No. 3 “Organ” Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)." Repertoire (2010): n. pag. Web. 11 Apr 2011. <www.bhso.org.uk/repert-270-Saint-Saens-Symphony-no-3-in-C-minor-The-Organ.htm>.
"Lang Lang- Yellow River Concerto part 1." Web. 11 Apr 2011. <www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJBU9TyRA80>.
"Lang Lang Yellow River Concerto part 2." Web. 11 Apr 2011. <www.youtube.com/watch?v=hc2ehaIbtAw&feature=related>.
"Lang Lang Yellow River Concerto part 3." Web. 11 Apr 2011. <www.youtube.com/watch?v=aw5EXroUN30&feature=related>.
Library, Scholastic. Story of Music. 2. Brown Partworks Ltd: Grolier Academic Reference, 2000. 25-30. Print.
Raeburn, Michael, and Alan Kendall. Heritage of Music: The nineteenth-century legacy. Rev. ed. 3. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, USA, 1989. 129-132. Print.
Saint Saens, Camille. "Saint Saens Symphony No.3." N.p., 4/11/2011. Web. 11 Apr 2011. <http://imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/b/b5/IMSLP84213-PMLP50421-Saint-Saens_SymfoniNr3.pdf>.
"Yellow River Piano Concerto Score." Sheet Music Trade. Web. 11 Apr 2011. <http://www.sheetmusictrade.com/sheets/215957/Xian_Xinghai-Yellow_River_double_piano_concerto.html>. By Lindsey Lue
Link http://prezi.com/yfte8jbtzxuo/ib-music/
Candidate Number 000995-115
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