For information on the composer, Sergei Prokofiev, and the general overview of the entire flute sonata (Op. 94) you should check out my analysis of the first movement before reading through the analysis of this movement. Understanding the background – including the conditions – Prokofiev was writing under will help inform the analysis of this movement:

IV. Allegro con brio (♩=112)

This is the final movement of the sonata, and comparatively has much more diverse and virtuosic material. The general form is a rondo (which can be more specifically narrowed down to Sonata Rondo form) which I’ll break down more in depth later. The main characteristic of a rondo is the repetition and recycling of the ‘A’ material. Generally speaking, a rondo in its most simple layout can be reduced to ABACA. The development of the ‘A’ section is up to the composer and in this case Prokofiev demands more virtuosity from the performer with each recap of the ‘A’ section.

Let’s compare what sonata rondo form looks like (generally) as well as how Prokofiev adapts this form in the fourth movement:

The top is the model for sonata rondo form; and the bottom is how Prokofiev adapts it – purple = key, dark grey = section, green – cadence, light grey – connection to sonata form

The key difference between these two models if Prokofiev’s repetition of the A and B before the C section is stated. However, remember that in Sonata form the Exposition can be repeated; sometimes you may see this when the length of the exposition is shorter than the combined development and recapitulation. I regard Prokofiev’s decision to include the A’ and B’ sections before the ‘development’ or C was used to this effect especially considering the slowness/major character shift that makes the C section feel much longer than the lively allegro ‘A’ section we hear interspersed throughout the fourth movement.

To make sense of what we are seeing in the diagrams let’s break down what defines each section – in particular look at the model for Prokofiev’s adaptation in dark grey we see one of the links to sonata form is the use of sections with the A and B parts: primary (1) theme, transitional theme, secondary (2) theme, and closing theme.

‘Exposition’ – A: primary and transitional themes

The first theme spans m. 1-16 and is in DM (both the first movement and fourth movement are centered around the same tonic, D). It is characterized by a pickup of four 32nd notes that has an upbeat, lively rhythm such as the arpeggiated 16th note triplets – as well as the other 16th triplet figures – eighths and embellishments (such as the one 16th two 32nds and the dotted eighth sixteenth).

While the opening is in DM, 6 measures in the theme is transposed down a whole step into C – however, Prokofiev quickly takes a detour in m. 8 (the 3rd bar of the transposition) which takes us to this G#-G-G# 16th triplet figure. He does so route us back to D Major; in m. 9 we are still in C, but by oscillating between G-G# he is able to fill in the Major 2nd (a whole step) back to D as he finally does in m. 12 on beat 3. He gives as an exact copy of the opening theme to springboard us into the transitional theme.

The transitional theme spans m. 17-29, still in DM and ends with a HC – AM (V). This theme presents a new rhythm with the driving 16th notes especially in the ta di-mi rhythm on a low D4 which appears first in m. 17 and then again in m. 21.

We also see a return of the 16th triplets.

And we see ambiguity to the tonal center. In m. 25 Prokofiev begins his DbM arpeggios on sixteenth notes, by m. 27 we have some dm arpeggios, and then a sequence of descending Major and minor 3rds which end with the half cadence on A.

‘Exposition’ – B: secondary and closing themes

The secondary theme spans m. 35-39 and is in AM (with some tonicizing of the new dominant E). This theme is completely new material the syncopated rhythm (SLS) with large intervals and arpeggiated grace notes.

The closing theme is a bit of a misnomer since similar to the primary theme it does a recap that is reminiscent of ternary form. This theme spans m. 40-53 and starts in f#m (the relative minor to A) and ends in AM. There are steady eighth notes with four 16th notes that pickup into the next phrase group.

We can establish the f# more solidly when we consult the piano score:

Repetition of the Exposition – A’ and B’

Prokofiev made the choice to extend the ‘exposition’ of this sonata rondo form with truncated versions of the primary theme, transitional theme, and secondary/closing theme.

What is absent from A’? The D Major 16th triplet arpeggio in m. 60 into 61 is in a bar of 2/4 (NOT 4/4) and does not take us into C as the opening did. We are taken directly to the transitional material sans the grace not flourishing, this version goes straight into the 16th triplets, DbM arpeggios, and descending 3rds.

And what about B’? There is just one subtle difference in the flute material which is the final sixteenth of m. 71 being changed to a G-natural (originally a G3) as the flute transitions down to F rather than up to A.

The transition into the development is set up by the piano’s eighths that establish the new key – originally the piano is giving us downbeat Fs in the left hand before leaning into the instability with first inversions (A-C-F) with A being the lowest note in both hands.

‘Development’ – C

The material being ‘developed’ is very clearly the material from the B theme – characterized by the steady eighths and the group of 4 pickups – Prokofiev uses various techniques to make the theme more robust/complex such as varying rhythms, new tonal areas, and adding piano interjections.

There can be many arguments made for what Prokofiev is tonicizing/modulating in this development however there are pillars that I think are solid (and would generally be recognized) these are as follows:

  • F – m. 87
  • Ab – m.107
  • F# – m. 116

In the diagram at the top of the post, I gave some further tonal areas that I believe Prokofiev plays around with:

  • F – m. 72-86
  • (C) as the dominant of F there are short motives interspersed throughout the C section
    • m. 87-89
  • g which is the dominant of c, with a lowered 3rd… however this could be argued to be an extension of the C/dominant
    • m. 90-91
  • A – a whole step up from g, as well as, the 3rd of F
    • m. 92-94 – plus the pedal C is used to modulate into other tonal areas with that common note
  • (C) again m. 95-97
  • And a combo of both C and G (the dominant and secondary dominant)
    • m. 104-106
  • Ab – m. 107-110
  • Db – the predominant which is leading us up to when Prokofiev changes the key to reflect D (however he is using it in it’s parallel minor b)
    • m. 111-112
  • F# (mostly likely being used a dominant within bm to end in a HC before the recapitulation)
    • From key change to bm, F# is already being established as the dominant m. 113-121

‘Recapitulation’ – A” B” A”’

When A” is restated there is a demand for more virtuosity – the sections of the primary theme are transposed up an octave. Likewise parts of the transitional theme are transposed down an octave. Rather than ending solidly there is a slow quarter note ascension to the secondary theme in the tonic (D Major). A” spans m. 120-143.

As per sonata form, the recapitulation is solidly in the tonic/home key (both A and B sections, whereas in the exposition the B section is a new tonal area). That being said, B” presents the secondary/closing theme in D major – transposed up a m6. Prokofiev also switches up the order that he presents this material: rather than starting with the syncopations and grace note arpeggios, he starts with the steady eighths and pickup four 16ths and THEN goes to the syncopation and arpeggiated graces in DM. B” spans m. 145-160.

The final statement of A”’ begins in m. 161; has a fake out opening that like A” is partially transposed up the octave before repeating and moving into completely new material that is mainly flashy flourishes to demonstarte ultimate virtuosity.

What do you think of this final movement? And what do you think of the Sonata as a whole? Let me know in the comments!

For information on the composer, Sergei Prokofiev, and the general overview of the entire flute sonata (Op. 94) you should check out my analysis of the first movement before reading through the analysis of this movement. Understanding the background – including the conditions – Prokofiev was writing under will help inform the analysis of this movement:

II. Allegretto scherzando (Dotted Half = 69)

The suggested tempo is included in the G. Schirmer 1965 edition. The text “allegretto scherzando” roughly translates to fairly brisk and playful (or joking). The form of the second movement is ternary (ABA or ABA’) form which has some connection to a scherzo (a major scherzo of note for flutists is Mendelssohn’s Scherzo in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) which is in rounded binary form (AABA) with a ‘trio’ section that follows the recap of the A form.

A – mm. 1-161

The key feature in this movement is Prokofiev’s use of hemiolas. As far as the Grove Music dictionary is concerned a hemiola, “in the modern metrical system denotes the articulation of two units of triple metre as if they were notated as three units of duple metre.” More info on this term can be accessed here.

The motive that the flute first plays in the A section is an example of a hemiola:

Note the duple notation (duple = 2), but slurred as if they were triplets (3). As mentioned, this opening motive in the flute is prominent throughout the second movement: we see it transposed up a Perfect 5th in measure 15, down a Perfect 5th in measure 34; and we see echoes of it throughout later parts of the movement as the initial A section closes, as well as when the A’ section recaps.

In the primary A section we expect to see multiple phrases, an established tonic key, and an end with a PAC (typically in the tonic):

Multiple Phrases

There is no shortage of phrase variance in this section.

The first section that we see (amid several transpositions) is the hemiola phrase, which is characterized by the constant eighth notes. Each time this phrase appears the dynamic is marked piano and peaks at a mezzo forte. This section lasts from mm. 1-58.

The next phrase section is the sixteenth notes. The repeated figure “C-D-Eb-F Gb-Ab-Bb-C D-Eb-E-F” is accompanied by the piano playing Gb-Eb-Bb (which would be some borrowed chord, not quiet a Neapolitan because it is minor rather than Major) – perhaps it is simply put to be the tritone juxtaposing a minor (a to eb as a diminished 5th)?

Either way, this section is fleeting and promptly resolves to F Major – mm. 59-76.

The third section is interesting because unlike the first two which had very clear features, this one has a several elements. The first being the leaps/skips (the 1st and 2nd phrases were both stepwise) and particularly the use of the Perfect 4th followed by a Perfect 5th. Then following this with a dotted quarter to driving eighths. This section lasts mm. 77-102.

The fourth section could be lumped in with the third, however, I see the key change and addition of a new rhythmic figure (the triplet) as one of two possibilities: (1) a brief extension that is stretching the phrase to the return of the first phrase OR (2) a variation of phrase 3. Either way there are recognizable similarities between the 3rd and 4th phrases – take for example, mm. 107-112 and compare it to mm. 87-92.

Key/Establishing a Tonal Center

Considering how Prokofiev plays with intervals in this movement, the tonal center is relatively ambiguous – especially if one was to just regard the opening 6 bars of just the piano alone.

However, given the opening motive the tentative tonic is a minor, however as soon as Prokofiev has moved out of the hemiolas he begins to explore F Major and its relative minor (d minor). What’s interesting here (for all you advanced theory nerds) is that these are the notes of a d minor arpeggio: a (5), F (3), and d (1) which would be the parallel minor of the first movement set in D Major. How neat!

For simplicity’s sake I will refer to the section by key rather than scale degree, but the d minor arpeggio relation is an interesting avenue, perhaps to explore the next time you work through this movement.

We see the movement towards F Major punctuated by the octaves F’s in measures 75-76. The references to d minor are more apparent in the piano score, for example before the flute has the sixteenth note runs, the piano (mm. 58-61) plays an inverted d minor arpeggio d(1) a(5) f(3).

Ending with a cadence (PAC?)

There is the brief key change to c minor, however, as discussed in the section on phrases, it is more or less an extension or variation used to cycle back to the first phrase. By m. 123 the d minor version of the first phrase is back. The punctuation of the A’s in mm. 153-155 is a versatile choice on Prokofiev’s part as this can either be regarded as the 5th of d minor or the 3rd of F Major. The ambiguity is all part of the game – given the context of writing during Socialist Realism in Soviet Russia – Prokofiev could easily claim either to be the case, whichever put him a favorable light. As far as a PAC is concerned, I see the As as an IAC in d minor, however, I have seen other scholars regard it as the same but in F Major. To support my argument for d minor I point towards the use of C# and F#s which allude to the parallel Major – perhaps forecasting the key change that will begin the B section. Futhermore, I see the transition from F Major to D Major – not impossible, but the chord functions during the transition “o, m, o, m2, m3” given the context of the piano score which allude much more to minor tonalities than Major.

B – mm. 162-227

Contrast is a fairly simple concept to understand in music theory. Opposites are a general concept that can be transferred from daily life (ie. Day and Night) which in music theory can translate to A and B sections. The B section is noticeably different than the A section, here’s what to look for: key the new key is usually related either the parallel Major/minor; this section ends with a PAC or HC; and there may be a short bridge that leads into the recap of A.

The most noticeable contrast between the B and A sections in this movement is the way Prokofiev alters the meter! Notice how the B section is in 2/2 while the A section is always in 3/4.

New Key

Tracing back to the end of the A section, my argument for the cadence being an IAC in d minor fits neatly since the B section is starting in the parallel Major – D Major. The key signature makes this key transition abundantly clear, as well as the opening statement start with an inverted D Major arpeggio.

Okay, hold on for this wild journey of keys/interval-play that I am about to suggest – with the knowledge that most of these transitions would be intervallically motivated (whether that is pushing the boundaries with something as ‘offensive’ as a tritone or maintain a Major quality to mask the deviation from traditional chord progressions).

There is a notated key change in measure 174 (removing the C# and F#s). Looking at the notated figure of a quarter triplet and two quarters – one could guess we have returned to a minor… there is after all an A being sustained in the piano mm. 174-176. However, isolating the arpeggio in m. 174 it appears to be two arpeggios combined a d minor with an inverted G Major (A-F-D-B-G-D). Prokofiev continues to play with that Perfect 4th (D to G) with the running sixteenths m. 177 and m. 181. However, keep in mind we are still technically in ‘a minor’ therefore at m. 182 we see an immediate shift to E Major (G#-B-E) because it is a the Dominant (V) in a minor. This is followed by a bm – g#m. Which is similar to the A section and how it brings out the d – f – a of d minor, this brief tonicization of the Dominant is bringing out E – B – G#.

By m. 190 the key of D Major returns… only for a short while. With a nod to the E Major, mm. 194-195, as well a a minor, the C# and F#s are quickly removed from the key yet again in m. 202. And this is where we begin to see the bridge back to A/A’.


The bridge out of the B section and back to the return of A is punctuated by the time signature change to 3/4, a return to the triple feel, while still closing out the motifs and tonal exploration featured in this contrasting section. This bridge spans mm. 208-227.

The piano part while the flute is playing the espressivo phrase and resting (mm. 212-227) is particularly of note tonally speaking. The inverted arpeggio running under the espressivo section is a bo (b diminished) arpeggio. Once the piano is alone this shifts into an alternating AM – C7. Again, an interesting (and safe) choice because these are common chords (although the quality varies) from D Major/minor and F Major.

Cadence (PAC or HC?)

This section is more or less ending with a Half Cadence. Although not a formal HC, the same function is present here…

A traditional HC is something ending with a V (Dominant). However, V is not the only Dominant function, VII can (on occasion) take the place of a V in a cadence. Nothing about this cadence is screaming authentic cadence (IAC or PAC), there is no tonic function in sight (this could be a i/I and occasionally a VI/vi).

If the piano bridge is considered to be in dm/DM there are two dominants AM (V) and C7 (VII7)… also if we really (and I mean reallllly) wanted to push for FM we could call the C7 the V7/III. Either way you spin it not tonic functions to be seen, especially with the seventh chord, therefore, definitely HC!

A/A’ – m. 228-370

Finally, a return to familiar material! This final section has a few key features: it can be varied (hence A’), it will start and end in the tonic, and ends with a PAC.

Variations: A versus A’

For the most part, this return is an exact copy of the initial A section. The flute line follows the A section to a T mm. 228-333 (the counterpart being mm. 7-112).

The first time this section deviates starts m. 335 with the descending eighth note figure. There is a new rhythmic figure (the sixteenth triplets) which allude to the ones featured in the first movement of the Op. 94 Sonata. Then, Prokofiev quotes the 3rd phrase from the A section before starting the 1st phrase… offset by one beat; and he interjects this with a hemiola-ified (adding ties to) another quote from the 3rd phrase before finishing with the 1st phrase, and a frenzied eighth pattern that ascends to the climatic C7.

Final Cadence – PAC?

If only… again it’s more of an IAC. But a very interesting feature in the Schirmer 1965 edition is that it includes the alternate violin part which ends differently!

Of course both endings are considered IAC if we are to consider the tonal center to be a minor: the flute’s C is the 3rd scale degree and the violin’s E is the 5th scale degree.

I had a lot of fun with this movement – the ambiguity lends itself to a lot of theorizing (within set Music Theory ha!) so I got a chance to explore questions I had about the score. Anything you noticed in this movement that I missed?

As mentioned in previous analysis posts, part of analysis is understanding the context of the composer and their piece. I’ll be starting with a brief overview on Prokofiev and then reviewing the entirety of the Op. 94 before finally isolating the Andantino movement.

Sergei Prokofiev: Restrictions in Russia

Sergei Prokofiev was a Russian composer who was alive (1891-1953) during the time of the Soviet Union. This is significant because of the control the government had over artists, especially during Stalin’s life. Prokofiev and Shostakovich, his contemporary, had targets on their backs because they were giants – having international success (Prokofiev spent a lot of time touring outside of Russia). Shostakovich was made to be an example: in 1934 his opera, Lady Macbeth, premiered and the general reaction had been positive… that is until Stalin had gone to the opera in 1936, in which he openly ridiculed Lady Macbeth. Shortly after this an anonymous article “Muddle Instead of Music” was published giving the opera a scathing review (it’s also worth noting Lady Macbeth was banned in the Soviet Union until just several years after Stalin’s death). After this the limitations placed on composers were unclear, to say the least; there were many shades of gray, all subject to the opinion of Stalin, and the price to pay for pushing the envelope was step (if not death, exile, or a whole other range of fear tactics and harassment). Generally speaking music that underwent “Russification” followed the principles of this new term for enforcement ‘Socialist Realism’: presented Russia as an prosperous and idealistic nation, including folk songs that reinforced this Russian nationalism, and finally music following classical traditions (the atonality and serialism in other parts of the world at the time was definitely NOT in line with “Russification”).

Prokofiev a composer, pianist and conductor did his best to adhere to these murky principles. A notable work he was asked to compose – in an act of redemption – was Zdravitsa for Stalin’s 60th birthday – here the principles of Socialist Realism are clearly followed: the text was already chosen for him, he chose to set it starting and ending in a Major key, and having a nostalgic quality that gave this sense of Russian pride. Other notable works include Lieutenant Kije (op. 60) a suite for orchestra; Romeo and Juliet Overture (op. 64), and (very familiar for orchestral flutists) Peter and the Wolf (op. 67) a children’s tale for narrator and orchestra.

Sonata in D Major (op. 94)

In 1943 Prokofiev finished his Sonata for flute (op. 94); this piece was written in the Classical style which is already setting it to be inline with “Russification”. This piece was written while Prokofiev was also working with Ivan the Terrible; and it was first performed by flutist, Nikolai Khaikorsky in 1943.

In 1944 Prokofiev revisited the work for violin – this would later be published as Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano (op. 94bis).

There are 4 movements:

  • Andantino (QN=80) starts and ends in D Major.
  • Scherzo (dotted QN=69) opens with ambiguous tonality (am-CM-dm-FM); ends on an am chord.
  • Andante (QN=50) starts briefly in FM before exploring other keys; ends with FM.
  • Allegro con brion (QN=112) starts and ends in DM.

Given the understanding over the overall work, and the restrictions Prokofiev had we can begin to look through the first movement:

I. Andantino (QN=80)

For those familiar with musical forms, true to the piece’s name, this first movement is in sonata form. Here’s the breakdown:

The black represents the pillars – sometimes Sonata form has an Introduction (not the case here); there will ALWAYS be an exposition, development and recapitulation (pay very close attention to the repeats they are important to the form); and sometimes there is a coda (which there is in op. 94).

The green represents cadences. HC = half cadence; PAC = perfect authentic cadence; IAC = inauthentic cadence. The exact cadences in this diagram are not as important as the cadence’s function… basically is it stable or unstable?

Finally, the purple represents tonality or tonal areas. The exposition begins in the tonic or home key, by the secondary theme there is a new key (usually related to the home key) that will be explored. The development continues off the end of the exposition somewhat stable, but then can do an array of things to ‘develop’ melody and harmony such as use sequences, variations, toncizing other tonal areas, or fragment previous material. Finally, the recapitulation works very similarly to the exposition (since it is recapping that material) however everything is now in the tonic/home key. The coda ends up a tag at the end, extending the material, in this case it still ends in D Major to get that nostalgic and classical tradition feel that would be expected of Prokofiev by Social Realists/the government.

The exposition in this first movement ends before rehearsal 4 (in the Schirmer 1965 revised edition) or measure 40. One easy visual cue to tell that the exposition ends and the development has started is the repeat – knowing this saves so much time.

Exposition – Opening motive

The primary theme starts in D Major ending with a PAC in measure 8. The transition is still tonicizing the home key, but with added chromaticism; there isn’t a formal HC as seen in the template above, but the instability of the D in the flute against an F-natural (the lowered 3rd) and in an inversion – with the F being underneath the D – has the same effect that a HC would in measure 20.

The secondary theme starts in measure 21 introduces a new rhythmic motive (dotted eighth sixteenth); the new key is not clear, but Prokofiev brings out the E – G# – B repeatedly throughout this new theme despite never fully tonicizing it. Then, in measure 30 (or rehearsal 3) the unstable tonality remains the same, but Prokofiev expands on the secondary theme with rhythmic variance with the groups of 6 as well as the contrasting longer durations (quarter and half notes).

Exposition – Closing Theme – Rhythmic Variance

The development spans from rehearsal 4 to 8 (or measure 41-87 and features the infamous climax of the piece that utilizes the extreme high register of the flute (D7).

This section starts without any piano, and allows the flute to show off their full low register with a short, articulate sounds. The new variance in the rhythm are the driving sixteenth triplets placed on the second half of the beat – Prokofiev continues to use this motive throughout this section to drive forward. At rehearsal 5 (measure 51) there is a transposed return of the opening theme – down a half step, starting on G#. With quotes from the closing and secondary themes before, yet again, returning to the opening theme now an augmented fourth (or a tritone) above the original pitch. And then seemingly out of nowhere, Prokofiev abruptly changes the key signature, measures 64-69. He leans into the instability with a quick time signature change from 4/4 to 2/4 and back to 4/4. In measure 74, Prokofiev gives the flute 2 groups of 5 to launch into the climax combining the transition theme from the exposition with the driving triplets; emphasizing the virtuosic arpeggios up to the D7 by repeating them 5 times.

Development – Transposed TT Opening Motive; key change

The recapitulation spans from rehearsal 8 to 4 after reh. 10 (or measure 88 to 107). The stability of D Major is alluded to one measure before with the piano lead in and the repeated A5s in the flute. There is a PAC in 85, which quickly jumps into the transition where he (like before) plays with chromaticism but stays in the home key of D Major; with a pedal D in measure 91 that acts as a PAC – even though it is technically not when looking at the piano score, the restfulness before the next entrance functions in a similar manner. The secondary theme – which maintains the rhythm of the dotted eighth sixteenth – is now set in the home key, starting on the 5th (A5); this theme ends with an IAC (because the flute is on the 5th and note the root, D) with is still relatively restful, but alluding to something more which is fitting because it is followed by a fermata where the flute has a moment to rest while the piano maintains a pedal A2. The closing theme in the recap looks very similar to the secondary theme of the exposition with the biggest difference being the ending – which is on D to create a relatively conclusive ending – PAC.

Recap – Closing theme similar to Secondary theme of Expo

Sometimes, but not always, the development and recapitulation are repeated (they are ALWAYS repeated together, however sometimes for brevity or with the addition of a coda, this second repeat is nixed.

Coda – Inversions

Finally, the coda spans measure 108 to the end. For the first time in the work, Prokofiev starts the flute on the 3rd (F#) this is significant because the 3rd determines the quality, and in this case he is playing around with the quality of a D7 against a b-flat minor arpeggio; as well as varying inversions (measures 110-111). At the end, measure 115, Prokofiev does a brief return to that seemingly out of place B-flat major from the development with the perfect fourth of the F to the B-flat, a transposed version of the opening motive; before ending securely in D Major as would be expected of him within the Classical tradition.

Coda – Transposed opening motive

Given the context of when Prokofiev wrote this piece and life/restrictions in the Soviet Union, it is clear that some boundaries where being pushed. At pivotal points, Prokofiev follows Classical traditions; but tonally and rhythmically (end with register to a point – the contrasting low to high in the development) he is exploring new terrain that somehow fits into the shades of grey within Socialist Realism.

Academia aside, this is beautiful flute piece to play and study – I look forward to working on this for my final Masters recital. Let me know your thoughts about this first movement in the comments.


The first time I see an excerpt I have never played before the first thing I do is look into the composer and work. I look for specific details that will help inform how the excerpt should be performed, here is a very basic outline of what I research:

  • WHEN the composer was alive (What musical era and style were they studying)?
  • WHERE the composer lived or frequently traveled (Regions play a large role in performance style, so this will directly play into the “when” through a better understanding of the era and style).
  • WHO the composer listened to, worked for, or was close to (Who influenced this composer)?
  • WHAT were this composer’s notable works (Is the excerpt being requested well-known and/or frequently heard)?

You can look at the wikipedia page for a preliminary search, however, I STRONGLY recommend looking for reputable sources to verify any claims. Academic journals like JSTOR, Google Scholar, EBSCO, ProQuest, or your own school’s library can be used if you are not familiar with music history or have resources on hand to verify what you see on the wiki page.

After researching the context, I will collect recordings and gradually sift through them to determine which ones reflect either my own or one of the faculty’s preferred interpretations. I listen for things like:

  • Tempo – this is a big one, you want to get your goal tempo in your ears if you are listening to 2 very different recordings (one that takes the minimum and one that is pushing the max) it will make it more difficult for your to internalize the pulse.
  • Balance/ensemble – how clearly can I heard the solo in my excerpt AS WELL AS the accompanying voices. Or rephrasing that: can I determine my own role in relationship to the other instruments?
  • Tone/intonation/quality – is the recording something I want to emulate? Does it sound good?

Finally, I will start to analyze the score (similar to how I was critically listening to the recordings) and determine my role in the excerpt. Having an understanding of music history (and the theory concepts that were used during that era) help immensely.

Peter and the Wolf

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was a Russian pianist, conductor and composer. At this time, the music produced was heavily restricted/moderated by the government. Prokofiev wrote for a wide array of music genres: Ballets and Operas, Symphonies, Concertos, Piano Sonatas, etc. And some of his most known works include “The Love for Three Oranges”, “Lieutenant Kijé”, “Romeo and Juliet”, and “Peter and the Wolf”.

Peter and the Wolf was commissioned in 1936 to be a musical symphony for children. In this work, the flute plays the role of a bird; the other instruments take on the role of Peter and the other animals. The REH. 2-4 excerpt the first time the bird is featured, and is frequently requested in auditions. The narrator says, “”All is quiet,” chirped the bird…”

Below the flute solo is highlighted in yellow while the reduction (violas and oboe) is on a grand staff.

The 4 measure, opening bird call is completely alone. The solo repeats from REH. 2-3 to 3-4 with only one small difference in the flute part, but the real change happens in the accompaniment. The chords and tonicization aren’t of major emphasis in this solo, however, Prokofiev does ends each section of the solo with a prolonged G Major 7th chord. The G Major chord is reinforced by the accompaniment which places G on the stronger beats (1 and 3) while adding chromatic neighboring tones such as Ab and F# to lead back to the note G.

Leonore Overture No. 3

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer and pianist. When talking about Beethoven, scholars refer to his music and life within the boundaries of 3 distinct periods shaped by life events and can be tracked through Beethoven’s compositions. The years are estimated, but have been though to be as follows: Early Period (ending 1802), Middle Period (1802-1812), and Late Period (1812-1827). Beethoven was an influential Classical composer, however, as he matured be began pushing the boundaries for his time (for example, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was not well received by early audiences – particularly for the use of the choir in the final movement). And the year of his dead informally marked the switch between the Classical and Romantic eras.

The Leonore Overture No. 3 was composed c. 1805 for his only opera, Fidelio which had 4 overtures (3 Leonore overtures and 1 Fidelio). The Overture No. 3 is placed before the curtain rises, overshadowing the plot before the final scene. This work fits into Beethoven’s middle period which is also referred to as his “Eroica” or heroic period as referenced in his 3rd (Eroica) Symphony. In Leonore Overture No, 3, the flute has 2 commonly requested excerpts in this one being the opening while the other is m. 328-360.

The first 4 bars of the overture are tutti – it is essential to be aware of the context since intonation, dynamics, and control are on full display here.

Skipping ahead to the 2nd excerpt, the use of tonic (G Major) versus dominant (D) is on full display – which was common during the Classical period to use the I to V/ V to I progression. The flute solo is highlighted in yellow while the response/answer from the bassoon is highlighted in purple.

Leading up to the flute solo, Beethoven creates tension with tutti Major 2nd (C to D) before the flute ascends with eighth notes from D4 to G5. The pedal D from m. 324-329 (as seen by the Ds placed on beat 1 and 3) switches to the “tonic” G pedal from m. 330-339.

Briefly, m. 340-341, the pedal goes back to the dominant as flute restates m. 336-337 up a Perfect 5th. Then, returns to G pedal as the solo line transitions to the triplet section. Similar to the Peter and the Wolf excerpt, Beethoven uses neighbor tones to lead up and down to the tonic and 3rd (G and B).

To end the solo the flute has to hold D6 for 8 measures – whilst maintaining good intonation, tone, pp, and minimal vibrato. The line highlighted in purple, are predominantly strings which take over the melody as the flute tapers off the solo.

How do you approach orchestral excerpts? What are your favorite excerpts to study or play? Share in the comment section below!

On May 13, 2020, I gave my first ‘recital’ as a Masters student. My recital was initially planned for April 1st and the repertoire was WAY different I had a lot of chamber music programmed that couldn’t happen given the COVID-19 pandemic – all the music learned in my recital was done in less than a month (minus the Honegger).

Here we will be looking at excerpts from the 4 pieces on my program and how I approach theory and analysis – especially with an very short time frame to research, analyze and really take in the framework of these pieces. The 4 pieces being J.S. Bach’s Partita in a minor I. Allemande, Jacques Ibert’s Pièce for solo flute, Arthur Honegger’s Danse De La Chèvre, and Paul Hindemith’s Acht Stücke.

J.S. Bach Partita in a minor, Allemande

Recital notes: I will only be playing the first movement, the Allemande, from Bach’s Partita in a minor. However, each movement of this work refers to a dance. The allemande being a German style dance… Bach did not actually give a specific tempo as the performer would be very familiar with the dances during the Baroque period and would be able to play in that style. As this piece is for solo flute, the demands of the music are to act as the melody, harmony and bass all in one. There are also no rests or places to breathe marked by Bach, so the phrasing utilized in shaping the melody, harmony, and bass are imperative in creating natural space to breathe.

As the title would suggest, the Partita is in a minor. The first page of the Allemande uses the root (A) and third (C) on the stronger beats 1 and 3 to outline the minor tonality. Because the piece is for solo flute, the flute is acting as the melody, harmony and bass. Therefore, one of the compositional techniques Bach uses to keep momentum and engagement is through sequences. Sequences are taught to young children as a math principle: find the pattern and figure out what comes next. Musical sequences work similarly, they can be seen as a repeating pattern between intervals (melody) or rhythm units. In this excerpt, although there are repeated 16th notes (as seen throughout the entire movement), the motive is bracketed in green. From m. 14-15 the intervals are very similar (not always exactly, but the motive is still distinguishable) denoting a mostly chromatic sequence. The motive in the first group is G-F#-E-G, goes down to F#-E-D-F#, down to E-D-C-E, and ends on D#-B-C-A. By the end group, the intervals have strayed from the original group, but the placement of the notes G, F#, E, and D# on the strong beats (1 and 3) are prominent enough to draw the ear to their downwards motion. A similar sequence happens in m. 16, but is much more concise. The ascending chromatic pattern in m. 16 is G-G#-A-A# on each beat in the measure. Finally, a new pattern emerges m. 16-17 where the final 16th leads to the first 16th of the next beat. The E resolves down to D#, D natural down to C#, C natural to B, and finally Bb to A.

In this next excerpt, the tonality has shifted. It is common in Baroque music to modulate from the tonic to the dominant key, and then to eventually return to the tonic (the dominant in a minor is E Major). This excerpt is fully in the dominant (E Major) section: note the V4/3 over IV (which translates to a E seventh chord in 2nd inversion moving to an A Major chord) which is the pivot from em (denoted by the i) to EM. 

Like in the first excerpt, there is another sequence feature – this one is directly related to the Circle of Fifths. Measure 23 starts the sequence in E Major (1), m. 24 moves to A Major (IV), m. 25 is d minor 6/5 (vii6/5), m. 26 D Major 7 (VII7) LET’S PAUSE… I provided the Roman Numerals in parenthesis to denote the chords’ function in the dominant E Major. However, look at m. 25 and 26, the first red flag should be the different qualities of the 7 (D). In Major chord progressions, the 7 is usually fully-diminished so the fact that is is minor and then Major should be getting those alarm bells going. Hence, why this section can be looked as a sequence within the Circle of Fifths: E to A to d (D)… rather than a common chord progression. Continuing our sequence, m. 27 is in G Major which is extended all the way to m. 29 until our sequence ends in m. 30 in C Major. The sequence ends there because if you look at the following measure, the harmonic rhythm (or the rate at which the harmony changes) drastically increases and moves to a tonal area that does not fit in the Circle of Fifth sequence. 

Jacques Ibert Pièce for solo flute

Recital notes: Coincidentally, Ibert’s Piece for solo flute was composed in the same year as the Hindemith Sonata I mentioned earlier. This piece starts with a cadenza-like introduction that centers around the note “D”. Like Ibert’s well known Flute Concerto (composed 2 years prior), this piece is good for demonstrating virtuosity and freeness in playing. Despite studying at the Paris Conservatory, Ibert didn’t emulate any of the popular genres during the early 20th century, and in this piece you can hear how he’s style transforms multiple styles rather than honing in on just one.

Ibert was an early 20th century composer – a time were tonality was less rigid, an the exploration of serialism and atonality were becoming commonplace. The Pièce for solo flute goes through many tonal areas – like mentioned in my recital notes the opening is a cadenza-style featuring the note “D”; and the remainder of page one doesn’t strictly follow a traditional key/tonal center. In this first excerpt, the 9/8 “Vivo” is the first time in the piece that Ibert emphasizes a tonal area -in this case Db Major (the diatonic notes are Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C). Here I used green to visualize all the notes that were diatonic (in the key of Db) and any non-chord tone or chromatic note is highlighted in orange. By doing this, it is very easy to see the patterns within what may look daunting at first glance, especially in a key of 5 flats.

This next excerpt from Ibert’s Pièce is building a climatic resolution on the final page (visually, you can tell those tiny 32nd notes are going somewhere). Our last excerpt was in Db Major, this one has moved to a tonicization (not a fully-fledge modulation) of the IV (Gb Major) – this is clear because of the downward arpeggios (the yellow denoting notes diatonic to Gb). The ‘F’s are functioning as a supertonic or a 7th scale degree that is creating a rising tension. The swells on the 6s to 7s to 9s emphasizing the 7th briefly calm down for 2 measures before a sequence of minor 3s ascends to an E natural where the piece relaxes (and resolves) to return to a familiar theme stated in the beginning of the piece.

Arthur Honegger Danse De La Chèvre

Recital notes: This is the earliest 20th century piece on my program, composed by Arthur Honegger in 1921. The title Danse de la Chevre translates to Dance of the Goat. The piece starts very delicate with a series of tritone phrases – as if the goat is just waking up from a dream. Quickly, the “goat-like” or more active theme comes during the Vif or the 9/8 section with a skipping/dancing goat. At the end, the piece returns to the delicateness and serenity of the introduction, as the goat has tired itself out and is going back to sleep.

Important to note that there are several versions of Honegger’s Danse De La Chevre that are in circulation this particular score is from the 1932 edition. The piece was composed in the early 20th century and the intervallic relations (and lack of tonality) are indicative of Honegger embracing serialism.

The opening motive is highlighted in purple and it lasts 2 bars (each time it is restated it uses the opening 4 notes to lure you in before launching into a new idea). This motive starts with a tritone (TT) from C to F# and is followed by two Perfect 4s. And interesting discovery I made was how Honegger follows the motive, in phrase 1 (m. 1-2) note that the motive goes down a 2nd (E down to D). While in phrase 2 (m.3-6) note that the motive goes up a 2nd (E to F). Then in the phrases following the 1 bar Vif, phrase 4 (m. 8-9) the motive goes down a tritone (E to A#) whereas in phrase 5 (m. 10-13) the motive goes up a tritone (E to Bb). Wow. At a first glance it might just look like crazy, random music, but when analyzed critically it is actually symmetrical and systematic.

At the end of the piece, the motive comes back (note that it is an exact copy just shortened) before the B resolves to the C harmonic.

The slower section before the recap (Lent) is weaved throughout the piece each time it uses the echo effect – repeating material at a softer dynamic, but to keep the intrigue Honegger adds a tag at the end to differentiate the fragments. For example, m. 55 compared to m.57 (where Honegger presses on the breaks and starts to makes things slower and softer). And m. 58 compared to m. 59-60 (where there is one last – slower – iteration of the Vif theme).

Paul Hindemith Acht Stücke

Recital notes: One of Hindemith’s most well-known works is his Sonata for Flute and Piano which he composed in 1936. About ten years before he composed this Sonata, he wrote a piece for solo flute called Acht Stucke which translates to 8 Pieces or movements. These 8 movements are very short – some of the shortest movements in the piece such as the 2nd movement are only 40 seconds long. Also, these movements don’t have a stable tonal center and not all movements have an indicated meter so the motives and gestures within movements is what shapes the piece.

Welcome to Hindemith were key signatures don’t matter and the tonality is irrelevant. How does one cope? In my analysis for movement IV of this piece, I realized the rhythm was the true star of the piece so how did I learn the rhythm? By making a song:

Is it silly? Yes. But when the tonal patterns and rhythmic sequences are so brief there needs to be some way to connect ideas to form a coherent piece. I can’t be entirely sure if this what Hindemith intended when composing this movement, but if there is an evidence to suggest he DIDN’T intend this then send that my way. All jokes aside, let’s look at a more structural movement…

In movement VIII, there is some semblance of musical structure. The beginning is repeated at the end, and there seem to be two distinct sections (the presto and the offset section).

Both in the opening and end, the specific pitches aren’t so important (more so the intervallic relationships) it is clear with m.1-2 that 3-4 is similar while expanding the ‘motive’ by getting louder, faster and expanding the range. The F# don’t serve much tonal significance rather the note acts as an anchor to ground the piece as it ascends to A6 before dropping to D4.

The presto section beginnings suddenly quiet and with an indicated meter. There is a brief sequence with the downwards G-F#-F motion in m.8-9 and m. 11-12, but it is fleeting. There is more anchoring (similar to the opening) now on E as the melody ascends.

The register descends and the volume gradually diminishes. As a new section emerges, here the quarter note and eighth note are offset. The measures were the quarter note starts on beat 2 as a pickup are the string tying this section together. Note the pitches highlighted in yellow Eb D and the 3 repeated C#s (each C# rising more than the last). The rhythmic content for these highlighted pitches is all the same until the 3 C#s where the material is expanded yet again to return to a restatement of the opening.

Thank you for making it through this maiden voyage of explaining how my brain comprehends music theory. If you have any questions, additional thoughts or want to see the lyrics to the other Hindemith movements comment down below!