The week this post will be live is also the same week I will be performing Frank Martin’s Ballade for my final Masters’ recital. Given the priority of recording – over live rehearsals – I have been able to be much more detail focused on this piece than I could have ever been in ‘normal’ times. This is not an easy piece by an means; if you are not familiar with the work allow me to break down the sections and shed some insight on what I’ve learned over the past few months.

Let’s start with the composer: Frank Martin. He is a Swiss composer who lived from 1890-1974 and he studied piano and composition with J. Lauber. Early on he was influenced by French composers – in the early 20th century, the distinct impressionist style of French music such as by Faure. Around the 1930s he also studied with Arnold Schoenberg; the culminating of these contrasting composing styles finally came together in the late 1930s. Gerhard Braun’s notes in the Universal score put it best, “these compositions blend twelve-tone technique and functional harmony, frequent use of ostinato and pedal point, the incorporation of perfect major and minor triads and exploitation of the melodic and harmonic tensions generated by the leading note and the tonic.”

Frank Martin’s Ballade was originally written for flute and piano when composed in 1939; it was composed to be premiered at the Geneva International Music Competition of that same year. Several years later, in 1941, the Ballade was adapted for flute and orchestra.

Before getting into the piece, and honorable mention is Paula Robison’s Masterclass: Frank Martin Ballade pour flute et piano. This book – as the title would suggest – workshops the Ballade and is a great resource for anyone who either loves to listen to the piece or intends on performing it. I won’t recap much of what she says within my own analysis because I think Robison writes so concisely; however, the use of medieval poetry (speech patterns) is something worth looking into when studying the Ballade.

The first question is: how do we section the Ballade? Generally the tempo markings indicate a change in texture, timbre, or color; the ones that I regard as significant are as follows:

  • Allegro ben moderato (the opening-m.43)
  • Vivace (m. 44-94) / Half = Dotted Half (m. 95-153)
  • Cadenza (m. 154-193)
  • Lento (m. 194-199) / Con moto (m. 200-272)
  • Presto (m. 273-282) / Molto vivace (m. 283-323)
  • Meno mosso / Presto (m. 324-358)

What interesting is that when broken up into 6 sections of similar lengths the form resembles in a warped mirror.

Like an: A B C-C B’ A’

The material from the Allegro ben moderato returns at the very end in the Meno mosso – slightly distorted; the material in the Molto Vivace comes BEFORE the Meno mosso with a varied version of the original Vivace motives. The Cadenza and the Lento / Con moto sections act as the mirror or the axis for the larger A and B themes to reflect.

A: Allegro ben moderato (m. 1-43)

The work opens with the conversational eighth note motive. There is no real tonal center – a la Schoenberg – however, this is NOT a tone row either… so what is it? There are three 2 bar sets within the opening: (1) G A Bb F#; (2) F# E# G# A (3) B# B A# Gx. The only discernible pattern is that each time there is a move upward by a half step such as from G to G# to Gx.

The cyclic eighth notes are broken by a register change – which is another trademark of the piece. And you will notice that following that break that the beaming changes from 6 to two groups of 3. Where Martin is setting up the 2 v 3 (and 3 v 2) between the flute and piano early on. In measure 11, there is a ‘new’ beginning on new pitches, however, this does not proceed the same way we heard it the first time because another set of two groups of 3 interrupt the motive and propel the flute line into a syncopated, extreme interval idea.

One more time we get a ‘new’ beginning, this time a half step higher than the last (m. 11) and now the roles are reverse where the flute is playing the 2 while the piano has 3.

We get more intervals mixed in with short 2 bar snippets of the transposed opening motive before our first set of sixteenth notes ascends to the climax of the opening which falls down with syncopations into the Piu Tranquillo. The piano is back to playing 2s (more of a 6/8) while the flute is playing in 3/4 on a single note that is syncopated, maintaining that conversational element from the very opening of the section.

B: Vivace / Half = Dotted Half (m. 44-153)

This next section is interesting, mostly because of the Half = Dotted Half section which is simultaneously stable and unstable. At first glance it may seem odd to roll that section into B however it juxtaposes the section to create this contrast to the high energy; the calmness/song-like line of the Half = Dotted Half is like a delayed echo to the abundance of material the Vivace throws at us. This echo is reinforced too, by m. 147-148, which is a transposed version of the Vivace‘s m. 62-63.

Both the tempo and rhythm contrast the opening A section. The tempo increase is initiated by the piano and then the flute spring boards with new (small unit) rhythms. Compared to the A section which heavily used eighth notes, the B section as sixteenths and an abundance of triplet figures.

The Half = Dotted Half section may seem calm (notated ‘dolce cantabile’) compared to the first half of the B section; however the 2 over 3 (flute in 2/4 and piano in 3/4) is just a small sample of Martin playing with polyrhythms.

And the B section ends with a return to the primary material – the eighths [rest] sixteenth figure – that leaps to the high E6.

Cadenza (m. 154-193)

The cadenza restates the resonant E octave leap that ended the B section. A similar style reminiscent of the A section is recycled in the initial ‘moderato’ – this time playing with the interval of a half step reinforced as a sort of palindrome (reinforcing the mirror analogy).

This introduction intensifies and then suddenly steps back at the second ‘moderato’ with a contrasting piano dynamic a tritone lower than the opening E6. This new section is a sort of ‘haze’ or smoke and mirrors – at least in a tonal sense – as Martin reinforces the pedal Ab as well as (one half step down) G while altering the subsequent pitches. The pitches held on fermatas may indicate some type of stabilizing the tonal center, however, it is an illusion – as Martin does not feature one area for too long. One of these illusions is the recurring A – C – F:

As you can see from the score, this instances are fleeting.

C: Lento / Con moto (m. 194-272)

If you thought Martin may finally resolve to F… you’d be close, he choses to start the Lento on F#… but then of course if you refer to the piano score he writes a G# (a M2) to shatter any tonal security.

This is all new material both the Lento and Con moto contrast everything from the A and B sections by providing a moment of stasis in the music; and this works – or at least is able to hold interest – because of the diverse array of pitches he is using in the flute and piano lines. And corresponding, once the tonal center is more stable, Martin returns (briefly) to the A material where he expands the eighth note patterns in several ways (1) articulation patterns (2) intervals and (3) rests/syncopations.

This section ends with lively triplets (used in a different way than they have been in the B section) as they are constant, in a chromatic pattern rolling upwards to a high C7 on the downbeat of the Presto.

B’: Presto / Molto Vivace (m. 273-323)

The piano responds to the high energy, before scaling back and bringing us around to the reflection of the mirror B’ or the Molto vivace.

The first difference is the flute entrance in m. 287-290 on the tied notes and with the graces. Then, Martin alters the articulation pattern for the triplets and abridges the pattern so that the climax arrives at the peak of the energy of the triplet section.

And this climax is amazingly simple – just B Bb and A – in different rhythms.

A’: Meno mosso / Presto (m. 324-358)

Finally, the B Bb A resolves to a G# continuing the downward half step trajectory; and after a brief sequence, the introductory theme comes back in a new ‘key’ with the transformative elements from the C section of articulation and intervals. In the ‘animando’ Martin blends the triplets from the B section into the texture continuing to play with intervals. Again, we see the tritone – Ab to D this time.

What do you think of the Ballade? My recital will have a live premiere on Sunday April 18th at 5PM – feel free to stop in to hear the Ballade which is on the first half of the program!

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!

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.