This week you will be listening to a very familiar piece of music that some of you have learned or are in the process of learning and some of you will learn it in the future. It is Fur Elise by Beethoven. There are challenges listening to a piece that we think we know really well already and that is to listen to it as if hearing for the first time. So here are some questions to help guide your listening.
What is the tonality- major or minor? Does it stay in that tonality? Listen to how carefully the pianists plays that very familiar theme and how he changes the dynamics each time the theme returns, thereby changing the character of the theme. The piano is capable of giving hundreds of degrees of loud or soft and this pianist has amazing skill of showing us that capability in the way he plays this piece. This piece is written in what is called a Rondo form, that is a theme, that we will call the “A” theme is followed by a different theme, which we will label the “B” theme. Then the A theme returns to be followed this time by a new theme which we will label the “C” theme. Then the A theme returns again for the final time. Listen for each of these different themes and ask yourself how the A theme changes following the B or C themes. Just as life experiences change us so the A theme can be heard differently after having heard the B and C themes. Can you determine the time signature of this piece? Listen for the beautiful voicing of the melody particularly in the B and C themes.
The second piece you will listen to is another Rondo form from one of Beethoven’s piano Sonatas. He wrote thirty-two Sonatas and this one is Opus 31. No.3. How would you describe the character or mood of this piece? Does it change? What about the tonality? The tempo is marked Presto. Is Presto faster or slower than Allegro? Listen to how Beethoven uses the registers of the piano playing the same motif in different octaves. Also listen for how he uses the chromatic scale which ends in a trill, as a bridge between sections. It is especially fun to hear this piece in the context of the other two movements as this is the last in the Sonata so you may want to listen to the Allegro movement and the Scherzo and Minuet moment of this delightful Sonata.