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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Dello Joio: Piano Sonata No. 3, I

The title of the piece leaves nothing for the listener to be suprised with. Entitled "Theme and Five Variations," it is most definately a piano sonata employing sectional variation. This piece is 8 pages long, so as a preventative measure to retain my sanity I will discuss the theme and briefly discuss the 5 variations. This piece is unique in comparison to some others, as each variations is very much a seperate entity from the others. Each variation could potential stand as it's own individual movement.
The theme of the piece opens lasts for an entire page. If one listens to the first 4 and a half measures of the piece, you can hear the statement of the theme. This piece is very 20th century. There are few obvious cadences, unclear forms, and non-traditional chords. The theme is almost contrapuntal in nature. There are no clear periods or other structural organizations. After the right hand enters with the theme, the left hand starts the second measure with what sounds to be a counter-theme, imitating the right hand. There is a slight authentic cadence in measure nine, with the tonic chord extending the cadence over the next bar line. The theme ends on a really cool root position 9 chord. Not typical. This piece is riddled with jazzy harmonies that give this piece a very modern flair. Thus ends the theme.
The first variation, although remaining in the same key, is significantly different than the theme. The theme is masked behind a changed to a 3/8 key signature and staccato and marcatto sixteenth notes. This is an ornamental variation.
The second variation is in 6/8, with the right hand playing triplet chords in a chromatic scalar pattern. Fortunately for the listener, the theme of this piece comes back in the left hand. It's been modified from it's original form. Again this is a ornamental variation.
The third variation returns to common time, and we can again here the evolved theme in the right and left hands. Much louder and more articulated than any of it's predecessors, this variation is fast in furious. It sounds like the left hand is chasing the right in this variation. Again, I would select this variation as ornamental.
Surprisingly similar to the 2nd variation, we again find ourselves in 6/8 with the right hand playing triplet patterns. This time the theme is even more distorted, and both hands share in the ornamentation of the theme.
The final variation is a simplification of the theme. In the fifth variation there is a solo theme played ontop of a slow, chordal harmony. Dello Joio, with his jazzy chords, elaborates gradually while playing with his theme. After coming to a slow close, we return to a short 5 bar coda that restates a similar ending to that of the original theme. Ending on a root position G major chord, there was much rejoicing.

Well, it's over, it's done. I've typed a lot. I'm not sure how to analyze this piece. My final comments would be that Norman Dello Joio created a long, jazzy piano sonata with a theme and 5 very individual variations ornamenting and developing this theme, primarily through the usage of rhythms and pitch displacement.


John Styx said...

Great Analysis! I love Dello Joio's Piano work, how he mixes classical and jazz together (fusion?) to produce this final product. I love your indentification of the rhythmic variation, which I think is really important. Good job!

Mr. Luxury Yacht said...

Good job identifying the variations. One way that these need to be analyzed is to call the theme one of the forms we have discussed earlier in the year, probably some sort of period or binary form. Looking big picture to find radical departures from the theme like key changes and return to the theme are also good to have.

Paige Short said...

Interesting reading about a sonata I have played for over 30 years. You didn't say, however, that the simple theme is really a Gregorian chant. That's the other extreme of jazz, and a good thing to tell anyone who is about to listen to the piece (also for a performer to acknowledge each and every time before it is played).

The whole sonata is much longer, of course, and a joy to play and hear, even if one is not a concert goer. The last movement is delightful and can stand by itself as a novelty number. However, I disagree that the variations can stand by themselves as separate movements. They are too short, and too dependent on the theme and the moods of the other variations. They sound better one after the other.

The slow variation is also a herald for the slow movement that comes later.

Technically, it's a comfortable sonata to play, even if it is challenging in some spots (the octave variation; the tongue-twister last two pages of the last movement, e.g.)

Another thing to mention is the rhythms---do they come from Dello Joio's South American background? Think of the left hand in the beginning of the last movement. Also some of the kinky rhythms in the variations.

What a great piece. I'm glad to read about it. I am looking for a new copy of it, and if you know who publishes it now, I'd love to hear from you.