Now before we get into analysing Peripetie, we should get a bit of background onto the Five Orchestral Pieces. The Five Orchestral Pieces by Arnold Schoenberg is a set of atonal pieces for the full orchestra. They all last between one and five minutes and are not connected to each other by the use of any thematic ideas. Peripetie is in the style of expressionism. If you want to know more about expressionism, click here.
Peripetie is an expressionism piece of music which is why it has no key or ‘atonal’. This makes the piece sound random, unpredictable and surreal: there is no main key to centre the piece around. Here are some more key facts to the piece:
- It is dissonant music – this means the music is not nice to the ears and doesn’t sound nice.
- Made by a German composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1909.
- Uses 12 chromatic music notes.
- It is in the structure of rondo being ABACA.
- Extremes of dynamics taking instruments to the extreme. This makes the piece hard to perform as to play Peripetie needs highly skilled musicians. Also it was hard to gather a whole orchestra together.
- There is a overly large woodwind section.
Now, if you ever listen to this piece, you will hear it sounds very complicated to play. Therefore it is very difficult to analyse as there is so much going on in the piece in such as short time. However, I will pick out the main focus points throughout the piece:
- It seems to start in the key of C but this, as we find out, is wrong.
- In the first seconds, there is the use of triplets in woodwind and glissando by brass while there is pizzicato (plucking) in the strings. Again, this highlights the extremes Arnold Schoenberg is putting the instruments under.
- There are extremely loud dynamic from fff to ppp.
- Use of rit. to slow down in the sections where texture is at it’s thinnest.
- Demi-semi quavers are used which means only the best musicians can play this.
- Extreme contrasts in dynamics – some notes are sf then straight away pp meaning suddenly loud then immediately very quiet.
- Throughout the piece, there are extremely complex rhythms which adds to the dissonant sounds it produces.
- There is no real sense of a beat which means this piece is syncopated.
- At the end, it ends again with extreme dynamics with the majority of the whole orchestra playing in the dynamic fff.
- The texture has bursts of homophonic but the majority of the time it is polyphonic as there are different melodies overlapping each other.
Peripetie from Five Orchestral Pieces
Five Orchestral Pieces is an atonal Expressionist piece. It was completed in 1909. The first performance took place in London in 1912.
Schoenberg described it as "a vivid, uninterrupted succession of colours and moods". Peripetie is the fourth movement.
Peripetie can be translated as 'a sudden change of fortune'.
Five Orchestral Pieces is written for a very large orchestra using some unusual instruments.
There are three flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons (instead of the normal pairs) plus piccolo, cor anglais, clarinet in D, bass clarinet and contrabassoon. There are extra horns, trumpets and trombones plus a tuba. The percussion section includes xylophone, cymbals, tam tam (a large gong) and bass drum.
Instruments often play at the extreme of their registers. There are many performance directions in the score. Schoenberg was looking for very specific tone colours or timbres.
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