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Recent Essays on Music Topics - Michael Arnowitt, pianist

During the Coronavirus global pandemic of 2020 and 2021, one activity I decided to devote time to was writing essays about music. Here is a sampling of short essays, reflecting thoughts I was having about piano pieces I was practicing at the time. There is some “shop talk” where I explore in depth interesting details of these great pieces of music. However, for the most part these essays are written in the style of my music appreciation talks for the general public, and so I think most readers will be able to follow my musings regardless of whether or not they have prior music education.

Beethoven Sonata opus 109: Yin and Yang (October 2020)
Comparing the contrast of first and second themes of the openings of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 30 in E major, opus 109 with his earlier Waldstein Sonata, to help understand the special, magical nature of the music Beethoven composed at the end of his life

Beethoven Sonata opus 110: An Opening Cadenza (October 2020)
Thoughts on the first five measures of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 31 in A-flat major, opus 110, and its unusual held trill

Bach and Debussy (November 2020)
Why I like programming Bach and Debussy on the same concert, the connections I hear between the music of these two composers, and what differentiates their music from many of the composers who lived in the 200 years inbetween their times

Beethoven Sonata opus 109: Ambiguity is Beauty, Part 1 (December 2020)
Three different ways to look at the opening measures of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 30 in E major, opus 109

Beethoven and Debussy: Ambiguity is Beauty, Part 2 (December 2020)
Ambiguity in the openings of Beethoven’s Sonata no. 28 in A major, opus 101 and Debussy’s Prelude “La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune”, and a discussion of the importance of realizing the different perspectives of performer and audience

Using Dynamics Playing Bach (January 2021)
How I used terraced dynamics to enliven a passage in Bach’s Partita no. 6 in E minor, and how this connects to a recollection of a Leonard Bernstein insight about Bach I read in childhood

Role Reversals and the Gigue That Isn’t a Gigue in Bach’s Sixth Partita (February 2021)
Unexpected role reversals in the gavotte and gigue of this remarkable partita, and its resultant overall bookend structure

Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto: Building Blocks and Musical Motions (March 2021)
A deep dive into the first eight measures of this well-known concerto, Exploring how Bach uses the most basic of musical elements, scales, arpeggios, and repeated notes, to create something fresh-sounding and imaginative

Beethoven’s Ode to Joy: Simple or Not? (March 2021)
A close look at Beethoven’s famous Ode to Joy from his Ninth Symphony, exploring the question of what makes a great melody, with comparisons to pop music and the melody of the finale of Brahms’ First Symphony