Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A bouquet of melodies

Bouquet of Peonies on a Musical Score
by Paul Gauguin (source)
You select the finest flowers for a bouquet. Likewise, a composer selects the finest music for a suite. But while a bouquet of flowers fades eventually, the suite is everlasting.

Suite is a French word indicating 'sequence'.

Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky had composed a ballet called 'The Nutcracker'. The ballet was not a success, but Tchaikovsky extracted a twenty minute suite that is immensely popular and loved.

The suite contained self-contained musical pieces, that is, each musical piece had character/theme/mood.

In even simpler words, Tchaikovsky selected the best bits of the ballet into a suite.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the musical pieces (movements) in a suite comprised mostly of dance music, while later, the suite included music written for plays and ballets (incidental music).

Say I write some music - a few short dance pieces, something merry, something sad, then a violin piece with instruments backing it, then an intense 'capriccio'... and so on.
I can release these as a 'sequence', or a suite.

All the pieces will have their proper names, sure. Let's have a look at three of them from Marin Marais's suite. Play the music and read along.

Prelude - the beginning, like the preface of a book, an introduction, 'hello, and welcome'. Notice the shift of moods in the prelude, the composer trying to give you an idea of things to come.

3:26 - A stand-alone piece, a 'fantasy' chiefly told by a solo instrument, while the other instruments rally around.

4:53 - Gavotte - A french dance that, early on, required the dancers to kiss.

And so on and so forth.
You know what a musical suite is. Enjoy Tchaikovsky's 'The Nutcracker Suite' that is 'full' of dance music.

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