Concert Critique #1
The Hungarian Dances are an intriguing group of works by Johannes
Brahms. They are characterized by frequent changes in tempo and volume.

These pieces are focused on the melodies created when the instruments are
played together. Each piece also contains more than one melody. New
melodies, or themes, usually include a change in tempo and a change in
dynamics within each piece. The volume differences also stand out on the
tracks. They usually go from soft to loud almost suddenly. The change was
startling to me the first time I heard it. Certain instruments are singled
out in every section also. In some parts you will hear the polyphony in the
piece come together very nicely. The plagal cadence used throughout the 4
tracks gives them a storybook feeling. I can imagine any of these pieces
being used as score or even background for a song in a just about any
Disney animated movie. The theme-and-variations form that is utilized also
adds to the feeling. The differences in these pieces, however places them
in different movies. Track two sounds like it belongs in a movie such as
Anastasia or Cinderella. It sounds like something that I would hear at one
of those old-fashioned formal dances. While listening to track three, I
could imagine the seven dwarfs hard at work. Track four almost sounds like
Mr. Brahms copied it straight out of Fivel Goes West. I could think of any
movie other than Fantasia for track 1 though. Overall, these pieces were
enjoyable to me because they painted that picture in my mind. I could see
the action being played out in my head while listening to the Hungarian
Dances.


Bolero by Maurice Ravel is a very long piece. It is not mind-numbing
even though it is very repetitive. Ravel prevents this work from becoming
boring by changing the pitch or increasing the volume of the piece for
every couple of times the beat repeats itself. The fact that the beat is
not boring to begin with, also helped to hold my attention. This piece
paints a picture in mind. In fact, it almost directs an entire scene from
any war movie. When the piece starts off very quiet, it is almost like the
calm before the storm when soldiers are preparing for battle. As the piece
gets louder the troops are marching forward until at the end when they
finally make to the war zone. I did not like, however, how the piece ended
so suddenly. It was like the battle and began and ended with one shot. It
left me wanting more. Other than the fact that this track ended too soon, I
enjoyed everything leading up to the end.


The two tracks by Claude Debussy have an overwhelming sense of
urgency to them. The tempo of these tracks is what creates that feeling.

The crescendos in these tracks, coupled with the loudness of them, are the
main ingredients in the urgent feeling that is given off. The frequent
changes in melody are sudden and often confusing. It is sometimes hard for
me to catch what is going on in the pieces. I did not enjoy these pieces
very much.


Track number eight and tracks eleven through fifteen were piano
tracks with faster tempos. The melody was quick, much like the Debussy
tracks, but it just sounded much better on the piano. The faster notes
flowed instead of jumping around. The song texture comes together
beautifully on these tracks. I could not find a story in these pieces, but
I enjoyed them simply for their sonic value. Track fourteen was a slower
than the others, but it was not slow to the point where it lulled me to
sleep like tracks nine, and ten. These tracks were so slow to the point
where I was just waiting for them to end.


Track sixteen was also slow but it was somehow different from the
others. The changes in pitch and melody kept me interested. The crescendo
in the middle of the piece is what caught my attention. When I first
listened to it, I thought it was just like the other tedious piano pieces.

That crescendo gave the piece and entire storyline. It had a beginning, it
had rising action, a climax, closing action, and a conclusion. I enjoyed
the piece.


I don’t have a very good background in this kind of music, but from
my standpoint, this CD was pretty good. When I listen to rap or rhythm and
blues music, I judge albums by if I enjoy listening to every song or not.

Even if I do not enjoy listening to a song, I will listen to it anyway to
find out what the lyrics are. I enjoyed twelve out of sixteen tracks on
this CD. That is a good ratio in my book. If was an avid listener to
orchestra and piano music, I would spend my money on this collection of
works.